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ArtFest begins Friday

Continues through the weekend in Fort Myers

January 30, 2014
By JIM LINETTE ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

More than 200 artists will be in one place this weekend on the waterfront in downtown Fort Myers for the annual ArtFest Fort Myers.

Admission is free to the opening night under the stars from 6-10 p.m. on Friday when people can enjoy a relaxed and intimate setting while mingling with 69 of the festival's finest artists. Entertainment surrounds the festival grounds in historic downtown Fort Myers while enjoying food and fine drinks.

"Art at night is spectacular," said ArtFest executive director Sharon McAllister. "All the vendor tents have electricity to them and are lit up like galleries. It's really different. There is only one other festival that has a show at night."

ArtFest had 800 artists apply for one of the 215 vendor spaces to show and sell their original work in a wide range of prices from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Artists from 43 states, Russia, Canada, England and Japan are exhibitors. Admission and ample parking in downtown Fort Myers are free.

"This is our most diverse group of artists," said ArtFest spokesperson Jeanne Seehaver. "The street chalk is bigger and better than ever."

Visitors can enhance their experience by upgrading to VIP access. VIP tickets includes reserved parking, VIP tent and Terrace entry to enjoy snacks and beverages all weekend. A complimentary commemorative poster comes with the VIP tickets which are $75 per person. Proceeds help support the festival's year-round outreach missions.

This ArtFest is a juried festival. All artists' work is scored by a five-member panel of art professionals and only the top-rated artists in various categories are invited to exhibit.

Five of the artists exhibiting their work this weekend have Cape Coral ties. Part-time resident Charles Greenholdt of Michigan is a watercolor artist, part-time residents Teri and Rachelle Meagher will exhibit their paintings and Cape Coral photographer John Furbee is a first-time exhibitor. Part-time Pine Island resident Barry Bernstein is an amazing ceramic artist in the festival.

Artists will be displaying a wide range of art items, including beautiful jewelry, dazzling glass, unique paintings and decorative ceramics. There's also an exhibit and competition for the more than 400 high school artists at the Art Under 20 show area. They are competing for $7,000 in cash prizes.

Young, talented student teams representing 33 high schools will create large street chalk paintings at the Chalk Block. The Publix Art Yard and Youth Stage are full of opportunities for children of all ages to create a masterpiece of their very own to take home. There's also an International Dining Gallery where exceptional cuisine from around the world is the norm.

"According to the restaurants and bars downtown, this is the biggest and busiest weekend of the year for them," said McAllister. "We have more than 200 artists using more than 400 room nights at the hotels, eating meals here, and all the visitors from all over occupying hotels. It's the biggest single event of the year for Fort Myers."

The budget for the ArtFest Fort Myers committee exceeds $450,000 for an event of this size and scope. That money rents tents locally and portable toilets and a number of other things helping pump millions of dollars into the local economy.

"It's always getting bigger and better every year," said McAllister.

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