Art Festival Beth-El Celebrates 47 Years

Eva Avenue, Gainesville, stands in front of a self-portrait by St. Petersburg artist Carrie Kilgore. “I like that she has so playfully and with some restraint and with well-placed pieces of all of the elements made this visual rich with meaning,” Avenue explained. “She does portraits, she does other people, but I find it extra interesting to look at a self-portrait. I think any artist that does a self-portrait puts a little extra magic into it.”

This past weekend, January 25 through 27, Art Festival Beth-El hosted their 47th annual invitational, judged, indoor and outdoor exhibit and sales of original artwork from artists all over the country at 400 Pasadena Ave S. 

“For a local show, we have really incredible work from all around the country,” said Associate Chair of Art Festival Beth-El Abby Sterensis. “It varies in price; down in the boutique we have work as inexpensive as $15 to $20, up to our most expensive piece this year, which is $28,000. There’s a little bit of something for everybody: there’s sculpture, there’s glass, ceramic, jewelry, there’s photography. There’s literally something for everyone here.”

The Beth-El congregation doesn’t just host this show to expose the community to emerging or well-established artists. They host the event for the common good. According to Sterensis, the main purpose of the event is to adhere to a Jewish mandate, Tikkun Olam. The phrase means to “repair the world, to do things greater than yourself, to do things to help,” explained Sterensis. “Most of the money we raise goes to our social justice programming and the rest to our youth program.”

Art Festival Beth-El is also completely run by volunteers. 

“During the course of the year, including set up and break down, last year we engaged 250 volunteers.  Beyond being a good fundraiser, we like to call it a ‘friend-raiser,’” said Sterensis. “It’s a positive thing for the community and a nice way to bring people into a synagogue if they’ve never been. The art aestival is not a religious thing. We don’t show Jewish art. It’s not a temple show, it’s an art show in a synagogue.”

Unbeknownst to those around them, Leori Bolivar and Sandra Casey were total strangers just a few minutes before posing for a photo in front of artist Greg Turco’s digital art piece “Chi-Line.” Turco’s rendition of Chicago’s skyline brought Chicago natives together for an enthusiastic conversation. “I’m born and raised from Chicago and I love the city skyline and the city,” explained Bolivar. “This reminds me of home and resonates with me.” Casey followed Bolivar’s lead. “It represents home” she said. “I was born and raised there as well. I just like all the skyline, the coloring and I like how the buildings and riverfront are depicted.”

In recent years organizers have estimated 10,000 visitors stroll through the synagogue art gallery over the three-day festival. The event is a year-long process for the organization, explained Associate Chair of Art Festival Beth-El Abby Sterensis. “We’ll start the first week of February planning for 2021.”

Maryann Spearman was caught admiring artist Kyle Pearce’s metal sculpture “Dancer,” Sunday afternoon at the 47th Annual Art Festival Beth-El. When asked what drew her to this piece she responded, “I really like the human body. it’s got a lot of curves and I think this piece is a good replication of the female body. It’s actually something I would buy.”

Charlotte Harper Mortan of Clearwater stops to smell the flowers and described her favorite piece of glasswork as more lifelike than any of the other floral glass pieces. “I like the color combination and I like florals too.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *