Artwork, entertainment, hands-on activities to highlight Suncoast Arts Fest

Digital artist Ed Myers’s work will be on display at this weekend’s Suncoast Arts Fest in Wesley Chapel.
Digital artist Ed Myers’s work will be on display at this weekend’s Suncoast Arts Fest in Wesley Chapel.
Published Jan. 18, 2017

WESLEY CHAPEL — About 125 artists will showcase their wares at the 12th annual Suncoast Arts Fest on Saturday and Sunday at the Shops at Wiregrass in Wesley Chapel.

From pottery to jewelry, sculptures, paintings and photography, there will be plenty to take in as new and returning artists pitch their tents against the backdrop of storefronts along Paseo Drive.

Other enticements will include roaming entertainers, a kids art garden and art makerspace, an emerging artist booth featuring the work of middle and high school students, professional chalk artists creating masterpieces on swaths of open walkways and live music.

The Suncoast Arts Fest is produced by Fine Arts of the Suncoast Inc., a charitable organization with a long-held mission to "develop a community culture that embraces the arts."

The festival is a boon to the creative-minded, promoting established artists from near and far with a juried art show while giving a financial boost to up-and-comers.

Cash awards are doled out to winners. Proceeds from the festival also promote arts in the schools through the organization's Arts for Kids mini-grant program. In addition, funds provide transportation for high school students wanting to participate in the annual Portfolio Day at Ringling College of Art & Design in Sarasota and general support for the annual Art of Recycling contest.

Rolly Ray Reel, 75, of Maitland is a returning artist who has been an award winner six of the seven times he has exhibited, including last year when he earned Best of Show for his mixed-media pieces.

"I enjoy the show. They do a good job of bringing in talent. It's a good show that seems to be getting better every year," said Reel, a painter turned printmaker turned mixed-media sculptor, who fashions his most recent pieces using a variety of materials — metal, glass, rusty wire and nails and old photographs.

"Art is important to our culture — our society," Reel said. "I think it's really a shame that art has been sort of left by the wayside in the schools."

This year's festival brings something extra to crow about, said event coordinator Jennifer Douglas.

The 2017 awards will tip the festival's altruistic efforts over the $100,000 mark for grants, she said, adding that School Board member Alison Crumbley will announce the grant awards at a Sunday morning presentation that will also feature a brief performance by the iPad Band from Sanders Memorial Elementary School in Land O'Lakes.

The 2017 grants will support creative school offerings, including Art Clubs for Young Artists at Lacoochee Elementary in Dade City, an Architectural Building Center at Seven Oaks Elementary in Wesley Chapel, Texture Printmaking at Sunlake High in Land O'Lakes and a program called SLAM — Students Learning through Art and Music — at Marlowe Elementary in New Port Richey.

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The grant program has already provided a whole lot of clay for an annual 3-D sculpture program offered to students at Cotee River Elementary in New Port Richey, said art teacher Michele Parris.

Parris has been the recipient of two teaching grants for the 3-D Clay Sculptures class, which fosters and builds on skills students learned the previous year.

Without the grants, a project like this might not exist, Parris said, due to the costs of supplies.

"Students really look forward to (the program)," Parris said. "They always ask me when we're going to do the clay at the beginning of the school year."

Contact Michele Miller at Follow @MicheleMiller52.