To paraphrase a great sage, you can't always get what you want but if you try sometimes you get what you need.
What some Gulfport artists wanted was the ability to sell their work from home studios, something like Historic Kenwood's "artist enclave." That idea didn't fly with Gulfport's city managers, at least not for now. What the artists got instead was approval to do a community art event devoted to the works of local artists, dubbed “Art in the Yard.”
Gulfport Art in the Yard
Sat. March 27, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Free to attend.
See map of locations via tinyurl.com/gulfportart
And while it may not be what they originally wanted, the event gives the artists what they need—more visibility and the chance to make some dollars without splitting proceeds with a retailer, website or gallery.
Art in the Yard was actually Plan B for Margo Dalgetty, a former art teacher turned full-time art maker and Gulfport resident. Dalgetty's Plan A— the original idea she presented to the city—was to designate Gulfport an official artist village where artists can work and sell from their homes.
"When I was looking to move to Florida five years ago, I Googled 'artist enclaves' and 'art villages' and Gulfport didn’t come up in my search. Bradenton’s Village of the Arts did and Sarasota’s Towles Court did, as did Matlacha. I found Gulfport when I started looking for residential/commercial property, which I ultimately wasn’t able to afford,” Dalgetty tells Creative Loafing Tampa Bay.
"But a live/work arrangement was my real dream because it’s the most affordable way to thrive as an artist. The enclave concept would allow this for the artists and would put Gulfport on the bigger map as an art town rather than just the local map as an art community."
Gulfport city council member April Thanos says the idea of live/work zoning for artists is not out of the question, but "Art in the Yard was an easy, quick thing we could do, kind of a no- brainer… The artist enclave takes planning, resources, and money in the time of Covid when there isn’t any. It just requires more planning and time."
If successful, Art in the Yard could become a regular event like Gulfport's annual ArtJones, a self-guided tour of professional artists' studios.
As street banners, painted mailboxes, fence murals, art walks and art fairs make clear, art is the mother tongue in this beach town of 12,000-plus, and that's good for the local economy.
"When anyone pulls a dollar out of their wallet and spends it at a big box store, that entire dollar leaves the community and never even lands in a local bank," says arts economist Wendy Rosen who has worked with 50 cities to build sustainable creative communities. "But when you spend a dollar with a local artist your money is recycled back in your neighborhood, spent at the local bakery, local cafe, and all those little businesses. If we lose that in our economy we will never be able to regain a middle class."
At the national level, the arts is a money-maker. A 2019 report by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the National Endowment for the Arts notes that the arts contribute $763.6 billion to the US economy—4.2 percent of the GDP—more than transportation or even agriculture.
Whether the arts has a similar impact on an individual artist's wallet is another story. Asked in a Creative Independent 2018 survey to rate their financial stability on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the most secure, only 3% of respondents rated their financial stability at a 9 or 10 with women, African American, Hispanic and Asian artists rating their security lower than white male artists.
Art in the Yard is a small but significant step toward changing the financial future for local artists, while making their works more accessible to their fans. "Gulfport is a very small town with many more artists living here than you would imagine," says painter Nancy Poucher, who is represented by the Brenda McMahon Gallery. "The galleries and venues for selling art are limited. Many Gulfport artists, especially emerging artists, have not been able to find a place to sell their art. It has gotten more difficult to sell online as the competition has grown. Open studios or events like Art in the Yard provide a way to sell directly to customers and people love meeting the creators of the art that they purchase. The more ways that we can make folks aware of all of the artists in Gulfport the better."
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