GULFPORT — Since its launch five years ago, the Gulfport Fine Arts Festival has enjoyed significant growth, said Brenda McMahon, an artist, gallery owner and member of the Gulfport Merchants Chamber Board of Directors. The annual event is presented by the chamber.
This growth isn’t reflected by the number of artists displaying and selling their works – the “boutique” festival is intentionally small – but rather by “the caliber of artists,” she said.
This year’s event is no different, she added. “The quality of work submitted this year has been great. There’s a really nice selection of artists.”
Around 45 jury-selected artists from throughout the Tampa Bay region will showcase their art during the 2020 Gulfport Fine Arts Festival Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 8 and 9, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., at Veteran’s Park, 5350 31st Ave. S.
“It’s really nice to just have a smaller festival where you can really linger and talk to the artists,” McMahon said.
Artists are drawn to these festivals as well, she added. “These small shows are great opportunities. All of us really love doing these boutique shows. They’re just really nicer on every level.”
Art lovers will find a variety of works at the festival: “paintings, glass, really nice jewelry, incredible fiber work,” she said, “a really wide range and good quality at all price points.”
The event also showcases many emerging artists.
“We’ve got some really nice young artists coming out,” McMahon said. “That’s what I’m personally interested in for all of Gulfport. It’s an opportunity for young people to explore the idea of art as a business in an easy, comfortable setting.”
The festival’s growth goes hand in hand with Gulfport’s longtime reputation as an arts destination, said McMahon.
“There’s been incredible art happening here for years. It’s been going on the whole time,” she said. “but now, there are more venues showcasing this work…It’s not that the art is being elevated, there weren’t a lot of venues to show it before.”
Her Brenda McMahon Gallery on Beach Boulevard is one of several arts venues to open in recent years, she said, and for the past three years, she’s organized the Art Jones Studio Tour every December. There are also changes coming to the Gulfport Art Walk that will further highlight fine arts, she added.
McMahon hopes Gulfport Fine Arts Festival attendees will use the art show as an opportunity to check out everything the city has to offer.
“If you haven’t been to Gulfport in a while, it’s time to come back because we are really mixing it up here,” she said. “We’re proud and we’re excited, and our town is cleaning up the edges and showing off some really impressive artwork and new businesses. It’s an exciting time to be here.”
She added, “And it’s still a small enough town where if you come to do the art festival, you can spend a few more hours here, get something to eat, and not feel overwhelmed.”