By Kathy L. Collins

Just as the Plant City strawberries are celebrated at the Annual Florida Strawberry Festival, so too is fine art at the Annual Florida Strawberry Festival Fine Art Show presented by the Eastern Hillsborough Art Guild (EHAG).

Under the direction of Chairperson, Debra Bryant, the show continues to grow both in size and prestige. Bryant said, “The quality of art is exceptional. The student work this year is amazing.” Bryant added, “We are going to be in a different location on the Festival grounds next year. Hopefully it will be a more central one so that even more people will get to see the fine art created by local artists, both professional and amateur.”

This year, there were 311 entries from residents of several surrounding counties including Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk, Pasco and Manatee. The Best in Show award went to Sheila Haas of Plant City for her watercolor work titled, “Reflections.”

Haas is an amateur. Haas said, “It was very exciting to win. It is always nice to know that someone appreciates what I am doing.” Haas spent months working on the piece.  Haas said, “Painting was a challenge. I worked on it for months and months.” Bryant said, “The piece was a labor of love. When you paint black watercolor, you have to paint it over and over to get it just right. This piece was very detailed and quite beautiful.”

The Strawberry Theme award went to Petera Semple of Tarpon Springs. Her piece is called “Fresh Berries.”

In addition to these winners, there were winners in four categories of Adult Professional for Oils, Acrylics, Watercolors and Graphics/Mixed. There were winners in Adult Amateur Oils, Acrylics, Watercolors and Graphics/Mixed as well as Sculptures and Miniatures. There were Youth winners in Drawing/Painting and Sculpture.

In all, over $3,000 was distributed in prize money including $300 for Best in Show.

Two highly-qualified individuals acted as judges for this year’s show. One judge, an art collector with a good eye, wished to remain anonymous. The other judge was John Hardin, a professor at Hillsborough Community College.

According to Bryant, the judges took their time in judging this show. “One judge spent four and a half hours and the other spent six hours!” said Bryant. Hardin wrote to Bryant expressing his gratitude for being asked to serve as a judge.

The judges look at many aspects of each piece of art. This includes draftsmanship, composition, color harmony, values of light and shade as well as creativity.

The Florida Strawberry Festival Fine Art Show is a great opportunity for local artists to show their work to a wide audience. This fact is one of the reasons, along with long hours and hard work, that EHAG has been so successful in growing this show each year. In addition to artist interest, local businesses have taken notice by becoming Business Leader Choice Award participants. This year, there were 15 local businesses and organizations that participated. This included the Osprey Observer. Each Business Leader contributes $75. Of that amount, $50 is awarded to the artist and $25 goes to the EHAG Scholarship program. This year’s recipients included the McDonald Training Center and Very Special Arts (VSA).

EHAG is very appreciative of the local businesses who generously support the fine arts in our community. If you would like to support the arts and become a Business Leader for the 2014 Florida Strawberry Festival Fine Art Show, please contact


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