TARPON SPRINGS — Instead of spending the entire weekend sinking deeper and deeper into the living room furniture while eating chicken wings and watching bowl games, ring in the new year with a brand new two-day outdoor festival.
American Craft Endeavors will present the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks Art & Craft Festival Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 1-2, on Dodecanese Blvd. in scenic Tarpon Springs. Festival hours will be 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
The sponge industry helped build a Greek community that is now famous not only for the world's finest sponges, but for some of the best Greek restaurants, markets, and bakeries in the country. The beautiful waterfront thoroughfare along the city’s sponge docks will fill with a multitude of art and fine craft artists and artisans. The festival also will feature a green market while showcasing thousands of creative works handmade in the United States. The event is free and open to the public.
“We are so excited to produce this new show in the gorgeous location,” said Helayne Stillings, American Craft Endeavors vice president, in a press release. “Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks is a beloved tourist destination and we can’t wait to start the new year off by bringing so much beautiful work to the residents and visitors.”
The outdoor art and craft festival offers a chance for residents to peruse and shop for practical and whimsical works of quality, handmade art while enjoying the beautiful Florida weather. Pets on leashes are always welcome to join their human companions as they stroll through the festival, which includes a full green market boasting live plants, handmade soaps, delicious edibles and more. Adding to the pleasure of the outing, patrons can meet the artisans behind the works and discover the techniques and inspirations behind each creation.
Artists and crafters are hand-selected from hundreds of applicants in this juried outdoor fine craft spectacle. Prices are suited to all budgets, with individual works selling from between $5 and $3,000. The selection includes a vast array of artistic media, including paintings, sculpture, photography, folk art, pottery, personalized gifts, handmade clothing, basket weaving, beaded utensils, candles, cork assemblage, fabric design, fiber quilts, fused wax and glass, hair accessories, handbags & accessories, handmade cards, leather, mosaic, wood, painted wood, plaster craft, and stained glass.
Paul Laoria is among the participating artists. He grew up in New York City, where his father — also an artist — mentored his son in his artistic pursuits. Laoria has been painting since he was 3 years old.
According to the artist’s website, as soon as he was old enough to take the subway, he made his way each week to the Metropolitan Museum of Art where he spent many hours with his sketchbook trying to learn the secrets of the old masters. He developed an abstract style with the ability to paint and draw in the classical style. All his paintings are oil on canvas.
Laoria attended Juilliard and the Eastman School of Music where he studied voice, piano and composition. His paintings reveal music as the main theme of his work.
Also set to participate in the festival is Clearwater’s Veena Cahlander.
Cahlander’s artistic career began with music. She had a dream as a teenager that she was playing guitar and singing. Soon after that dream she bought a $34 guitar and taught herself to play. At 15 she had to drop out of high school and work in a factory, but music called her on to school and she put herself through college and graduated with a degree in music education. She then played her brand of intricate contemporary folk/rock in venues from Iowa to Ireland.
Cahlander’s art glass career began with her move to Maui and is an embrace of the island's feeling of Aloha. Inspired by the color and beauty of her tropical home, she is, along with her musical endeavors, creating fused dichroic glass jewelry and intricate, hand woven crystal. Cahlander cuts tiny pieces of dichroic glass and fuses them in a larger piece; she then cuts and bevels each piece by hand and then fires them a second time.
Cahlander is a member of the Lahaina Arts Society and can be found under the Banyan Tree on select weekends throughout the year. She is also a member of the Maui Crafts Guild in Paia.
Jewelry artist Rhonda Manning joins the presenters at the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks Art & Craft Festival.
Manning is known for her hammered aluminum jewelry that is inspired by nature. Her pieces feature botanical elements or whimsical creatures such as sea turtles and hummingbirds.
“Each piece begins with a simple strand of aluminum wire which is shaped and hammered to produce a strong finished piece,” Manning explains on her website. “The process of hammering also allows me to give the piece a little extra dimension through variations in the width of the wire due to the force of hammering. This comes in handy particularly for botanical pieces when I want to accentuate the tips of a flower petal or the edges of leaves.”
Many of her pieces are then accented with stained glass and semiprecious stones.
About American Craft Endeavors
American Craft Endeavors produces high-end juried craft shows in many of Florida’s vibrant downtown areas and popular tourist destinations such as the Downtown Dunedin Art and Craft Festival, the St. Pete Beach Corey Area Craft Festival and the Downtown Sarasota Art and Craft Festival, among others. The group’s founders personally select unique, culture-rich cities for their show locations, providing a complete outdoor experience unmatched by other festivals. All crafters are hand-selected from hundreds of applicants in order to ensure a superior event featuring diverse art media and the highest quality of original handmade crafts.
For information, visit www.artfestival.com.