Pirate Life Imitates Pirate Art - Guide to Greater Tampa Bay
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Pirate Life Imitates Pirate Art

Pirate Life Imitates Pirate Art

Legend has it that famed pirate José Gaspar left behind still unfound buried treasure in the Tampa Bay area. While the story is apocryphal, the treasure is, in fact, very real and can be found in the annual celebrations of the buccaneer’s exploits. 

One such celebration is the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts, one of the largest and most diverse art shows in the state. This year’s event will be held on March 4-5. 

Sitting on the beautiful Julian B. Lane Waterfront Park in downtown Tampa, this year’s festival is slated to be the grandest one yet. For artists, the opportunity to display their works and vie for over $90,000 in prize money is sure to bring out their greatest works.  

A Brief History 

The Gasparilla Festival of the Arts can trace its roots back to a small art exhibit held annually at the Florida State Fair. In 1970, the exhibit moved to a sidewalk in downtown Tampa with the hopes of imbuing culture and excitement in the area. 

From these modest beginnings, the festival soon grew extremely popular. It even won the Governor’s Award for the Arts in 1973, adopting the moniker ‘The Little Art Show That Could.’ 

Tenacious and scrappy, and most importantly popular, the festival grew into the successful and notable event it is today. More than 50 years on, the GFA courts thousands of the area’s most talented artists to showcase, sell and compete for prizes. 

What To Expect 

A mélange of various styles will grace the festival, including ceramics, glass, drawings, paintings, jewelry, woodworking, photography, digital art and so much more. 

Chief Meteorologist for ABC Action News, Denis Philips, will emcee as a full schedule of live music will play. Taylor Reed, The Applebutter Express, Mandy Harvey and more will perform all festival weekend. 

Exclusive and singular events will offer a one-of-a-kind vantage point to experience the art. The Showcase will unveil new works to the public, and the VIP Experience will include access to the festival’s specialty areas.  

Food and drink will flow freely – local vendors representing the best of what GTB cuisine has to offer will be lined up, ready to satiate guests.  

Looking To the Future 

Art is ever evolving. The Gasparilla Festival of the Arts looks to discover and nurture young, new voices and fresh perspectives. Providing opportunities for rising artists is a top priority.  

See Also

The Young Artists Expo reaches students K-12 through their elementary, middle and high school programs. The contest has finalists display their works at the festival while the winners receive thousands of dollars in prizes.  

The Local Artists Spotlight, founded in 2020, chooses five nominated local artists to showcase their works in front of the entire festival. There is also a remote studio where creators create live in front of viewers. 

Getting Involved 

Interested in becoming more than an observer and appreciator? The GFA is always on the lookout for those looking to volunteer their time and services. Help is needed for concession booths, hospitality and more. 

To sign up, visit https://gasparillaarts.com/volunteers

By Ryan Walsh.

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