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Village of the Arts Honors Wildlife Lost to Red Tide during 14th Annual Festival of the Skeletons

14th Annual Festival of the Skeletons
Village of the Arts district in Bradenton, FL
November 2, 5:30-11pm and November 3, 11am-4pm

Artwork by Joan Peters

The Village of the Arts presents our most popular Artwalk weekend of the year - the 14th Annual Festival of the Skeletons. This year’s Festival will be held on Friday, November 2 from 5:30-11pm and Saturday, November 3 from 11am-4pm.

Festival of the Skeletons is a celebration of life as we remember our departed loved ones in the tradition of Dia de los Muertos. Each year the Artists Guild of Manatee in the Village of the Arts dedicates a community shrine during the festival to an iconic artist or other public figure. This year the Village is expanding the focus of the shrine to honor the massive loss of wildlife in the Florida Gulf Coast region as a result of red tide.

The wildlife shrine is a true community effort headed up by Village resident Jen Shipley with support from family members, friends and other Village artists and residents. Shipley explains that the shrine “pays homage to the treasures lost to red tide through our own folly, allowing the tragedy to unfold; while also portraying resurrection through recognition”. The centerpiece will consist of dozens of marigold flowers folded from tissue paper. Community members are cutting and decorating cardboard sea creatures that will be displayed swimming through red waves. A life sized treasure chest depicting treasures lost will display artwork from Village artists pouring out onto red satin. A church pew within the shrine will be painted by a team of Village artists including Zackery Taylor and Mark Sparkman. Festival attendees will be able to honor their own loved ones by leaving a message on a memory wall. Shipley’s father, Jim Shipley, will create a sand sculpture of sea life across the street from the community shrine, using sand donated by Nature’s Design Landscaping. And in an effort to promote sustainability, Shipley is working on a plan to have the sand available after the event ends for residents to bag and use.

In addition to the community shrine, individual businesses and residents throughout the Village of the Arts will create and display their own shrines at their homes, galleries, studios, shops, healing arts centers, restaurants and businesses. The display of dozens of shrines is a favorite tradition of this annual festival.

A new attraction this year features a collaborative student sugar skull sculpture. The sculpture is being created with input from 400 students from Lee Middle School, Sugg Middle School and Ballard Elementary School, an effort organized by Kristine Johansen, an artist, teacher and member of the Manatee Arts Education Council. Village artist Jean G Famer at Fun Girl Art designed the sculpture and enlisted friends and neighbors to cut and number wood tiles that students are painting with sugar skull designs. The 400 painted tiles will be assembled on site at the intersection of 12th Street W and 11th Avenue W to create a giant sugar skull near the community shrine. The wood tiles will be judged, and a Best of Show award will be given to one student at each school on Friday night. A school spirit award will be announced on Saturday at 3pm to the school sending the most visitors to the festival. This project marks the beginning of a renewed education initiative by the Artists Guild of Manatee in the Village of the Arts to provide community outreach to students and teachers.

The festival will also feature live music and entertainment on Friday night. The main stage will be located at the intersection of 12th Street W and 13th Avenue W. Koko Ray and the Keepers, an R&B based rock/jam band, will play from 7-9pm. Wild Root takes the main stage from 9-11pm, bringing their unique sound of rock, soul and funk infused with jazz, R&B and blues elements, hard-hitting grooves, hyped funk dance songs and Phat bass riffs. A second performance area will be set up outside the Dancing Crane Gallery on 10th Avenue W. where the State College of Florida Jazz Band will play from 7-9pm. Fire dancer Alexander FireLion will light up the night with a performance nearby. Galleries and shops throughout the Village will host even more musicians throughout the weekend. Limited seating will be available for viewing the performance stages. Festival attendees are welcome to bring lawn chairs.

Admission is free. Village restaurants will be open throughout the festival and additional food and beverage trucks will be set up in designated vendor areas. Coolers are not allowed.

The following roads will be closed for festival activities from 5-11pm on Friday, November 2:
- 13th Avenue W between 11th Street W and 13th Street W
- 12th Street W between 13th Avenue W and 12th Avenue W

Street parking is available throughout the Village of the Arts and is indicated on the Village map which can be downloaded at A temporary parking lot will be available on a grass lot in the south side of the Village at the intersection of 13th Street W and 14th Avenue W. A public parking garage is available north of the Village at the intersection of 12th Street W and 8th Avenue W.

The 2018 Festival of the Skeletons is sponsored by the Artists Guild of Manatee and Gold Coast Eagle Distributors. The event is co-chaired by Dave Shiplett and Terrence O’Connor, Board of Director members of the Artists Guild of Manatee. The artwork used for this year’s Festival of the Skeletons was created by Joan Peters, owner of Joan Peters Gallery in the Village of the Arts.