When Myndee Washington was appointed executive director of the Hernando County Fine Arts Council in December, she said her focus would be on finding community support. With a flailing economy, much of the council's traditional support has dwindled, but Washington was determined.
The 26th annual Art in the Park Art, Craft & Music Festival on Saturday and Sunday at Tom Varn Park is proof that her word is good. About 100 artists will participate in the event's juried art show, an increase over last year's 80 or so.
"And we're getting more applications every day," Washington said. "We worked hard this year to bring artists who have never participated in the show. There will be many new artists and many familiar faces."
Peter Gerbert, whose acrylic paintings depict detailed wildlife scenes, will premier two new pieces this weekend, Washington said.
Works by the Florida Highwaymen also will be featured. During the 1950s, the Highwaymen, a group of African-American painters from the Fort Pierce area, sold their work from the trunks of their cars along Florida highways. Their works have become prominent recently.
Original Highwaymen attending will include Cornell Smith and Roy McLendon. Second-generation Highwaymen will include Kelvin Hair (son of original painter Alfred Hair), Ray McLendon (Roy's son), and twin brothers Johnny and Jimmy Stovall.
Event coordinator Sherry Tarrio is excited about this year's student art exhibit, which will feature art from students throughout the county.
"This year, our coordinator tells us, we have 300 (pieces) submitted," Tarrio said. "That's 100 more than we had last year."
As a result, Tarrio said, the student exhibit booth had to be expanded. Special awards will be given in various categories, including a $50 savings bond for the "Emerging Artist Award."
Tarrio said this year's children's activity zone also has been expanded. It will include a Mother's Day card creation station, where children can make and decorate cards for their mothers.
Saturday's entertainment will include the Hernando Youth Orchestra, Kids Helping Kids, Shazadi and the Hernando Jazz Society. Sunday there will be Stage West performers, Paxton Watkins and Jack and Company.
Tarrio and Washington credited volunteers with stepping up to put the event together. Additional help is always welcome, they said, whether it's helping out with the kids' activity zone, hospitality, greeting, cleanup or other areas.
"Our volunteers are super important," Tarrio said. "We couldn't do this without them."