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At Palm Harbor show, rubbish is redeemed

While he was still in high school, Rocky Bridges entered his first sidewalk art show in Palm Harbor with pen and ink drawings.

Today the University of South Florida professor shows most of his work in galleries, but he hasn't forgotten his roots.

This weekend, Bridges, 41, will be back at the Palm Harbor Fine Arts, Crafts and Music Festival, in its 32nd year.

About 10,000 people are expected to make their annual trek to the festival, which will be held for the second year outside the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art, at St. Petersburg College in Tarpon Springs.

The show was moved to the college last year because of road construction in historic downtown Palm Harbor.

Connie Davis, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Palm Harbor Area Chamber of Commerce, said organizers are happy there, at least for now.

"It's a very cultural atmosphere and the ambiance of the campus is great," she said. "It also offers ample parking and the logistics are easier."

So after three decades in quaint old Palm Harbor, is this new location permanent?

"It depends on this year's show, the artists, the board and the community," Davis said. "It is hard to get all the artists on Florida Avenue, and some had to be moved to the side streets, so they weren't very happy with that."

About 150 vendors are expected to attend the show, where artists from all over the country will compete for more than $11,000 in prize money.

Bridges, who won Best of Show in Dunedin's recent Art Harvest, is a likely contender.

These days, he creates assemblages, or three-dimensional collages created from found objects. He often combines poetry, painting and sculpture into his works.

"I go on hunts for colors, textures and shapes," the Tarpon Springs resident said. "I sometimes look in salvage and recycling yards."

He said he adores things with scars and scratches.

"Someone had no use for these objects anymore, discarded them, and now I can use them," he said. "There is this underlying theme of hope."

Categories for artists are painting, mixed media, watercolors, jewelry, photography, glass, fiber, metal, wood, ceramics, sculpture, baskets, paper, fine crafts, graphics and drawing.

Entertainers will include country music singer Rebecca Lindsey, saxophone player Stacey Knights and pianist Dave Cahalan.

Children can join in the fun by creating dove ornaments and going on a museum treasure hunt.

Bill and Louise Hoskins started the festival in 1975 to bring more art and music to downtown Palm Harbor. Part of the proceeds will go to the Bill and Louise Hoskins Visual Arts Scholarship Program and the St. Petersburg College Scholarship Fund.

This year's featured artist is Carole Jayne, of Eminence, Mo., whose piece Dreaming of Egypt was reproduced for the show's T-shirts. Jayne said most of her works are romantically themed. She favors women, peacocks, nudes and landscapes.

To create the 5-by-8-inch piece, she used a centuries-old enameling technique called cloisonne. The images were laid with fine gold and silver, filled with vitreous enamel, fired at 1,650 degrees, then refilled and fired to create 15 layers of lead-bearing glass.

"This piece will be around 2,000 years from now," she said. "Unless you run over it with a car, you can't destroy it."

"Someone had no use for these objects anymore, discarded them, and now I can use them. There is an underlying theme of hope."

Rocky Bridges, USF professor and artist who makes three-dimensional collages from found objects


Fine Arts, Crafts and Music Festival

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Where: The Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art is at St. Petersburg College's Tarpon Springs campus, 600 Klosterman Road.

Admission: Free. Parking is $3. No pets.

Backed by: The 32nd annual festival is sponsored by the Greater Palm Harbor Area Chamber of Commerce.