Gasparilla Festival of the Arts goes virtual, still awards prize moneyShopping opens March 1-21, 2021; events March 6-7

The Gasparilla Festival of the Arts made the tough decision last December to call off their in-person festival this spring due to COVID-19 and do virtually everything virtually with a dynamic online platform.

Because of this big change in plans, Gasparilla has reimbursed artists for their booth fees and will only be taking a small percentage of commission from the artists’ sales.
“We’re not kidding ourselves; artists might not sell as well as in-person. We’re just trying to provide a platform that they can make sales that they otherwise wouldn’t have and opening up to a broader audience that couldn’t come,” says John Scheffel, President of the Board of Directors of the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts. “It’s giving the festival a broader reach, so that’s one of the positives. Artists don’t have any costs to them except when they sell something, which is far less than a gallery’s commission.”
Similar to Amazon, artists can create their own shop with Eventeny, which they can carry over from festival to festival. To make things seamless for art lovers, buyers can add things to their cart from multiple artists, then make one purchase at the end. Instead of two days of shopping over the weekend, shopping will be open March 1-21 with the virtual events happening March 6-7. 
Besides artist booths, events like Carmada, the Scholastic Showcase, and chalk art are things that make the festival what it is. Luckily, Gasparilla has figured out a way to either livestream or prerecord all of the entertainment that would have been at the in-person festival.
“We want to give the essence of a festival weekend as much as possible with scheduled events, livestreaming 2-3 bands a day along with a dance performance. The goal is to get artists demonstrations, one demo from an artist representing each of 13 mediums at the show,” Scheffel says. “We will be doing virtual children’s activities with the Art Collectors in Training program. Artists donate items geared towards children to this program that cost between $5-25. In a live festival, only children are allowed in the tent, so we’re trying to figure out how to do this virtually. The arts are one of the first things that fall off the record in a downturn, but artists still want to donate which is wonderful.”
The Gasparilla Festival of the Arts is already known for their large sum of juried award money, and this year will be no different as they become the first virtual arts show jurying and awarding prize money with the same amount as last year, $80,000, juried by Dr. Nadiah Rivera Fellah, the Associate Curator of Contemporary Art at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
Looking at the festival from the eyes of the artists, many wonder about how successful a virtual festival will be since it can be hard to make those invaluable personal connections digitally. As a work-around, the Eventeny platform allows artists to add video introductions on their homepage,  even serving as a platform for video calls to chat with the artists like you would at their booth.
“I make sculpture, which is really tactile and people need to see it in a space to really take it in. By just showing a picture or video, there’s still a separation that you can’t get to really see the piece. That’s a big factor for sales,” explains Dominice Gilbert, a St. Pete sculptor who is a juried Gasparilla artist this year. “They are the first online show to be giving out prize money. For artists, everything helps right now and they’ve been doing good keeping our best interests in mind. Artists, collectors, promoters: we are all just trying to adapt. Nobody knows the clear path to success in this new world. Personally, I am going to just keep trying to find a new way to continue to make art.”
To find out more, visit the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts website or follow them on social media.
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Read more articles by Caitlin Albritton.

Caitlin Albritton is a freelance writer based in Tampa with a BFA from Savannah College of Art and Design and a MFA from Maryland Institute College of Art. When she's not looking at art throughout town, she can be found making it. You can keep up with her visual art on Instagram @caitlinalbritton or on her website. Visit her recent line of inlay “wearable paintings.”