Gasparilla Festival of the Arts in Tampa moves to Riverfront Park

Expect a slight change of scenery and recognition of local talent at the 50th Annual Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts on February 29 through March 1.
The popular annual art fair, which typically lures more than 100,000 visitors, is relocating across the river to Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park, where attendees can still enjoy a lovely view of the Hillsborough River but with the added resplendence of the Tampa skyline.

What hasn’t changed? The volunteer-run nonprofit organization Gasparilla Festival of the Arts Inc. still puts on the juried competition, which has 235 artists vying for $80,000 in cash prizes. Food vendors, kids’ activities and live entertainment will be included, and the event still free for children and adults.

It’s all part of an annual event series named after Jose Gaspar, a mythological pirate of local lore, and displays prominent, skilled artists on the international festival circuit.
Gasparilla events kick off with the Children's Parade on January 18 followed by the Gasparilla Invasion & Parade on January 25 and the Illuminated Knight Parade on February 8.
But when it comes to artists, Gasparilla isn’t necessarily known for recognizing locals (though exceptions have been made through the years).  
Realizing a new opportunity to bring exposure to Tampa Bay artists on the rise, Festival of the Arts board member Mishou Sanchez initiated the Tampa Bay Local Artists Spotlight, which will showcase Tampa Bay-resident artists who are not part of the juried competition.
Up to three spots will be awarded. Submissions are free, and there are no booth costs.
According to Sanchez, an acclaimed painter who lives in the Lake Magdalene area, the Local Artists Spotlight provides an opportunity for exposure to local artists who otherwise would not be able to participate due to financial limitations.

“It supports local artists and gives back to the community and gives a nod to the festival’s roots in Tampa on its big anniversary,” she says, adding that she relates to the local artist’s struggle. “With being on the Board of Directors, I can see both perspectives.''
As one of the top-rated outdoor fine art festivals in the country, the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts is expensive to put on, Sanchez explains. “But we really wanted to do something new for the community on our 50th anniversary.”
To make it fair to the participants who went through the usual application process and paid the $45 entry fee, the participants of the Tampa Bay Local Artists Spotlight do not qualify to take part in the festival juried show and do not qualify for prize monies.

After artists submit their work for consideration, online voting will be opened to all, and winners will be determined by most online votes.
“It is an awesome opportunity reserved for locals only and the exposure alone is pretty amazing,” Sanchez says. “We are excited that the winning participants will be voted in by the public.”

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Read more articles by Julie Garisto.

A graduate of Largo High, USF, and the University of Tampa's Creative Writing MFA program, Julie Garisto grew up in Clearwater and now has a home in the Ocala National Forest. Between writing assignments, she's teaching English courses at Saint Leo University and other colleges. Julie has written arts features in Creative Pinellas' online magazine ArtsCoast Journal, Creative Loafing, Florida travel pieces  (Visit Tampa Bay and Visit Jacksonville), the Cade Museum, and features and reviews in the Tampa Bay Times. Her previous journalistic roles include arts and entertainment editor for Creative Loafing, staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times, and copy editor for the Weekly Planet. Lately, she's been obsessed with exploring Florida's State Parks, small towns, and natural springs.