Nearly 200 people turned out Sunday night to celebrate the inaugural Arts Afire festival with an evening of music and the presentation of the first-ever Flame Awards.
The nine-day Arts Afire festival began as a project of the city of Marco Island’s Arts Advisory Committee. Organized by chairperson Howard Blankman and six other members, the event was intended to show the diversity of art available on the Island, from painting to sculpture to music and theater to culinary skills. Performances and arts shows were scheduled throughout the Island at a variety of locales.
“This is the first time all of the arts associations have banded together,” said Blankman. “For that, I’m delighted.”
Four individuals and one civic organization were honored with the first Flame Awards during the Arts Afire Afterglow Gala. The arts advisory committee called on city residents to nominate fellow Islanders who have made a significant contribution to the arts on Marco during 2010. Winners were announced for the first time at the gala.
Tara O’Neil, a painter and sculpture who has a gallery at the Esplanade, received the Individual Artist Award; Tyler MacDonald, a sophomore at Lely High School, was honored as an Emerging Artist for his photography work; David Rice received the Public/Private Business Award for his commitment to using both resources to support the arts; the Calusa Garden Club was recognized with the Arts in Education Award for the group’s regular public classes and junior gardeners program; and world-renown landscape photographer Clyde Butcher was honored with the Cultural Leadership Award.
“When you do good things for the community, the community does good things for you,” stated Butcher, whose boat is docked in Goodland. “People don’t realize how unique a place this is. There’s no place like it in the world.”
Blankman, the organizer, hopes he and committee members have established a template for subsequent Arts Afire festivals.
“It will only happen with the support of the citizens and the business community,” he told the crowd in his closing remarks at the Gala. “Continue to support the arts. It’s a real indication of the civilization we have here.”
City council chairperson Frank Recker admitted he was at first skeptical about whether the festival would be successful. Now, he hopes it’s the genesis of a yearly event to show off the abundant art opportunities on the Island.
“I think it’s remarkable that in a short time they put this together,” said Recker.
“Hopefully, this will be an annual event. For this time of year, it could be a catalyst” to bring visitors to Marco.
Blankman stated that his goal has been to fund the festival without any taxpayer dollars. American Express and Tiffany and Company were just some of the well-known sponsors whose donations helped offset costs of the nine-day festival. A Tiffany necklace, a Rolex watch and a $2,000 Yamron Jewelers gift certificate were raffled off as fundraisers at the Arts Afterglow Gala.
While it is not yet known how much money was raised through the Sunday night event, according to Blankman, any profit will be used as seed money for next year’s festival.