Gainesville will transform into a masterful blend of art, music and entertainment during the 32nd Annual Downtown Festival & Art Show, one of the nation’s premier outdoor fine arts festivals. Presented by the City of Gainesville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department, the festival draws a crowd of more than 100,000 each year. On Saturday, Nov. 16 and Sunday, Nov. 17, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., visitors can meet the exhibiting artists, enjoy live music and sample international cuisine.
The Downtown Festival & Art Show, a nationally-recognized event, helps Gainesville get in touch with its creative side. Since 1996, it has ranked among the top festivals in the nation and has steadily climbed in rankings in recent years and moved up another three positions, while breaking its own placement records. The Downtown Festival & Art Show jumped into the top ten in national art show rankings for the first time, from the no. 13 spot to no. 10 on Sunshine Artist magazine’s “200 Best” list of top fine arts festivals in the nation.
Art enthusiasts are not the only ones who appreciate the festival. Visitors embrace the culture of more than 250 of the nation’s most talented artists, who showcase their original oils and acrylics, vibrant watercolors, unique sculptures, dazzling jewelry, decorative ceramics and vivid photography. Artisans compete for more than $18,000 in cash prizes and purchase awards
“We pride ourselves on our rich collection of art and the experience we provide to the community,” said Festival Coordinator Linda Piper. “It is always so much fun to walk around the festival and see everyone enjoying the atmosphere.”
Much of the delightful atmosphere can be credited to the many artisans that continually show their support of the Gainesville arts by their unwavering participation year after year. One of these loyal and local artisans of the Downtown Festival & Art Show, John Moran, has been chosen as the poster artist for this year’s show. His featured artwork, “Look into the Eye,” is an underwater view of Silver Glen Springs in the Ocala National Forest. The breathtaking image of life beneath the water’s surface is a piece that is sure to touch one’s core at first glance.
Children also have the chance to enjoy the festival and get creative at the Imagination Station, a free, hands-on art activity area. Drawing with chalk, painting pictures, designing masks, sculpting clay and creating puppets and buttons are just a few of the activities in which children will be able to artistically express themselves. In addition to craft activities, the Imagination Station features a performance area with puppet shows, magic acts and music so children can rock to their own beat. Art Education students from the University of Florida work throughout the fall semester to produce this hub of family-friendly fun.
Down the road from the Imagination Station and near the steps of the Hippodrome State Theatre, more than 55 non-profit organizations educate the crowd about the services they provide to the community. Food booths line the streets and give visitors the chance to indulge in bloomin’ onions, sweet barbecue ribs, hearty Mediterranean pitas, Cajun jambalaya and authentic Thai cuisine. The festival features international dishes from more than 20 food vendors, so no guest leaves hungry.
Visitors craving constant entertainment can check out live performances on three stages. Music from local bands and solo musicians features a blend of folk, jazz, country, pop and soul. Dance companies also catch the eyes of the crowd with ballet, jazz, modern and international dance performances. The festival weekend will kick-off with a free Downtown Blues Concert presented by the North Central Florida Blues Society at the Bo Diddley Community Plaza Friday, Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. Big Time Juke and the Joints will kick off the show and get the crowd moving. Two-time winners of the North Central Florida Blues Society Gainesville Blues Challenge, the R. Mutt Blues Band, will follow with a combination of traditional blues hits and soul-moving originals. Headlining the concert is Brandon Santini, a Memphis vocalist and harmonica player overflowing with passion and pure talent, who is sure to satisfy one’s quench for musical culture.
“We are blessed in Alachua County with a community of performing artists that covers a spectrum of music and dance,” said Entertainment Coordinator Bill Hutchinson.
The City of Gainesville looks forward to celebrating another successful show and welcomes the community to join in this special event. Gainesville's premier fall festival is a celebration of art and culture that you won't want to miss. Start your holiday shopping now, and find unique gifts for family and friends, or purchase artwork for your own collection. Festivities are free and open to the public all weekend. For more information, visit www.gvlculturalaffairs.org, visit our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/DowntownFestivalandArtShow or call 352-334-ARTS.