The Suncoast Arts Festival takes place Saturday and Sunday, rolling out the works of about 130 artists from throughout the country, an eclectic lineup of entertainment and the opportunity for festivalgoers to try a hand at some artistic endeavors — all while helping to enhance arts education.
The juried art show, now in its ninth year, was conjured by a handful of founders who had the notion that a local festival could draw impressive talent to Pasco County while promoting the arts in local schools.
Indeed, the fest that started out with about 50 artists in Trinity's Longleaf community and soon outgrew the venue has matured nicely at its present location at the Shops at Wiregrass in Wesley Chapel.
"We have some great, high-caliber local artists as well as artists from other parts of the country," said Marj Golub co-chair for the festival along with Pam Marron.
Among the media up for viewing and sale: ceramics, paintings, drawings, graphics, fiber, wood, photography, print making, glass jewelry, metal sculpture and a variety of mixed-media pieces. Prizes will be awarded for overall first-place male and female; and first-place male student and female student.
Add to that an entertainment lineup that includes performances by local blues artists Julie Black and Sarasota Slim, the Tampa Bay Ukulele Society, Richey Suncoast actors, blues and swing dancers and local school children.
The works of emerging high school artists will be on display — as well as some funky offerings such as handcrafted leather cowboy hats that might catch the fancy of more than a few locals, Golub said.
"Are they fine art? Probably not, but they look lovely and they're fun," she said.
There are opportunities to join in a 1K fun run, stroll along the chalk walk or enter a smartphone photo contest.
"Most of us are horrible at taking pictures with our phones," Golub said, "but people will get some hints on how to take better pictures with the smartphone, then they can go out and take some pictures and then submit one of their pictures. We'll post the winning picture on Facebook and Rasmussen College has donated an iPad as the award."
A special Kids Art Garden will be open for those who want to create air-dried clay sculptures, wood sculptures and watercolor paintings under the guidance of festival volunteers.
That's where Stefanie Bracciale, an art teacher at Longleaf Elementary School and founding member of the art fest, will be spending most of her time.
"I love seeing the quality of artwork that comes out of the kids' hands-on area and being around the emerging artists display," she said. "I love listening to the conversations. The kids are just so proud to see that their work is being seen by people out in the community."
Some of those kids might have gotten a boost courtesy of educational grants doled out by "Arts for Kids," a grant fund created by the festival's nonprofit organization, Fine Arts of the Suncoast, Inc. In 2012, $10,813.91 was doled out to supplement arts education in public, private and charter schools in Pasco County.
Some of that money has provided supplies not covered in school budgets — teacher workshops, theater scripts, canvases, music-making software, material for family clay nights and other endeavors, such as paying for bus transportation to Sarasota so high school students looking to further their education could benefit from advice during the Ringling School of Art and Design's portfolio day.
A few years ago, Bracciale herself was the recipient of a teaching grant that she used to purchase an iPad 2 for her classroom.
"You can't believe how much you can teach with technology," she said, adding that this year she will teach students the technique of scratch art on iPads she has procured from school fundraisers and other grants.
"Most students have the basics," Bracciale said. "With these grants, art teachers can take the next step."
Michele Miller can be reached at miller@tampabay,com.