BY LENNIE BENNETT
Times Art Critic
You don't stay at the top by resting on your laurels, and the volunteer group of women who organize Art Festival Beth-El are pros at ferreting out new artists and shaking up the mix a little — just a little — each year.
This is all about the art, but I have to tip my critic's beret to the committee; most of the original members who founded the art festival 37 years ago are no longer active, but a new generation has been on the job together for many years, providing the continuity that makes the two-day event hum like a finely tuned race car.
More than 150 artists will exhibit this year. Many are returning favorites, and some new entries are represented, too. I haven't seen a comprehensive overview of the art, but I loved the handful of images sent for this preview. They promise the mix of media we expect at such a show and sale and a high technical level in each.
Unlike other arts festivals in the area, artists aren't required to attend, though many do.
Most of the festival is set up inside the temple, which for two days resembles a large art gallery. Bad weather is never an issue.
A component introduced years ago is the Avenue of Shops, on Monday only, arranged in the covered walkway at Temple Beth-El. It's a retail alternative to the fine art for those who might want a smaller financial or aesthetic commitment. It's especially good for gift shopping. The outdoor sculpture area also tends to be a little less serious in its selections.
Most of the profits will fund community and educational programs at the temple. But scholarships will be given to the schools of the winning Pinellas County high school art students competing in their own show at the festival.
Snacks and light lunches will be sold Sunday, and a seated luncheon is served Monday. Reservations, $15, are required, and it's very popular, so it could be sold out by the time you read this. Call (727) 347-6136.