Mainsail Art Festival returns to St. Petersburg

Mainsail Art Festival, one of St. Petersburg’s longest traditions, is back after a two-year hiatus caused by the pandemic. It returns to Vinoy Park on April 16-17.

“We are returning bigger and stronger than ever,” said Jane Ferguson, co-chairperson of the Mainsail Art Festival committee.

Now in its 47th year, the festival showcases fine art, entertainment and children’s activities, live music and food vendors.

The festival is ranked No. 14 in Sunshine Artist magazine’s 200 best festivals in the fine art and design category. The magazine is a national art show and festival guide. Because of the effect the pandemic had on festivals, the magazine made the rankings, which are determined by revenue based on the past decade.

The juried art festival garners more than 1,000 entries for acceptance. In the past, about 250 artists were selected to exhibit, but this year 270 have been accepted.

The last Mainsail Art Festival happened in 2019; the planned 2020 festival was cancelled. Artists accepted into the 2020 festival were given the option to roll their acceptance and the related fees to this year’s event. About three-fourths of those artists rolled over, which is a testament to the show, said Lisa Wells, the other co-chairperson of the committee.

Artist Shelby Dillon first participated in Mainsail in 2019. She had just moved to St. Petersburg from North Carolina and felt especially welcomed when she was chosen as the featured artist to design Mainsail’s poster for 2020.

Of course, that festival never happened, but the design Dillon made of the waterfront and the yet-to-open St. Pete Pier was printed on posters. Those will be sold at this year’s festival, along with Dillon’s updated design that adds sailboats, which hearkens back to the festival’s theme.

Dillon, who is showing at this year’s festival, was “floored and flattered” to be chosen.

“It was the first year that I attended Mainsail…it just really capped off this incredible 2019 show.”

A total of $60,000 in prize money will be awarded in the show, which will be juried by Emily Kapes, curator of The James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art in St. Petersburg. The festival typically draws more than 100,000 visitors over the weekend, but Ferguson expects record numbers because of St. Petersburg’s growth in the past few years.

The nonprofit festival is entirely manned by volunteers. One of its features is Young at Art, a student showcase for grades K-12 from public and private schools. Twelve Awards of Excellence and 12 Honorable Mentions will be announced at 11 am April 16.

Young Masters scholarships sponsored by the Mahaffey Apartment Company and Raymond James are awarded to five 12th grade Pinellas County students, whose work will be on display in the Young at Art tent. The students receive $1,000 each to continue their art education.

Ferguson is especially proud of the scholarships because they highlight “our commitment to continuing the arts in the community.”

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Kids can make art in the Junior League Create Tent, in a partnership with Great Explorations Children’s Museum. The NOMAD Art Bus will also be on site, providing art-making experiences.

Duncan McClellan’s DMG School Project will be demonstrating glassblowing.

There is a food court featuring restaurants including Sea Dog Cantina and Pipo’s Cuban Cafe. Live music includes School of Rock St. Petersburg, Trey Wanveg and The Hummingbirds.

If you go

Mainsail Art Festival. Free. 9 am-6 pm April 16, 10 am-5 pm April 17. Vinoy Park, 701 Bayshore Drive NE, St. Petersburg. The event will be cashless this year. Service animals are the only pets permitted. mainsailart.org.

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