DUNEDIN — Creativity and talent are ripe and ready to enjoy as the 47th annual Art Harvest returns to Highlander Park this weekend.
The juried art show, held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, features the works of more than 200 artists from around the nation as well as food, fun and art opportunities for children.
This year, the signature event of the Junior League of Clearwater-Dunedin comes with a special purpose: to provide funding for a future foster teen training center in south Clearwater.
The league hopes to raise between $80,000 and $100,000 to acquire and upgrade two homes on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue. The homes are now under contract, pending funding for the project. One would serve as the main teen training center; the other, administrative offices.
The center will offer life skills, support, career planning and other services for teens in foster care who will "age out" of the system at age 18, said Courtney Pagliari, Art Harvest co-chair.
"These teens don't have the support of permanent families. The statistics for them are really sad," she said.
One in four of the newly minted adults will be incarcerated within the first two years of leaving the foster care system; more than 20 percent will become homeless. And only 58 percent will earn a high school diploma by age 19, according to data supplied by the league.
In Pinellas and Pasco counties, almost 320 teens are in foster care.
"They may feel forgotten and unloved," Pagliari said. "But we haven't forgotten them, and we will be there for them to give them hope and point them in the right direction."
The league is working with Eckerd Youth Alternatives and Camelot Community Care to develop the project. Once the physical location is established, Eckerd Youth Alternatives will provide the programs and training.
The league has a proven track record of nurturing positive change in the community. It has raised $1.5 million over the years to provide funding for the Dunedin Fine Art Center, UPARC Foundation, Sunshine Playground at Clearwater's Long Center, FUN bus for school field trips, and the Rick Pitino High Point Success Center for low-income families.
The money raised during Art Harvest comes from sponsorships, vendor fees, food and beverage sales, parking fees and tickets for prize drawings.
The artists in the show will vie for more than $27,000 in prize money in 13 categories this year.
James Michael Nemnich of Indialantic, a contemporary artist with a unique graphic style influenced by his love of the ocean, was chosen as featured artist. He is an acclaimed surfboard painter, having decorated more than 30,000 of them between 1975 and 1992.
His poster piece, Cosmic Curl, resembles one big, whimsical wave.
"We hope it makes people think about the year we had in the gulf," Pagliari said. "The design was selected not only for artistic appeal, but because we felt it reflects and remembers the year we had with the oil spill. That was a wakeup call for all of us."
The fall festival offers food — everything from Cuban to barbecue — along with beer, wine, lemonade and soft drinks.
In the children's tent, budding artists can create puzzles, a turkey hat, jewelry from raffia and beads, and other crafts for free.
Contact Terri Bryce Reeves at firstname.lastname@example.org.