By KEVIN BRADY
Some of the area’s best artists helped draw thousands of visitors to Riverview for the sixth annual Winthrop Arts Festival, March 22 and 23.
The festival showcased the work of more than 80 artists in categories ranging from oil paintings to ceramics and jewelry, with musical entertainment provided by local bands and schools.
Larry Meckley, for one, was impressed by the quality of the work.
“It’s all top-notch material,” said Meckley, a first-time visitor to the festival at Winthrop Town Centre. “We had a chance to walk around and visit many of the vendors, and there are a lot of diverse, talented people here.”
All of which is music to the ears of Riverview’s Jolanta Pietras, a glass and silversmith artist who has been working local art shows for a decade.
“This is my neighborhood and I see a lot of people locally who come by,” Pietras said. “It helps brings people together. The response has been wonderful. Everyone also seems to like what I am doing, which is always nice.” Pietras said she exhibits in Ybor City every weekend but that “this is nice because it is so close to home.”
Ron Deel, a former industrial artist who studied art in college but first took up painting seriously eight years ago, has sold more than 1,000 pieces of art. The Ruskin native specializes in eye-catching nature scenes, his work on turtles and birds seeming to leap from the canvas.
“My work is a modern graphic, bold, in-your-face kind of wildlife,” he said. “You can walk 100 feet away from my work, and all my pictures come out at you. They literally have magnetism and draw you in.”
Deel is a regular at arts festivals in Apollo Beach and Ruskin every year. He says attending the shows helps artists get their name out while also helping with sales.
“I have probably 30 to 40 patrons who collect my work,” Deel said, “and they come to the shows that I tell them I am going to attend.”
Daniel and Stacy Tabb traveled from Lakeland for a chance to display their work in leather, fiber, knit and paint.
“We do a little bit of everything,” Daniel said. “We have had a lot of people come in and just ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh,’ the response has been great. Besides just the crafting, we make practical art. It’s all very well-made and will last a long time.”
Carol Holt, a St. Cloud artist, has been painting for eight years, she said.
“It’s good to get the word out about your art at events like this, but also nice to talk to the children about art.”
Brian Ellis, another first-timer at the festival, said he would like to see more local festivals showcasing the work of home-grown artists.
“The work is all very unique and very well done,” Ellis said. “I would love to see more festivals like this, not only to get the artists in the public eye, but also to expose young people to the work and get them interested in art.”
“We want this to be a fine arts, fine crafts festival for the community as a tradition,” said festival director Bryan Martinez.
For more information about the festival or exhibiting in the future, call 813-601-3129, email info@WinthropArtsFestival.org or visit www.WinthropArtsFestival.org.