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Largo's Festival of Arts: Art and Floral Show Highlights Local Artists

The two-day event featured local artists, vendors, live demonstrations, workshops and food. Art pieces were judged in four categories: art, floral art, art-inspired floral combinations and Ikebana.

Patrick Gaughan used thick brushes to paint a vase of flowers, while Muriel Scrivner, created a fresh floral arrangement inspired by his work.

Approximately 40 people watched art transform before their eyes. Scrivner, a Ph.D. and Ikebana floral expert, and Gaughan demonstrated a joint, live art presentation, which began with a blank canvass and an empty vase.

The painting and floral arrangement was auctioned to benefit the Florida Sheriff Youth Ranch. The winning bid for the pair was $110.00.

The art demonstration was one of several events offered at the Art and Floral Show, part of . Held at Largo’s new community center, the two-day event displayed work of local artists and various vendors. It ended with awards for work in four categories: art, floral design, art-inspired floral combinations and Ikebana, a Japanese floral art.

First place winner, Ellen Thompson, said she started learning Ikebana six years ago after watching an Art in Bloom demonstration at the Museum of Fine Arts.

“It was a demonstration similar to the one today. I watched it and said, ‘I want to do that',” Thompson said.

She’s been competing and winning in local art contests ever since.

Her husband, Graham Thompson, is also an Ikebana artist. His interest started young when a teacher taught more about floral arrangements than the regular lessons. He's also competed and won local art contests.

The Thompsons said the hardest and most expensive part of their creations is the vase.

“Sometimes, you can find one at a second hand store, but it’s rare. Not every vase fits this type of art,” Graham Thompson said.

For the flowers, they visit wholesale florists or use plants and flowers from their garden. Finding the supplies can be an adventure in itself. Thompson also suggested a place off-the-beaten path- the city dump. That's where palm leaves can be found from landscapers’ tossed cuttings.

“I really prefer to use plants from Florida gardens. We often use what’s in our garden,” Ellen Thompson said, on her choice of using native plants.

Art vendors included wood art crafter Leslie Atkins. She started her wood crafts 13 years ago to give as small gifts for friends. Her work includes yard signs, bird feeders, wood signs and more.

“It grew and blossomed into a business,” Atkins said.

She creates her own patterns, cutting the wood herself and designing the artwork. Large wood art, like her Thanksgiving and Christmas yard signs, are made from a kit.

Atkins has attended the Largo art show since its inception and also attends the community center’s art workshop, run by the Largo Art Association .

“It’s just a place for us to get together and encourage one another. There isn’t an instructor. Everyone is welcome to attend,” Atkins said.

The paintings of artist Gaughan appeared in an unexpected place: highlighted in the book "Moving Forward on Your Own" by Certified Financial Planner and author Kathleen M. Rehl, Ph.D. Gaughan offered his work, including art specifically for the book's material, when Dr. Rehl conceptualized the book.

Rehl attended the art show with her financial guidebook, a basic financial book with self-reflective exercises. A widow herself, Rehl wanted a way to reach out and help widows at one of the most difficult times in their lives. She discovered the marketplace had few resources for this growing group.

“Half of 65-year-old, previously married women, are widows. Two-thirds of 75-year-old, previously married, are widowed. Seven out of 100 women remarry. But within two years of being a widower, a man remarries,” Rehl said.

The goal is for widows to take control of their financial future and increase their self-confidence. The book is complete with photographs and art.

“I wanted to create a book that’s beautiful, just like women are beautiful,” Rehl said.

At the end of the live art presentation, Scrivner gave the audience a tip for keeping live floral arrangements fresh.

If you’ve heard about putting an aspirin or sugar in the water, it really doesn’t help, Scrivner said.

“The best thing you can do, if you want to keep your flowers fresh is to add  7-UP. Half water and half 7-UP, and your flowers will stay fresh for a longer time,” Scrivner said.

See more of the paintings and artwork from .

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