Tuesday, November 02, 2021

St. Augustine Festival of Art permanently canceled (Renee Unsworth, St. Augustine Record/USA Today Network)

I am sad that St. Augustine Art Association has shuttered our annual November Art Festival. 

I am hoping that a new St. Augustine Art Festival might one day start anew, with new sponsors, and a renewed emphasis on artistic freedom and First Amendment values.  

Do St. Augustine artists need their own free democratic union or trade association?

A new organization might be an advocate for the arts and their proper respect in our town. 

Is that too much to ask?

Saint Augustine said, "An unjust law is no law at all."

At St. Augustine Art Association plein air √©vents, uncouth rules sought banned illegal painting in prohibited areas pursuant to the City's  Code of Ordinances.  

How gauche and louche of SAAA.  That decision made St. Augustine Art Association look extremely small, hurting its reputation in our town.

St. Augustine Art Association was unsupportive and unhelpful to the artists and musicians who were run out of St. George Street as "vermin" and "Gypsies."  

Yes,  my friends, those were the otherizing pejoratives emitted by entitled disgraced former St. Augustine Mayor, wicked CLAUDE LEONARD WEEKS, JR. a/k/a "Len Weeks."  On September 25, 2014, then HARB Chair, the destroyed 62A Spanish Street, 211-year old Spanish colonial building, working without permits, ignoring advice and directions from City archaeologist and building officials and WEEKS' own architect and engineer., . 

 From St. Augustine Record: 

Renee Unsworth

Special to St. Augustine Record USA TODAY NETWORK

October 31, 2021

St. Augustine Festival of Art permanently canceled 

It’s the end of an era.

The St. Augustine Art Association has permanently canceled its St. Augustine Festival of Art, the annual event that for decades has drawn families and holiday shoppers to Francis Field on Thanksgiving weekend.

“Festivals really provided support for the art association … prior to that, it was a hand-to-mouth existence,” said Diane Bradley, president of the nonprofit’s board of directors and art festival chair since 2009.

In addition to the fall festival, the art association also organized a spring festival at the same location, with staff and community volunteers helping months in advance to prepare for the juried art events. The STAAA Board of Directors voted recently to permanently cancel the events.

A statement was posted on the organization’s website (staaa.org/festival) early this week: “The decision was very difficult to make and many factors ultimately contributed to the end result. The St.

Augustine Art Association is a small organization and we have many exhibits and other programs throughout the year that fulfill our mission of promoting artistic excellence and guiding the advancement of art in partnership with the community. Unfortunately, the revenue from the festival has not kept pace with the increases in the cost of producing the event nor the time invested by staff and volunteers.”

Bradley explained that a previous art festival took place in the Plaza de la Constitucion prior to 1998, when the art association agreed to take over the art festival and move it to Francis Field, the City of St. Augustine’s event venue, located next to the downtown parking garage.

But things have changed over the years, and Bradley said it became more and more expensive to produce the festival.

“The cost of producing it has tripled … the field fee, insurance and maintaining an online platform for artists to enter the event,” Bradley said. “We have been discussing this [canceling permanently] since 2019 … the year we were wiped out on Sunday because of weather.”

Then COVID-19 hit and the art association needed alternative sources of income.

“We started putting every show online and people are purchasing the art without ever seeing it in person,” she said. “We have also decided we have to do more things in-house.”

Bradley said the art association will offer more special events and artist meet-and-greets, where partners and patrons will be invited to meet the artists and view their work before it opens to the public.

The gallery will continue participating in First Friday Art Walk, an event that features new exhibitions in St. Augustine galleries from 5 to 9 p.m. the first Friday of each month.

“We are an art association and we want to help our artists and our community,” she said. “We have been partnering with the Lightner Museum, the St. Augustine Music Festival, A Classic Theatre, Gamble Rogers Music Festival, and many others.”

Bradley said they will continue to seek out more community and corporate partners.

Art association history

Founded in 1924, the St. Augustine Art Association is located at 22 Marine St. in the heart of the historic district. The nonprofit organization produces monthly juried exhibitions; solo and group exhibits; lectures; workshops; walking tours; children’s programs; and more. Admission to the art gallery is free.

STAAA holds a permanent collection of signature St. Augustine art, including works by the organization’s founding members, known as the Lost Colony.

Moving forward

With the increase of art collectives, weekend and pop-up markets featuring artists, and other festivals and events, Bradley said that the St. Augustine Festival of Art was no longer unique.

“The whole process has changed. The uniqueness is gone,” she said. “This was a very difficult decision … it was a well-thought-out decision, but it does bring sadness to my heart. … But we are moving forward. Our young staff members have new and fresh ideas.”

Starting in early 2022, members will be able to purchase art through an online gallery, with the art association receiving a small commission.

“We will offer more opportunities for artists and more opportunities for patrons and sponsors to interact with the artists,” Bradley said.

A fall members’ show is on view through Sunday, along with the Tactile Pop-Up Exhibit, a partnership with the Florida DeafBlind Association to offer touchable artwork during National Sensory Processing Awareness Month.

Upcoming exhibits include “Florida Wild” from Nov. 5 through Dec. 31; “Monochrome” from Jan. 7 through 30; a solo exhibit by impressionist painter Doreen Hardie, also Jan. 7 through 30; and “Faces & Figures” from Feb. 4 through 27. See the full list of 2022 exhibits at staaa.org.

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