Mainsail Art Festival

St. Pete Awaits Arrival of Mainsail Art Festival This April


Mainsail Art Festival
Ceramic Vessels by Brenda McMahon

What began as a collaboration between the City of St. Petersburg’s Bicentennial Committee, its local recreation department and newly established Arts Commission in 1976 has far surpassed the “First Annual Saint Petersburg Sidewalk Arts and Colonial Crafts Festival.” Now hailed as one of the “100 Best” fine art and design events in the U.S. by Sunshine Artist Magazine, the 43rd Annual Mainsail Art Festival docks at Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg April 21-22, 2018. The event’s nautical theme has remained a mainstay of the show though its branding has evolved from large hoisted sails and pink flamingos to a sleeker sailboat design. Admission is free for the event which draws over 100,000 visitors annually as 250+ juried fine art and craft artists from around the country exhibit their work and compete for $60,000 in award money.


Patrons can stroll through art on display across a broad range of media, including ceramic, sculpture, fiber, digital art, watercolor, photography, jewelry, glass, metal and more. Mainsail Art Festival Chairperson Lisa Wells has been involved with the festival for over 25 years and heads up the 40-person Festival committee comprised entirely of volunteers. “We have people on our committee from all walks of life,” she says. “I think patrons know that our show is heavily juried and has quality art. We have been around a long time and patrons appreciate that we are not for profit and all volunteer.”

This year’s Festival features an expanded Young@Art activity area for young patrons including a free “make and take” crafts tent hosted by the Junior LMain Sail Art Festivaleague of St Petersburg and Great Explorations. When art lovers and young artists work up an appetite, the Festival Culinary Food Court offers up tasty fare from popular local eateries, and guests can take in the melodic sounds and rhythms of a festive lineup of live entertainment all weekend long.

The 2018 Show Judge is Holly Koons, executive director of the Arlington Arts Center. At Sunday morning’s Artists’ Breakfast and Awards presentation, Koons will hand out the awards to include a $10,000 Best of Mainsail Gold Award, $5,000 Silver Award and two $2,500 Bronze Award prizes.

This is Brenda McMahon’s second year taking part at Mainsail. The Gulfport ceramic artist (, who creates ceramic vessels and dimensional wall murals, describes her Saggar Fired Vessels on display at the show as “unusual” and creating a surface that is both “mystical and quiet. She says the audience that attends the Mainsail Art Festival is informed and appreciative. “As an artist, we toil in our studios alone with inspiration, hard work and the creative process. Once I come out to an art show, I appreciate the organic audience response to my work,” McMahon says.

Artist Donald Gialanella of St. Pete ( is making his debut at Mainsail in the sculpture category, though locals will already be familiar with one of his works, a 17-foot-long steel mustache sculpture permanently installed outside The Dali just down the road from Vinoy Park. “I’m looking forward to meeting and chatting with visitors. Getting feedback from the many spectators is always a thrill,” Gialanella says. At Mainsail, he will be exhibiting a life-size blue horse (“Big Blue Horse-photo above”), which he created by combining recycled steel pieces together over a steel framework. “A scientific study found that people’s stress levels decreased after a lunchtime visit to an art gallery,” he says. “I hope viewers derive joy from seeing my work. The kind of indefinable satisfaction that comes from seeing something that is unexpected, new humorous, incongruous, beautiful and slightly left of center.”

Mainsail Art Festival
Golden Hour By R. Herbenick

The Mainsail Art Festival runs 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. For additional information about this year’s artists, check out the 2018 gallery of participating artists at Plus, check back here at DESTINATION TAMPA BAY to meet other local artists taking part in this year’s event.

By Chris Kuhn written for Destination Tampa Bay

For artist consider reviewing this information on grant programs offered by the City of St Petersburg and the Art Alliance.


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