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Approachable art

Raymond James & Associates sails confidently to The Pier this weekend for its annual outdoor art show. For the 11th year, and the fourth at The Pier, the St. Petersburg-based brokerage has invited artists to set up booths on both sides of The Pier's approach.

The show has become a pleasant autumnal rite for the civic- and cultural-minded company. The place works: The Pier offers an aesthetically pleasing and logical layout (down and back) for visitors who want to catch the whole show. Walk up on one side and back on the other, and you'll miss no artist's display.

The time works: October's weather is usually a great time to be outside. If it does rain, the show goes on inside The Pier building.

More than 100 artists are expected to exhibit this year. All are from Florida; most have won prizes in outdoor shows. Exhibitors are chosen by Lawrence Silver, vice president of marketing for Raymond James and coordinator of the show. He visits other shows and asks to see work by artists that other artists recommend. Eliminated are crafts that don't fit the category of fine art.

Among the artists are Joann Caldwell (swirling faces rising from colorful paintings), Loyd Jones (metal mangrove bases beneath glass tabletops), Denis Gaston (introspective figures in low-key graphics), Linda Molto (colorful silk-screens), Raymond Ferguson (functional wood vessels) and Jack Ellis (paintings loaded with meticulously painted symbols). Ellen Goldberg's popular jewelry won't be back this year, though the artist will, in her first show in a year and a half. But this time she'll be premiering her wood sculpture.

Back this year are previous Raymond James best-of-show winners James Michaels and Shirley Clement.

Prices usually run from low (inexpensive jewelry and unframed prints made to sell quickly) to high (one-of-a-kind works representative of the artist's best). Consider them all to be good buys in terms of labor by trained and talented artists.

Raymond James will award more than $6,000 in cash prizes, with best of show taking $1,250. In addition to bearing the costs of the show, the company charges no fee either to artists or to the public, and takes no commission from works sold.

Raymond James also buys works from the show for its corporate collection, a factor that has stimulated awareness of Florida art among employees, says Silver. "Because of the art here, many of our people have gotten an appetite for it. They follow the artists."

Longtime employees have also followed the show's growth. "We started the shows with only 25 to 30 artists in attendance," says Silver, who calls the show a "one-day museum of talented, award-winning artists for the people of Tampa Bay."

The awards ceremony is scheduled for 2 p.m. Choosing the winners this year will be R. Andrew Maass, director of the Tampa Museum of Art.

Refreshments and other diversions are available inside The Pier.

Outdoor Art Scene update

The future of the Hyde Park Art Festival, one of the best fall shows in the area, is in jeopardy. Organizer Michael Murphy hopes to pull it together for Nov. 21 and 22, in spite of Barnett Banks' buyout of the show's sponsor, First Florida Bank. We'll keep you posted.

The Ringling Crafts Festival has been canceled by the board of trustees of the Ringling Museum of Art. At one time it was as fine as any outdoor show on the Florida West Coast, but its quality deteriorated when prize money was reduced and its operation was turned over to a commercial festival organizer.

These perennially popular shows, though, are expected to go on as usual:

Nov. 7 and 8, Art Harvest, Highlander Park, Dunedin.

Nov. 13-15, Festival of the Masters, Disney Village Marketplace, Lake Buena Vista.

Dec. 5 and 6, Palm Harbor Arts, Crafts and Music Festival _ Florida Avenue, Palm Harbor.

Dec. 12 and 13, Crews Lake Arts, Crafts and Music Festival _ Crews Lake Park, Pasco County.

ART PREVIEW

What: The Raymond James Invitational Art Show.

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

Where: The Pier, St. Petersburg.

Cost: Free.

Parking: Pier lots A and B; $1 for all day. No parking along Pier approach.

Information: 821-6164.

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