After the pandemic forced Art Festival Beth-El to go virtual in 2021, the event returns in person to St. Petersburg’s Temple Beth-El on Jan. 30-31.
The creations of more than 170 national and international artists working in painting, wood, sculpture, ceramics, glass, photography and jewelry will be showcased in a gallery setting. It will be juried by Katherine Pill, curator of contemporary art at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg. More than $8,000 in prize money will be awarded.
Visitors can view works in the outdoor sculpture garden and find moderately priced works of fine art and fine craft in The Boutique Gallery.
COVID-19 safety measures have been put in place that will make the festival, now in its 49th year, feel a bit different. The traditional cocktail party has been canceled, and Jan. 29 is for purchase award patrons and benefactors only.
There won’t be an Avenue of Shops, in order to help mitigate crowds in small spaces. There will be a dedicated entrance and exit, and no food or beverages will be served. Masks are required for all guests, and volunteers will ensure people are wearing them correctly.
An exhibition of works by high school students will be displayed virtually only.
Ann Soble, co-chairperson of the festival, said that while last year’s virtual festival was successful, the committee decided to return to an in-person event because, at the time, things were looking brighter regarding COVID-19.
“We kept saying if we can do it, we should do it,” Soble said. “People do want to feel more normal, people want to feel they have somewhere to go and something to do and something to look forward to.”
The committee couldn’t have predicted the rise of the omicron variant, and because of the nature of how the show works, it’s hard to cancel or postpone, Soble said. Artists had already shipped their work or made plans to drop it off, and publicity had already been arranged.
Another challenge for the committee was finding artists, because they typically travel to shows and galleries across the country looking for people, something that couldn’t happen for this show. But Soble said they relied on artists they already knew, some of whom made recommendations.
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The past two years have been especially hard on artists who make their living through art shows like Art Festival Beth-El, many of which were canceled, Soble said.
Soble is optimistic about the festival, despite losing its “party vibe.”
“The quality of the art is still the same and we know that we can present a great show to the Tampa Bay community,” she said.
Art Festival Beth-El is free and open to the public 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jan. 30-31. Temple Beth-El, 400 Pasadena Ave. S, St. Petersburg. 727-347-6136. templebeth-el.com.