Today the artists will come flooding back to Central Park for their 58th year on the lawn. What was once a community project to see if any artists would show up is now expecting 350,000 visitors.
“It’s my 10th year, and it’s always exciting this last week before the festival,” Festival president Louise De Veer said. “It’s like a beehive, it starts buzzing and everybody gets excited.”
The 1,100 artists who applied to the show had to pass an independent panel of three judges to get this far. And those aren’t just any judges. According to the organizers the Festival consistently ranks as one of the top juried fine-art festivals in the country. In 2014 it was ranked No. 5 in the nation by Sunshine Artist Magazine, No. 4 in Art Fair Calendar’s 2016 Best Art Fairs and in the Top 10 Fine Art Shows of 2016 by Art Fair Source Book.
Meet the judges
William Eiland is the director of the Georgia Museum of Art and on the graduate faculty of the Lamar Dodd School of Art at the University of Georgia in Athens. He took a BA degree summa cum laude from Birmingham-Southern College and MA and Ph.D degrees from the University of Virginia. Eiland most recently received the American Alliance of Museums Distinguished Service Award, in recognition of his contributions to the field on a national level.
Daric Gill is an interdisciplinary artist and part of a movement in the arts that explores the development of several bodies of artwork by one artist. A series of his award-winning oil paintings has been exhibited in the John F. Peto Studio Museum in New Jersey, Edward Hopper House Art Center in New York and at the Pizzuti Collection in Ohio. His interactive kinetic sculptures are displayed in public parks and urban spaces.
Petra Sertic is a curator and art historian based in Denver, Colorado with an interest in German art and culture of the 1980s. As associate curator at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art (2010-2013) and curatorial assistant at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver (2007-2008) she organized over 50 exhibitions by nationally and internationally acclaimed artists.
There’s a big incentive for the artists to be that good. They’re competing for $72,500 worth of awards — 63 in total — including a $10,000 Best of Show winner, with that special art to be donated to the city. But that’s not the only big prize up for grabs. The Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation has a $5,000 “Art of Philanthropy” purchase award, and the Morse Museum will award $2,500 for the “Distinguished Work of Art.”
“We’re really one of the most popular festivals because we have one of the highest dollar amounts for prize money.” Festival board member Alice Moulton said. And that attracts some of the top traveling artists who tour America’s art festival circuit, De Veer added. And that’s fine art from every discipline.
If it’s been called art, it’s at the Festival, with media on display and up for purchase ranging from clay, digital art, drawings & pastels, fiber, glass, graphics & printmaking, jewelry, leather, metal, mixed media 2D, mixed media 3D, painting, photography, sculpture, watercolor and wood.
Family fun and DIY art
This festival isn’t just for professional artists. Just like in many years past, there’s a special Children’s Workshop Village in the Central Park West Meadow. In the Village kids can create their own art, featuring easel painting and local art centers and museums that feature a variety of fun, hands-on art activities for children. Admission is free and participants may take home their artistic creations. The Children’s Workshop Village hours are 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Easel painting is from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
The Leon Theodore Schools Exhibit will show off artwork by a whole generation of local future artists, with works by thousands of Orange County students is on display.
“The artwork that these kids do, it’s really like a mini judged art show,” Moulton said.
Meet the artist
Every year the festival features a highlighted artist who created the official poster on display and for sale at the festival. Al Carroll, this year’s artist, was an "old school" graphic designer. He also has a special connection to Winter Park. Those peacocks on the manhole covers in town? He designed them, Moulton said.
Carroll hand drew and colored his logos and designs but left the computer work to others. His ink-on-poster board design seen around the park today was created back in 1997, but it wasn’t submitted until 2016 for the 2017 festival. The work on the poster was a timely effort as Carroll had health problems that would lead to his passing just a few weeks after he learned his work had been selected for the poster. The announcement came just in time.
“This year people really liked his design,” Moulton said. “After it was selected we were going to have a meeting to talk about the poster and stuff and the head of the committee called and said, he just passed away.’”
His daughter, Hannah Welch, helped update the design by adding color digitally, and enlisting friend Scott Sheppard, a computer-savvy local artist who had worked with Carroll, to contribute to the piece. The final design is a combination of skills and ideas offered by all three. To see more of Al Carroll and Hannah Welch’s original artwork go to www.alcarrollstudio.com and www.hannahwelch.com.
What to see
When festival goers aren’t entranced by art, they can wander their way toward the main stage on the north end of the park to see free entertainment throughout the three-day festival. The music begins with a jazz concert on Friday night starting at 6 p.m. with The Dana Kamide Band. Kamide had a three-year engagement at the Venetian in Las Vegas, performing more than 700 shows since 2013, crooning Sinatra of belting out Bruno Mars tunes. In Florida he’s well known for fronting The Buzzcatz Band.
The headliner at 7:30 p.m. will be contemporary jazz saxophonist Jessy J featuring Nathan Mitchell. She’s known for her many hits on the Billboard Jazz charts, which will blend with Nathan Mitchell’s jazz vocals and musical versatility. For the complete list of entertainment during the weekend, visit the art festival’s website at www.wpsaf.org.
“The jazz concert on Friday night is a big draw every year,“ Moulton said. That means savvy visitors will start setting up blankets, rugs, even tables the night before, just to save a spot.
Just north of the Festival, the Morse Museum is opening its doors on Park Avenue for free admission all weekend. Catherine Hinman, the museum’s director of public affairs, said 2,400 visitors walked through their doors last year.
“I figure the festival brings in people who don’t ordinarily come here,” Morse Museum Director of Public Affairs Catherine Hinman said. “I think it’s paid off. It’s an introduction to Winter Park and to the museum for many people. We are the city of arts and culture, so it makes sense.”
Sorry, no pets
Just like with previous years, no pets are allowed (except certified service dogs) in Central Park or on Park Avenue between New England and Canton Avenues during Festival hours per, a City of Winter Park Ordinance.
Grab some Festival swag
Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival t-shirts and other memorabilia are available at three merchandise sales tents. Look for the big merchandise tents located at the south entrance (Park and New England Avenues), at the center intersection (Morse Boulevard and Park Avenue), and at the north entrance (Park and Garfield Avenues).
A vintage merchandise tent will be located next to the Festival headquarters at Park Avenue and Morse Boulevard. After the Festival is over, attendees can still purchase this year’s and past posters by visiting the Festival’s website at wpsaf.org.
How to get there
Parking can be tight at the festival, so bicyclists and pedestrians are encouraged. Visitors can enjoy the Festival while their bike is safely monitored at a bicycle valet service located on Morse Boulevard across the street from the Amtrak Station parking lot. The service is provided during Festival hours by the Winter Park Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Board. SunRail will also be operating on Saturday from 10 a.m. until after midnight. Check sunrail.com for the schedule as it passes through Winter Park.
All of that will make the event even bigger than it’s been in the past, De Veer said.
“Each year is the best year ever,” she said.
For more information visit wpsaf.org.