GFAA puts quality first in annual arts fair at Tioga

By Ron Wayne

Fans of Jeanne Bunting’s repurposed jewelry will be glad to see her return to the GFAA Winter Fine Arts Fair at Tioga Town Center next month.

This will be her sixth time selling at the fair, which this year will be held Friday through Sunday, March 4-6. She will be among 115 artists selling their original work in one of the first art shows of the calendar year.

“People who are use to seeing our work at the other shows in town look forward to seeing us in this fair because we have all new items,” she said. Bunting, who regularly shares a booth at other shows with another jewelry artisan, said the GFAA fair has become more oriented toward the fine arts over the years and has been a highly successful event for them.

Although the fair is only in its ninth year, it has a loyal following, according to Fair Director Karen Koegel, who hopes to expand awareness through a much bigger marketing campaign this year.

“This unique art fair continues the tradition of being the only night time fair in a pedestrian-friendly streetscape with ample parking and convenient access,” she said. Tioga Town Center is located on Newberry Road just five minutes west of Interstate 75.

The artists will sell their work from lighted booths from 5 to 9 p.m. on Friday, March 4.  For the first two hours, the Smooth 100.9 FM radio station will broadcast from the Town Center.  Then from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m., the Dancing Melodies band will perform live. The group started with easy listening songs but has now added blues and a variety of music from Ray Charles and Sam Cooke to Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys.

Throughout the weekend, belly dancers, face painters, student performances and well-known area musicians will fill the streets and stage. Children can enjoy bounce houses, a train, fun arts projects and more.  Alachua County art students will be exhibiting their work. And, of course, there will be food available from vendors like Dominos Pizza, as well as at restaurants in the Town Center such as Sabore, Blue Highway, Northwest Seafood, Dave’s New York Deli and The Flower Pot Bakery.

Koegel is very pleased with the caliber of the artists and prefers to focus on the quality of the work instead of the number of artists participating. About a third of the artists are coming here from outside the area, from as far away as Michigan and Virginia, she said.

The work includes oil and watercolor paintings, sculpture, jewelry, ceramics, acrylics, photography, mixed media, pottery and wood.

Bunting has been crafting her distinctive jewelry since 1999 – a sideline that eventually became successful enough for her to quit her full-time job.

“People were interested in buying it, and it’s just snowballed from there,” she said. She uses vintage items such as buttons or beads to create her jewelry.

“Somebody will give me a button and say -can you make a necklace out of this?” she said. “I work with aesthetics of buttons to give it a more contemporary look.”

Bunting, vice president of Artisans’ Guild in Gainesville, said she can use found objects or pretty much anything. “Nothing is garbage. I recently sold a bracelet with a clasp made from a key to a canned ham,” she said.

The fair is presented by the Gainesville Fine Arts Association (GFAA) with the help of sponsors Campus USA Credit Union, Domino’s Pizza, SouthEast Car, Great Clips and the Tioga Town Center.

ronRon Wayne is a freelance writer and editor in the Gainesville region. He can be reached at


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