Pensacola, Florida
Thursday December 18th 2014

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A Walk in the Park

By Jennie McKeon

This year skip the bubble bath and flowers, and treat your mom to a piece of original artwork at the Pensacola Museum of Art’s 10th Annual Art in the Park.

Keeping with tradition, the museum hasn’t made any changes to this year’s festival. It will still pack various mediums of art by local and out of state artists, music, and live food demonstrations into Seville Square. Kid’s arts and crafts tables and the popular Art Cars will provide culture for the whole family, and admission is still free.

“Much the same overall, but our committee feels the artists’ quality is really high this year,” said Pensacola Museum of Art Executive Director Sonya Davis. “And that’s saying something because we think our previous festivals had great stuff.”

Festival artists had to submit three photos of their work with their application. Jurors made their selections in late January, looking only for artists that met their high standards.

“It’s important to bring high quality art that is different,” said Lori Storey, artist liaison for Art in the Park.

Anna Kern, a mixed media artist from Ocala, Fla., will be returning to Art in the Park. She travels around Florida for 22 shows a year and says Pensacola is one her favorite cities to visit alongside Tallahassee and Gainesville.

“It’s a wonderful venue and beautiful park,” Kern said of Art in the Park.

Pensacola art lovers particularly impressed Kern when she showed her work last year.

“I love the energy of the people,” she said. “People came to me interested in my art, they asked questions. They were true art lovers and really looked at the art. You don’t get that at a lot of shows.”

Kern’s 2D mixed media uses watercolor and acrylic paints to create textural pieces that reflect her appreciation of her surrounding nature.

“It doesn’t take much to inspire me,” Kern said. “I look outside my studio window and I’m seeing shadows and trees. I look at the world around me and make something abstract. Once you’re a painter, you always look at things differently.”

The festival will also feature some first-timers too, like Amber Poole from Virginia. She has shown work at similar festivals, but said she is happy to go south and enjoy the weather.

“There’s a different feeling to art festivals,” she said. “You don’t have to be afraid to touch something—you can pick it up. I grew up in that setting and it definitely changed my perspective.”

Poole inherited her interest and talent for pottery from her father.

“I grew up around it,” she said. “When my father passed away in 2005, I inherited the business. Every piece is like passing on my family history.”

Much of her traveling show is dishes, coffee cups and decorative tiles, but some of her favorite pieces aren’t so compact.

“What I like best is architectural ceramics, like showers and back splashes,” Poole said.

All of her work, with the exception of ornate wall hangings, is functional and all of her dishes are microwave safe.  Selling useful art has its perks.

“It really helps my sales,” Poole said. “I’m lucky I love what I do and that people can use my pieces every day.”

Ted Simmering, from Byron, Ill., will be making his Pensacola debut at Art in the Park and is taking his friends along for the ride – “always fun,” he noted.

“I think events like this are a great opportunity to raise art awareness and connoisseurship in communities,” Simmering said.

Simmering’s medium – simply put – is acrylic on wood, but as he explains his creative process, it’s much more complex than paint on a slab of lumber.

“I start with random effects and seek a balance with asserted effects to create cohesive elegant statements,” he said. “Parallel to how I make studio choices, reaching a harmony between random and asserted effects gives viewers an experience that has discovery and feels familiar.”

And in a way, the creating becomes just as artistic as the end result.

“Actually, I see my process as a message,” Simmering said. “I believe this is a message that reflects how many people experience life with grace.”

Art in the Park is not only visually stimulating, but also the community benefits from the out-of-town artists and any art shoppers who choose to buy pieces from local artists.

“The festival benefits the community in a variety of ways, exposing our local residents to fine art from across the country, bringing out of area people to Pensacola – both artists and shoppers – to fill hotels and restaurants, and providing a family friendly community activity,” Davis said.

Whether you want to stop and chat with the artists, check out the Art Cars or even see what the vendors are cooking, this is the weekend to take a walk in the park.

Art in the Park
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, May 12 and Sunday, May 13
WHERE:  Seville Square
COST: Free
DETAILS: artintheparkpensacola.com or pensacolamuseumofart.org