GULFPORT – The city of Gulfport celebrates the 20th anniversary of its well-known Art Walk on Friday, Nov. 1.
A forerunner of similar events that are now common throughout Tampa Bay, Gulfport’s Art Walk now takes place on the first Friday and third Saturday of each month, year-round from 6 to 10 p.m. Local and visiting artists and crafters line the sidewalks of scenic Beach Boulevard in Gulfport’s historic Waterfront District.
For the 20th Anniversary Celebration, organizers will offer a display of Art Walk memorabilia, a birthday cake to share with visitors, drawings for prizes donated by local merchants, and awards to artists participating for the evening. Gulfport City officials will be on hand to help commemorate the event. Cake will be served and awards presented in a brief ceremony beginning at 7:30 p.m. in front of Mangia Gourmet, 2930 Beach Blvd. S.
The Gulfport Merchants Association has announced a “Call for Artists” to participate in celebration. A $200 “Best of Show” juried award will be presented during the evening. Veteran Art Walk participants will also be recognized with awards in a variety of categories. Artists interested in participating should contact Suzanne King by email to email@example.com as soon as possible.
The first Gulfport Art Walk, originally referred to as “Gallery Walk,” took place on the first Friday, Nov. 5, 1993. At that time, six recently-opened independent art galleries on a single block of Beach Boulevard banded together to draw attention to their burgeoning gallery scene. An advertisement in the local newspaper announced the first Gallery Walk, and participants put out paper bag luminaries to direct visitors to the galleries, each of which offered refreshments.
The original participants were Sabal Palm Galleries (“tropical” and local art), Lynne Brown Fine Arts (Brown’s portraits and other art works), Troyka Art Gallery (Russian and European artifacts), Outta My Gourd (gourd and fiber art and basketry by Lisa Coopersmith), Kaleidoscope (stained glass work by Roger Turner), and Griffin Studio (paintings and pottery by Nan and Bill Griffin).
Gulfport’s Gallery Walk proved successful and drew increasing numbers of both locals and visitors to the first Friday event. As the event grew, a 1994 full-page feature by the St. Petersburg Times art critic highlighting the Gulfport art scene resulted in a “mob” of visitors that same evening, according to Turner. Lines of people waited to get into galleries.
As Turner recalls, “We felt like we had arrived!”
By that time, additional galleries were opened, as others closed. A year after its origin, the terms “Gallery Walk” and “Art Walk” were often used interchangeably. Also at this time, gallery owners and locals began referring to the Waterfront District, particularly along Beach Boulevard, as the “Art Village.” The third Saturday Art Walk, originally called the “Saturday Night Stroll,” was added to the calendar in 1999. Now sponsored by the Gulfport Merchants Association, Art Walk expanded to include several blocks of outdoor exhibits by local and visiting artists several years ago.
Gulfport’s status as an “Art Village” has remained attached through the years, although the number of galleries has ebbed and flowed over time. An insurgence of restaurants to the same area in recent years has created an equally strong identity as a dining hub.
Artists living and working in Gulfport continue to maintain a strong presence in the small, eclectic city, and a handful of galleries and retailers that include original art work in their mix add to the current Art Walk offerings. The combination of art and artists indoors and out, a variety of dining choices, live entertainment venues, street performers, and the “Old Florida” charm of the Gulfport Waterfront District combine to create today’s lively Art Walk scene.
Free parking and free trolley service to and from off-site parking areas is available during each Art Walk.
The Industrial Arts Center of Gulfport maintains quarters in Gulfport after a recent relocation to the “Alley of the Arts” off 29th Avenue South, near Beach Boulevard. Demonstrations and classes in hot glass-blowing and metal forging are offered at the IACG.
The nearby City of Imagination at Gulfport Arts Center, 2726 54th St. S., offers a venue for classes, exhibits and performances in a variety of visual and other art forms.
The Gulfport Historical Society will continue the celebration of Art Walk’s 20th Anniversary by organizing memorabilia related to the history of Art Walk, artists in Gulfport and the growth of the “Art Village.” Items will be displayed during the evening of the Anniversary event and will continue to be displayed at the Gulfport Historical Museum, 5301 28th Ave. S., through the month of November.
The Historical Society’s next monthly “Porch Party” on Nov. 15 will focus on the history of Gulfport’s Art Walk, Artists and Galleries. The event begins at 6:30 p.m. and includes a speaker, as well as a social hour and hors d’oeuvre, with visitors invited to bring food of their own to share, as well as their own beverages of choice. Donations to the Society during their third Friday Porch Parties are encouraged.
For more information on the 20th Anniversary Art Walk Celebration, contact Daniel Hodge by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 727-366-4086.