The SF Spring Arts Festival, April 9-10, is well into its fourth decade as a Florida favorite. It’s North Central Florida’s longest running arts festival, drawing top quality artists from more than 25 states. There’s something to suit all tastes, with sculpture, printmaking, painting, 2-D and 3-D mixed media, jewelry, photography, drawing, watercolor, wood, fiber, and glass represented.
Spring Arts is family friendly, with children’s activities, continuous entertainment on two stages, and international food. It all happens on historic NE 1st Street and the lawn of the Thomas Center in downtown Gainesville. Hours are 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Saturday, April 9 and noon-5:30 p.m. Sunday, April 10 rain or shine. Admission is free.
The show is juried, with more than $20,000 in awards and purchase awards. Purchase awards are like a festival gift card, which the buyer pays for ahead of time. During the festival, the award-giver chooses one or more artists to spend the award on.
Each favored artist receives a ribbon, and a placard bearing the name of the purchaser. The purchaser may be either a business or an individual. Purchase awards can be obtained by contacting the Spring Arts office at 352.395.5355 or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Artists display their award ribbons and placards to attract more buyers. “The placards are great advertising for local businesses and a way to show that our community supports the arts,” said Kathryn Lehman, festival coordinator.
“Artists look at award money, including purchase awards, in choosing which festivals to apply for,” said Lehman. “It helps us attract some of the nation’s top artists. Applications were up this year by 20 percent.”
The festival always has a signature poster, and this year’s features a painting by Harriet Huss, a Melrose artist who favors North Florida subjects. The poster will be unveiled 2:30 p.m. Thursday, March 24 in the President’s Lobby of the Robertson Administration Building on Santa Fe’s Northwest Campus, 3000 NW 83rd St., Gainesville.
The public is invited and Huss will autograph posters at the unveiling, where they will be available for $10. Thereafter posters will cost $15. Admission is free and refreshments will be served.
Festival activity at the Thomas Center includes a fabulous children’s area, the Kids Art Jungle, where families can make art projects. There’s also space for young artists to sell their own work.
Leading the lineup of festival entertainment is 1st Klass Kloggers, whose performance opens the festival. The group is directed by SF employee Kelli McChesney. There’s a variety of performances continuously, both days.
“We expect more than 100,000 visitors,” said Lehman. “This is a true community event in Gainesville and shows our cultural richness.”
Spring Arts was voted Florida’s best arts and crafts festival by readers of Florida Monthly magazine in 2008 and has been recognized as one of the top 20 events by the Southeast Tourism Society.