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Clouds part, sun shines on ArtFest Fort Myers crowd

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Rain ruined the opening of ArtFest Fort Myers 2014 on Friday night, and Saturday morning did not look too promising either. But by 10:00 a.m. the rain had given way to overcast skies, and by mid-afternoon, the sun cast its welcoming, warm rays on the crowd that turned out, undeterred, for downtown Fort Myer's premier art festival.

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Once again, Fort Myers’ newly-completed 1.8 acre river basin and the Caloosahatchee River serve as backdrop for the festival, along with Fort Myers Marina, City Pier Building (former home of Art of the Olympians), the Harborside Event Center and Centennial Park. But with 200 artists from 49 states exhibiting their finest, the focus at Art Fest is clearly on the art.

To ensure that the festival's more than 80,000 attendees are treated to quality artwork by the nation's best festival artists, ArtFest uses a “blind jury”. This means the jurors do not know the names or any other information about the artists. Each of the five jury members is an experienced art professional who is selected for his/her art background and appreciation of festival artists. The five member panel is convened in the same room, and each juror is given access to a computer monitor for scoring purposes. Artist images are projected digitally (image size is 3 feet by 3 feet), shown simultaneously and scored on a seven point scale.

There's lots going on for the younger crowd at ArtFest, which sponsors “Art Under 20,” an art competition and exhibition open to Lee County high school students. The program not only provides them a huge platform in which to showcase their talents, but $6,000 in cash prizes for the very best student artists. ArtFest also provides a “kids only” shopping zone called “The Young Art Collectors Gallery.” Filled with wonderful items donated by festival artists, the gallery is the perfect place for children ages 6 to 12 to purchase artwork for only $5. The “kids only” shopping zone is a brilliant concept that fosters the development of future art patrons with an emphasis on fun.

Don't be concerned about parking either. The City of Fort Myers is well equipped to handle the large crowds attracted to ArtFest with a mixture of free and pay parking lots. You can expect to pay $4 to park in one of three city parking garages; $5 to park in various general and church lots; and $10 to park in the parking lot adjoining the Harborside Event Center which is closest to the festival grounds. However, a medley of free lots and parking garages are within easy walking distance (4-6 blocks).

ArtFest Fort Myers runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today.

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