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Wear Yourself Out at Arts Festival

By Hana Frenette

It’s time to put on you walking shoes. And maybe a sweater.

This year’s Great Gulf Coast Arts Festival boasts 230 art booths, vendors and performances. That’s quite a bit of ground to cover.

“There is something for everyone,” said Sue Warner, festival chair. “I don’t think you can be bored—maybe 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 you’re looking to buy, there are big-ticket investment pieces that you’ll cherish—and need to insure—forever. 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.

“It’s 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 don’t say, ‘OK, we need to award three painters, and three sculptors,’” Warner said. “It’s 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 they’re 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 children’s 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 children’s 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.

“It’s 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. There’s something for everyone, even if you’re favorite art is wood whittling. Sometimes the ladies will even share their family secret on how to get tough stains out of laundry—an 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 Magazine—most likely for it’s large conglomeration of fine art, local food vendors and performers.

“It’s all in one place, and it’s 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.”

THE GREAT GULF COAST ARTS FESTIVAL
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
DETAILS: ggaf.org