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Art in the Park is Canceled

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For nearly four decades, Art in the Park–a presentation of the Hernando County Fine Arts Council–has presented and showcased the art and artists that bring culture and beauty to this area. And while COVID-19 concerns have lead to the cancellation of the Hernando County Fine Arts Council 37th Annual Art in the Park this March, the council remains strong and active in its mission to “encourage, promote, and support all the creative arts in Hernando County and to provide a means to showcase the arts.”

At the Council’s monthly meeting, Thursday, Jan. 14, members cited Hernando County’s “soaring positivity rate and fears of hosting a superspreader event” as grounds to vote to cancel Art in the Park as planned for this March. 

“The Council anticipated this cancellation might be necessary since planning for the 2021 event began,” said Beth Putnam, the chair of Hernando County Fine Arts Council. “Despite the fact that AITP is the Arts Council’s major fundraiser, the Council placed the welfare of the artists over our own potential financial loss.” 

In canceling the event, AITP administrators always kept the artists in mind. 

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“We decided to update our Art in the Park rules governing exhibitor refunds. Traditionally, exhibitor fees are non-refundable except in the case of an emergency. Considering the COVID-19 issue, however, the Council voted to offer exhibitors options to return their paid booth fees if we had to cancel the event,” said Putnam. “We recently informed all exhibitors who had paid fees of the cancellation and gave them two options–a full refund now or the option to apply fees to AITP 2022.”  

According to a related news release, Tammy Heon, Manager, Tourism Development at Florida’s Adventure Coast, Brooksville – Weeki Wachee, commented at the meeting that–while a difficult decision–she felt the safety of everyone involved was the most important consideration in cancelling the event. She also promised that the Visitors Bureau would do everything possible to assist the Arts Council as they considered rescheduling Art in the Park to another date, or possibly looked to other events during the coming year.

Putnam says that AITP sponsors have been proactive in addressing the cancellation.

“We had secured several sponsorships for the 2021 event. We are gratified that one sponsor, Dan and Sandi Brown of Simply Local Search and Social, has asked that their sponsorship money be redirected to the Council’s Arts in Education program upon learning of the cancellation,” said Putnam. “The program offers grants up to $500 to benefit students in grades K through 12 in Hernando County.”

Indeed, the arts council is committed to continue its support of area artists in 2021, administering two grants programs in this effort. They are the Arts in Education and Community Arts Grants. 

“The Hernando County Fine Arts Council now offers the Arts in Education Grant to arts educators working in K-12 classrooms in Hernando County Schools. The purpose of this grant is to support arts educators in delivering and promoting arts experiences extended to the students of Hernando County…” read the information found at https://www.hernandoarts.org/arts-in-education-grants.

The Community Arts Grant program, according to the website, “offers grants to civic or cultural organizations recognized as non-profits or charitable groups that support art and encourage art appreciation in Hernando County.  The Hernando County Fine Arts Council offers grants of up to $500 each for local groups to promote the arts in Hernando County.  The Community Arts Grants Program is designed to involve county residents in creating, appreciating, supporting, participating in, or learning about the creative arts in Hernando County.” For more information, visit https://www.hernandoarts.org/community-arts-grant-2021.

The Council also is seeking more opportunities to partner with groups across the county to support informal opportunities for residents and visitors to experience art. These include the arts council’s recent partnership with Brooksville Main Street’s Design Committee to host an Art Stroll held in downtown Brooksville. Art in the Park Co-Chair Jan Knowles curated the artists for the show, and council members Allisa Babor and Jessica Knutila coordinated the portable murals hung around the downtown area.

And numerous Hernando artists are featured in the council’s art directory.

“We will put a heavy focus on promoting the Hernando Arts Directory, which is the only art directory for Hernando County. Hernando County is home to hundreds of talented artists,” said Allisa Babor, Communication Chair of the Hernando County Fine Arts Council. “That’s why we created The Hernando Arts Directory to give artists that live within a 100-mile radius of Brooksville a place to display their talents in all disciplines, including visual arts, music, theater, literature, filming, teaching, and more. This directory allows visitors to view and search the wide variety of talent that is in our community, purchase artwork, or hire professional services from our talented arts community.”

And the council is planning next year’s AITP event.

“We are already planning Art in the Park 2022 to be better than ever. We plan to expand the Children’s Art Activity Area to include even more fun art-focused experiences for the kids,” said Putnam. “We’ll be doubling the number of photo op areas, and one of those will be just for kids! We want more people to know about the Student Art Show, which involves more than 200 Hernando County students, For 2022, we want to give the student winners more exposure and expanded media coverage.” 

AITP 2022 promises to offer a variety of interesting arty attractions.

“We are also excited to feature a portable mural that will be painted by festival visitors. After the festival, we will display it at various locations around the county. For the first time, we will have a reception for expressing our appreciation, and presenting awards to the fine artists and fine crafters are the key to the festival’s success,” said Putnam. “We also plan to expand the footprint of and involvement in Chalk in the Park Chalk Art Festival, sponsored by the City of Brooksville.” 

“Save the date for next year’s Art in the Park at Tom Varn,” said Putnam, “on March 12 & 13, 2022.”   

For more information about the Hernando County Fine Arts Council, visit www.hernandoarts.org.


Summer Hampton
Summer Hampton
Summer Hampton is a graduate of the University of South Florida with a bachelor's degree in communication focused in culture and media. She is Poynter ACES certified in editing through the Poynter Institute, with a certificate of book publishing obtained through the University of Denver.
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