Pensacola, Florida
Wednesday December 2nd 2015


Wear Yourself Out at Arts Festival

By Hana Frenette

Its time to put on you walking shoes. And maybe a sweater.

This years Great Gulf Coast Arts Festival boasts 230 art booths, vendors and performances. Thats quite a bit of ground to cover.

There is something for everyone, said Sue Warner, festival chair. I dont think you can be boredmaybe worn out, but not bored!

Now in its 39th year, the arts festival will be spread across Seville Square. Some go to buy. Some go to look. Most decide when they get there.

With so many choices and varieties of art, there is something for every price-bracket. If youre looking to buy, there are big-ticket investment pieces that youll cherishand need to insureforever. There are also smaller items, like handmade metal bracelets for $10 (think: Christmas gifts).

Art at the festival falls into 11 different categories: ceramics, drawing, oil and acrylic, jewelry making, printmaking, sculpture, fiber and leather, glass, watercolor and, lastly, photography.

Submissions, which are judged, come from all over the country. Many of them hail from the Southeast.

The judging process usually takes an entire day. The first time the judges see the art is at the festival.

Its kind of nice, you know, it prevents your brother-in-law from winning a prize just because, Warner said. The judges are looking for technique, but also for something to be unique, different.

And although the art is broken into categories for the submission process, the breakdown has no bearing on which art wins. Judges look at each piece individually and then bring all their selections together to be judged for the final prizes.

We dont say, OK, we need to award three painters, and three sculptors, Warner said. Its just what the judges think is worthy of a prize.

In addition to the juried art show, the festival also invites an international artist each year. This year the international invite was extended to Andrea Spinelli, from Florence, Italy. Spinelli is mainly a painter, but also an inventor. He has invented a device that cuts and carves out frames, as well a painting machine that he will be bringing to display at the festival alongside his artwork.

We have a committee that actively looks for artists to invite, Warner said. These people are travelers, so when theyre taking trips to Greece, or Italy or wherever, they are looking, Warner said. They are able to look for art that translates to this area.

Spinelli should feel right at home. Many of the houses and churches around downtown are reminiscent of the paintings he brought from Italy.

There will also be several stages set up within the festival, showcasing jazz, bluegrass and folk music.

The main stage really does have awesome music, Warner said. And, of course, we are excited because we have the Pensacola symphony this year.

The Pensacola Symphony Orchestra will play on Sunday at the festival. Several other musical and theatrical forms of entertainment will also be available in the childrens area, across the street in Bartram Park. The park will play host to an art show featuring work by students from Escambia and Santa Rosa counties.

They are so creative before they are corrupted! Warner said.

The childrens area also offers hands-on project stations for face painting, sand art, sidewalk art, clay making and button creations. A stage will be set up for local dancing and musical groups featuring children.

Its the 100th anniversary of Naval Aviation, so there will be an aircraft set up over there that the kids can get in and play around on, Warner added. Naval Aviation is a theme that will be all throughout the festival this year.

Heritage artists will also be displaying age-old traditional art forms like blacksmithing, weaving, wood-carving and engraving. Theres something for everyone, even if youre favorite art is wood whittling. Sometimes the ladies will even share their family secret on how to get tough stains out of laundryan art form in itself.

The festival attracts thousands of guests each year. It has been named one of the top-50 best fine art shows in the nation by Sunshine Artist Magazinemost likely for its large conglomeration of fine art, local food vendors and performers.

Its all in one place, and its free, so it makes you feel better about having to search for a parking spot, Warner joked. It just makes for this big party with all these sights and sounds to enjoy.

WHERE: Seville Square
WHEN: 9 a.m-5 p.m., Friday, Nov. 4 and Saturday, Nov. 5; 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 6
COST: Free