TAMPA, Fla. — Some of the most talented artists in the country will be in Tampa for the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts this weekend.
However, if you are just starting out as an artist, securing a spot at Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park can be almost impossible.
Scratchboard art has always been a hobby for Army Veteran Richard Sele, but deep down he thought he was good enough to make it a career.
“It’s not a very common art form, in fact a lot of artists, experienced artists, believe it’s one of the hardest mediums to work in,” said Sele.
The challenge for Sele, like all new artists, was getting noticed. The Gasparilla Festival of the Arts just seemed out of reach.
“I would have applied to it but doubtful that I would have gotten in as an unknown it’s extremely competitive,” said Sele.
“So when you are competing against people who do this for a living and done this for 20 and 30 years we felt like the emerging artists needed a little bit of a leg up,” said Ann-Eliza Musoke Taylor.
Taylor is the chair of the Emerging Artists Program, a spotlight for up and comers. It was designed to give new, up-and-coming artists, a chance to participate with seasoned professionals at the festival, potentially skyrocketing their careers.
“We wanted to give them the opportunity to participate in the festival and really feel what it’s like to be part of a major arts festival,” said Taylor.
“I don’t even think I realize how big of a deal this is yet,” said Sele. “It’s going to bring me exposure to thousands of people looking at my artwork.”
Sele is one of 15 emerging artists selected to have their own tent, free of charge, at the festival. On top of that they’ll also receive a mentor to show them how the business of art is done.
“How do I price my art, how do I display, how do I develop patrons,” said Taylor.
“How do I take payment for an artwork if it’s not in cash? ‘Well this is what I use for credit card payments,’ I mean you don’t think about that stuff,” said Sele.
From tigers to Tom Brady, Sele said he’s so excited to plunge into this new career headfirst thanks to a little help from his friends.
“I mean I got all this artwork sitting around me that I’ve been working on over the years but its never going to sell sitting in here,” said Sele looking around his home studio. “I want people to look at me and say, ‘it’s never too late to get started.’”