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Gasparilla Festival Of The Arts Celebrates Its 50th Anniversary

Man running in painting
Gasparilla Festival of the Arts
'HEAD FIRST II' is the featured piece at the 50th Annual Gasparilla Festival of the Arts. Over 250 artists will have their work displayed.

Every year, people come to Tampa to celebrate the Gasparilla Pirate Festival. While most wear pirate hats and watch parades, others can take the opportunity to view art and listen to music at the 50th Annual Gasparilla Festival of the Arts.

The festival will take place Saturday and Sunday at Julian B. Lane Park in Tampa. In addition to the works of over 250 artists, there will be entertainers like musicians, dancers and stilt walkers.

"This is one of the premier juried outdoor fine arts festivals in the U.S.," said John Scheffel, president of the board of directors for the festival.

Many of the artists displayed come from all over the country, but the festival makes sure to exhibit local art. The festival’s featured piece this year is by Meaghan Farrell Scalise from St. Petersburg. The painting, called "HEAD FIRST II,” which shows a man in black and white jumping through a colorful window representing the future.

"(The piece) exemplifies what it is we're doing this year," Scheffel said.

This year, the festival also introduced a “Local Artists Spotlight” program to help showcase area artists who are not part of the weekend event.

Painting of man
Credit Gasparilla Festival of the Arts
"Out of Reach," one of three paintings that will be displayed by Carrie Smith Kilgore from St. Petersburg at the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts.

The program also opened up three spots for local artists to take part in the festival without paying an application fee.

Instead, they were contestants in an online public vote.

"We learned a lot of things in this inaugural year," Sheffel said. "But one of the key things we learned was that there are some very savvy social media artists out there, and they garnered a lot of votes. It was really exciting to see the passion out there."

The Gasparilla Festival of Arts has seen a rise in popularity in recent years.

It began after an art exhibit in 1969 at the Florida State Fair received numerous complaints for the controversial and inappropriate works of art. In response, a group of businesspeople created a sidewalk art festival, looking to give locals a glimpse of interesting art in a public place.

The growing turnout in recent years has also prompted organizers to change venues from Curtis Hixon Park and Kylie Gardens to the Julian B. Lane Park.

"We've basically outgrown Curtis Hixon and Kylie Gardens," Scheffel said. "The new park, in addition to being larger, it's all essentially one level, and it allows us to have more artist booths."

The new venue will also allow artists to exhibit bigger displays that past festivals could not include.

Scheffel said that the 50th anniversary festival has been in the works for over two years, with over 1,000 hopeful artists applying to have their art displayed. The festival will also hold a gala on Saturday where people will have the opportunity to purchase some of the artwork.

Dylan Rudolph is the WUSF Radio News Intern for the spring 2020 semester.
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