2017-03-16 / Top News

Punta Gorda art festival draws national attention

Janet Watermeier 
SCOTT HOLSTEIN / COURTESY PHOTO Janet Watermeier SCOTT HOLSTEIN / COURTESY PHOTO There’s a reason why the Peace River National Art Festival has the word “national” in it.

“We bring in artists from all over the country,” said Janet Watermeier, executive director of the Visual Arts Center, which stages the event. “There are some local artists here, but we are actually featuring people (outside of Florida) who are coming in one time a year, bringing in their artwork. … So this is an opportunity to bring national quality art here to Punta Gorda.”

The festival is also a major fundraiser for the nonprofit VAC, drawing crowds of 7,000 to 10,000 people, depending on the weather, Ms. Watermeier said.

Visitors to the National Art Festival — now in its 11th successful year, will have the opportunity to see a selection of fine art, handcrafted goods and exquisite crafts brought in by artists from within the community and around the country for this weekend-long event. Art glass, fiber arts, jewelry, leather goods, metalwork, oil paintings, photography, pottery, sculpture, abstracts and watercolor will be represented at the show.

Abstracts by Gina Battle. 
COURTESY IMAGES Abstracts by Gina Battle. COURTESY IMAGES “This year’s event looks like it is going to be a great one,” Ms. Watermeier said. “We are going to have approximately 80 vendors and we have music and food trucks and auctions and just a good time for all. Our instructors will be there doing demonstrations, which is something new that we’ve never done before. We are going to be having pottery demonstrations; we are going to be having watercolor, portraits, caricatures, all kinds of interesting, artistic endeavors. Many of them will be there to talk about their classes as well — so they may be demonstrating something they’re going to be teaching in a class coming up in April or over the summer.”

The Wyvern Hotel, one of the events sponsors, will be serving wine and beer, and there will be food and live music as

well. Seaview 104.9 radio will be broadcasting live on location Saturday morning.

“Gettel Auto Mall is going to have some cars on display there,” Ms. Watermeier said. “They are our main sponsor, and so there will be some automobiles for people to ooh and ahh over.”

One thing that’s different: The VAC will be featuring not one, but two “Emerging Artists” of the year.

“This year we have a 2D artist, which is Gina Battle — and she is a wonderful abstract artist,” Ms. Watermeier said. “We actually have a display of her work right now hanging in Rebecca Hall at the Visual Arts Center (210 Maud St., Punta Gorda). We also have a 3D artist, Lise Lindsay, who does beautiful fused glasswork. So both of them will be featured this year.”

Both Ms. Battle and Ms. Lindsay are self-taught artists who possess a tenacity and uniqueness that sets them apart.

Emerging Artists

Ms. Battle earned a B.A. in Theater Arts/Speech and Communications, and studied design and photography at Fashion Industries High School in New York City. Her migration into expressionism abstraction painting has provided her a sense of freedom in expressing herself. Her unique, non-traditional approach is not singular in thought or concept, but based on pure emotion and what’s happening in any given moment along her life journey. For her, one of the most thrilling aspects of painting is waiting to see what will happen to her blank canvas.

Ms. Battle’s work has been sold nationally and internationally. She has been featured on the cover or in articles in numerous regional publications. She donates her time and art to various community organizations, including the Charlotte Community Foundation Marketing Committee, and is a proud member of the VAC and the Arts & Humanities Council of Charlotte County.

Growing up in an artistic family, Ms. Lindsay was always encouraged to create.

She majored in fine arts when starting college, but in the 1970s, computer programming proved to be much more lucrative. After earning degrees in computer science and accounting, she spent decades driving a desk, but dreamt about the day when she could focus on art. Creativity now drives her and her focus is fused glass. She loves its color, reflection, dimension and the challenge of working with heat and glass. Varying temperatures, thicknesses and the reactive qualities of glass components can produce spectacular results.

Ms. Lindsay’s work includes abstract glass panels and imaginative functional pieces. By combining layers of opaque and transparent glass, metals, powders, paint and other components, she attempts to achieve deep and ethereal images.

In addition to featuring the artists, the National Art Festival allows the VAC to highlight its own programs, such as its classes and an upcoming youth summer camp.

A small group of dedicated artist founded the Visual Arts Center in September of 1961. The Charlotte County Art Guild’s dedication and persistence paid off when the center’s doors were opened in 1988. The VAC has since expanded three times to its present size, but its core mission has stayed the same since the very start: to inspire, explore, create and promote the fine arts.

“Of course, the Visual Arts Center being a nonprofit,” Ms. Watermeier said. “This event helps us as a fundraiser, so there is a $3 entry fee and a $5 per family fee that is actually a donation to help us offer all the programs and the classes and the exhibits we do here year round.

“Hopefully, the weather will be perfect and everyone will come out and join us.” ¦

>> What: 2017 Peace River National Art
>> When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and
Sunday, March 18 and 19
>> Where: Laishley Park, 101 Nesbit St.,
Punta Gorda
>> Cost: $3 per person or $5 per family donation to the Visual Arts Center
>> Info: www.visualartcenter.org

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