49th Annual Coconut Grove Arts Festival

The cool “South Florida way” to arrive at the Coconut Grove Arts Festival is by boat.  Thanks to my friends Brian and Heather Socolow, that’s just what I did this year.

Deborah and David Throckmorton, along with Heather and Brian Socolow, dock at the Coconut Grove Arts Festival.

Like many, they’ve been coming to the best outdoor art festivals in the country for years.  With over 360 artists this year, along with amazing food, wine, live music and kids’ activities, the Grove has once again raised the bar.

Even if you don’t like most art shows, it’s hard not to have fun here.  The weather was perfect and tens of thousands of patrons pour in over the three-day President’s Day weekend.  The artistic vibe was definitely in full force.

Theodore Gall’s “The Puppet Master” towers over the sculpture artist himself.

Theodore Gall’s work caught my eye.  “The Puppet Master” sculpture (see photo) towered above us as he explained with a broad smile, “see? The puppet has broken free.”  The metal wires dangled at ankle level.  His other works, while smaller, were just as striking.  Interesting, strong angles juxtaposed with textured, muscular shapes showed the skilled craftsmanship and his deep knowledge of his materials.

Gall has been exhibiting at the Coconut Grove Arts Festival for around 35 years.  He now sells his works to the children or grandchildren of his early patrons.  Originally from Chicago, and now living in Ojai, CA, Ted Gall beams when he speaks of his Coconut Grove memories, “This is the only Florida show I go to anymore.  I used to do South Miami, Beaux Art, Disney Art Masters in Orlando and others… nothing compares to this.”

The customers flowed through his tent buzzing about his work.  “This is definitely a good year.  The economy is coming back and thankfully I’m making some money.”

Tony Mendoza, from Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood, among his acrylic works.

Local artist, Tony Mendoza, has been showing off his talents at the show for the past five years.  His art reflects the spirit of Miami and his Cuban heritage.  Inspired by sayings, quotations, dances and music, Mendoza interprets others in his art.  His shockingly colorful and whimsical pop art exhibit brought in tons of admirers over the weekend.

Mendoza said this year’s festival was definitely brighter and more alive.  “With the recession, everything slowed down.  People are more comfortable now and will dedicate some of their disposable income to art.  I’m doing very well.  I can’t complain.”

If you missed Tony’s work this year, you can see his large murals at several local landmarks, including “All the Ways We Are Smart” (Gulliver Schools, South Miami) and Royal Palms on Biscayne Bay” (Miami-Dade Public Schools Administration Building, Miami)

Here is a three minute video montage of this year's Coconut Grove Arts Festival

Next year will mark the 50th year of the festival.  I'm sure it will be an amazing event.  Put it on your calendars now by visiting their website!