Destin’s Main Street Becoming an Art District?

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    By Lori Leath Smith, Publisher

    What began as a twinkle of an idea five years ago is now becoming a reality. “Local artist-created banners will soon be displayed in the medians on Main Street,” says Ron Sandstead, Flutterby Antiques owner. “It’s a beautiful thing to see your baby finally born.” Very soon, Destin’s Main Street will be sporting a new look.

    Eight banners total, for now, will hang up and down Main St. and will feature a variety of local artists who have created original art exclusively for this project. As you drive or pass by, you’ll likely recognize local favorites such as artist and graphic designer Allison Yii, Estelle Grengs, winner of the 2018 Mattie Kelly T-Shirt art competition, Ann Hopkins, Jennifer Viaene, Andrea Chipser, Joy Fine, Claire Gagne’, Libbo Morgan and Robin Cannon of Redbird Art Experience—all whose art will be featured in the first group of banner displays. The current plan is to change them out every four months with eight new banners from different artists.

    “One of the first artists to climb on board,” says Ron, “was Allison Yii. Her original creation entitled ‘Look Ma’ depicts a young boy holding a seashell. “I encourage the artists chosen to keep their artwork simple and colorful,” he says. “It’s one thing to have a painting right in front you with tons of detail, but quite another when viewing it several feet above while traveling at 35-40 mph. In the future, Ron hopes to get children involved and display their art as well.

    For the Banner Project to work, each artist creates and donates an original work of art. They use whatever style and medium they prefer – oil, acrylics, watercolor, etc. – just as long as it works on a banner. Ron says the banner artwork seems to cover all the different styles from funky (Red Bird Art) to impressionistic (Libbo Morgan). The artwork is then photographed and the digital images sent to CJ Signs in Ft. Walton for printing. Once printed, they’re available for viewing in Destin’s Flutterby Antiques until the city installs them on the poles along Main St.

    This initiative began when Ron and others formed the Main Street Betterment Alliance in 2013 with the intent of improving Destin’s Main Street. “We are just a group of citizens dedicated and motivated to make Destin the best it can be,” says Ron. Projects implemented through the Alliance include adopting Main Street, street tree plantings, establishing a community garden (quite another story), and painting the old Crestview Produce building. “Our latest project is obviously the Banner Art Project,” he says. “Since Main Street is a hodge podge of businesses and lacks a real identity, we are hoping that Main Street will eventually become an ‘arts district.’ This banner project is our first step.”
    Ron says Destin has a great number of artists in the community, but no central area where their work can be seen. “That’s one reason why Main St. would be a great place to have an arts district,” he says. “There are some warehouses and vacant buildings that could be converted to art galleries.” And, he hopes the banners will help bring a new appreciation of Main Street for what it can become. And maybe get folks to slow down a little and enjoy the ride.

    For the banner initiative, Ron says the Alliance is looking for additional sponsors that will commit $700 a year to sponsor a banner pole. All funds coming from the sponsorships go toward creating and displaying the banners. “We need a total of eight sponsors to be fully funded for this project,” he says. There are already five on board—Howard Group, The Local Market, Century 21 Blue Marlin, La Paz, and J Ely Business Services. Each sponsor will be recognized with a plaque hanging from the bottom of the banner.

    On behalf of the Alliance, Ron says he is thankful to the artists, local businesses, and city of Destin for helping realize his dream of Destin being the best hometown it can be. At the end of the year, the Alliance will host a gathering to celebrate the artists, the art and the sponsors. Each piece of artwork will be available to purchase and proceeds will funnel into future art projects.

    To connect further with the “Destin Banner Art Project,” visit Facebook/Destin Banner Art Project. To become a sponsor, contact Ron at ronsanstead@hotmail.com.