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A PIRATE'S TREASURE OF art

For art's sake, the 24th annual Gasparilla Sidewalk Art Festival is on the move.

And while it won't benefit this year's Gasparilla artists, it will give a whole new focus to the Tampa Museum of Art. Curtis Hixon Convention Center is being demolished, and as it comes down, the museum, tucked behind, will at long last be visible.

That's why Gasparilla, the bay area's biggest and best outdoor art show, has had to move from Doyle Carlton Drive behind the museum and along the Hillsborough River to Ashley Drive one block east. Artists' booths will stretch from Kennedy Boulevard north to Polk Street, and will include the adjacent blocks of Madison, Twiggs and Zack.

Logistics aside, Gasparilla should be as good as ever. It has the most artists (300), the most prize money ($60,000) and the highest expected turnout (150,000) of any area art show. The artists represent 33 states and two foreign countries.

The artists will be showing paintings, graphics, sculpture, jewelry, ceramics, glass and other fine arts and craft forms.

They have already passed the pre-judging process, which whittled their numbers from more than 1,300 who applied.

The list includes prize winners galore. Kevin O'Dwyer, a metal artist from Ireland, won best of show at Coconut Grove, the top outdoor show in the nation, last month. Recent Gasparilla best of show winners include Ummarid (Tony) Eitharong, who won last year, James Michaels and Theo Wujcik. All but one of last year's major prize winners are expected to return.

Selecting this year's winners will be Ned Rifkin, director of the High Museum of Art, Atlanta.

Though you come for the art, there is plenty more going on. Continuous entertainment and a children's activity area will take place along the plaza north of NationsBank (the round building).

A food court is on the corner of Ashley and Twiggs Street; other vendors will be located along the Ashley median strip.

Advice: dress comfortably; wear sunblock; check the weather report. Bring money (for art, lunch, drink, T-shirt or poster). Most artists accept checks; some take credit cards.

Don't bring pets, alcohol, skateboards, roller skates or bicycles; rules forbid them.

Get a map of the show at the information booth. Allow at least an hour per hundred artists; three hours minimum to see it all. Set a meeting time and place with your companions just in case you lose each other.

And just in case you don't get your fill of the arts outdoors, you can duck into the Tampa Museum of Art or the nearby public library where a celebration of the arts (featuring Florida poet laureate Edmund Skelling) takes place Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. You can also see Forever Plaid at the Jaeb Theater, Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 and 7 p.m. Forget Phantom; the matinee performances both days are sold out.

If you yearn for more art when the sun goes down, hang around for an art auction of works by more than 120 Gasparilla artists in the NationsBank Tower lobby; preview and silent auction at 7:30 followed by live auction at 8:30. Proceeds benefit school field trips to the museum.

Congestion alert!

Go early. Wear walking shoes.

The 1994 Gasparilla Sidewalk Art Festival may have a major problem with traffic congestion and parking. The ongoing demolition of Curtis Hixon Convention Center has caused the show to be moved from quiet Doyle Carlton Drive to busy Ashley Drive, which will be blocked off for the show.

The city-run Poe garage, the first parking choice of those attending Gasparilla in the past, will be reserved for matinee ticket holders to Phantom of the Opera at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. Artists' vans will claim some close-in parking.

In addition, the Kennedy Boulevard bridge across the Hillsborough River is closed.

You can park on the street at metered spots (free on the weekend), in city garages other than Poe (Fort Brooke, Whiting Street), open lots and private garages. Police will be on hand to direct traffic. Expect to pay a fee at all lots and garages.

Leroy Burchardt, operations superintendent for the City of Tampa, says, "We have sufficient parking. It may not be as close as some people want, but most of it is no more than six blocks, maybe eight blocks away."

ART PREVIEW

24th Gasparilla Sidewalk Art Festival

WHEN: 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

WHERE: Along Ashley Drive in downtown Tampa.

SPONSOR: NationsBank.

COST: Free.

PARKING: Nearby garages and lots (fee charged); streets (free).

RAIN PLANS: None.

ENTERTAINMENT SCHEDULE

SATURDAY

10-11 a.m.: Pierene String Quartet (classical)

11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m.: Karen Black and Friends (folk)

12:30-1:30 p.m.: Joanne Samson Group (jazz)

1:45-2:45 p.m.: Hapi and Patty with the Crabgrass Cowboys

3-4 p.m.: The Top Cats (R&B)

4:15-5:15 p.m.: Dan McMillion (jazz from Tampa Bay)

SUNDAY

11 a.m.-noon: Tony Funderburk (contemporary)

Noon: Awards

12:30-1 p.m.: The Plaids (Broadway Revue with Judy Munson)

1-2 p.m.: Bohemian Swingers (Key West R&B)

2:15-3:15 Brezza (Latin fusion)

3:30-4:30 Richie Kicklighter (jazz)

Also: Roving entertainers throughout the show.

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