Arts Afield

Stuffy art holds little appeal at outdoor shows, where fresh air swirls and you don't have to act mannered. As you wend your way perusing one artist's booth after another, what you find yourself wanting to see is vibrant art — something new, fresh and brilliant.The 33rd annual Gasparilla Festival of the Arts takes place from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. March 1-2, and offers an array of diverse media, drawing one's eyes all over the place.

Three hundred artists, selected from more than 1,000 applicants from all over the country, exhibit original works in tarp tents along Franklin Street (from Kennedy Boulevard to Polk Street) and in Lykes Gaslight Square Park. And somewhere along your strolling way, among the visual arts fray, a couple of artists' works will pull you in for a closer look, impress you further and make you consider finding an ATM pronto.

In addition to the opportunity to sell their work, artists are attracted to the prestigious show by its $61,500 in prize money, which includes 35 awards — from $1,000 to the $15,000 Best of Show prize.

A $1,000 award is also presented to the winner of the Emerging Artist Program. The program is intended to support and exhibit up-and-coming local and Florida artists who haven't previously shown their work professionally. Selected through a jury process, this year's Emerging Artists are Sherri Carling (painting), Shannon Forester (painting/mixed media), Sarah Loveland (mixed media), Jennifer Whitney (photography) and David Kramer (painting).

The jurors this year are Dr. John H. Neff, the director of the Naples Museum of Art, and Michael W. Monroe, an independent curator, writer and adviser.

The Awards Ceremony takes place at 6 p.m. March 1, at the Main Stage in Lykes Gaslight Square Park.

To keep the kids creatively occupied while you enjoy your SnoCone, the Tampa Museum of Art has a Hands-on Arts & Crafts booth near the intersection of Franklin and Kennedy.

Other notes: parking can be hard to find; no pets allowed; also no bikes or Rollerblades; there's plenty of food vendors; and the festival takes place rain or shine.

For more info, call 813-876-1747.

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