Mainsail Art Festival, coming Saturday and Sunday to Vinoy Park, needs little introduction after 38 years. In that time, the outdoor festival in a downtown waterfront park in St. Petersburg has brought together thousands of artists and hundreds of thousands of visitors. Some of those visitors have been seasoned collectors; many have been newbies who bought their first piece of art there. Mainsail, like the other excellent outdoor art shows in the region, is a good entry point for those interested in art and fine craft who may have little knowledge of them. Favorite artists who live far away return each year to connect with their fans. And all of the most accessible media are represented, including painting, drawing, photography, ceramics and jewelry.
Mainsail's website follows a trend in providing an online gallery of exhibiting artists, this year numbering about 270. They are listed within their media, so scrolling through the oil/acrylic (painting) category reveals that most are figurative painters. Mixed media, on the other hand, is all over the place. Seeing who and what will be at the festival helps visitors be strategic about navigating it, since it is quite sprawling. Katherine Pill, assistant curator of art after 1950 at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, is this year's judge. She'll hand out $60,000 in prize money, including the $10,000 Best of Mainsail.
As central as the art is and must be to the festival, Mainsail (and this also is true of all of the good ones) is a multilayered experience. The setting is lovely (except on the rare occasions when it has rained). People-watching is itself an art form. Live music is in the air. And — no small deal — you can get good eats!
I confess to indulging in my annual corn dog; it tastes better eaten standing up in the fresh air. Along with hamburgers and grouper sandwiches, lemonade and kettle corn. But the menu has become more varied in recent years, with Greek food, Asian noodles, Cuban fare and a "fiery furnace" pizza truck. Beer and wine, of course.
Mainsail's philanthropic component is the Young at Art student show featuring art students in Pinellas County schools. Five 12th-grade students in that exhibition will receive $1,000 cash prizes.
Lennie Bennett can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8293.