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Thursday, Jun 21, 2018
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St. Pete Beach art show relies on locals for June event

. PETE BEACH — There were plenty of options for Cyndy Weber to consider for her beach condo’s decor, from drift-wood carvings to blown-glass sculptures and kitschy wall hangings. But when Weber came across artist David Sigel’s modern take on a classic Florida lighthouse at the 20th annual St. Pete Beach Corey Area Art & Craft Festival, she fell in love.

“The colors were the first thing that drew me in, and I love lighthouses,” said Weber, from Centennial, Colo. “We just got a condo down in St. Pete Beach in November after coming here year after year, and this will look absolutely beautiful in it.”

Even better, the intimate setting of the festival gave Weber an opportunity to watch Sigel paint the sides of her large canvas oil painting on the spot.

The estimated 100 artists from 30 states at the Corey Avenue craft show were hand-selected by judges and had to pay $300 to $400 entry fees, but weren’t given the thousands of dollars in prize money that comes with juried shows like the Gasparilla or Mainsail art festivals.

The festival is a bit smaller than others offered throughout the Tampa Bay area, and runs in the off season, when most of the snowbirds have flown back north for the summer for fear of “dropping dead from the heat,” Sigel said. But there’s a reason why the high quality artisans choose to come back to the historic Corey Avenue shopping area year after year, Sigel said as he took a photo of Weber with his painting.

“Almost everyone that’s out here sweating came to buy something,” he said. “I know a lot of artists that would rather do this than a juried show.”

Weber’s new custom lighthouse painting, which took about 6 hours to create, cost $900. Sigel’s other works fetch more than $1,000. And with crowd estimates in the thousands, and few other art options in the area this time of year, the weekend-long festival pays for itself for many.

“It’s weird doing this for a living,” Sigel said. “You figure out pretty quickly the right places at the right time.

“You also start modifying your art off what people buy and what people say to me. It’s a ton of work, but you get really tuned in to what people want. Contemporary, colorful abstract pieces are extremely hot right now.”

This is the first year Sigel, a former salesman, has made his living solely at art shows, mainly the Florida-based Howard Alan Events art and craft shows like the Corey Avenue festival. Next weekend is a show in St. Armand’s Circle and the following weekend is Madeira Beach. There’s one every weekend somewhere in Florida, and often the same group of Florida artists load up their campers and caravan from tent to tent, the Valrico-based knife oil painter said.

The Corey Avenue festival has proved to be a safe bet for the community for years, and the St. Pete Beach Corey Area Merchants even get a portion of the event’s proceeds. Community organizations also use the festival, one of four organized at the beach each year by American Craft Endeavors.

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