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Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival…

Posted by on November 4, 2016

NOVEMBER 6, 2016

PENSACOLA’S GREAT GULFCOAST ARTS FESTIVAL. This is a popular arts festival held eachartfest2
year in Pensacola. More than 200 painters, potters, sculptors, jewelers and others display their works. Craft artists demonstrate traditional arts, crafts and trades, including blacksmithing, engraving, spinning and weaving. Live musicians entertain with music ranging from bluegrass to Cajun to blues to jazz and classical. Dance troupes, community groups and local folk groups perform.  And a festival wouldn’t be complete without food. Treats from traditional to local favorites and regional festival fare are available throughout the festival grounds. There are choices for every taste.

ABOUT THE FESTIVAL. The Festival was conceived 45 years ago by a group of local art patrons who wanted to expand the gatherings of local artists who displayed their work in the Pensacola’s downtown area. The exact location has changed several times over the years but is now firmly established in Seville Square. The Festival has only been cancelled one time. That was in 2004, as a result of the destruction caused by Hurricane Ivan.


A children’s dance troupe performs.

THE VENUE IN SEVILLE SQUARE. The Square is the center of Pensacola’s Historic Downtown District. Established in 1559, it is the site of Pensacola’s first permanent Spanish settlement. This urban oak-shaded park is lined with brick streets, honeymoon cottages and charming homes. Many buildings have been converted into restaurants, bars, offices, and shops overlooking Pensacola Bay, which provides access to the Gulf Coast and beaches. This picture was not taken today, when we visited the festival. Today, the square was packed with folks, as you’ll see in the photos below.


Seville Square, in Pensacola’s historic downtown district. This was not taken today, when we visited the festival. There were lots of folks in the park today!  


More than 200 craftsmen and artists had their work on display. Each had a small booth along the meandering paths in the square.

FESTIVAL FOOD CARTS. Some of the festival food vendors offered “high-end festival treats,” but I’m always a customer at the good old “fairground food” purveyors’ carts. The term “fairground food,” translated to festival-speak is “junk food.”


I’m not one to pass up a corn dog. In fact, I’ve never met a corn dog I didn’t  like!


The Festival is not a place to go if you’re watching your calories!


The sign says this stuff is “award winning.” I’ll bet that’s the conclusion reached by the makers of Alka-Seltzer or Tums!


These guys manned a booth where champagne was served. We got lemonade, but the gal in that booth wasn’t nearly as photogenic! 


Tip: A large cup of ice cold lemonade will set you back six bucks. But, you get free refills for the entire three day event. So buy one for the two of you, take turns polishing it off and then hang on to the cup for free drinks the rest of your visit. Six dollars for a lemonade is now a thing of the past!

LAWRENCE PACKARD. Packard specializes in pen and ink drawings, very detailed and historically correct, of old ships. He’s personally visited most of the locales where the subject ships sank or were in service. Each of his pieces is signed twice, once with a traditional signature and a second time using signal flags for the letters L, D and P, his initials. He hails from Winter Haven, Florida but travels throughout the United States selling his work at different festivals and art fairs. He gets from one venue to the next in a motorhome just a tad smaller than ours, so we had lots to talk about in addition to his artwork. He’s an interesting and engaging guy.


Larry Packard at work in his booth at the Gulf Coast Arts Festival.


“Nantucket Sound and Approaches.”

VARIOUS ARTISTS AND CRAFTSMEN. We browsed around viewing lots of folk-art displays, most without meeting and chatting with the artists. This is a sampling of what we saw, between corn-dogs, lemonade and other high-calorie treats. Photography is not allowed except with the artist’s consent. Apparently, some “wanna be artists” if left un-checked, take pictures, return to their garages and make reproductions, all to the obvious detriment of the original artist. Note that for each of the photos I’ve displayed I made it a point to get permission. I think one look at me and the artists realized that even if I spent a month of Sunday’s, I’d not be able to create anything even close to a reproduction!


“Fish Out of Water”


“Soul Kitchun and Blues”

BUILDINGS IN THE PARK. Many old residences and buildings converted to restaurants, museums and even a church dot the landscape of the Square. Here are a few examples.


I think this is a private residence, but if I’m mistaken I’m sure my friend Jon, a longtime resident of Pensacola who knows the town like the back of his hand, will correct me. “It’s complicated.”


Old Christ Church in Seville Square, with an artist’s booth to the left.

JUDY ROBKIN. FAR AND AWAY THE BEST ART IN THE SHOW. Judy Birnbrey Robkin hails from Atlanta, Georgia. Her work has been shown in galleries around the Southeast, including the RaifordGallery in Atlanta, Bellagio in Asheville, NC, and Off the Wall in Santa Fe, NM.  She has worked with a variety of clay techniques throughout her career. She’s currently immersed in a project entitled “Ladies (& gentlemen),” a series of intricately handcrafted ceramic women and a collection of whimsical men in bowls.  Judy launched the arts program at the Weber School where she taught drawing, painting, sculpture and photography.  As a ceramics instructor at the John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina, she taught hand building, Raku and other firing techniques.


Judy Robkin at work in her studio.

HOW SHE DESCRIBES HER WORK. We chatted with this artist for quite a while and I made it a point to let her know that in my opinion her work is far and away the most interesting in the entire festival. That’s right, of the 200 artists whose work is displayed this year, she’s the best! Here’s how she describes her work: “I have been working in clay for the last 20 years, beginning with the wheel but quickly moving to hand-building. I love the freedom and unlimited possibilities of non-functional pieces and am drawn to forms which express something unexpected.” Her website is as interesting as is her display at the festival.   




























ENJOYABLE AFTERNOON. The festival is well worth attending! Today was day one of the three day event and we didn’t see anything close to all the exhibits and displays. I’ll update this post with more pictures if we return, but regardless, if you’re in the area, jump in your car and go to this event. And if a long hike to the venue isn’t something that appeals to you, drive to one of the nearby parking lots, bite the bullet and pay the $10 fee so you can be having a corn-dog in less than 30 seconds!


I’ll continue my story next time.

8 Responses to Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival…

  1. Jon York

    Glad you went and enjoyed yourselves. The artist of Fish Out of Water and Soul Kitchen and Blues is a friend. He has an autistic son and years ago got him a therapy dog. Has done wonders for his son. A tidbit on Old Christ Church. There are three Rectors buried underneath the church. When they refurbished the church they were removed and then reinterred. Since I’ve worked the festival for over 20 years I’ve gotten to know many of the artists.

  2. Greg Alford

    You were right when you suggested we attend. It was very good. In fact, we may go back again tomorrow…day two of the three day festival.

  3. Jon York

    You will enjoy it. Check the entertainment schedule and make sure an see Holly Shelton, but she is on Sunday. A genuine torch singer. If you go on Sat afternoon be sure to listen to Dikki Du & the Zydeco Krewe. A good foot stomping time.

  4. Kitty

    LOVE the sculptures! Did you buy anything?

  5. Greg Alford

    One for me and one for you! Yours is in the mail, along with my check!

  6. Greg Alford

    Kitty, if you like these sculptures from the Gulfcoast Arts Festival, check out Mark Roberts hand-crafted collectibles. There’s a store in San Diego called City Lights with lots of his pieces on display and for sale. It’s near Mission Bay just off Morena Blvd.

    Roberts makes hand-crafted and painted pieces to die for. I started lusting for them years ago and was surprised on Christmas morning about five years ago when Florence gave me an entire 12 piece set called “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” I remember saying, “Thank you very much. We’ll now be eating cereal and water for breakfast indefinitely!”

    I had a glass cabinet built just to display them! They’re that special. Each piece is one of a very limited edition.They range in price from about $300 to $600 for the really extraordinary ones. Visiting the City Lights store will get you in the holiday spirit like no other outing in San Diego.

    Take a look at the City Lights website and then visit the store after Thanksgiving when they rev up for Christmas. And be sure to tell Jim to stock your checking account with lots of cash before you make the drive!

  7. Randy HOWE

    Another great piece that I would otherwise never see, thank’s again.

  8. Greg Alford

    You’ll just have to come on down to Florida so I can show you all these interesting sights!

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