Gasparilla Festival Of The Arts Goes Virtual For 51st Event

A report by D’Ann Lawrence White for Patch.

The Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts 51st event will be held for the first time in a virtual format. As with tradition, the festival will take place the first weekend in March — March 6-7.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, organizers decided to host a virtual festival for the 2021 event and use the interactive online tool, Eventeny. This platform will allow participants to view a live stream of entertainment throughout the weekend and let juried artists showcase their work to the public via online booths. Organizers also plan to offer other virtual components such as children’s activities and art demonstrations.

Continuing with the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts’ history, the 2021 event will be the first arts festival in the country that will jury a virtual show and award prize money.

The Gasparilla Festival of the Arts annually supports artists with significant award dollars, and this year will be no exception.

The pandemic has dramatically impacted the arts community, and John Scheffel, president of the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts Board of Directors, said the board is excited to continue supporting artists through this awards process.Subscribe

Dr. Nadiah Rivera Fellah, associate curator of contemporary art at the Cleveland Museum of Art, will serve as this year’s juror, judging work in 13 art mediums.

“While we are disappointed to cancel our in-person event, we are excited for the opportunity to create a dynamic and inspiring virtual show that will allow artists to showcase their talents and sell beyond the festival weekend,” Scheffel said. “By being the first arts festival to jury a virtual show, we are continuing our trailblazing legacy by helping support the livelihood of our valued artists who have been deeply impacted during this most extraordinary time.”

This year’s selected festival image is titled “Yellow Light” by award-winning local artist Nneka Jones. Jones grew up in Trinidad and Tobago. She graduated with a bachelor of fine arts and a minor in marketing from the University of Tampa in May.

“My fascination and obsession with art are deeply rooted in my Trinbagonian background,” Jones said. “For the past few years, I have been using art as a channel to create a more intimate connection between the melting pot that is the Caribbean and the rest of the world.”

Her most recent achievement was a commission from “TIME” magazine to produce the cover artwork for the Aug. 31/Sept. 7 2020 issue. The festival image is featured each year on all festival promotions, the T-shirt and poster.

Jones said “Yellow Light” is part of her Targets Variegated series combining symbolism and realism in the form of mixed media to produce a detailed portrait of a young girl.

“The marriage of the bold colors, red and yellow, require you to stop and slow down focusing on the figure,” Jones aid. It urges the viewer to “appreciate not only the beauty of these portraits but the intensity of their eyes and how that is used as a symbol for authority.

The young girl in the embroidery work is presented with her face slightly turned to the right with a hypnotic gaze. The side profile reinstates the idea of authority and control, emphasizing that she is no longer a victim. This is complemented by the repetition of circular shapes that appear to be a target but are divided and overlapped by her stance.

“Instead, the bold yellow band makes reference to religious figures, metaphorically proclaiming her importance in society and the need for her to be protected,” Jones said.

Furthermore, she said the raw embroidery fibers cascading off the canvas are used to remind the viewer of the real and raw reality and the need to break the cycle.

“This call for change and the protection of our women and young girls are intertwined in the fibers of the artwork using the hand embroidery technique,” Jones said. “Each detail is hand stitched and every stitch is an act of intention toward positive social change and the hope that art activism can continue to spread awareness and protect our women and girls.”

Nearly 4,500 votes were cast to select the winners for this year’s Local Artist Spotlight. The artists were chosen through public voting, which occurred Jan. 1 -21.

The Tampa Bay Local Artist Spotlight was established in 2020 with the support of the Gobioff Foundation in Tampa.

The program showcases local artists who are not part of the main festival show. Three spots are awarded to local artists in the Tampa Bay area, and they are invited to participate in the virtual show this year. They are not eligible for jury awards, but we are very excited to support showcasing their work.

The GFA 2021 Tampa Bay Local Artists Spotlight Winners are Wendy AngleHéctor Munoz and Stacy Rodriguez

For more than 50 years, artists from around the country have taken part in the Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts, one of the largest outdoor art festivals in Florida. The festival is organized and operated by hundreds of volunteers working year-round.

To find out how to participate in this year’s virtual festival, click here.

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