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    Eclectic choice of works lures art fest crowd

    Prize money of $61,500 helps attract more than three times as many applicants as there are booths for artists.

    By SUSAN THURSTON

    © St. Petersburg Times, published March 4, 2001


    photo
    [Times photo: Mike Pease]
    Teddi Robinson of St. Petersburg looks at the Duncan McClellan booth at the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts in Tampa on Saturday.
    TAMPA -- Artists from Tampa to England came to the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts on Saturday to hawk their wares and compete for thousands in prize money.

    Art lovers had their pick of paintings, sculptures, ceramics and jewelry made by the 300 artists who participated in the 31st annual event in downtown Tampa.

    "There's something here for everyone," said Jackie Valenzuela, an art student at Hillsborough Community College.

    The festival offered works for every taste and pocketbook. There were miniature chairs made from deer ribs and tortoise shells, and straw brooms with gnarled wood handles. Bronze spoons cost $5; paintings cost upward of $20,000.

    Gusty winds affected some sales, artists said. Glass artisans, in particular, had to keep close watch over the collections, and a couple left early.

    Despite the weather, the festival has earned a reputation as the area's largest outdoor show. More than half of this year's artists came from outside Florida, and 35 states were represented. More than 1,000 applied for about 300 booths.

    Jonathon Andersson traveled from England to sell his glassware and to enjoy Florida's sunshine. He has been coming to the show for a few years and hopes the sales will cover his expenses.

    "It's always been worthwhile," he said. "It has a good reputation."

    The show gives away $61,500 to the top artists, including $15,000 for Best of Show and 30 merit awards of $1,000 each.

    Les Slesnick of Orlando won this year's "Raymond James Financial Best of Show" for his photograph titled Jesus on a Red Wall. Charles Gatewood of Phenix City, Ala., won the $7,500 Board of Director Award for his untitled painting.

    Judging the works were Jacquelyn Days Serwer and William Fagaly. Serwer is curator of the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Fagaly comes from the New Orleans Museum of Art.

    Tampa artist David McGirdy, who has sold his optical abstracts on paper at 15 festivals, said the competition helps attract the best talent.

    "It's as good a quality as you can get on the street," he said. "It's always fun to vie for the prize money. Somebody has got to get it."

    The festival continues from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today along Ashley Drive. Food and entertainment are at Curtis Hixon Park.

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