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Bloomin Art Festival Comes Into Bloom For 52nd Year 

Bloomin Art Festival Comes Into Bloom For 52nd Year

by James Coulter

Born in China, Jim Zhang has lived abroad in Japan for three years, in Germany for seven years, and in America where he currently resides. Living in four different countries and cultures has allowed him to broaden his artistic vision, through which he expresses with various art mediums and materials.

“After his long journey of [exploration] and [meditation], and the influences from around the world, he is back to his [roots], and creates his distinct art style by combining the Asian art form with the western expressive instruments,” his website states. “Now, he presents his new artworks by using sumi ink, acrylics and mixed others to paint on wood panel covered with special papers that give the layer of details, and contribute the mood and character of the subject.”

Recently, while visiting the mountains in Colorado, Zhang painted a natural forest landscape of white-barked trees. His attention to detail and unique art style won him Best of Show at the Bloomin Art Festival in Bartow last weekend. He owes his success to practice and the support of his dear wife. He also expresses his love of the festival, especially being able to interact and speak with fellow artists, he said.

“[The festival] is [filled with] happy people,” Zhang said. “[The artists are] amazing, they are very nice and very friendly, they know art a lot, and I am very happy to be here.”

Hosted by the Bartow Art Guild, the Bloomin Art Festival celebrated its 51st-year last weekend. More than 100 artists and craftsmen from across the county and even the country participated. Their booths were set up downtown along Central Avenue and Main Street, allowing attendees to not only peruse their art, but also local eateries, cafes, and shops.

Winning second place was Steven Koury, an inspirational wildlife artist. He ventures out into the wild in search of subjects, which he photographs and sketches. He then finishes his artwork in his studio with paint. He would owe his success to his hard work, but he prefers not to consider his art “work.”

“Art should not be something that is hard work,” Koury said. “It is something that you consistently work at and I love painting, I like painting. The more you work at it, the better you get.”

Koury has been attending the Bloomin Art Festival for the past 25 years. He loves the town, and he loves the artists who visit it. As someone who has received awards during past events, being able to win is hardly a surprise, but it is always a pleasant experience, he said.

“It is a freaking to win. It is always a thrill, honestly,” he said. “I have been here year after year…Bartow is a great town and it is a great show and I look forward to seeing it each year.”

Marica Morse-Mullins is a Lakeland resident and a close friend of Koury’s. She was invited by him to attend the event. Even with it being her first visit, she managed to win third place for her unique wood and wicker-weaved sculptures.

As a basket maker for 40 years, she has experimented with various materials. She recently started using black ash, a complicated process that involves cutting down the material and dissecting the tree splint. She has also started using longleaf pine needles, which grow natively in Polk County.

Morse-Mullins suffers from arthritis. She feels that her condition improves when she weaves her art. The more she weaves, the better it makes her feel, she said.

“I owe my success to perseverance,” she said. “It is a lot of hard work. Weaving with so many materials, and if I don’t weave, my hands cramp up, and I have arthritis. So, the more I age, the more I have to weave.”

Michell Githens is a volunteer and co-chair for the event. She has been participating for 14 years. After two years of uncertainty caused by the ongoing pandemic, she is glad to see the event back to pre-pandemic activity and involvement. Both the number of artists and attendees have been growing, and she hopes it continues to grow for many years to come.

“It has been a beautiful day with terrific crowds all day long,” she said. “We have been fortunate to have Chamber of Commerce weather and a wonderful turnout…and we are excited for the 52nd Bloomin Arts next year.”

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