Pensacola, Florida
Sunday December 17th 2017

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Arts and Recreation 


by Ben Sheffler

The Pensacola Museum of Art (PMA) is hosting its 13th annual Art in the Park festival this weekend. Nearly 100 artists, both local and national, will be featured.
“Every year we strive to have a quality show—the best of the best artists—and this year we have around 90,” said Mary Hartshorn, director of communications and events at PMA.

Hartshorn said jewelers, woodworkers, photographers and acrylic and glass artists will be showcasing their work, which will also be available for purchase.

“It’s a whole array of different kinds of artwork that’s going to be on display and for sale,” she said.

PMA had a jury decide the best artists for the festival, and another three-person jury will judge the artwork on display to give out about $5,000 worth of prizes.

“We brand it as a fine arts festival, so while you have some festivals that are more craft-driven, we want this to be a quality festival,” Hartshorn said. “We want it to be diverse and different.”

New to the festival is an emerging artist category that will focus on people who are new to the arts festival circuit so it can be a stepping stone for them, Hartshorn said.

“We thought it would be really neat to do something different to focus on up-and-coming artists,” she said.

Some of the event’s committee members who have participated in art festivals before have already helped some of the emerging artists get tents for their booths, figure out what they can and can’t display and find a place to stay in town, according to Hartshorn.

Hartshorn pointed out that the emerging artists aren’t necessarily young artists since artists can start their craft at any age.

Art in the Park will also have food vendors, beer, wine and an expanded children’s area, where kids can make their own artwork and participate in story time. Hartshorn said the children’s area was a huge success last year and is hoping it grows this year.

“It’s definitely a family-friendly event. That’s what we strive for,” she said. “We want there to be something for everyone in the family.”

Hartshorn said the festival is a huge fundraiser for PMA, although it is free to the community.

“It’s a great way to show people what we have to offer and that art is accessible to everyone,” she said. “Our number one goal with anything is just to be out there for the community and support the community.”

Ralph Thomas, a Gulf Breeze resident who’s participated in nearly every Art in the Park and is on its committee, said Pensacola has been receptive to the festival.

“I think we have a very artsy community,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of galleries downtown, and of course [PMA] is sort of the centerpiece of the art community.”
The money raised helps PMA bring in different exhibitions, do different things for summer camp and provide educational classes.

“Education’s huge because, again, we want to support the community and we want to make art accessible to everyone, especially our young people,” Hartshorn said.

Thomas has seen Art in the Park grow through the years, pointing out that it eventually outgrew William Bartram Memorial Park and moved across the street to Seville Square.

Thomas is a wood-turner who said he makes decorative and utilitarian pieces.

“I’ve been doing it all my life,” he said. “I’ll have everything I’ve got on display.”

Thomas is retired from the Army and teaches elementary school, and about 10 years ago he began participating in art festivals. He goes to about eight shows a year, mainly on the Gulf Coast, but he also travels to Atlanta for its Dogwood Festival, “which is a big show,” he said.

“I have fun doing it,” Thomas said. “I enjoy all the shows and talking to the people, and of course selling my work.”

For the artists who travel from festival to festival, that is their career.

“That’s the way they make their living,” Thomas said.

As an Art in the Park committee member, Thomas has seen the artists’ work and is excited about the festival.

“We’ve got some real good artists coming in,” he said. “It looks like it’ll be good.”

Art in the Park
When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, May 16 and Sunday, May 17
Where: Seville Square, 311 E Government St.
Cost: Free
Details: pensacolamuseum.org