Come out for one of the Bay area’s largest gatherings of art lovers and artists as The Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts returns for its 53rd year of celebrating both accomplished and up-and-coming artists on Saturday, March 4 through Sunday, March 5 at Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park in Downtown Tampa. The Festival offers participating artists an opportunity to compete for a $15,000 Best in Show award as well as $77,000 in additional prize money. Hours for this year’s Festival run 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Saturday and 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday.
Artists compete across a wide range of art media including ceramic, digital, drawing, fiber, glass, jewelry, mixed media, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture, watercolor, and wood. Throughout the weekend, attendees can take part in interactive art experiences, listen to live music, bring the kids for fun children’s art activities, and support local restaurants onsite with food and drink available for purchase.
This year’s selection of interactive activities appeal to art lovers of all ages and include Carmada, a colorful display of hand-painted vehicles; the DMG Mobile Glass Blowing Unit, unique glassblowing demonstrations courtesy of Duncan McClellan Gallery; the NOMADstudio Art Bus, which invites attendees to contribute to its giant mobile mural; and the AIA Interactive Experience, an interactive structure built by the Center for Architecture & Design and the American Institute of Architects Tampa Bay. Guests also can stop by the TBBCA Chalk Walk to watch commissioned artists share their talents through 8’x8’ chalk drawings and catch live music from the mainstage provided by both local and national musicians and introduced by guest emcee Denis Phillips, Chief Meteorologist for ABC Action News.
Two artists who took part in the recently launched “Clearly Collaborative” exhibition, a partnership between Florida CraftArt and Duncan McClellan Gallery, can also be seen through their work on display at this year’s Gasparilla Arts Festival, Nneka Jones for Mixed Media and William Kidd for Ceramics. Jones, who began her Festival appearances years earlier as one of the event’s ‘Emerging Artists,’ garnered the Best of Show Award in 2022 for her piece Modern Renaissance. That same year, fellow Clearly Collaborative colleague Pam Fox earned the Mayor’s Award and $5,000 for her work.
The Gasparilla Festival of the Arts’ Emerging Artists Program gives rising artists an opportunity to showcase and sell their work before the more than 20,000 people who attend the Festival each year. For 2023, 15 emerging artists have been invited to participate and each receives a booth and a stipend for supplies in addition to mentoring opportunities with more experienced artists.
Besides viewing the 2023 Artist Gallery and Emerging Artists showcase, attendees at the festival can also check out a special Local Artists Spotlight Gallery, the Community Outreach Village, and the Young Artists Expo, which presents the work of young artists from the Tampa Bay Area high school outreach and Hillsborough County Elementary and Middle School Poster Art Contest winners.
For younger art fans, the Festival continues to operate its Art Collectors in Training (ACT) program to promote appreciation of the arts for ages 6 through 14. These younger guests will get the opportunity to view and purchase artwork as part of a “kids-only” shopping zone, with most items priced between $5-$10. Young art collectors can meet the artists and learn about investing in art and the value in supporting local artists. This year’s ACT program will be held both Festival days from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. In addition to ACT, kids attending the festival will be able to stop by The Children’s Activity Area, coordinated through the Tampa Museum of Art, and take part in painting, drawing, and coloring.
Food and beverage vendors will be on hand offering a wide array of local fare, including beer and wine to be made available in three locations. A portion of food and beverage proceeds will be donated to benefit the Tampa Museum of Art.
Each year, the Festival selects its official 2023 Festival image, and this year’s work Sunny is by self-taught Tarpon Springs artist Michelle Mardis. Her current series celebrates nostalgia from a modernist perspective, and she has work featured in galleries across the U.S.
In her own artist statement on her website, Mardis describes how her unique perspective on life influences her art. “Although as a child I colored inside the lines, I have always preferred to color the picture in an unusual color,” she notes.
For more information about the 2023 Gasparilla Arts Festival, visit its website by clicking here. Readers also can keep updated on the latest information including the live music lineup and participating food and beverage vendors at the Festival’s Facebook and Instagram pages.
by Chris Kuhn
All photos and images courtesy of The Gasparilla Festival of the Arts unless otherwise specified.
Learn more about the Gaspirilla Musci Festival here