by Anne Hunter
Local artist Francisco Adaro and gallerist Brooke Gontarek met at a famous open air art market in Buenos Aires. “Every weekend all the artists would come out and set up in the street and sell their art, tango dancers dance in the street and musicians play music. It’s amazing,” says Gontarek.
Little did Brooke know then, that she would become host, along with her husband Francisco and artist Allison Wickey, to the 30A Art Market, a new open air art market that the creative trio launched this June at The Hub in Watersound. The market runs every Wednesday from 5PM to 8PM. It does not charge artists to participate, but it does require that they paint live. “The timing was right, especially since Fran and Allison had just gotten back from talking to the town planner of Seaside about ways to introduce art back to the area,” says the gallerist.
The 30A art scene began brewing 35-years ago, spurred by the inception of Seaside.
The first art walk on 30A started, in 2006, when Eileen West, Wendy Mignot and Tracy Lewis met to discuss bringing artistic awareness to Ruskin Place, which was originally planned to be an arts colony. “Ruskin Place is privately owned by the homeowners, so we had to come up with something they would like to have in their front yard,” recalls West. “An art walk seemed to fill the bill. Once a month, on the first Friday, the galleries would create a new show in Ruskin Park. We would have wine and hors d’oeuvres and get live music on the bandstand. The idea was to incorporate as many art forms as we could for opening night.” By the next first Friday, all of the galleries were open with shows, some with champagne and smoked salmon. A band played in the park while art lovers danced. “We had succeeded in driving sales in the off-season and giving the locals a treat. The art walk became the monthly event not to miss in SOWAL.”
The Seaside First Friday Art Walk concept took off as 30A towns, galleries and artists began hosting art events throughout the year. Five years ago, Aaron Sutton saw a need to join their efforts and started The Artists of 30A, a local artist gallery map and an informational website. “I’ve visited other art communities around the country. They usually have one thing in common, a map that helps visitors find the art galleries.” The Artists of 30A ultimately united the galleries and artists on the first Friday of each month for a collective event called, 30A Art Walk.
Wendy Mignot revitalized the First Friday Art Walk for Seaside in 2017. “Seaside began the tradition,” says Sutton. “We thought all of South Walton should support it, since galleries and artists are popping up everywhere. The existing art map was the first and most obvious way to promote a 30A Art Walk, so we went for it.” Lowkylzart is working to expand the 30A Art Walk, with the help of Sunshine Shuttle, to include even more local artists at shuttle stops.
In 2006, while the Seaside First Friday Art Walk was taking shape, Art in the Park, an annual event hosted by Watercolor, was forming in the mind of its creator, Hillary Fosdyck. “When I became the Art of Living Director for St Joe, I was tasked with creating an annual event program for Watercolor that would bring the community together but also bring people into the community.” Art in the Park is now in its thirteenth year.
Coalescing the burgeoning 30A art scene traces back to ArtsQuest and to the year 1998 when Billie Gaffrey turned Seaside’s Via Colori into a formidable fundraiser. “It was a trademark event,” explains the Seaside art teacher, “you did not have to be an artist to participate, we all worked together.”