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Tuesday, Jun 19, 2018
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MainSail festival draws serious artists to St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG - It took glass artist Ronnie Hughes three years to get accepted into MainSail, the long-running art festival that preceded the city’s reputation as an arts destination.
Since the waterfront festival began in 1976, St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay area seem to have an art show nearly every weekend.
Why was it so important to Hughes, who is from North Carolina, to be a part of MainSail?
He says it’s the show’s national reputation. The $50,000 in prize money given to top artists also is an incentive.
Mainly, though, it’s the fact that patrons here bring their checkbooks, Hughes’ wife and partner Chris Naples said.
“The key is this: If you’re in a business and you can’t sell what you’re doing, you stop doing it,” said Naples, who has participated in the show for three years.
“They’re not just here to pass the time; they’re here to look at the art and see what they want.”
City residents have plenty of chances to pass time perusing downtown’s many art galleries, attending street festivals that highlight neighborhoods such as the eclectic 600 block of Central Avenue, or participating in gallery walks held each month throughout the city.
During this two-day, weekend event in Vinoy Park, more than 250 top artists from throughout the country look to do more than pass out business cards and answer questions about their work.
St. Petersburg metal worker Vince Pompei spent little time describing his clocks forged together with antique silver-plated trays for the face and old spoons for the pendulum before patrons would get down to business: How much for this one? Four-thousand dollars, Pompei said.
Jon Smith, an impressionist painter from Clearwater, says he attends only two art shows in the Tampa Bay area: MainSail Art Festival and the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts in Tampa.
“The reason I would do a festival is because there are good, appreciative patrons of the art present there,” he said.
“It really comes down to dollars and cents; if I go to a show, I want to make good sales.”

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