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New entertainment, live demos at Art in the Park, March 11 & 12

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A grand, time-honored celebration of the arts and community will be presented on Saturday and Sunday, March 11 & 12, when the Hernando County Fine Arts Council invites the public to join them for the 38th Annual Art in the Park Festival from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm at Tom Varn Park. This year’s show is expected to draw 6,000 guests from Hernando County and surrounding areas “for a celebration of artistry in a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere.”

Art in the Park is a signature Hernando County arts event “dedicated to fine art, craftsmanship, and community that creates a unique opportunity and tradition for artists, collectors, and patrons of the arts.” Artists and artisans will showcase a vast spectrum of works and media beneath the stately oak trees at Tom Varn Park. Admission is free, with a suggested donation of $5 for parking. All donations support the arts community of Hernando County. Indeed, Art in the Park is the largest fundraiser of the year for HCFAC, which enables the council to support artists through prizes and scholarships.

Art in the Park will feature more than 100 fine artists and artisans exhibitors, two days of live entertainment, interactive art installations, a children’s art experience, a countywide juried student art show, food trucks, and more.

“We are back with fine artists & artisans from 15 states, new entertainment, our vibrant children’s experience area, interactive art installations, live demos, food trucks, and so much more for a full weekend of celebrating artistry! The growing art scene here in Hernando County is truly one to be celebrated, and the Arts Council is thrilled to be a part of it all,” stated Allisa Babor, chair of the Hernando County Fine Arts Council.

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Babor greatly anticipates this year’s Art in the Park event, a true showcase for the arts. “Celebrating our 38th year in 2023, Art in the Park is Hernando County’s premier outdoor art and craft show that hosts over 100 exhibitors of all mediums,” said Babor. “The show draws thousands of eager shoppers and patrons of the arts from all over the Southeast. Save the date to experience art amongst beautiful oak trees at Tom Varn Park in historic Brooksville, Florida.”

Jessica Knutila, admin for the Hernando County Fine Arts Council, agrees. “Art in the Park is Hernando County’s largest art show, so it’s the perfect opportunity to get to know many of the talented artists here. Many of the winning artists from last year’s Art in the Park are returning! A crowd favorite, Danny O’Driscoll, will be back with his incredibly realistic wildlife paintings, as well as our “Best in Show” winner, Clovis Dean Rusk,” she said. “We will also have artists from 15 other states coming for a truly diverse showcase of the arts!”

Babor regards Art in the Park as a true celebration of the arts. “We are so grateful to return to Tom Varn Park to showcase the talent of our community, of Florida, and beyond!” she said.

This year’s Art in the Park, Babor reveals, will be a vibrant and robust experience for guests of all ages. “We will be back with new entertainment, our vibrant children’s experience area, and so much more for a full weekend of celebrating artistry!” she said.

A number of organizations have joined the Art in the Park team to ensure that the children’s experience area, sponsored by Suncoast Credit Union and offering free art activities for children, is welcoming to all kids, including Posability, Inc, NAMI Hernando, The Sensory Center Inc, and Florida Rainbow Alliance.

“This year, I’m most excited about all of the live art demonstrations we have planned!” said Knutila. “We will have a live chalk artist, live glass-blowing demonstration, and three live painters at Art in the Park this year!”

Knutila says that guests can look forward to live chalk art by Hilary Frambes (@hilary_frambes), live glass blowing by Nathanuel Spence of senOiH Glass (@senOiH), live painting by Lenny and Clay from Rusted Jade Art Collective (@rustedjadeartcollective), and an interactive mural by Nancy Barry (@artbynancybarry). Live entertainment acts will include MissyLTM, Dan Chapman and Davy Daniels, Live Oak Theatre, Suzuki Strings, Above Reproach, Funtastic Gymnastics, Hernando Youth Orchestra Percussion Petting Zoo, Debbie Cole School of Dance, Rhythm and Sole Tap Ensemble, Tony the Balloon Guy, guitarist Nick France, Profound Revelations Studio, Rhythm and Movement, Serious JuJu Show, The Gray Suns, Dino Danger, and a finale led by Petria Dye and Jane Geddings.

Award-winning Hernando County artist Christine Weeks is among those artists set to inspire and guide the efforts of student artists at Art in the Park.
“I’m so grateful to the arts council for putting together this show for artists in the community,” said Weeks. “And for giving the children of this county the opportunity to create beautiful artwork.”

Also along these lines, the Art in the Park student art show is open to students of public, private, and homeschools in Hernando County, including elementary, middle, high school, and AP/College. Students may submit up to 3 entries. Prizes will be awarded for best works in each age category and as well for Sculpture media, visual arts, painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, etc. For more information, visit www.hernandoarts.org/student-art-show-registration.
And for the participating artists, says Babor, Art in the Park is a prime opportunity to show their very best work–winning valuable prizes in the process.

“We are eager to see members of our community display their artwork at the show as well as artists from all over the United States!” said Babor. “We have a total of $6,500 to award over the weekend to our talented exhibitors.”

Among those performing live at Art in the Park will be Stir Up the Gift, a Hernando County-based nonprofit arts organization that teaches dancing, singing, and acting skills to area children.

“We’re looking forward to finding a whole new audience at Art in the Park, singing, dancing, and modeling as we meet the community,” said Stir Up the Gift instructor McKenzie Freeman. “The Arts Council always gives us a fantastic stage to showcase our art amongst all of the beautiful visual art.”

Volunteers are still needed to assist with the organization and presentation of this signature arts event.

“Art in the Park is quickly approaching on March 11-12,” read the information provided via the Art in the Park Facebook page. “We still need volunteers to assist with parking needs both Saturday and Sunday in 2 or 3-hour time slots between 9-5; Children’s Art Saturday 2-5; Children’s Art Sunday 9-12 & 2-5; and Entertainment both days. If you have a few hours to volunteer, or if you are a student in need of community service hours, please sign up at the link below: https://tinyurl.com/bdewtkvx.

To learn more about Art in the Park or to volunteer, please visit www.hernandoarts.org or email [email protected]. For general information, questions, or comments, please contact the Hernando County Fine Arts Council at 352-587-8062, email [email protected], or visit www.HernandoArts.org.

“The growing art scene here in Hernando County is truly one to be celebrated,” said Babor, “and the Arts Council is thrilled to be a part of it all.” Knutila agrees. “Come buy some original artwork, or just enjoy some live music in the park with us!”

Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey is a features journalist and author who is the winner of Florida Press Association honors and a certificate of appreciation from LINCS (Family Support Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Task Force) and Sunrise Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center for her newspaper coverage of these issues. She graduated cum laude from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., with a journalism major and English/sociology minor, and previously wrote for publications that include the Pasco editions of The Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times. A native of Indiana, she lives in Florida.
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