VENICE — The place to be Feb. 15-16 is Venice Art Center for its annual Fine Arts Show and Sale.

Every square inch of the recently enlarged center will be filled with paintings, jewelry, ceramics, pottery, photos, stained glass windows, art glass, prints, digital art, religious icons, books and more — all made by local artisans — most of whom are VAC members and in many cases, instructors.

In 2019, some 4,000 people filled the center during show hours, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 15 and 16.

Art fans come back year after year to see their favorite artists and craftsmen and to add to personal collections.

Water color painter and instructor Augusto Argandona is one of those who comes back year after year and has developed a following for his realistic watercolors which record places and people in realistic detail.

“The Venice Archives and Museum has several images of paintings of old Venice I did for Gulf Coast magazine a few years ago,” he said. “The images are part of the permanent display in the main room.”

Photos are a tool of many artists, especially painters for whom is its important to capture the light on the subject at its peak. It also is helpful for instructors like Argandona.

When teaching a class at VAC he will work from a photo displayed on a large screen so that the students can paint the same scene right along with him. That many of them manage to succeed so well is a tribute to his teaching ability.

“Most of my students take many of my classes,” he said.

That so many fans collect his work is another tribute to his talent as a painter.

“I am in a new location this year for the show,” he said. “Some of the offices and the library were moved to the back in order to expand the gift shop. Marilyn Cassidy took my booth in the main room and I moved to the large teaching room (Rooms 5 and 6 of VAC)” he said.

Cassidy is a fixture at the show which turns 19 this year. She helped with the first three shows and the was asked to co-chair the show the following year. Whoever that co-chair might have been, no one will ever know. Cassidy has chaired the show on her own every year since then.

Cassidy also is a VAC instructor.

“I teach several water classes,” she said. “Some are basic, where students learn basic techniques.”

She also teaches one called “Greeting cards and small wonders” and “Water, skies, land and more” in which students learn to paint sea and landscapes and what most often becomes the background of a watercolor painting. She also teaches a class in matting and framing.

Given all these jobs, if one wants to find Cassidy, the art center would be the place to look, “

Talking to instructor/artists like these two and many others is another bonus of this particular show.

Newcomers to the show will have a chance to see what draws so many to the center throughout the year.

At this and the several other VAC shows and special events presented throughout the year, people can purchase wonderful artwork for their homes and gifts but also sign up for classes to advance skills or acquire new ones or attend the center’s special events such as musical concerts and wine tastings — all within the lovely art center. On the occasional day when there are no shows because a given show is being hung or taken down, there always is the gift shop at the front of the center. It features a variety of member work as well as VAC apparel items such as T-shirts.

Many enjoy the art cafe on a regular basis because of the surroundings as much as the food which will be available during the weekend. There will be tables and chairs set up on the west patio of the center.

While anytime is a good time to visit the art center and learn more about it from its employees and regular volunteers, the coming weekend also is a good time to learn about many special events that occur regularly at the canter.

Such events, in addition to classes, include musical entertainment and a variety of receptions on Friday evenings throughout the year. Coming up in the spring will be exhibits of work by students in Sarasota middle and high schools, with scholarship awards to the top artists.

Other events throughout the year include, single or multi-day workshops in various fields and usually at least one plein-sir event during which artists go out and paint the town.

But the weekend of Feb. 15-16 is the time to learn all these things, to meet the artists, and enjoy tasty treats from the Art Cafe which will be providing breakfast and lunch items plus beverages and dessert on both days.

Venice Art Center is at 390 S. Nokomis Ave., Venice, 34285. Located “on the island,” Venice Art Center is part of the city’s Cultural Campus which includes the William H. Jervry Jr, Venice Public Library, the Venice Community Center and the Venice Museum and Archives. For additional information, visit: veniceartcenter.com or call 941-485-7136.

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