Whether it was from the beat of a drum, the stroke of a brush or the latest dance move, art flowed through downtown Bradenton on Saturday.
Thousands strolled along Old Main Street as students and professional artists joined forces during Realize Bradenton’s eighth annual ArtSlam to create an interactive experience for visitors..
Tom Rulon busted a few Pit Bull-style moves of his own as he watched an energetic dance performance by Bayshore High School students.
“I love this event,” Rulon said. “I think this group is great, too.”
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It was the hip-hop music that got him moving, and he was happy to observe the talents of students, like his own daughter, Bella, who love to dance.
Bella was set to perform with her school, Bradenton Christian. She and her fellow dancers were nervous about performing in front of a large crowd.
“I told her, ‘I hope there’s a million people watching,’” the proud father said.
People of all ages gathered to watch performance after performance from the various schools.
“What makes ArtSlam amazing is that the community really experiences art, instead of just watching it,” organizer Holly Eisemann said.
Planning for the 2017 ArtSlam began last summer, she said, as Realize Bradenton organizers worked to ultimately put together 23 teams composed of students and professional artists.
Among those providing musical performances were the Manatee School for the Arts Lightning Sticks, a band of bucket drummers, and the Manatee High School Drum Line. Crowds also gathered to watching student dancers from Lee Middle School, Bayshore High School and Bradenton Christian School.
“It also allows for people to see what our youth are doing in the schools,” Eisemann said.
Eisemann was also enjoying ArtSlam in a new way this year, since her 9-month-old son, Grady, was in attendance.
“It’s his first ArtSlam,” she said proudly as the toddler bent over to beat on a bongo drum. “Last year, he was in my belly.”
One group of students from Lakewood Ranch High School was generating a slew of smiles and plenty of attention as they stood with signs offering, “Free Hugs.”
“We just want to spread positivity,” said Shenia Robers, 18.
The kindness campaign they brought to ArtSlam was one of many initiatives the group has pursued in addition to recycling efforts and mentoring younger students.
“We try to do as much for the better of the community,” 17-year-old Megan Lynch said.