Where to Find, See and Create Art in South Walton

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By Mary Hong

South Walton is one of the most vibrant, art-laden, creative and soulful places I have ever experience. And in my former life, I was an international flight attendant for 18 years, so you could say “I’ve been around!”

Whether you live here or are visiting, it’s hard to NOT get your hands and head into some local art activities.

This list could fill pages and pages, but I’ve put together a few tips to get you started.

1. SEE ART/BUY ART: South Walton has a plethora of art galleries, art walks, public art spaces and antique shops that complement the nature of our area.

Visit South Walton and Artistsof30a.com are great sites to lead you in any artful direction.

Hidden gems include Ruskin Place in Seaside, Smith’s Antiques and Antique’s on Holiday (right behind Smith’s) in Miramar Beach, and 30A Art and Junk!

2. MAKE ART: Take a class and find your true inner artist!

The Blue Giraffe Gallery in Watercolor offers classes from artist Shannon Harris and Aaron Sutton. At 30Avenue near Rosemary Beach, V. Lala Gallery offers classes to both kids and adults.

The Shard Shop in Grayton Beach offers classes daily in GlassCollage, an exhilarating way to make art with glass on painted canvas. (Full disclosure: I own this shop and Mary Hong Gallery next door.)

The Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County offers a wide range of classes to the public.

Artists of Gulf Place has a truly creative and funky spirit. They host a Wine Walkabout on the Third Thursday of every month complete with a “Battle of the Brushes” event. It’s an on-site art competition and the finished pieces are auctioned off at the end of the night.

Kristy’s Paint Party is great for young and old. My kids found her in Grayton one day and we loved her.

Local Artist, Sharon Long teaches hands-on watercolor classes. And, Fired Up! in Seaside is your friendly paint-your-own pottery place.

3. ON-LINE ART: Well, I had to get something techy on this list!

Let’s face it, we use our phone for just about everything. And, it will work for inspiring you to get your hands into an art activity, too. When I’m ready to work on a painting, many times I will reach for my phone and google an image for inspiration.

Instagram is an obvious place to go for great photos of our unique galleries and world-famous beaches. Check out these hashtags too! #30a #southwalton #artgallery #makeart #iwannabeanartist.

YouTube.com is another GREAT source of inspiration! If you want to learn a new technique or craft, start with a video search. One of my faves is Brigitte Konig, if you want to learn abstraction. I’ve also gone there and searched “how to paint a wave” and “how to paint the sky.”

I recently read an article in Hawaiian Airlines Magazine about artist Sean Yoro. He’s an artist from Hawaii that gets on his paddle board, near the Arctic Circle, and then paints huge murals on icebergs as they slip slowly into the sea. His work is amazing, and so are his ideas. Not only is his glacier idea brilliant, but how he started his art career is unconventional. Essentially, he was young, and he wanted to be an artist, and he had no money. So, instead of investing tens of thousands of dollars into an institutional education, he moved to NYC, apprenticed with an established artist, and taught himself techniques by watching youtube tutorials for years!

4. WIN ART: South Walton has plenty of art auctions benefiting many local charities in our area. Find one and you’ll be instantly transported into art heaven. This is a great way to get your hands on beautiful, original pieces of art created by local artists AND help our community!

Here are a few that I donate to:

Walton County Chamber of Commerce, Habitat for Humanity, Treehouse Montessori, White Wilson Medical Center, Rosemary Beach Foundation, Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation, South Walton Community Council, Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance, Sacred Heart Hospital, Holy Kidz Camps, Wounded Warriors, American Cancer Society, Alaqua Animal Refuge, Sinfonia Gulf Coast, Children in Crisis, and Emerald Coast Theater Company.

5. BEACH ART: Gather your seashells, beach glass, driftwood and fish skeletons (oh, my!) and arrange them thoughtfully in a pretty jar, or an elegant platter.

A fun and simple project is to turn some of your shells into candles. Get some tea lights and take the candle out of the metal container, then remove the wick. Glue the wick to the bottom of an upturned cockle shell. Then, melt the wax (carefully). Pour the liquid wax into the shell and let cool. Voila!

6. WEAR ART: Find coastal couture from local fashion designer Nicole Palma at Monet Monet on Scenic Highway 30-A in Grayton Beach. Or, dress down in original tee art by Grayton Design Company sold at The Blue Giraffe and Jongle Beach services. 30A Gear also has a series of designs by local artists, including this original design by Allison Wickey.

30A Gear design by Allison Wickey

7. SUPPORT ART: Volunteer or donate to the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County, Seaside REP theatre or Emerald Coast Theatre Company.

8. HEAR ART: As in live local music! Find event venues at 30A.com/events and Beachcomber Magazine. And, if it’s January, mark your calendar for the 30A Songwriter’s Festival.

9. WALK ART: As in, Community Art Walks! These are times that local business associations stay open later than usual and welcome visitors to their shops and galleries.

First Fridays are hosted by The Shops of Ruskin Place in Seaside, The Shops of Grayton and Uptown Grayton in Grayton Beach, and Sea Contemporary Art Space in Rosemary Beach.

Third Thursdays are hosted by The Artists at Gulf Place.

Sand-castle building with Beach Sand Sculptures is a great activity for families or groups.

1) MAKE ART OUTSIDE: After a while, your head will start spinning with all of the art around you. That’s a good time to head to the beach and take a dip!

But, if you’re like me, the art making really never ends. You can always make a sand sculpture with the people at Beach Sand Sculptures. You’ll learn about sculpture and patience and the scenery is amazing.

Or, maybe you want to really breathe in the entire landscape of our coastal dune lakes, the shimmering Gulf, or our wispy, light skies. In that case, reach out to Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters. You can paint outside and bring fresh beauty and light to your artwork.

If you’re lazy like me though and scheduling anything can be daunting, just head to the beach and go for a walk. I take a little pail or bag with me and I search the shoreline for anything that looks interesting. Really, anything! When I’m done, I draw an outline in the sand of a pretty sea creature, then I fill the outline with everything I’ve collected. I leave it there for others to see, or to add to. I don’t know how long they last, but I have fun in the process. And really, that’s the “pull” toward art. It’s not really the finished piece, it’s the journey to it!

Mary Hong is a local artist, owner of Mary Hong Gallery and founder of The Shard Shop, both in Grayton Beach, Florida. Mary is passionate about anything related to art and people. When she’s not creating art or playing with her kids, she can be found pecking away at her computer and dreaming up creative ideas for this crazy world. Connect with her on Facebook or Instagram.