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Checking Out Charleston's Culinary Scene with Charleston Culinary Tours (February 2014)

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Experience Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island (June 2013)

Build Your Own Memorable Experience in Columbus, Georgia (May 2013)

South Walton’s Art Culture: People Behind the Creations (May 2013)

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Published: May 2013
South Walton’s Art Culture: People Behind the Creations  

No doubt about it, there’s something special about South Walton. Located in northwest Florida panhandle, the 26-mile stretch of beach and 16 distinctive communities draws in many looking for a different type of beach getaway.

But this atmosphere isn’t only limited to vacationers, but to residents as well, especially those who are inspired by the surroundings to create.



“I take something that someone has thrown away and make it into art.”

Andy Saczynski admits he is a man of few words, and prefers to “let his work speak for itself.” The 2013 South Walton Artist of the Year finds inspiration for his folk art from the architecture, landscape (“Western Lake...the natural beauty of the area”), music and wildlife that surrounds him in South Walton. As for his materials, nearly everything is fair game. Whether its wood found on a local hiking trail or an item washed ashore during a storm, he can use it in some way.

"I work with power tools and junk. I take something that someone has thrown away and make it into art."

When you see his work, it’s possible to see everything from acrylic, wood, metal, copper and bits of musical instruments.

Yes, musical instruments.

Saczynski developed his interest of taking apart instruments back in high school. He played guitar a little, but never truly learned it, so he decided to take it apart and turn it into a lamp. Now pieces of old instruments are used through his pieces.

He also listens to music as he creates at his studio-gallery in Grayton Beach, and infuses the vibe of the songs into his paintings.

Saczynski says it takes about 15 to 40 hours to complete his pieces. Multi-tasking, he works on two to three at a time to prevent artist's block.

“There is an amazing palette out there (the beach), and it needs to be shown. If it isn’t shown, people don’t see it.”

After 23 years in Atlanta, Tom Crow said it was “time to go.” The professional advertising photographer looked all over the country for a new place to call home, and discovered Rosemary Beach when he came to the area to visit a friend. It was during that visit he realized he found “a little gem.”

He began with a small space on Main Street, and later enlarged it to house an art gallery, a store and photography studio. He found that with his new lifestyle, he had time to work on his art, something he couldn’t do while in Atlanta.

As for his art, he chooses to shoot the subject in it element and then recompose it on a white background. Calling it “authentic photography,” he admits that passes a potential subject at least 50 times before it catches his eye.

When talking about the artist community in Rosemary Beach and South Walton, Crows says, “it’s burgeoning. There’s room for more enhancement, and more artists would enrich the area even further.

“I hope one day Rosemary Beach is thought of the same way as Santa Fe. You say Santa Fe, and people think art, turquoise and silver. I want people to think art when they hear Rosemary Beach.”

He adds, “there is an amazing palette out there (the beach), and it needs to be shown. If it isn’t shown, people don’t see it.”

“I immediately knew this was the place I needed to be...”

Allison Wickey recalls how she found her gallery space in Rosemary Beach.

“I was down here one day, and happened to look inside the gallery window. I immediately knew this was the place I needed to be, so I contacted the owner.”

Two years later after working with the owner, she took over the gallery. She has kept it small, only showing about 17 artists, many local and a few honorary artists.

“I try to show artists that are up and coming.”

She believes in a non-intimidating atmosphere that makes her gallery an experience for all.

“It’s a different type of gallery. It’s fun.”

If fact, when you drop in, she might be working in the back.

It’s those personalized touches that led to the gallery being recognized as the 2012 Best Art Gallery on the Emerald Coast.

And it was her artwork that led to Wickey being named the 2011 South Walton Artist of the Year. Calling it a “great opportunity,” she says that it allowed to immerse herself in the community and meet a lot of people.

The former muralist and faux finisher paint, who know “paints for herself,”  uses a 13-step, four-day process that involves venetian plaster, acrylic paint, glazes and an orbital sander to create her pieces on wooden ‘frames’. She adds that each piece can have 10 layers or four layers, and no two are the same.

She draws her inspiration from colors, and also loves the shapes and lines of the beach. Her favorite scene to paint is South Walton’s Western Lake.

“I love the trees. You see the dunes, the lake and the gulf, which are all straight lines; and then the trees, which are perpendicular lines. People are drawn to it.”

“It’s very much laid-back and artsy feel here.”

Allison Craft always painted, but wanted to find something creative that was smaller, lighter and traveled easier when her and her family went to the beach. So, she turned to jewelry making.  And the former Albany, Ga. art teacher found her niche.

“It was amazing,” she recalls. “It completely took off. Jewelry making came naturally.”

Using leather and pearls and accents of hand tooled metal work and semi-precious stones to create her custom jewelry, she says the most time-consuming part are the pearls, since every one of them has to be drilled. She admits, too, that she isn’t a ‘string-of-pearls’ type person, but when

she saw the pearls she currently works with, she knew they were ‘her.’ Currently she is beginning to move more toward incorporating metal into her designs.

All of her pieces are created on-site in her gallery at Grayton Beach. Whether it’s a necklace or a bracelet or another piece, it can take anywhere from five minutes to four hours to complete. Craft says it all comes down to the design.

Selected as the 2012 South Walton Artist of the Year, she says it was a “huge honor.”

“I had wanted to apply for years, but waited so I could have dedicated the time that comes with the responsibility. I was the first jewelry maker to be artist of the year, which was a huge honor.”

When it comes to being a part of South Walton community, Craft loves it.

“It’s very much laid-back and artsy feel here. There is such a diverse group of people who live and work here. It’s a perfect fit.”

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