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Art show takes cool approach

Organizers expect this weekend's indoor, air-conditioned Out of the Blue art festival will be easier on artists and customers alike.

Published April 28, 2004

CLEARWATER - No more worries about wind, rain and humidity. Artists and art lovers can sample Clearwater's first Out of the Blue fine art and crafts show in air-conditioned comfort at the Harborview Center in downtown Clearwater.

The two-day show features 63 artists from around the state who were handpicked by a four-member jury from some 80 entrants. The artists will be competing for $10,000 in cash awards.

Out of the Blue is the creation of the Professional Association of Visual Artists in partnership with the city of Clearwater in an effort to offer more visual arts experiences in a city better known for its performing arts programs.

Two years ago, the city produced a visual arts plan based on recommendations from residents and civic leaders, as well as a special consultant hired to assist with the plan. Quality visual arts opportunities, such as art galleries and museums, were among the cultural experiences found to be lacking in the community.

The city's first step in testing the waters for community support of the visual arts was to try to establish a quality art show, said Margo Walbolt, Clearwater's cultural affairs manager.

Neighboring communities, such as Dunedin and Tarpon Springs, have long-established outdoor juried art shows, and Clearwater had outdoor juried art shows some years ago that were part of the Fun 'n Sun Festival.

But the city doesn't want to duplicate its neighbors' efforts. "We want to augment what's already here," Walbolt said. An indoor show, she said, "has a lot of advantages for the artist by not being a weather-dependent event, and it might be more comfortable for the customer, too."

The city selected the association to set up the show because of its success with the indoor Cool Art Show it has sponsored for 17 years in St. Petersburg. The association "was a natural fit," Walbolt said.

"We're very excited about the show and the quality of the artists," said Susan Rollins-Gehring, the association's vice president and show chairwoman.

"Putting the show together was a challenge because it's the first one," she said. "We're really happy at the response from the artists; five were award winners in the Mainsail show (in St. Petersburg). . . . The artists represented in this show are highly respected in the arts community around the state."

Among the exhibiting artists are:

Wildlife artist Peter R. Gerbert, whose work has been commissioned by the Florida and national wildlife federations and hangs in Florida's Capitol building.

Steven Irish, whose handmade furniture is assembled using joints, without nails or staples, and sealed with varnish or oil.

Sharon Scalise, whose jewelry is influenced by her travels and the cultures of ancient history.

Glass artist Steven Schramek, whose stained glass and etched glass, fused glass doors, lamps and art glass use the lead and foil method.

Two judges will select the winners: David Smalley, a sculptor whose work has been exhibited worldwide and who recently retired as professor of art at Connecticut College, and Jennie Fleming, curatorial assistant of prints, drawings and photographs at the Baltimore Museum of Art. She also is a working artist and has taught drawing and painting at Towson University and the Maryland Institute College of Art.

The money will be divided into $2,000 for Best of Show sponsored by the Clearwater Arts Foundation, $1,000 for first place sponsored by Clearwater Main Street and Clearwater Downtown Development Board, $600 for second place sponsored by E&E Stakeout Grill, $400 for third place sponsored by Guppy's On the Beach and 24 merit awards of $250 each.


WHAT: The first annual Out of the Blue art show and sale.

WHEN: From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Exhibition Hall at the Harborview Center, 300 Cleveland St., Clearwater.

DETAILS: The show is free to the public and features a juried show of artists exhibiting their work in painting, mixed media, sculpture, photography, printmaking, wood, ceramics, pastels, fiber, glass, jewelry, handmade furniture, clay and paper relief. The artists will compete for $10,000 in prize money, and winners will be announced immediately following the show Saturday evening.

[Last modified April 28, 2004, 01:05:41]

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