BROOKSVILLE — For 29 years, Art in the Park has been the Hernando County Arts Council's signature fundraising event.
Held annually at Tom Varn Park in recent years, the juried art show welcomes dozens of artists and crafters. Proceeds go toward providing grants to organizations such as the Hernando Youth Orchestra, the Hernando Jazz Society and the Spring Hill Art League, as well as education scholarships to young artists.
A year ago, however, things weren't looking good for the storied art, craft and music festival. Tough economic times and dwindling support had taken their toll on the beleaguered arts council, which had dwindled to just a handful of members. Talk was that the event would have to be canceled.
Enter Jan Knowles, a longtime Brooksville resident known for her exceptional organizational skills through her years coordinating the Brooksville Raid, activities at the Hernando Historical Museum and most recently, the community-led effort to save Chinsegut Hill.
Within a few weeks, Knowles, as executive director of the arts council, had lined up an enthusiastic army of artists, vendors and volunteers who were eager to save the festival. Brooksville city officials and local businesses also offered their support. And what Knowles accomplished cost the arts council almost nothing.
Now back on track, she is hopeful that this year's Art in the Park, which runs Saturday and Sunday, will offer a sign that the event is heading in a positive direction.
"To me, an art festival is one of the most valuable things you can bring to a community," Knowles said. "It brings lots of people together and provides them with something enjoyable to share."
Knowles said that more than 90 artists have signed up to exhibit this weekend, and quite a few of them have never shown their creations at the event.
In addition to local artists, the festival will welcome a contingent of Florida Highwaymen, the group of African-American artists who have become renowned for creating folk art paintings that they sold from the trunks of their cars. Their works are highly collected today.
In addition to live music, other activities will include an interactive children's art area that will be staffed by YMCA volunteers and a wine tasting sponsored by Brookstone Wines of Brooksville.
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1435.