Tuesday, January 16, 2018
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Suncoast Arts Fest in Wesley Chapel is Jan. 21-22

There's only one thing better than a first-rate art festival with multimedia works, fine jewelry creations, traditional oil paintings and performance art: A festival that has all that and benefits children's art.

That's what the seventh annual Suncoast Arts Fest is all about.

Next weekend's event, put on by the nonprofit Fine Arts of the Suncoast Inc. and held at the Shops at Wiregrass in Wesley Chapel, features more than 130 fine artists and craftsmen. As always, proceeds go to "Arts for Kids," which supplements art programs in Pasco's public and private schools.

"It enhances and improves upon what we are offering for our students," said Stefanie Bracciale, Longleaf Elementary art teacher and a Suncoast Arts Fest committee member responsible for student "Emerging Artist" displays at the show. "This has been a fantastic event."

What makes it a successful event, organizers say, is the diverse mix of artists and a constantly evolving show that offers works for sale in all price ranges.

"It's just another exciting art event and we are growing every year," said Laura Knox, Suncoast Arts spokeswoman.

Rolly Ray Reel, a 3-D mixed media artist, will return this year to compete for a third win for Best in Show after winning two years in a row from two different panels of judges.

"He's got almost museum quality work," said Marj Golub, co-chair of the event. "It's going to be hard to beat him."

Greg Stephens, who specializes in nature and wildlife photography and was the 2011 distinction award winner, will highlight his work that captures beauty in nature. John Cheer, whose eye-popping clay works won the 2011 Excellence Award, will return with pieces ranging from $45 to $6,000. And Patti Barker, a fiber artist who clinched the 2011 Merit Award, will exhibit her latest designs in silk nuno scarves and felted jackets.

A lot of jewelry artists are also in the mix this year.

"The beauty of the jewelry is it tends to be affordable," said Golub, who said the same about many clay pieces. She said things people can use regularly have a functionality about them, which seems important when making purchase decisions in today's economy.

While much of the event is an open-air art walk, live art is sure to beckon festivalgoers both days.

Chalk artists will be sprinkled into the festival creating temporary elaborate chalk works.

"Chalk artists like to talk to the public," Golub said. "It's a really good opportunity to interact with artists."

Additionally, Tim Decker, a nationally touring speed artist, will entertain the crowds. He's known for creating celebrity and patriotic portraits in four to seven minutes flat while music blasts.

The festival also gives a nod to other local performing artists, including Time Bandits, a classic rock and blues band whose members are donating their talents to the event and open the festival at 10 a.m. Jan. 21.

Other entertainment includes Hudson Middle School's drama and chorus group, the Hudson Middle School jazz band and the Land O'Lakes High School Band, Josh Lamkin of Wesley Chapel and his band Automatic Heat, and Sol Caribe. Organizers also promise a don't-want-to-miss performance, but they won't say what it is or when it will happen.

Keeping with promoting art for children, a Kids Art Garden will be set up where children can create art on the spot.

"We get excited about it because we can do it for the kids," Knox said about the fest. "It's all about the kids."

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: Laura Knox is the spokeswoman for the Suncoast Arts Fest. The original version of this story gave an incorrect name.

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