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Art Hop out, juried show in

(ran East, Beach editions)

Downtown Largo Main Street plans to launch its first juried art festival in February.

Art Fest 2005 will replace the organization's annual Art Hop, which showcased local artists for the past three years.

"We wanted to give more of the public an opportunity to view artists' works by making it an outdoor free public festival vs. a ticketed event," event promoter Anne Buck said.

Tickets for last year's Art Hop cost $30 in advance and $35 at the door.

Buck, who hopes to continue the new festival for years to come, knows she has her work cut out for her.

She hasn't ironed out prize details, but said winning works will definitely receive cash awards. A variety of artwork also will be available for purchase.

Judith Powers-Jones, executive director of the Pinellas County Arts Council, said juried festivals foster an arts friendly image and draw artists from near and far. But they need to establish solid cash awards to draw talented artists year after year, she said.

"To attract good artists and to sustain it, you need marketing and prize money to be substantial so you're creating a quality experience," she said.

Carolann Mancuso, an art teacher and Art Fest organizer, recognizes that the event is in its infancy, but said the association's goal is to nurture arts and culture in the community.

"The premise is to support the arts in Largo and promote the arts, and this is one very important way to do it," said Mancuso, who was also active with the Art Hop.

Powers-Jones and Mancuso said there have been few community juried festivals in Largo proper, except for an art show sponsored by the Seminole-Largo branch of All Children's Hospital Guild, which made Largo Central Park its home for a few years.

About 10 Florida art festivals are planned for the same weekend, including the Winter Art & Craft festival in DeLand, Marco Juried Fine Art Show in Marco Island and Mount Dora Arts Festival in downtown Mount Dora. But local competition is slim. No other Pinellas juried festivals are listed in the Florida Arts & Crafts Festivals guide on the Pinellas County Arts Council Web site.

Buck aims to secure at least 50 artists and crafts people, each paying a $115 fee to enter the festival and sell their artwork.

A few of the event's exhibitors include Pinellas Association for Retarded Children, Fabulous African Fabrics and silk painter Susane Mueller.

Mueller said she favors outdoor festivals over gallery exhibits because she enjoys mingling with people and can make a profit on her work while offering it at an affordable price.

"Outdoor shows are really where you can sell your work. Galleries often take 50 percent," she said.

Buck is planning to have two or three judges for the event, including Pinellas County Property Appraiser Jim Smith, who is a sculptor, and art historian and writer Anne Shamas.

Smith, who will be judging his first juried festival, said he's right for the role because he's "not wishy-washy" in his opinions on artwork.

Buck is seeking artists, sponsors and food vendors for the event, which will also feature live entertainment. The participation fee for food vendors is $150.

The festival is not a city-sponsored activity, Buck said. In addition to permit and generator rental fees, Buck expects Main Street to pay the city about $350 to rent the gazebo at the park and about $3,800 for police security.

Funds raised by the event will support Downtown Largo Main Street Association, a nonprofit group that supports residents and businesses in Largo's downtown redevelopment districts.

IF YOU GO

Downtown Largo Main Street plans to host Art Fest 2005 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 5 in Ulmer Park, near West Bay Village. Interested artists, sponsors or vendors should call Anne Buck at 588-1315 or the association at 518-8442.

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