The Peace River National Art Festival (PRNAF) is Charlotte County's premiere outdoor juried fine arts show. The 10th annual PRNAF returns to Laishley Park on March 18 & 19, 2017 from 9am - 4pm. There will be plenty of free parking at the Justice center and adjacent parking lots.
The festival is the Visual Arts Center's only outdoor festival and we are proud to receive outstanding support from the City of Punta Gorda and Boulderbrook Productions to ensure a successful event each year.
Nearly 100 nationally recognized juried artists represent various mediums including art glass, fiber arts, jewelry, leather goods, metalwork, oil paintings, photography, pottery, stone sculptures and watercolor, Live music and an eclectic array of food and beverages complement the art show and create an immersive cultural experience. The two day event draws over 8,000 visitors from Charlotte County and the surrounding areas.
The annual Peace River National Arts Festival began in 2005, shortly after Hurricane Charley devastated Punta Gorda and Charlotte County. What began as a fund raiser to repair the Visual Arts Center facility has continued supporting the arts in Punta Gorda over the past decade as our signature fundraiser.
Many PRNAF vendors travel to this event and need a place to stay for the weekend. If you would like to host a visiting artist, please download the homeowner form HERE.
If you're a visiting artist who needs a place to stay, please download the Artist form HERE.
Photographer Donna Valenti has been chosen as the Emerging Artist. Donna Valenti, owner and photographer at Donna Valenti Photography, recently made the transition from the Big Apple to the Sunshine State and has been digging her heels into the world of wonder and beauty that is Florida ever since. She shoots with a flare for the unusual, taking the ordinary a step further. With an expansive career in television production from CBS through Madison Square Garden that spans more than three decades, Valenti believes that “understanding how to keep people interested and engaged is the key to good television, as well as good photography.” Donna is a member of the Visual Arts Center as well as the Charlotte Arts and Humanities Council. She was recently honored with a proclamation given by the Charlotte County Commissioners Office, in conjunction with the Arts and Humanities Council, naming her February 2016 Artist of the Month. Donna has three “Art in Public Places” exhibits lined up for 2016, starting with Florida Gulf Coast University in March. Her current showing is at the Learning Center at Rookery Bay in Naples, which will be on display through March. Refusing to dedicate her “niche” to one particular genre, Valenti enjoys photographing what she feels will make for good conversation, a laugh and a smile. She also likes to explore other lands and capture the lifestyles of cultures we don’t experience in our everyday lives. You can see more of her work at www.donnavalentiphotography.com.
Ben W. Essenburg has been recognized as one of the nation’s premier Florida wildlife and landscape painters. Ben has been painting and exhibiting professionally throughout the nation since 1975 and has participated in nearly every major Art Festival in Florida, receiving numerous awards. His work is included in private and corporate collections throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia and South America, and has been featured in a number of magazines. Ben focuses on portrayals of Florida wildlife and landscape rendered in acrylic paint on stretched canvas. He stretches his own canvases using a smooth, tight weave and applies three or four coats of thin gesso and acrylic matte medium, wet sanding in between coats. This process allows Ben to work on a very smooth surface, allowing him to create exquisite details throughout the background and foreground of his paintings.
"While I occasionally use photographs for reference, I work primarily from memory and imagination. This allows me more freedom to concentrate on the overall impact of the painting. I spend time out in nature observing wildlife which has made me familiar with the subject matter. By spending time on location the images are quite realistic; but my primary objective is not just accuracy but rather to communicate and share how I feel about what I am painting, to create a sense of time and space. The ability to perceive and appreciate beauty is a gift from God, and I am delighted to be able to participate in that process." - Ben W. Essenburg
Jim Ellsworth has been chosen as the 2015 emerging artist. He creates masterpieces using the age old technique of wood turning. Jim is a retired banking executive, college professor and community leader who began his wood turning experience in 2004. During his working years, making furniture had been a favorite hobby of his. After retiring and moving to Florida, he chose wood turning as an outlet for his creative energy. Jim honed his skills by taking classes led by nationally recognized wood turners and attending seminars across the country, and has won several awards for his work displayed in many different exhibits as a result of his efforts. Jim is a member of Sea Grape Gallery and served as the President of the Peace River Wood Turners from 2012 to 2013. Currently, Jim specializes in the art of segmented turning.
Marcus C. Thomas is an accomplished artist who discovered the joy of painting after surviving a skiing accident that rendered him paralyzed from the shoulders down. Through art, Marcus discovered the a new and beautiful expression for his love of nature and avid imagination. His book, Flight of the mind: A Painter's Journey Through Paralysis offers readers insight into the evolution of an artist's technique and message. We see how Marcus evolves on a journey from his first watercolors to his more recent realism that continues today, crossing thresholds, delving into new mediums and exploring new ways of seeing and new ways to share that creative vision.
Belinda Duclos is a cherished instructor at the Visual Arts Center, and was chosen as the 2014 emerging artist. Belinda likes to turn on the heat and play with fire. Literally, when creating her metal work jewelry and stained glass art. In order to mold her jewelry into the perfect form, Belinda uses a jewelry-making torch with an open flame. From her jewelry to her stained-glass welded by hand, all of her designs are original, although you may notice a tip of her hat to the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany and Frank Lloyd Wright. Dulcos hails from Worchester, MA where she attended New England Institute for Interior Design. Her jewelry and stained glass are a natural extension of this work, as the add the final element that transforms a blank canvas - whether it's an empty wall or a poised wrist- into something special and striking.
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