High Springs art fair draws artists from out of town
Artists, makers and vendors flocked to High Springs to participate in High Springs’ first art fair called Art Fair on the Green. Artists from cities throughout Florida and even out-of-state came to the fair to put their art on display, share their stories and sell their products. High Springs hosts various other festivals and markets where vendors can sell their merchandise or crafts, including the Spring Flea Market Megaa Craft & Vendor Fair and the Pioneer Days Festival.
With one artist making the trip to High Springs from Atlanta, Georgia, another from Jacksonville and another from Fort White, each artist came with the same intention of sharing their art with a new community and meeting other artists.
“There’s so many eclectic artists…” Gainesville resident and artist Kat Gentry said. “Everybody’s just really talented.”
The three-day art fair, which lasted from March 24 to March 26, took place during the Walldogs Dive into High Springs Mural and History Festival. During this festival, an international community of artists comes to towns across the nation to paint historic murals throughout the town. With the art fair being in conjunction with the town-wide festival, it attracted out-of-towners who wanted to see the Walldogs. With a population of about 6,500 people in 2023, the art fair managed to bring hundreds of people to High Springs to meet the artists who came to show off their art.
One art vendor and painter, Kenneth Keith, is originally from Alachua but now resides in Atlanta, Georgia. After hearing about the festival and joint art fair through a friend on Facebook, Keith decided to make his way back to Alachua County for the fair. Under his vendor tent, Keith presented dozens of canvases and prints of his work for visitors to see.
Growing up with three older siblings, he said he found that art was something he could do on his own, so that’s how he became interested in art. He started out by drawing comic books at a young age. Now working as a tattoo artist by day, he creates airbrush, acrylic, and oil paintings and makes custom art in his free time.
He started airbrushing about 30 years ago and then developed other painting skills over time. To master his acrylic painting skills, Keith said he learned how to create landscapes from watching Bob Ross on PBS. Keith said his inspiration to create art comes from seeing his customers’ smiles when they receive their artwork.
“When I’m able to deliver it in person and to see that look and that gratification, that’s it,” he said. “That just keeps me going.”
Located about 12 miles from High Springs, retired hair stylist Jerilyn Guiss made the short trip from Fort White to share the art she makes in her retired life. Guiss made her debut in art in 2014 after being introduced to watercolor paintings by a client at her hair salon. The client taught her the basics of watercolors, and Guiss has been painting ever since. She likes to say that her artistic talent was hidden until she retired.
“I get a little frustrated when people say, ‘I can’t do that,’ because I said that for 60 years,” she said.
With paintings mainly of flowers, houses and landscapes decorating her tent, Guiss said her current favorite type of painting is plein air, which is French for painting a landscape on-site in nature.
When she’s not painting, Guiss also builds little fairy houses for gardens or home decoration. By searching for twigs and materials in nature and using some store-bought materials, Guiss and some of her friends from her neighborhood create small whimsical houses that appear fit for a fairy. Some of her watercolor paintings resemble the fairy houses she physically builds. She said she loves painting fairy houses because the lines don’t have to be perfectly straight to be a successful painting.
After coming to the High Springs art fair, she said she hopes to continue going to art fairs in the future. She joked that the art fair gives her art a different place to be than her closet.
“I’m getting everything out of it [the art fair] that I wanted to,” Guiss said.
As a Jacksonville resident, Jinsey Smith found out about the art fair through one of High Springs’ downtown stores and one of the art fair’s hosts, Unique Notions. Unique Notions sells some of her artwork and prints as products, so the company asked her if she’d be interested in coming to the art fair. As a full-time artist and painter, Smith said she enjoys trying new techniques in her art.
After experimenting with various mediums 7 years ago, Smith found that she loved how absorbent coffee filters were with watercolors. As a result, she began collaging coffee filters with watercolor paint to create art. She said she still loves to experiment with different techniques because she doesn’t like to stay with one method for too long.
As a young child, Smith said her family helped foster her love for art. She said she’s thankful for her parents because they encouraged her to be an artist and create art ever since she was drawing at 2 years old. As a kid, she tended to draw and paint animals which led to comics as a teenager, and now she describes her art as a “combination of everything.” She said she finds her inspiration from everything in life including nature, music, the internet, her feelings and more.
After spending the weekend in High Springs, Smith said she hopes to come back to the art fair in the future and found that it was a great way to bring people to the community.
Because of its artistic nature, the town of High Springs has multiple spaces for artists to express themselves, display their work or buy supplies. High Springs has two theaters, the Priest Theatre and High Springs Playhouse, and two art galleries, Poor Taste and Lanza Gallery & Art Supplies which also doubles as an art supply store. To continue highlighting its artistic character, High Springs intends to make the Art Fair on the Green an annual event for artists from in-state and out-of-state to come to the town and share their art with the community.