Jacksonville's oldest art festival on tap this weekend
It's an Easter weekend tradition that is hitting its 51st anniversary, on an historic site whose caretakers are celebrating the building's centennial.
Along with more than 100 local and national artists selling their wares, the Mandarin Art Festival offers live music, a children's art show and more inside and outside the Mandarin Community Club at the nexus of Mandarin and Brady roads.
Festival chairwoman and community club president Susie Scott expects thousands of visitors to come seeking everything from blown glass and nature photos to carved driftwood art and ceramic sculptures from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Easter Sunday.
"It's remarkable. We had an amazing return from the pandemic last year and were kind of trepidatious going into it, thinking 'Will people come out?'," Scott said. "People came out last year, and we think there will even be more coming out this year. It is very exciting. We have a lot of new artists from all over the country that have signed up and they are ready to go."
Called Jacksonville's longest-running art festival, the show has always been hosted at the community club, originally built in 1872 with funds raised by "Uncle Tom's Cabin" author Harriet Beecher Stowe, who lived across Mandarin Road. Founded to help former slaves, it became the Mandarin School.
The Mandarin Community Club was founded in 1923, the building bought and gifted to the community club in 1936. And in 1968, club members created the art festival, Scott said. As always, proceeds from the show help maintain the historic community club.
Scott said their artists will come from Jacksonville, Florida and beyond to ensure a mix of regional and national art.
"We have returning artists who have been coming for decades," she said. "We also have probably 30 to 40 new artists who have signed up for this year, and we are anxious to display their work and share it with Jacksonville."
Along with the children's art show inside the Community Club at 12477 Mandarin Road, there will be food vendors and children’s activities near the artists, and a Green Market in Billard Commemorative Park next door. Rain is forecast both days, but Scott said they are prepared.
"The show must go on," she said. "Last year we had some rain on Sunday, and so we called the show a little early. We are hoping this year that we have a good strong Saturday, and if we have a little precipitation on Sunday, so be it."
Admission is a suggested $2 donation. Parking is free but not allowed on-site. Instead, there is free off-site parking at Albert's Field at Orange Picker and Brady roads and at the Mandarin Masonic Lodge at 2914 Loretto Road. A free shuttle runs to and from the show during festival hours.
For more information go to mandarinartfestival.org.