Art, music, food and the opportunity to enjoy a fall day outdoors is coming to the streets of historic downtown Gainesville this November. Art lovers and artists will mingle once again as the heart of Gainesville sets the stage for the 34th Annual Downtown Festival & Art Show Nov. 14 and 15. More than 100,000 people are expected to join in the festivities, a juried fine arts festival, produced by the City of Gainesville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department. Exquisite art work by 240 of the finest artists and craftspeople in the country will decorate the streets from City Hall to the Hippodrome Theatre as the event runs daily from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Visitors can meet the exhibiting artists, enjoy live music and dance performances on four stages and sample international cuisine.
Since 1996, the Downtown Festival & Art Show has ranked among the top festivals in the nation and has steadily climbed in rankings in recent years. The Downtown Festival & Art Show was ranked no. 14 on Sunshine Artist magazine’s “200 Best” list of top fine arts festivals in the nation.
“We are proud of our national ranking, the festival keeps getting bigger and better each year,” Linda Piper, events coordinator said. Piper has worked with the City of Gainesville’s Cultural Affairs for the past 29 years. She has produced this fine arts festival for 22 years. She took a show that was a small event and made it into what it is today, a nationally-recognized event.
“When I took over the event, 165 artists applied for 160 booth spots, and now 22 years later, more than 500 artists apply for 240 booth spaces,” Piper said. The arts festival has grown tremendously over the years. The artists love to exhibit in Gainesville because our community supports the arts by purchasing art work.
Visitors can expect to see original oils and acrylics, vibrant watercolors, unique sculptures, dazzling jewelry, decorative ceramics and vivid photography. “This is a great opportunity to begin your holiday shopping now”, Piper said. “That’s what makes it so successful. It’s the perfect time of year in Gainesville, the perfect time of the year to purchase one-of-a-kind artwork for that someone special.”
A popular family favorite, the Imagination Station, is a free hands-on art activity area that allows children to create their own art work. They can create chalk murals, design masks, sculpt clay, create puppets and enjoy performances including puppet shows, magic acts and music. 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 Theatre, more than 45 nonprofit 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 blooming 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.
The festival weekend kicks off Friday at 7 p.m. with a free Downtown Blues Concert presented by the North Central Florida Blues Society. The concert will be held in downtown Gainesville at the new stage on the corner of Southwest Second Avenue and Southwest Second Street and will feature three incredible blues performances. Local blues musician, Barbara Paul will kick-off this soul-moving show performing 20th century finger style and slide blues, as she shares her love for the historical stories found in music and the emotions the songs bring forth. Paul recently won for solo/duo at the North Central Florida Blues Society Regional Challenge and will be representing this region at the International Blues Concert in Memphis, Tennessee in January. At 8 p.m., the Bridget Kelly Band conjures up an electric blues vibe that blends classic blues with elements of guitar-driven Texas and Memphis blues. As International Blues Challenge (IBC) Semi-Finalists in Memphis 2015 and a band that has earned airplay on Sirius-XM radio as well as hundreds of syndicated blues radio programs, the Bridget Kelly Band has gained an international reputation as a high-energy blues band that has placed their unique stamp on the blues-rock genre. This year’s headliner features the Mac Arnold & Plate Full O’Blues. Arnold has been called “one of the most original voice in blues” (Jazz Now) and “one remaining virtual blues goldmine” (All Music Jazz). Arnold has played with legends such as Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, BB King, Otis Redding and James Brown. Many are familiar with his distinctive bass line heard on the theme for the TV show “Sanford and Son.”
Throughout the festival weekend, music from local bands and solo musicians feature a blend of folk, jazz, country, pop and soul genres on four stages. Dance companies also catch the eye of the crowd with ballet, jazz, modern and international dance performances.
The City of Gainesville looks forward to celebrating another successful show, and welcomes the community to join in this annual event. Gainesville's premier fall festival is a celebration of art and culture that you won't want to miss. For more information visit www.gainesvilledowntownartfest.org or call 352-334-ARTS.