Armed with just an idea, Gloria Austin, working with Ann Comforter and Anna Marie Canatella, contacted the schools to see if there were children interested in the visual arts. When invited plein air artists were asked if they would be willing to assist, the response was so overwhelming, there were more artists than children. Several artists revealed that their own experiences with an artist mentor had turned their whole world around and they have been painting ever since. This was their way to give back to the community. The logistics of getting the children from Wewahitchka, Port St Joe, and Apalachicola to a location were worked out and on Tuesday, May 15, 2007, a group of 17 students met their mentor artists in Lafayette Park, Apalachicola to begin the first Student Paint-Out of the Forgotten Coast. Each artist spent approximately 3-4 hours with their young artist, either painting along side of them or just instructing them as they painted. Sandy Hodges of Port St Joe teamed up with Oregon artist, Gene Constanza. When asked what she thought, her first response was ‘WOW’ Can you believe he took the time to show me all of this… look at the picture I painted…I just love it...but you know what is most special, Mr. Constanza gave me the picture he painted!” Each student artist was also given a set of oil paints and canvas for this event by GALA, thanks to a grant from the Christian Development Community.
Kim Harrison, Executive Director of GALA, was beaming as she discussed the success of the Student Paint-Out. “Just look at the talent these artists have! This was the first student paint-out but already plans are being discussed to enlarge this part of the event and add workshops for students and adults with the artist. I believe this is going to become the premier art event in the region. It has a life of its own and the community has completely embraced it.” The student art was displayed during the Wet Room Reception, Exhibit, and Art Sale held in the Apalachicola Museum of Art on Wednesday, May 16.
The plein air artists paintied along the beaches and waterways of Mexico Beach and the public is invited to stop and visit with them as they painted. These paintings were displayed at the Patrons Extravaganza Dinner and Art Sale held at the St Joe Marina, Port St Joe, Saturday, May 19, 6:30 EST. The Afternoon Art in the Park is on Sunday, May 20 and was free to the public.