My family lives out on the panhandle between Panama City Beach and Destin...a pristine stretch of land devoid of rows of high rise condos instead opting for more high end housing communities mostly located across the street from the beach on 30A. These are places that have been extremely well planned and designed and offer some of the highest priced zip codes in the nation, places like Seaside, Watercolor, Rosemary Beach and Alys. Now don't get me wrong, my family do not live in these communities but like most locals live around them on the more affordable outskirts. That's what makes this area great...you have these high end planned "towns" that mingle with the saltier local crowds...so you get nice amenities AND a thriving cultural underbelly that is more often than not supported by the rather affluent tourists.
The area is full of local artists, great musicians, and new and interesting places to go and see both...usually while you are eating fresh seafood and drinking plenty of cold beverages. And that is just what I did with help from my trusty guide and brother, Marc. Music was high on our agenda and my brother seemed to know most of the local bands in town. We saw a couple great bands on different nights...both local and both starting to gain much bigger attention. The Owsley Brothers rocked the house with their own blend of grimy swamp rock mixed with a heavy duty pinch of Sabbath. In contrast The Blue Ribbon Healers(pictured first) plucked and harmonized a bluesy, folky New Orleans rag sound that was absolutely perfect for hanging out a block off the ocean and soaking in the night air and salty breeze. Both bands pictured below, thanks to my wife and her smart phone...and Instagram.
On another adventure just having spent the morning baking on the beach...then eating tender, flaky, fresh Grouper fingers at The Red Bar, we continued our trek to Hurricane Oyster Bar for happy hour...one dollar beers...five dollar a dozen ice cold oysters on the half shell...honestly, you can't beat this place. Just before heading into Hurricane's we stopped in to check out a new studio/gallery space set up by local artist Andy Saczynski. His work is mixed media on board mostly...and I do mean MIXED. This guy seems to toss everything into his work and then unify it all through the use of paint. I see this style down there often but he really pulled it off and took it to another level. His work has a New Orleans/ Gulf Coast/Folk/Outsider/funky feel and his space where he showed and worked was pretty damn nice. Pictured below.
Marc and I spoke with Andy for a while and he was laid back and talked about the risk involved with opening his own public gallery space. He told us that... "Even in this economy, with the encouragement, I felt the time was right in my artistic career to just take a leap of faith and step out and do it."...this was inspirational for me to hear gentle readers because I am working on something very similar right now. In the last couple months or so I have been looking for a new studio space here in Beaver Falls, PA. I met a woman here who was interested in doing the same and has a real passion for the revitalization of this old steel town. We have recently found a wonderful space that looks like it will be perfect. It is an interesting situation that I will get into more later ...it is really a super space. It is a double storefront connected on the inside, brand new renovation in an old brick building on the main street. We will use it as a studio to do our own work from but also rent out studio space to others, have classes for kids and adults, and offer a clean retail gallery space as well. Scary, yes... but doable...YES! We are still in the planning stages and it doesn't look like we will get into the space until August sometime but my goal is to be cranking out work from there for the Fall. Like I said, more to come on this subject down the line.
Meeting other artists and musicians, visiting with my family, and generally removing myself from the murky tub of water that I usually bath in has been hugely beneficial. It allowed for me to step back and reflect and think in a more forward direction. I highly recommend a change of scenery to everybody once in a while. Now I feel more able to focus on whats in front of me like: a two person show at a local art center that is opening in Indiana, PA, making more pots for the wood kiln at Little Mahoning Creek Pottery for firing in the month of July, teaching a graduate level class, "Visual Concepts" during the last summer session for IUP and then heading up to teach a week of ceramics at Chautauqua Institution in New York... AND then really putting my energy into the opening of the new studio space! So stay tuned...change is in the air and there is so much coming up!