Priceless experience helps grow St. Vincent’s Fine Arts Festival

Priceless experience helps grow St. Vincent’s Fine Arts Festival

One local artist helps to build a team, a foundation

If there’s one thing local artist and Jacksonville native Cookie Davis knows how to do, it’s how to put on an outdoor art festival. After all, the Murray Hill resident and longtime artist has been participating in art festivals for years, first as an emerging artist and now as a seasoned event organizer and co-chair.

For Cookie Davis, the best part of this year’s St. Vincent’s Foundation Art Festival 2013 is the opportunity to tell the story behind the story. It’s a story of a meeting she had with Ken Stutes of Avondale Artworks. She had just brought in some work to be featured in his gallery and he asked her thoughts on an idea. Ken was looking for some support while trying to build momentum for a new art festival, a festival in Boone Park. “He rolled out the plans and showed me what he had in mind,” she said. “Oh, now this is something I know how to do!” That was three years ago, and one can easily say- the rest is history.

Stutes found a confidante, as Cookie had a passion for the former Riverside Art Festival and she knew how to get things done.  Her story dates back to 1981, to a time when young Cookie Davis was working the Riverside Art Festival. Her hard work and diligence caught the attention of Myrtice Craig, then executive director of Riverside Avondale Preservation. Craig, realizing her potential tapped her to serve as chairman of the Riverside Art Festival alongside Ed Pratt-Danals. “We were both [she and Pratt-Danals] working artists at the time and he was teaching school, I think, and he was a photographer. It was so much fun and every now and then I look back and think- ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe we did that’.”
Cookie now finds herself in a different place as an artist, aging gracefully and bringing great minds together to help grow the event. With Stutes by her side and many of her favorite friends, she’s helped drive the momentum in this third year of planning.

“With regard to this festival, I think it’s kind of neat that some of the people that I was working with, in 1981, are doing this festival and have been doing it for the last three years,” said Cookie.  Her list includes her longtime friends and fellow artists Bill Slade, whom she refers to as a ‘glass guy’ and his son Jon, Myra Schick, her best friend, neighbor and admired ceramicist, Tim Bullard, a well known, skilled potter and Melissa Russell, a metal and wood sculptor.

“I think the most important thing to me- and I’m really big on this is ‘emerging artists’- new artists having opportunities. I try to find opportunities to encourage young people to participate, you can’t sell anything if you’ve got it under your bed or in your closet,” she quipped about her desire to help.

One thing is for sure, Cookie is unselfish and wishes to recognize as many participants as possible, realizing the most important element; funding from St. Vincent’s HealthCare. Along with Stutes, her co-chair, she has worked long hours with Diane Garcia, president of the Avondale Merchants Association, and other members of the association and participating restaurants. Biscotti’s, The Brick, Florida Creamery, Let Them Eat Cake and Mojo BBQ will all be stationed throughout the venue to deliver hot, fresh food to festival goers and artists alike. Entertainment will be brought in by Daren Ronan of the Ronan School of Music, health screenings will be done on site with the St. Vincent’s Mobile Healthcare Unit and cash awards will be given to artists in six categories- best of show and best of category.

A juried art competition will be judged by local artist Suzanne Schuenke, Ph.D and internationally acclaimed artist and art historian Christie Holchek, program manager for Art in Public Places. The St. Vincent’s Healthcare Jacksonville Fine Arts Festival 2013 is free and open to the public and will be held April 20 and 21, 2013 in Boone Park in Avondale and is presented by the Avondale Merchants Association.

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