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52nd Gasparilla Arts Fest To Feature More Than 250 Artists

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TAMPA, FL — Packed with the products of their passion including promising pottery pieces, prodigious paintings and potential prize possibilities, more than 250 artists converged on Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park Friday morning to begin setting up.

By Friday afternoon, the downtown Tampa park was transformed into a temporary city of pop-up exhibit booths filled with thousands of artworks.

For two years, as the coronavirus pandemic raged on, fine artists were cloistered in their homes and studios with nothing to do but create.

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Internationally acclaimed sculptor and fiber artist Janet Echelman, who hails from Tampa Bay but now lives in Brookline, Massachusetts, said she’s excited to see how a global pandemic has influenced the creative process.

Echelman has the monumental task of serving as juror for the 2022 Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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It’s her keen eye, sense of design and creative vision that will determine which artist walks away with the $15,000 Best of Show Award.

Now in its 52nd year, the festival has become one of the most prestigious art competitions in the country.

Only the best of the best, chosen this year by H. Alexander Rich, executive director and chief curator of the Polk Museum of Art; Chris Valle, chairman and professor of art and design at the University of Tampa; and Howayda Affan, executive director of the Morean Arts Center, have an opportunity to exhibit their works at the festival.

In addition to the $15,000 Best of Show Award, artists will compete for the $9,000 Board of Directors Award, the $5,000 Mayor’s Award, the $4,000 Roddy Brownlee Reed Award of Artistic Excellence, a $3,000 President’s Award, the $2,000 Lightning Foundation Award, the $1,500 Eileen Hirsch Memorial Emerging Art Award, 30 awards of merit of $1,300 each, three Vinik Family Foundation Scholastic Showcase Awards of $1,000 and three Vinik Family Foundation Scholastic Showcase High School Representative Awards to the students’ schools.

This year, the festival will also award three $2,500 scholarships to a full-time student attending college in Hillsborough or Pinellas County.

Even if they aren’t among the fortunate award-winners, the festival is a chance for artists to expose and, hopefully sell, their artwork to the more than 30,000 spectators who attend the event each year.

The festival is free to the public, although 15 to 20 guests purchasing VIP tickets for $150 each will be treated to a light breakfast with mimosas, a tour of the jury room and a chance to hear Echelman’s insights into this year’s artwork.

In addition to a chance to view the works of top artists from around the country, the festival will feature live entertainment, including music by Mwiza, Row Jomah, Ari Chi, Speak Easy, Have Gun Will Travel, Charity Ann, Sick Hot, Raspberry Pie, King Complex and Anthill Cinema.

The Tampa Bay Businesses for Culture & the Arts and Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts will co-sponsor a chalk walk with artists of all ages invited to create sidewalk chalk art.

Carmada will return, giving attendees a chance to watch artists transform an old vehicle into a unique work of art.

Well-known Tampa Bay glass artist Duncan McClellan will have his mobile glassblowing unit on site, giving visitors a chance to view the process of blowing and shaping glass art pieces.

The Center for Architecture & Design and the Tampa Bay American Institute of Architects will offer an interactive art experience.

The NOMAD Art Bus will give visitors a chance to add their creative touch to the Art Bus.

And there will be performances by dancers, puppeteers, stilt walkers, impersonators and visual artists.

The nonprofit Art Collectors in Training Program will host a kids-only shopping zone with a chance to meet and purchase artwork from the festival arts for $5 to $10 each day from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Tampa Museum of Art will host a children’s activity area from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, giving kids a chance to color, paint or draw their own masterpieces.

New this year are the remote artist studios. Five artists have been invited to set up remote studios at the festival, so visitors can watch the creative process and see a work of art from start to finish.

This year’s remote artists are Delaney Bend of Tampa, Quinn Cale of Tampa, Aaron Evans of Tampa and Lakeland, well-known Florida outsider artist Jack “Mr. B” Beverland, Rojo of Tampa, and M’ria Swire will paint as Alycia Anthony performs interpretive dance in response to Swire’s paintings.

There will be food and drink concessions on hand as well.

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