The buzz around the Center for the Arts during festival week is always filled with excitement. Everyone secretly checks the weather report for the weekend, hoping it is warm, but not too warm. It should be sunny, not too windy, and basically that perfect Southwest Florida winter day.

"Sheets" 4ftx5ft oil on canvas by Don Plumridge of Wimauma, Florida.
"Sheets" 4ftx5ft oil on canvas by Don Plumridge of Wimauma, Florida.

    The goal is for the artists and the public to enjoy the perfect festival day. In it’s 12th year, the Bonita Springs National Art Festival is a local, and national, favorite. The festival has always ranked in the top 20 in the nation. Considering how many festivals there are each year, this distinction is quite an accomplishment.

    Festival director Barry Witt would attribute this to two major factors. One the public knows that this show will feature the best of the best artists from around the nation. Two, artists know that this show is highly respected by the public, highly attended and very competitive to get into so the best artists apply. With this formula you get the perfect festival. With a lot of competition to get into the festival, only the top are chosen. And so, the public is able to enjoy the cream of the crop.

     On Saturday morning, the gates will open at 10 a.m. and the public will flow through for the next two days. It’s really a magical transition to watch. You begin with an empty parking lot, you end with an empty parking lot, but in between you have the opportunity to visit 211 art galleries.

     The festival will take place Saturday and Sunday, January 15-16 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Promenade at Bonita Bay. There is an optional $5 at the gate. This money goes back into Center for the Arts programming. This ranges from adult classes to children’s scholarships, Live! performances to artistic public outreach programs. Each year the festival raises about $120,000 to support the Center for the Arts. All of that money stays in Bonita Springs. The festival is run entirely by the Center, with 12 staff members and hundreds of volunteers.

     A complete list of Center for the Arts events, programming and volunteer opportunities is available at www.artcenterbonita.org or by calling 495-8989

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