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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2019 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


January 15, 2016  RSS feed

Text: T T T

Volunteers are the glue for annual Beth-El art show


Marilyn Frieman volunteering in 2015. Marilyn Frieman volunteering in 2015. Without volunteers, the Art Festival at Temple Beth-El wouldn’t be able to grow from a small event into a showcase for more than 170 award-winning sculptors, painters, potters and artists of varied mediums. The festival is now entering its 43rd year, and it has become clear – the volunteers are what make all the difference.

Susan Dee was there for the inception of the art festival and has volunteered for more than 20 shows. As a fan of the arts, Dee naturally gravitated toward the event and was more than willing to help.

“I like everything that we do,” said Dee. “I get to interact with the artists. I look forward to everything about my volunteering. People who work in the arts love what they’re doing.”

Dee, along with Susan Burnett- Frishe, Elaine Wides and Marilyn Frieman, help with checking in the artists as they arrive. While she said that no part of the job is particularly difficult, she said while the artists are checking in and out, it can get hectic.

Jan Sher, one of the seven festival chairs, helps to set up the art show prior to last year’s three-day event. Jan Sher, one of the seven festival chairs, helps to set up the art show prior to last year’s three-day event. She offered advice to volunteers coming out for the first time. “Just come with willing hands,” said Dee. Volunteers can work where they want to, or where needed.

Another long time volunteer is Phyllis Newberg. “It’s a big deal at Temple Beth-El and you want to be part of something great,” said Newberg, who also has logged about 20 years of volunteering at the festival. “It’s great to see people you know every year; it’s like having a family reunion.”

Over the years, Newberg has done everything from helping to set up food to manning the boutique areas. One of her fondest memories is seeing the event open to the public and experiencing the show the same way the guests do. While the volunteers are unpacking items and setting up booths, they only see a piece of it, she said. Once everything is finished and the doors are open, everything seems to spring to life.

Susan Dee at work at the 2015 Art Festival Beth-El. Susan Dee at work at the 2015 Art Festival Beth-El. “And it’s exciting to see people that you know. It doesn’t matter if people are part of the [Jewish] community. When something this exciting is happening in your back yard, you should want to see it.”

It takes more than 200 volunteers to put together the art festival each year, starting with the Art Festival Committee chairs – Donna Berman, Nan Bugatch, Sonya Miller, Pam Sekeres, Jan Sher, Ann Soble and Barbara Sterensis – who work year-round to curate artists from around the country.

Volunteer coordinator Laura Horwitz not only recruits volunteers, but also trains them and schedules their shifts.

There is a laundry list of work volunteers do, from unpacking and repacking inventory to publicity to securing prize money. There are volunteers who answer phones, serve as docents and manage the data base. Brotherhood’s Boyz in the Hood do the catering and youth group members run a café.

The combined work of all these volunteers has added to the longevity and popularity of the art festival year after year.

“Volunteers bring enthusiasm, their enjoyment of the event and their love of art. They also bring a sense of community; that’s important,” said Horwitz. “We have people whose parents fly in specifically to volunteer for the event. It is a lot of fun.”

The event itself has become much more sophisticated in terms of size and scope of artists. Billed as one of the largest art shows in the Southeast, the art festival attracts artists nationwide and beyond as they vie for a piece of the $7,500 in prize money. The new curator of the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, Dr. Jerry Smith, will be the guest judge this year and oversee submissions.

The festival also gives local high school students the chance to shine. Pieces selected from high school students in Pinellas County will also be on display, with the win- ner’s school receiving scholarship money.

A preview cocktail reception will be held on Saturday, Jan. 30, from 7-10 p.m. with a $25 admission that can be purchased at the door. Art Festival Beth-El is free and open to the public on Sunday, Jan. 31 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with light lunches and snacks available to purchase. The Avenue of the Shops, a two-day sale of art, jewelry and crafts is on Sunday and Monday, Feb. 1 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Also on Monday, a free, special event will be performed in the sanctuary at 11 a.m. and a docent tour will be offered at 2 p.m.

Temple Beth-El is located at 400 S. Pasadena Ave., St. Petersburg. For more information, call (727) 347-6136.

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