By: Diana Jordan / Staff Writer
Art lovers feasted their eyes on a combination of traditional and eclectic art in the form of jewelry, photography, painting and music on the weekend of Nov. 8 and 9 when the Mad Hatter Arts Festival, a commemoration of Coconut Grove’s Bohemian roots was held.
Art connoisseurs and passersby alike stopped to enjoy an array of artwork while taking in t the weekend’s cool weather.
Originally located deep within the historic Barnacle, the festival has since relocated to the sidewalks of Main Highway and Grand Avenue, making the festival more accessible to all.
“Our decision to change the festival’s layout by clustering in the tents and relocating to the sidewalks has had a positive impact,” said Richard Issa, the Chief Administrative Officer of the Coconut Grove Chamber of Commerce. “Now, customers shopping at boutiques and dining at restaurants in the area will be able to easily spot the festival and artwork. The fact the event is very family-oriented also brought out a lot of people.”
A featured artist and painter at the festival, Oscar Peñalbar, says he has been painting for over seven years and enjoys the Coconut Grove venue more than any other.
“This is a beautiful, relaxed setting and I love to see families strolling the sidewalks together. What I love most about this festival, however, is the fact it is not pretentious and slow-paced. Here people can enjoy art for what it really is,” he said.
Martha Cairo, a jewelry maker located in Coconut Grove shared similar sentiments.
“My favorite part about participating in this festival is the fact I can interact with my customers. It becomes a more personal affair and I enjoy seeing who is purchasing my jewelry and what feedback they have. This is one of the best festivals to be involved with because of its energy, atmosphere, and setting,” she said.
There were no airs at this festival, evident by the face painters, musicians, and clowns present. The directors of the event went out of their way to ensure that families, art lovers and anyone in between would feel at home and genuinely enjoy themselves.
“Since this is one of the most accessible showcases in the area for artists, it allows us the opportunity to focus on the art itself rather than the processing and admission program,” said Lizette O’Connor, a featured artist. “This is a great venue for artists of all experience levels to interact with customers and learn about the showcase process.”
Along with providing a medium for artists to showcase their work to the public, the true essence of Coconut Grove was captured, making the event one that was indeed, successful.
“The festival turned out to be a huge success like we expected,” said Issa. “The fact people came out with their families to support this great city and festival means there is still a love for art and cultural events such as this one.”