Category Archives: COVER

Cover Story

Bonita Springs National Art Festival

By: Yohana de la Torre, Chief Editor

Good News

Creative forces give way to a productive atmosphere.  And the Center for the Arts of Bonita Springs will provide thousands on January 14 and 15 with the opportunity to experience these expressive forces at the Bonita Springs National Art Festival.

Ranked #11 in national art fairs by Sunshine Artist Magazine, the Bonita Springs National Art Festival features rows and rows of booths with artists selling their works as visitors peruse and purchase.  But that’s not all; the yearly festival wants visitors to not only browse the art.  They want patrons to interact with and engage in what they see.  Then, they’ll be inspired to make the arts a larger, more meaningful part of the community. 

With a history of 34 nationally recognized Art Festivals in Bonita Springs, the tradition is high quality and originality, featuring 200 nationally and internationally acclaimed artists working in a variety of media.  New and award winning artists are featured each festival.  Artists from 260 cities and 3 foreign countries applied to exhibit.  This Fine Art & Fine Craft juried art festival offers the highest quality art focused on excellence and originality.  These artists exhibit and sell original art such as paintings, glass, jewelry, clay works, photography, sculpture and more. 

All proceeds from the festival support the Center for the Arts of Bonita Springs programming and its mission to provide opportunities for artistic expression, education and appreciation to everyone regardless of economic ability.  The festivals serve as an integral part of the Centers for the Arts Bonita Springs and their programming.  As part of their mission of “Arts for All,” the Centers for the Arts provide programming to over 12,000 at-risk youth annually.  Last year, they awarded over $97,000 in scholarships.

As Center for the Arts Bonita Springs President, Susan Bridges points out, “Hundreds of thousands of people have attended our festivals in Bonita Springs.  They come back each year because they know the art is great and there is something for everyone— a walking tour of high quality art galleries set up outside in beautiful, sunny Florida.”

This year, GCT caught up with surrealist artist Merab Gagiladze from Eastern Europe.  Gagiladze’s work is like an image poem.  His pieces combine simple beauties with intricate design.  Flowers, butterflies, horses, knights all combine into whimsical visuals of design, color, line and intense feelings.  All of his works create a web of harmony and tension that are equally mysterious and enlightening.

He calls his work a mixture of post-modernism, symbolism and surrealism.  As a matter of fact, there’s a delicate tension amongst all these art forms that bring forth representational imagery and a narrative that oozes meaning.

Ready to Fly

Gagiladze was born in Tbilisi, Georgia— located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe.  He gravitated toward art at an early age thanks to the rich artistic culture of his country.  He studied ceramics at Tbilisi Art College and continued on to graphic design studies at the Tbilisi State Academy of Fine Arts.  He specialized in lithography and linocut, until his journey came to a screeching halt.

“In the 90’s, my country moved from a totalitarian regime to a new democratic and free world type of government,” Gagiladze reminisces.  “It was quite hard for Georgia to get used to the new world, and the country that was once influenced and immersed in the arts went dim.  There were no galleries, no art shows…art was not necessary and nobody had time for it.”

But once the borders came down, his artistic journey has taken him to America, Turkey, England, Ireland, Denmark, France, the Netherlands and everywhere in between. 

“I remember when I was about 4 years-old, when I did not know how to write yet, that I started to have beautiful dreams.  When I would wake up, I used to paint my dreams, just so that I could remember them well.  I still do this today.  I bring to life the shapes and figures of my dreams, as well as my interpretations of the rich tales and legends of the European and Eastern cultures,” he adds.

Gagiladze’s style generates creative forces, channels the expressive factor of color and the energy of an image.  Blending the familiarity of life’s simple pleasures with the fables, philosophy, religion and traditions of his roots, his work takes the viewer on an imaginary journey populated with characters who bear a message between reality and dreams.

“I can truly say that every little thing inspires me,” Gagiladze says.  “A small butterfly, an interesting story, music or something my son might tell me give way to interesting paintings filled with images of the Middle Ages or knight fights.”


Each piece is fresh, yet complex, open-minded and whimsy.  One can say it is a unique art form that shares a seamless integration between the world around the artist and the human spirit.  The works are bold, spontaneous and portray an innovative and almost organic raw emotion.  Think of them as the modern version of Jheronimus Bosch.  Works that are singular, handmade pieces infused with surrealism, frankness and multi-dimensional curiosity.  They are ever-changing, convey purpose and almost embody a theatrical story.

The artist’s technique is a blend of old and new practices.  Gagiladze’s favorite artist is Rembrandt thanks to the master’s ability to take the viewer to the unexpired depth of the soul.

“My work is influenced by many movements— not a particular one.  I especially love the idealization of the Renaissance, the mystery of Symbolism and the boundlessness of Surrealism.  I wear my heart on my canvas— illustrating emotions and moods with every stroke of my brush.  My goal is to engage the viewer and stimulate their visual and emotional senses.  I want the viewer to go to a place that they can only dream of or hope to be part of,” he explains.

That is why the artist is excited to take part in the Bonita Springs National Art Festival.  For Gagiladze, the fest will give him the opportunity and joy to see the connections people have with his pieces and the creativity it will give birth to.

“In a world saturated with images, I feel art has been and always will be a big part of the world.  It is not only an extension of who we are as people; it is something that from the caves to modern day has historically written a story in a visual voice,” the artist adds.  “I don’t speak English very well, but I have seen that art is a common language that serves as an echo in society.  So, I hope my images speak for me and are the bearer of my vivid and inspirational poetic message of beauty, tenderness and happiness— things that are all important to society.” 

– On January 14 & 15 from 10 am – 5 pm, the Bonita Springs National Art Festival will take place at 10450 Reynolds Street in Bonita Springs, FL.  For more information, visit