Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park will be a hotbed of art and entertainment when the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts returns in person March 5-6, bringing the work of more than 200 fine art and fine craft artists to downtown Tampa.
In 2020, the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts was one of the last big local events to happen before the pandemic forced everyone into lockdown. Looking back, it feels like a dream — people enjoying themselves and the art, with little idea that it would be two full years before the festival would look like that again.
The festival went completely virtual in 2021. That can be a risky model, but through an online platform called Eventeny, sales were good and $80,000 in awards was distributed to artists, according to board president Jamie Jenkins.
“That was our chance to really help (the artists) in a troubling year,” she said. “(Eventeny) was a great tool for us for the virtual festival. It gave us the opportunity to have videos and connect with our sponsors and display the artists. One of the things that we really enjoyed on (Eventeny) was that you could connect directly with the artists.”
While the virtual sales component won’t be available this year, popular features like conversations with artists will be recorded and put on the festival’s social media channels or on YouTube.
Janet Echelman, the artist whose Bending Arc twine sculpture floats above the St. Pete Pier, is the festival’s juror. Jonathan Barnes, local artist and chairperson of the Fine Art/Humanities department at SPC Clearwater, is the emerging artist juror.
Prize money has been increased this year, with $15,000 for the Best in Show award and $72,000 in additional awards.
In addition to the main exhibiting artists, the Emerging Artists Showcase and the Local Artists Showcase return, with cash prizes awarded by festival jurors. The Scholastic Showcase has expanded its number of cash awards from one to three. New this year are Remote Studios, in which local artists will be creating and selling artwork on site.
The awards celebration that is typically for artists is now open to the public, and will happen at the end of the day on Saturday in the entertainment bandshell.
Live entertainment, emceed by ABC Action News meteorologist Denis Phillips, will feature local bands including headliners Have Gun, Will Travel and Anthill Cinema. Lucky Cat Yoga will also be on site, so guests can stretch and breathe as a warmup to all the other activities.
As part of the Community Outreach Village, the Tampa Museum of Art, the sorority Delta Gamma and Arts4All are highlighting art for and by visually impaired artists.
Returning program Carmada, which sees local artists painting cars, will feature the first ever READ Movement vehicle. The READ Movement is an artistic campaign dedicated to promote education. Guests can also paint their own pocket-sized car canvas. The NOMAD Art Bus will return, with more opportunities to paint on a vehicle.
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Glass artist Duncan McClellan will bring his DMG Mobile Glassblowing Unit to demonstrate the magic of the art form. The American Institute of Architects Tampa Bay will install an interactive structural element.
Crab Devil, a collective of Tampa artists working on the upcoming arts attraction Peninsularium, will have an interactive shipping container at the festival, giving guests a glimpse of what’s to come.
The festival always selects a featured artwork for its poster, T-shirt and merchandise design. This year it is Twister II - Twist Again by printmaker Betsy Best.
“When we started looking at our art, we wanted something that was going to invoke a happy feeling of a reminisce about childhood or something whimsical,” Jenkins said. “When we saw this one, it was just very whimsical with the Twister in there and the color and it was just fun. And we thought that’s what we need this year. That’s how we’re all feeling is we need to go back to our childhood, the fun, the being together, enjoying things.”
If you go
Gasparilla Festival of the Arts. Free. 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park, 1001 N Boulevard, Tampa. gasparillaarts.com.