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Art goes deeper

Art Festival Beth-El's biggest show will reflect the reactions of artists and art lovers to the Sept. 11 attacks.

© St. Petersburg Times
published January 24, 2002

A Couple by Peter Mitchey
Artists and art lovers alike anticipate the yearly return of Art Festival Beth-El. For three days the temple transforms itself into a repository of creative expression produced by artists near and far.

But with the terrorist attacks, the war in Afghanistan and the economic recession, is the bay area in the mood to buy art?

Eric Lang Peterson, long-time curator of the show, predicts that little will change.

"In the particular case of Art Festival Beth-El, I don't think that sales will go down. They have such a loyal group of purchase award supporters and patrons that wait until this show to buy art. It's known, and respected, for being a high-quality show."

In full agreement is St. Petersburg neo-pop painter David Williams, a first-time Art Festival participant.

Gary Genetti’s Incalmo Bowl with Cranes is 10.5 inches tall and 16 inches in diameter.
"I think a lot of artists thought we were seeing the bottom fall out of our market, as art is something that can be cut out of the budget very quickly. It hasn't happened," said Williams, who is also a staff artist for the St. Petersburg Times. "People now see something new in art, something that makes them more willing to embrace it."

Judith Dazzio, an acrylic and watercolor artist, has a different opinion about public spending in the art market.

"I think that people will be buying less expensive things. Prints may sell more. People still love art, but they don't want to get rid of their money so fast. It's not just people without money who are concerned; everyone is being very conservative."

Meanwhile, festival chairwoman Sonya Miller describes a growing sense of optimism.

"The artists are looking forward to bringing beauty back to everyone through their art."

One noticeable trend includes the artistic redefinition of subject matter and messages portrayed through the works. Nan Griffin, who paints in acrylics, describes finding more meaning in her works since shifting her focus to capturing moments in history with illustrations of "ordinary people, dressed in the current style."

White Foxtail and Lacy Blue Twin Flowering Iris by Jaffa and Jeff Todd.
Others, such as mixed media artist Rocky Bridges, find new interpretations and meanings in works produced before summer 2001.

"Two of my pieces being shown, Unimaginable Glory #1 and Unimaginable Glory #2, embody the type of emotions that I think we should all try to strive for. But after the events of Sept. 11, I feel they take on an additional poetic sense by harnessing the intuitive senses of the observers viewing the works."

A recent expansion of the temple has allowed room for 150 artists, making this the largest show in Beth-El's history.

Running consecutively with the Festival at Temple Beth-El is the Pinellas County High School Exhibit, which features the works of students attending 10 local public and private high schools. Judging the show is Judith Powers, executive director of the Pinellas County Arts Council.

The Art Festival opens Saturday with a cocktail reception from 7 to 10 p.m. ($20 admission at the door). Monday has several special events, including the Avenue of Shops, highlighting the works of 10 local craft artists. Starting at 11 a.m., local celebrities Mary K. and John Wilson will perform Broadway show tunes. At 12:30 p.m. is a gourmet luncheon ($12, reservations by check required). A docent tour takes place at 2 p.m. and is free.


The 29th annual Art Festival Beth-El, Sat.-Mon., Temple Beth-El, 400 Pasadena Ave. S., St. Petersburg. Hours: 7 to 10 p.m. Sat., with $20 admission fee. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sun. and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mon. Sun. and Mon. free. Call (727) 347-6136.

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