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Mix of styles ushers in festival season

David 
Witbeck, oil on canvas
Published Jan. 24, 2013

January brings us the first in the round of 2013's major art festivals in Tampa Bay: Art Festival Beth-El opens to the public Sunday and continues through Monday at Temple Beth-El in St. Petersburg.

Like all good festivals, it combines the familiar with the unexpected and new, with first-time artists exhibiting alongside perennial favorites. What has always distinguished this event is a willingness to accept artists who might bring a bit of edge to the mix of about 150 artists. That's probably because the volunteer selection committee, art-savvy women who serve on it for years at a time, actively seeks out different artists at other festivals around the country.

Because the festival is at the temple, set up in indoor spaces and along covered walkways, weather is never a worry. It's a big show, but it also has an intimacy.

In addition to the paintings, ceramics, sculpture and jewelry in the temple's large rooms, a sculpture garden will be punctuated with pieces for outdoor use. (They trend toward the whimsical rather than the serious.) Syd Entel Galleries will also sell signed and framed limited edition prints, and a boutique area will be stocked with affordable crafts.

The festival is free, but there are two popular events requiring tickets: A preview cocktail party on Saturday from 7 to 10 p.m. is $25, with tickets available at the door, and a luncheon on Monday at 12:30 p.m. requires an advance ticket purchase of $20 because it usually sells out. Light lunches and snacks will be for sale, too.

The entertainment headliner is comic Matthew McGee, who has appeared in local theater productions, including as Dr. Frank-N-Furter in American Stage in the Park's Rocky Horror Show. He'll bring his act to the festival at 11 a.m. Monday. It's free.

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