Was there no one here at the Gasparilla show? Or are you just too wimpy to say something? Gasparilla was a disaster this year and artists are posting all over the internet. The committee was so clueless and the treatment of artists was so egregious, that people may finally band together and demand some minimal rights for artists. Since I wasn't there I can't speak to the issues.

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  • Email sent to the Garparilla artists:

    First and foremost, thank you for your continued participation in the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts.  You are the reason why everyone involved in this 100% volunteer and nonprofit organization puts so much time and effort into putting on our festival.  That being said, we understand that the weather conditions made things very difficult for a number of artists, patrons, and volunteers alike.  We appreciate all of your feedback so that we can strive to continue to improve upon our festival year in and year out.

    There has been a lot of social media, traditional media, e-mail, and voicemail discussion about contingency planning, funding, and recent actions taken by the City of Tampa.  We can assure you that leading up to and throughout the weekend of the festival, the festival’s leadership were planning and meeting with the City representatives and other interested parties in order to work out a solution.  Unfortunately, due to a number of limiting factors, none of the vetted options were possible.  I hope you understand that the park in which we operate the festival is city property and that the festival committee has no control over the park’s management.  We researched and requested numerous alternatives that may have mitigated the muddy conditions on Sunday, but due to park regulations or other limitations, the alternative options were not viable.

    For example:
    1.     Plywood – We calculated the need and it would have been hundreds of 4’ x 8’ sheets.  We, as a festival, didn’t have nearly enough manpower to make this option feasible.  Furthermore, laying plywood on already uneven surfaces would have created a manmade tripping hazard unacceptable to us and the City. 

    2.     Tarps/Visqueen – Upon getting wet, this surface would be far too slippery and unsafe.

    3.     Artificial turf – We shopped a number of home improvement stores and found that there wasn’t nearly enough in stock to combat our issues. Delivery and setup on short notice also presented an issue.

    4.     Mulch/Hay – Park regulations prevented us from laying down any loose material in the park (in fact, we were notified by park officials that they were unhappy that people were using mulch from the flower beds).

    Outdoor events in Florida certainly come with inherent risks, most profoundly the weather.  Our festival is a rain or shine event and poor weather conditions are a reality for outdoor festivals. At the end of the day, we want our artists to know they are appreciated and supported and that our overriding goal is for each artist to have a successful show.  That is why the festival leadership and all our other volunteers do what we do.  Our payment is satisfaction in your success.  Accordingly, we are working hand-in-hand with the City to ensure that there is more robust support lined-up for us in the future.  This is the first time the park has seen this much rain with an event that is so heavily attended.  We are all learning together and hope to grow better and stronger from our challenging weekend.

    We’ve heard from many artists who had successful weekends, and for that we’re happy.  Congratulations to those artists who received a portion of the $75,000 in award money as well as the additional $20,000 in purchase awards.  We are grateful for your support, interest and continued loyalty.

    2015 Gasparilla Festival of the Arts President and Co-chairs
    Jim Vasiloff, Adam Raschke, Alex English and Noah Chitwood

    • Just curious - wasn't there a link posted here that showed something being spread on the park the day after the show to get it ready for the next weekend?  Couldn't that have been used for Saturday?

  • The original Las Olas Art Fair was much different than today's shows. It was easy to do. We had a great place to stay in that hotel right above the street, at an affordable price, and the show was just about the art. It was the only show in Ft Lauderdale. They were happy to see us and made us feel welcome. That doesn't exist in Florida except at a couple of shows.

    Hurricane Katrina was a once in a lifetime event. Over the years it has rained a lot at the Gasparilla show. It's a common thing. Today's volunteers are different than they were 20 years ago. I would describe them as generally rude, now. My opinion. In 2010, the last year I did the show, I was at the front of the line and it still took 2.5 hours to get to the place to unload. Once I got there some woman was rudely telling me to hurry up, get unloaded, and get out of there. I wrote about it. You would think they would have solved all the problems by now.

    • It rains all the time in New Orleans, but rain isn't my point. Scientists had already provided evidence to the government that the levees would fail in the event of a Category 5 hurricane, but nobody did anything about it during the decades prior to Kartrina. DECADES. Then everyone was overwhelmed once the storm actually hit. Then a month later...Rita!

      What I'm saying is since it does rain a lot in Florida, and we all know that is a fact, would there not be the possibility of a grassy Gasparilla becoming a muddy un-navigable mess? No plan was in place for that issue? Everyone was overwhelmed. Will a plan be put in place now, or is it too much trouble to maintain a plan for an uncommon occurrence?

  • A show of this "stature" should have a full time paid coordinator. Having a new director every year insures that they can't possibly ever deal with those issues that you mention, Connie. There is another major reason that is related to what you are saying. The coordinator needs to negotiate with the city and coordinate with a dozen groups. That person has to be experienced and has to have the support of the whole city. This has always been considered one of the big three shows in Florida, the other two being Coconut Grove and Winter Park. It attracts the most professional artists who are used to a certain level of professionalism from the show. You don't get that when the committee changes every year. 

    • You need to add Great Gulf Coast in Pensacola to your list, BB. It's been a great show for quite a while now.

      Look at Hurricane Katrina and then the other one that happened weeks apart from it. Our leaders had no crisis plan for a disaster like that. Do they have one now and will they have one when a storm of that magnitude happens once again? We'll see. But the rain in Tampa didn't even come close to that of Louisiana, and the Tampa crisis, although a bit unsafe and uncomfortable, wasn't life threatening, either. Will Gasparilla leaders develop a better crisis plan? Will the crisis plan remain current and in effect? Again, we'll see.

      I can understand why artists think they deserve a refund. Although they trusted the show to protect their interests better, I can't imagine the show giving those who ask for it their money back. Seems they'd have to give all artists their money back if they gave it to those in the grass. I bet those folks on the pavement did better sales because of the muddy mess, too.

      I feel for both parties here. This is a major show and it's not something we'll get over very quickly. Any bad press is bad for a show.

    • The prize money will reinforce the desire to apply and hopefully win the $$$.

      I'm sure you remember, Barry, the original Las Olas Art Fair in Fort Lauderdale. It was run by a volunteer group from the Art Museum. In fact, originally almost all of the fairs were run by volunteer groups, I'd guess. Anyway, if you were a docent at the FL Art Museum you got to serve on the art fair committee and when enthusiasm for serving on that committee waned, the show lost its focus and its location and melted away.

      The only strong show left in Florida that is run by volunteers is Winter Park. Some of those people have been running it for a very long time ... cross your fingers that they keep at it and then pass on the wisdom to the new folks.

  • as info filters in what I am generally hearing, from the artist point of view, is that the volunteers were overwhelmed and didn't have an idea of how to take care of the situation. I'm also hearing that they were callous to the artists concerns. An artist went to Home Depot and brought in mulch himself. When it was suggested that they get straw, an artist was told that they weren't allowed to put it in the park ... all third hand information.

    • too many followers and no one to take charge and get er' done
  • Well, I was an exhibitor at the Gasparilla Art Festival this past weekend and have done the show the last few years in Curtis Hixon Park. I've also done it on the street, which I preferred. I can understand why the committee wanted to have the show in the park as central Tampa streets would not have to be closed off (though there's not much downtown traffic on weekends).

    Online in advance we were given a choice of locations and load-in times. I chose a previous spot on concrete and woe to those who innocently chose the grass of the sloping park). Whoever designed the park took no account of drainage as the soil rapidly sogged up in the reportedly 3 inches of rain on Saturday. Well,there's always Sunday and people really show up for this prestigious event.

    It was pretty evident that any grass area was going to turn to mud that Saturday afternoon. I went to the show headquarters and inquired if there was any straw that would be put down overnight or the next morning so people could walk to the booths. I was told that there was no budget for that.

    The next day with improved weather the crowds came out in force but with a few steps the mud was there in force and all the rows of "grass" booths were fields of mud that no amount of sun that day would fix. Show-goers were remarkably persistent in trying to venture into the mosh-pit with either taping baggies to their shoes or going full-mud barefoot. Bless them! Artists were simply stranded in their booths looking out and contemplating how to escape come nightfall. I donated two rugs to artist friends to salvage the day. Other artists were seen digging up mulch from local plantings to lead a path to their booths. And of course with a 15K Best in Show prize many came from far and wide.

    Anyway, I heard a lot of "never again", etc.

    This show is staffed with an enthusiastic all-volunteer army of very nice people who've donated their time to make this event the good show it usually is. A combination of torrential rain and ineptitude created a memorable disaster.

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