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Gasparilla art festival gives children a chance to buy original work

TAMPA — Three-year-old Giovanni Guggino walked slowly around the little gallery.

He stopped to ponder a still-life print of a few mason jars, then tugged curiously at a clay ceiling fan pulley.

Finally, after several laps around the kids-only booth at Saturday's Gasparilla Festival of the Arts, Giovanni made his selection.

Smiling, he looked toward his dad waiting outside — and held up a bag of Cheez-It crackers.

"Go find something you can hang in your room," Steven Guggino suggested, and Giovanni went back to try again.

While the snack table inside the festival's Art Collectors in Training booth was certainly a hit, the $5 to $10 artwork flew off the shelves.

"We probably sold 60 percent of our inventory in the first 20 minutes," said organizer Brenda Gregory. "It's like we're selling tickets for the Rolling Stones."

The idea was to introduce kids to art collecting with a sampling of affordable pieces donated by Gasparilla festival artists set up at the Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park on Saturday and Sunday. Proceeds benefit the Children's Cancer Center.

Gregory had to shoo out several parents who wanted a peek.

"There are a lot of really good deals," Gregory said. "But we want to encourage kids to develop their own love of art."

"I think this is unbelievable," said Steven Guggino, after Giovanni had settled on a close-up photograph of a truck. "Exposing kids at such a young age and getting them to form opinions about what they really like. … It's fantastic."

"Truck," Giovanni said. "See?"

A few minutes later, friends Jamie Bradford and Rian Lopez, both 10, entered the tent.

"I like the magnets," Jamie said, her lips stained blue from an Italian ice. "They're so colorful."

"What about this? I like this," Rian said to her friend, pointing to a picture of a beach. "I think it's cool because somebody else drew it."

Outside, grownups mulled over intricate sculptures, massive oil paintings and jewel-dripping jewelry.

Artist Kenneth Miduch displayed a smoothly carved hunk of honeycomb calcite with a $3,250 price tag.

"It's beautiful — all the activity in that stone," he said, pausing to run his hands along its side.

For the children's booth, Miduch of Port Charlotte donated a small treasure chest filled with colorful rocks.

"What chid doesn't like a colored rock?" he said, remembering how he used to collect stones as a kid.

Across the park, painter Rosa Saldaitis was in the midst of selling a 20- by 24-inch print of a palm tree for $40. For her much bigger originals, she was asking between a couple of hundred dollars to more than a thousand.

She donated a smaller original painting, a pear in acrylic, to the kids.

"It's kind of like we're feeding each other," Saldaitis of Pinellas Park said of the program. "We're giving them art to enjoy, and in the future they'll be our customers."

Back at Art Collectors in Training, 8-year-old Lina Spriggs and her friend — "No, best friend!"— Sophie Walker were deciding between a silver, squiggly ring and one of the glass-blown magnets.

"And then they have this stone. It's just beautiful," Linda said, admiring a polished blue paperweight.

"This reminds me of those things they have in fairy movies, when they go, 'Hoo, hoo, hoo,' " Sophie said, pretending to blow into a small sculpture of a ram's horn.

The girls had $20, and they took their time inspecting the lot.

Sophie finally chose a picture of a boat dock that she was sure she'd visited before.

Lina bought the ring as a gift for her mom, noting that "these are really suitable prices."

With that, they skipped out into the sunshine, and another few kids ambled in.

The booth will be open at the festival again today, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Kim Wilmath can be reached at or (813) 661-2442.


Gasparilla Festival of the Arts winners

Best of Show ($15,000): Phillip Nolley.

Board of Directors'
Award ($7,500): Aaron

Roddy Brownlee Reed Award of Artistic
Excellence ($4,000):
Rocky Bridges.

The winners' art will be on view from 8:30 to 10 a.m. today at the Collector's Showcase in the Glazer Children's Museum, 110 W Gasparilla Plaza, Tampa.

Gasparilla art festival gives children a chance to buy original work 03/05/11 [Last modified: Saturday, March 5, 2011 10:47pm]
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