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FLORIDA GULF COAST ART CENTER'S 1995 FAMILY FESTIVAL // FUN FOR KIDS OF ALL AGES

Consider the finger cast: a chalky white plaster mold of a child's thumb. Let it dry, add some paint and _ presto _ it's wearable art.

Through hands-on projects like this, the Florida Gulf Coast Art Center hopes to foster art appreciation at its Family Festival on Saturday.

For the second year, the center will open its doors to children and their parents for a free day of gallery tours, projects and demonstrations by local artists.

A juggler, Dixieland jazz band and magic shows will also entertain.

"We want to familiarize people with our institution and keep them coming back," said Elaine Georgilas, the center's curator of education.

The center will show off its latest exhibits, including contemporary crafts and outdoor sculptures _ the kind of bold works that can seem intimidating.

"That's part of what we hope people will overcome by coming to this show," said Teri Terry, art supervisor of Pinellas County schools. The Family Festival "takes away that mystery surrounding art and makes it accessible."

Terry coordinates Pinellas Creates, the art center's yearly exhibition of art by Pinellas students in kindergarten through fifth grade. She said the program and school arts programs are creating a new generation of arts supporters.

In many cases, the children are teaching their parents to realize the intrinsic value of art.

"Art helps create the humanity that we are all about as people," said Terry.

Art and music are required classes for Pinellas elementary school students and electives in middle and high schools.

Art center administrators say they hope the festival will encourage families to support Pinellas County's arts community, which has received uneven support.

"We want them to get more involved in the process of art," Georgilas said. "If it's more accessible, families will support it."

AT A GLANCE

Family Festival is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Florida Gulf Coast Art Center, 222 Ponce de Leon Blvd. off of Alt. U.S. 19 in Belleair.

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