Not Your Average Art Fair: The GFAA Fine Arts Fair at Tioga

The weekend of March 3 and 4 will mark the 11th Annual GFAA Fine Arts Fair at Tioga, located at the Tioga Town Center on 133 SW 130th Way in Newberry. The event, which regularly draws crowds of thousands, is supported by the Gainesville Fine Arts Association, a non-profit organization that began in 1923 with three members and has since grown to over 350 members.

The festival will include around 110 carefully selected national artists with works ranging from acrylics and oils to stained glass and jewelry. In addition to the artists, visitors can enjoy the Martin Kids Dental Kids Zone, Blue Highway pizza, performances from O2B Kids and Sun Country kids, local bands The Collective and L.J. Percussion and much more.

“This festival is about enjoying art and experiencing what talented artists do,” said Karen Koegel, who has served as the GFAA’s president for the last four years. “To me, anybody would enjoy an art show. You get to see art, listen to music and live entertainment all weekend.”

While several artists will be returning to show and sell their works, there will also be some new names. Many are GFAA members, but there are some from outside of Gainesville and Florida itself. The artwork will be examined by two judges from the Annette Howell Turner Center for the Arts in Georgia and winning artists will receive ribbons and cash prizes.

I’m always excited to see new artists blend with the returning artists,” Koegel said. “Some of the artists will actually be doing their craft at their tents too. There’s always some kind of art energy at this fair.”

Each year, Koegel chooses an artist of a different medium to be featured on the fair’s poster. This year, that artist is wood turner and GFAA member, Chris Tatum.

“I picked Chris because I’ve been following him for five years, and his work has just become more and more magnificent,” Koegel said. “I try to highlight somebody whose work will catch the eye, and his work does.”

Originally from Hialeah, Tatum moved to Gainesville in 1978 and pursued a career in construction. From his experience in the field, he became fascinated by wood working and quickly began acquiring tools, including a wood lathe.

In 2012, Tatum saw his passion for wood turning as an art form as opposed to being solely utilitarian and began showing pieces at area art fairs with the help of his wife.

“A couple of times I went with her, and the reactions blew me away,” Tatum said. “People have a really emotional reaction to my pieces, whether it’s the beauty of them or memories of a father or grandfather who also turned wood.”

Tatum draws inspiration from nature and never recreates a piece, often using different local wood. In his five years as a practicing artist, he has created 30 segmented works and thousands of bowls, 40 of which will be for sale at the festival. The three works featured on the poster are made of maple, oak and ash woods and finished in lacquer.

“I came up with the shapes and the coloring through experimentation,” Tatum said. “I’m still learning and always trying to make new things, so each one is basically trial and error and figuring out how different stains take to different woods.”

This year marks Tatum’s fifth as a returning artist to the fair, and he explained his excitement to come back as the poster artist.

“I was totally shocked and humbled by it,” Tatum said.  “I’m always excited to see the reaction and if people are going to like or dislike it. I get a lot of people who come through the booth, and it encourages me as an artist to get that positive reaction and work harder.”

If you are interested in seeing Tatum’s work at the fair, his booth – booth number four – will be set up across from the Blue Highway pizza truck.

By Haley Clement

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