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A Look At South Florida Art Shows And The Companies That Produce Them

Show-goers at Boca Fest

It only makes sense that art be created, distributed and enjoyed in a setting as beautiful as South Florida. Through local art shows, creators and admirers alike gain an invaluable interaction with and appreciation for one another.

Canvases beckon in brazen hues. Iridescent hand-blown glass cast prisms of neon lights. Silky smooth wooden sculptures beg to be caressed. Booth by booth, artists from around the country showcase their passions and wares during art show season, which has officially reached full bloom.

South Florida is a sought-after destination for national and international artists to display their original works in an environment that is a work of art itself—with a backdrop of palm trees and glistening skies. Down stretches of boutique-lined sidewalks and manicured parks, art enthusiasts are invited to some of the best juried shows in the country through May.

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From as far as Colorado to our neighborhoods spanning from Fort Lauderdale through Palm Beach, two of the country’s top fine art and craft show producers, Hot Works and Howard Alan Events & Craft Endeavors, attract artists to exhibit their work in a multitude of disciplines including paintings, clay, fiber, wood, jewelry, photography, glass, sculpture, mixed media and more.

A juried show is important for both the artist and the attendee, as it is used to create distinguishing criteria. For the artist, it is a prestigious seal of approval for their expertise and mastery of their craft. For the patron, it guarantees that what they are viewing, and possibly purchasing, is an authentic piece of art.

Attendees during the Delray Beach Festival of Arts

Hot Works Producer and Executive Director Patty Narozny is particular about the jurors she selects—after all, they are responsible for assessing and scoring each applicant’s work for possible inclusion in the art shows. The jurors have a combined total of more than 120 years of art experience. 

The results of Narozny’s efforts are evident in her shows. Artists are expected to present their work professionally, and a “flea market” look is strictly prohibited.

Additionally, artists are expected to man their booths for the duration of the show. This permits the browser or collector a one-on-one interaction with the artist. Narozny also encourages artists to have something for everyone, and at every price point. But cost aside, attendees at Narozny’s shows can expect honesty and authenticity from every artist.

Of the more than 8,000 artists that Narozny has featured in her nationwide shows, 175 of them will participate in the eighth annual Boca Raton Fine Art Show from Jan. 28 to 29 in downtown Boca Raton. “I especially love this show,” Narzony says. “It is an important one; the only event in Boca Raton in 2017 that is permitted to close down Federal Highway for safe, easy walk-up access to Sanborn Square Park.”

Narzony’s signature event is rated as one of the top-100 juried art shows in the nation. Artists not only have the chance to display their works for purchase, but they can also qualify for the $1,500 Professional Artist Awards. Plus, each winning artist receives a commemorative 2-foot-long ribbon.

Seasoned artists are not the only ones vying for attention and accolades. The younger generation has the opportunity to be recognized at the shows as well with the Budding Artist Competition for grades six to 12. The program encourages students to create original, handmade art to win $250 in cash prizes. This attraction featuring young artists brings families to the events for a meaningful outing.

Art by Tip-Shun Ng

Producing equally impressive shows is Howard Alan Events—but the company didn’t exactly start out a success. Howard Alan had a novel business idea some 30 years ago, when, in a retail store in Plantation, he displayed the works of 40 to 50 artists on consignment. In a publicity stunt to attract customers, he placed a 6-foot gorilla out on the street holding a sign that claimed he, “Magilla Gorilla,” was running for mayor. The prank was not well-received by the town’s actual mayor, which resulted in Alan receiving a fine for “having something illegal on the street.”

That incident aside, Alan realized his calling, and he created Howard Alan Events with his wife, Debbie, producing art shows across the country and craft shows in shopping centers, with attractions like bands, classic cars and beauty pageants. About 100 exhibitors participated, fueling his passion for making a serious go of the business. And that he did.

Today, Alan joins the ranks as one of the most recognized art fair promoters in the industry, producing 45 juried art shows and 40 annual craft shows per year. Alan has exhibited the work of more than 10,000 artists worldwide with a typical show featuring 100 to 300 exhibitors. Many artists who presented at Alan’s debut shows have become annual fixtures. Their loyalty stems from Alan’s relentless work ethic and the chance he provides for artists to prosper from their craft.
One loyal presenter who exhibits annually with Howard Alan Events in Fort Lauderdale, Delray Beach and Boca Raton is fiber artist Suzanne Bellows. Her hand-painted and beaded jewelry attracts women by the droves—many of them devoted followers who make her booth a mandatory pit stop at each show in order to purchase affordable accessories and gifts. 

Artist Suzanne Bellows

Bellows has been exhibiting in art shows since she graduated from the University of Florida. Although she had never been trained in jewelry-making and in fact didn’t even wear jewelry, Bellows began crafting silk jewelry in order to make ends meet. “What started as a commercial endeavor quickly became a love affair,” she says. “I love making and wearing my jewelry, but most of all [I love] sharing my love of color and design with my customers.”  

Bellows and her husband have been making “art-to-wear” jewelry pieces for 25 years. “When I wake up, I can’t wait to get to work, Bellows says. “I feel tremendous gratitude to be able to paint and create beauty each day.”

For art show enthusiast Sheila Gewirtzman, walking to the Las Olas Art Fair from her nearby condo is a ritual. “I love the chance to look for things you won’t find in the stores,” she says. “I especially like the unique and unusual ways artists combine materials that others might toss away. I want to come home with something different, and it never fails that I do.” Gewirtzman also appreciates the deals local stores exercise during the festival, allowing her to shop for art, grab a cup of coffee and explore a boutique she may not have noticed before. 

Last season, Gewirtzman and her husband, Garry, bought a triptych—a series of three individual canvases presented side-by-side to create one piece. “Ours is a beautiful beach scene with sea grapes and palm trees in 3-D,” she says. “We have it in our bedroom, and I enjoy it every day. I sit in my chaise across from it and feel very peaceful, as if [I’m] walking a path toward the ocean. For $1,800 I bought a trip to paradise anytime I want to go.”

This is what Alan hopes for attendees. “Art is soothing,” he says. “Art heals. Art is happy. Expect to be amazed with the original and beautiful art you’ll see [at a show]. Wear comfortable shoes. Plan on spending the day. Have lunch or a glass of wine at one of the many great restaurants on the street. Meet some of [the] top artists in the country who will be showcasing, demonstrating and selling their artistic wares. Start on Saturday, come back Sunday.”

There’s no telling what will be found on any given weekend when perusing each tent and display. Whether the intention is to invest in art, add to a prized collection, or buy a gift, the pleasure is free for the taking.


Guide to local art shows 

Las Olas Art Fair

Dec. 17-18
The Wilton Manors Holiday Craft Festival
2020 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Dec. 30-31
The Delray Marketplace New Year’s Art & Craft Festival
14851 Lyons Road, Delray Beach
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Jan. 14-15
30th Annual Boca Fest
6000 Glades Road, Boca Raton
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Jan. 21-22
28th Annual Downtown Delray Beach Festival of the Arts
1111 E. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Jan. 28-29
Boca Raton Fine Art Show
72 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Feb. 4-5 
Boca Raton Museum of Art Outdoor Juried Art Festival      
327 Plaza Real, Ste. 315, Boca Raton
10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 
March 4-5
29th Annual Las Olas Art Fair - Part II
600 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

April 7-9
Delray Affair along Atlantic Avenue   
NE First Street, Delray Beach
10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday
10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday