RIVERVIEW — The talent that musicians Eric Darius and Belinda Womack bring to this weekend's Festival of the Arts at Winthrop Town Centre has heightened the attention being garnered by the event.
Keep in mind, however, there is an "s" at the end of the word "art." The second annual event is as much about fine arts as it is about performing arts. With $7,000 being offered in cash awards, the juried show continues to grow as a showcase.
Bryant Martinez, artist in residence at Winthrop, continues to tout the festival as a way of defining the area's greatest. He credits Winthrop developers John and Kay Sullivan, sponsoring organization Brandon Rotary '86 and event coordinator Mary Boor. The St. Petersburg Times is also an event sponsor.
"It all starts with having the right people being committed," Martinez said, like, "of course, John and Kay. Mary's been a real blessing. Rotary has done some really fabulous things.
"What is Brandon known for? With this event, it can be known for amazing art and amazing beautiful public spaces where families and friends can congregate. Making Brandon the most beautiful place possible starts with arts."
The inaugural event in 2009 drew more than 1,000 fans and 70 artists. Martinez said he expects more people and just as many artists this year. Many of the artists are former winners from more established festivals such as Gasparilla, Winter Park, Naples, Miami and Savannah.
Visitors can expect to see every type of fine art, from paintings, mixed media and ceramics to jewelry and glass works. Art lovers simply can stroll the area, or they can peruse works worthy of taking home.
"The artists we expect to be at the show are artists to invest in," Martinez said. "Eric Darius and Belinda Womack are high-caliber jazz artists, so we have to have high-caliber art. We wouldn't expect anything less."
Womack, a longtime local legend, performs tonight at a special gala at the Barn at Winthrop.
Darius, a Blake High graduate and international star, takes the stage Saturday with an impressive resume that includes a national No. 1 hit on the jazz charts.
Along with Darius and Womack, the festival also should draw people from around the area familiar with guitarist and Tampa native Christie Lenee, who will open for Darius on Saturday.
Now living in Philadelphia, Lenee and her band promises to fuse modern, classical, jazz, folk and flamenco.
The addition of musical acts to the festival should enhance the foundation. John Sullivan said the event has gone beyond his original expectations.
"It's a testament to the Rotary Club and Mary and a sign that the area is feeling itself," said Sullivan, himself a former bass player. "At Winthrop, we've always supported theater and visual arts, and the music just adds to that."
Ernest Hooper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3404.