ST. PETERSBURG — Copper artist Ronald Lemoine is bringing his whimsical fish sculptures back to St. Petersburg.
He has given his latest piece a name fans of his fanciful work would appreciate: This is no machine Mr. Bass, what you have here is a contraption.
Lemoine's creations will be among those of 250 artists, from 31 states and Canada, on display and for sale at this weekend's Mainsail Arts Festival.
The event, set against the waterfront backdrop of Vinoy Park, draws thousands of art lovers each year. Besides art, the two-day show will also dish up specialities such as mango bread, Italian sausage and spicy Thai chicken along with pulsating steel band rhythms, bluegrass, boogie woogie and other music.
This is the festival's 37th year. Lisa Wells, who has chaired its volunteer organizing committee for more than two decades, said close to 1,000 artists applied to participate. Those who made the cut were selected by a panel of five jurors.
"It's a quality show and I think they appreciate that it's an all-volunteer committee,'' she said. "The money all goes back to them.''
"And I think they like the venue. Downtown has become such a vibrant community and they're out there on the water.''
Lemoine, 63, who has exhibited at Mainsail "on and off" for about 18 years, agrees.
"The venue is beautiful,'' he said. "I'm a sailor. I'm a water guy. I do shows all over the United States, but St. Pete has a fun flavor to it. I always have a good time.''
"People love my stuff. I get a lot of people at my booth interacting with the humor of it.''
Lemoine's pieces sell for about $240 to close to $5,000. This is no machine Mr. Bass recently went for $4,800.
"It's a conglomeration of all the stuff in my life that broke this year,'' the artist said of the piece, chuckling during a phone interview.
"It's got my Mr. Coffee machine, part of my van, the throttle control valve, and it's got an old welding regulator that broke and I have the broken water strainer off my sailboat."
Art shown this weekend will be in 13 categories — ceramics, digital art, fibers, glass, graphics, jewelry, metal, mixed media, oil/acrylic, photography, sculpture, watercolor and wood. The artists will compete for over $50,000 in cash prizes, including $10,000 for Best of Mainsail. The judge is Cameron Kitchin, director of the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art in Memphis, Tenn.
The festival also will feature a Young at ARt exhibition of work from public and private school students and homeschoolers throughout Pinellas County. Twelve Awards of Excellence for outstanding artwork in kindergarten through 12th grade will be presented. This year the Junior League of St. Petersburg will again offer its Kids Create tent, where children can make fish prints, plant their own beanstalk for Earth Day and participate in other creative activities.
Organizers say Mainsail attracts about 100,000 visitors.
"People look forward to it," Wells said. "They are drawn to the quality of the art and the venue. There's something for everyone, and it's free."
Contact Waveney Ann Moore at wmoore @tampabay.com or (727) 892-2283.