Victor Smith Law Group Central Park Art Festival Celebrates 43rd Year
by James Coulter
If you look at Janet Herman’s artwork, from portraits of cranes to Van Gough-esque skylines, you’d assume they were patchwork quilts. In reality, her art combines paint and fabric in a unique art style called Fiber Art.
Herman creates her “fiber art” with her sewing machine using a style called “free-motion stitching.” Though her art appears reminiscent of quilting, Herman has never quilted before. She considers herself an embroider and painter.
Currently residing in Polk City, Herman has lived in Florida since 2008. She has been attending art shows for the past seven years. She recently attended the Central Park Art Festival last weekend in Winter Haven, where her art won Best of Show.
She owes her big win to the persistence in her artwork. As someone who has traveled throughout the South, she has taken inspiration of the natural landscape and interpreted it in her work. The inspiration of the natural world and her memories of it allow her to bring her art to life, which in turn permitted her to win such a prestigious award, she said.
“I was so surprised at that,” she said. “I was not expecting it at all. I appreciate the judges looking at my work seriously and appreciating the work that goes into it.”
Herman was one of 48 artists who showcased their artwork at the 43rd Annual Central Park Art Festival in Winter Haven, hosted by the Ridge Art Association and presented by Victor Smith Law Group. These artists congregated within Central Park in the downtown area to showcase their various arts and crafts to the public and compete for awards and prizes.
Carolyn Curry received Judge’s Choice for her oil paintings of rustic landscapes and open skies. Whenever she wants to paint something, she starts with a rough sketch composition and then starts to paint over the image. As someone who has attended the art show many years, she loves being able to associate with her fellow artists.
“It is always an honor,” she said. “It is wonderful. I owe it to a lot of years at the easel, it takes a lot of practice.”
Jill Keller, a married mother of four from Winter Garden, also received judge’s choice from her miniature portraits. Whether of book covers of popular novels or food containers, using only colored pencil and a magnifying glass, she creates pop art that evokes childhood memories.
This was her first year attending the event. In fact, she was contacted Friday afternoon to fill an open spot. As her first time attending, she appreciated being able to share her art and win an award.
“I can’t put words to it,” she said. “It is the highlight of my career. I was beyond thrilled.”
At age 13, Harlow Manning was the youngest artist to attend her show. Her unique artwork consists of animals and other common subjects, yet they are all created from the most uncommon shapes. Ever since she was younger, she loves to use acrylic paint and experiment with different shapes, like taking a random blob and turning it into a dog or cat.
“I love being able to see what I can do with random objects and shapes and just turning things into other things,” she said. “I honestly love showing what I can do with this, and I love seeing everybody talk to me about it. I love seeing everyone walk in and see their opinions on what the animals could be, and I love seeing the kids see which one is their favorite.”
While the current pandemic may have placed a hamper on the overall event these past two years, attendance has slowly been growing, explained Christy Hemingway, Executive Director for the Ridge Art Association. Last year, they had 38 artists; this year, 48 artists, and they hope to continue growing their numbers as real life reverts to normalcy, she said.
“We were not sure how people would feel this year being outdoors without masks,” she said. “We had wonderful entertainment. We had excellent artists who are doing very well. Feedback from them have been superb and we have been excited about that.”
While the event started slow on Sunday morning, attendance quickly grew through the afternoon. Many artists claim that Sunday becomes busier during the afternoon, Hemingway said.She also attributes the event’s overall success that weekend to the god weather, with mostly clear skies and sun.
It has been very good. It is a little slow this morning. But usually, it picks up around the afternoon. I have heard from my artists that Sundays are a better buying crowd, so that is a good thing, it is a gorgeous day, and I am so happy about that. She hopes that future events will continue to grow as they return to full capacity.
“I did not want to go back to full capacity not knowing about the crowds,” she said. “Because I want the artists to do well, I want them to sell, I want them to be happy, to have a strong community event. I have amazing volunteers. They have done good work, and I did not have to be stressed about everything. That has been really special this year.”