ART BEAT: Barefoot in the Park Fine Arts Market celebrates a new era for Gwinnett's arts community

After months of planning, Barefoot in the Park Fine Arts Market is putting the finishing touches on its spectacular eighth annual weekend of celebrating all of the arts. Beginning with a grand Gala titled "Carnevale" on Friday evening at 7 p.m., the weekend will be filled with opportunities to see, enjoy and explore the arts. From visual arts to performing arts to literary arts and more, there is something fun and enriching to experience for every member of the family.

This unique arts event is open to the public with no admission cost on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visitors can enjoy an array of things to see and do. More than 60 artists will display all types of arts from paintings to sculpture to jewelry, photography and more. Two performing venues will be presenting a continuous schedule of performances beginning at 11 a.m. on Saturday and noon on Sunday.

A Children's Arts Park will have tons of fun events and hands-on projects to enjoy. A Learning Village for adults, hosted by the Hudgens Center for the Arts, will offer educational experiences in the arts for everyone else, and a Book Bistro hosted by Books-A-Million will showcase authors and the joy of reading. Of course, there is also plenty of great food and even wine tastings, which do charge a small fee but are a big part of the event. After all, wine is definitely an art.

Barefoot is especially important because the arts have begun to flourish more than ever in Gwinnett. The new organization ArtWorks! Gwinnett has become a catalyst for promoting and supporting the many wonderful arts groups in the area.

"ArtWorks! Gwinnett is thrilled to be a part of Barefoot in the Park," said ArtWorks! Gwinnett Executive Director Sally Corbett. "We are glad to have fostered collaboration throughout the arts community in Gwinnett and beyond. Those partnerships will come to life on stage at Barefoot as Zephyr Instrumental, the Dance Truck and Suwanee Performing Arts.

"One of the reasons for ArtWorks to exist is to promote the arts within Gwinnett and throughout the region. Part of that process is introducing members of our diverse arts community to one another. When artists get together and ideas converge, amazing things can happen. We saw that exact phenomenon at ArtWorks' 'Fusion' awards presentation in January and are glad that the event has spun off further collaboration here. Barefoot is a wonderful platform for artists to work together since the event's offerings are so vast. There is really something for everyone at Barefoot."

As Gwinnett's arts community grows and prospers, Barefoot will be an important annual event in presenting and encouraging artists of all kinds. For more information about this event, visit the website at www.barefootinthepark.org, call 678-677-0172 or visit the Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/#!/barefootinthepark10.

Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts. Email her at hcalmes@mindspring.com.