BROOKSVILLE — As far as Peter Gerbert is concerned, there’s no better place to be than outdoors. It’s what propelled him to pursue a career in forestry.
But then Gerbert, who was always a painter at heart, decided about 25 years ago to join his two loves. He went into the business of capturing what he’s seen on canvas.
Since then, the wildlife artist has traversed the state, selling his works at art festivals. His subjects include the elusive Florida scrub jay — plus sandhill cranes, sharks, snowy egrets and other wildlife.
This weekend, some of Gerbert’s pieces will be exhibited on the shaded grounds of Tom Varn Park in Brooksville, when he joins 130 artisans at the Hernando Fine Arts Council’s 36th-annual Art in the Park.
Gerbert paints in a home studio in Ridge Manor that looks out on a wooded landscape flush with Florida fauna and all sorts of wildlife.
“I don’t have to look far for inspiration,” Gerbert said, although he sometimes does.
“The exploring is my favorite part,” he said, especially the Withlacoochee Forest and the spring-fed Silver River near Ocala. “I try to tell a story. Some of them have an adventure behind them.”
Like the time he was out photographing wild turkeys and captured 68 shots of a Florida panther as it darted by.
Gerbert’s work has been honored by Audubon Florida and graced the covers of Florida Naturalist and Florida Fish and Wildlife News. His paintings have been made into jigsaw puzzles and posters. He is the subject of an upcoming documentary and will have his work featured at the Coral Gables Museum from March 26 to July 19.
This weekend’s festival and juried art show features original artwork by fine art and craft exhibitors, as well as a student art exhibit, a children’s art activity tent and two full days of entertainment.
A highlight will be the Hernando Symphony Orchestra’s free “Pops in the Park” concert at 1 p.m. Saturday. The group will perform selections from its recent Spectrum concert.
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“The orchestra is a great partner and is a wonderful draw,” said event chair Jan Knowles. This year’s event will have a new 30- by 75-foot tent, allowing 70 people to sit and enjoy the stage entertainment.
“So if there is inclement weather, the music will go on,” she said. “And it will also allow everyone to stay out of the sun.”
Other new additions this year include a bigger prize pot of $6,000. And there will be cash prizes in the student show, courtesy of the Nature Coast Art League, plus a coloring contest for children and chalk art along the paths, created by local middle- and high-school students on Friday evening.
“The student art tent has a sponsor for first time in all these years,” Knowles said, noting that Simply Local Search and Social donated $750 to provide lighting in the tent. “It will be all lit up, with no windows, so the light can be controlled,” she said.
The event has a premier sponsor — Florida’s Adventure Coast Visitors Bureau. And for the third year in a row, the Southeast Tourism Society named Art in the Park to its top 20 festival and events for March.
There will be about 12 food trucks, as well as other vendors strewn throughout the park
Knowles, who has helped put the event together for about 17 years, is pleased with the new features and diverse entertainment.
“We have so much talent here,” Knowles said. “It is just a lovely show.”
If you go
Art in the Park will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 14-15 at Tom Varn Park, 306 Darby Lane, Brooksville. Admission is free; parking is a suggested $5 donation. There will be overflow parking by the driving range of the old Brooksville Quarry golf course. Visit hernandoarts.org or call Jan Knowles at (352) 279-5182.
10 to 11 a.m.: Suzuki Strings Nature Coast
11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.: Stir Up the Gift
1 to 2:30 p.m.: Hernando Symphony Orchestra
3:30 to 5 p.m.: Sagebrush
10 to 11 a.m.: Guitarist Dick Vitale
Noon to 12:45 p.m.: Live Oak Theatre
1:30 to 2:15 p.m.: Hernando Youth Orchestra
3 to 4 p.m.: Hernando Jazz Society
4 to 5 p.m.: Awards ceremony