The North Beaches Art Walk began in 2007 with the vision of local art-industry professionals JoAnne Adams, Linda Stewart and Alice Gartland. The women wanted to create an art walk tradition at the beaches, similar to the one already thriving in downtown Jacksonville.
What started with about 30 local artists seven years ago has grown to nearly 60 participants today including painters, potters, woodworkers, accessory designers and musicians.
Every third Thursday of the month, the streets of the Atlantic Beach Town Center explode with neighborhood art enthusiasts as well as tourists enjoying the sights, sounds and tastes of the event.
Local restaurants get into the groove with performances from live bands, and food and drink specials. With the support of the cities of Atlantic Beach and Neptune Beach, neighborhood businesses donate sidewalk space for the artists’ pop-up galleries.
Aiming to infuse higher culture and freshness into the affair, newly appointed North Beaches Art Walk
co-directors Katherine Makepeace and Carolyn McCarthy are re-imagining the experience, adding more local
fine artists, changing the flow of the booths and creating a voice of the art walk by engaging the community through social media.
“The art walk is about helping the community and helping the artists,” says Makepeace.
On a recent spring evening in Atlantic Beach, artist Gary Mack thoughtfully propped small canvas reproductions of his well-known beach and street scenes on a table in front of Ragtime Tavern, as the sounds of happy-hour and the Motown Junkies band poured from the restaurant’s open windows.
Art and life became impossible to separate that evening, as the scenes depicted in Mack’s paintings played out on the streets around him. The spring sun set over the North Beaches Art Walk, and a flurry of art enthusiasts, neighborhood dwellers, dog-owners and tourists bumped along the sidewalks, enjoying the local creations, music, food and dollar-drafts on offer at the beachside party.
“You’re a rock star,” a passerby shouts to Mack, who reaches out to shake the admirer’s hand through a crowd of people.
Mack has lived and worked in Atlantic Beach for more than 30 years and has been painting oils since the ‘70s. With a style that has become instantly recognizable on the First Coast, Mack likes to imbue a “little Key West” into his North Florida landscapes, which celebrate lifestyles of both the beach and town.
“I look forward to the art walk every month,” Mack says, scanning the crowd for friendly faces. “It brings out the community and gives out-of-town visitors something to do. I like the idea of sending a little Florida back to the frozen north.”
Skimmer Wing Mosaic
One of the newer artists to join the ensemble of talent is Terri Bush, owner of Skimmer Wing Mosaic. Her tiny display made a bold statement with elegantly edgy pieces like a deer skull adorned with an array of colored glass and a hand-carved footstool with an intricate sunburst design set in its top.
“On the bottom of the stool somebody had carved, a Mary Christmas love Ralph,” Bush says, holding the stool. “I just loved it.”
Bush says she uses only old and repurposed materials in her work. One of her most prized creations is a mosaic picture of a wave set inside an antique mirror frame. Standing at her table near Red Daisy gift shop, she estimates the design took her more than 100 hours of labor, including the time it took to hand cut the tiny glass shapes, sketch the pattern and lay the mosaics.
“Some pieces I’d have a hard time letting go of.” she says, running her hand across the top of the framed wave, titled Acqua.
Cabbage Head Potters
No art walk would be complete without its resident potter, and Phyllis Moore of Cabbage Head Potters didn’t disappoint. The veteran artisan let the cheerful personality of her serving plates, teapots and coffee mugs attract customers as she reclined in a folding chair and enjoyed the atmosphere surrounding her set-up near Ragtime Tavern.
Moore handcrafts her pottery in her garage studio, where she spins her platters to life on a potter’s wheel, carefully carving and painting designs into the clay, and glazing and firing the finished pieces to high-gloss shades of taupe and blue.
“I like dragonflies, and I can actually draw them,” she said of her signature wares bearing the winged insect.
Although her work reflects a love of nature, the Cabbage Head potter said that the name of her company was not born out of an affinity for cabbage but by one of her grandmother’s old sayings.
“Two heads are better than one, when one’s a cabbage head,” she said, laughing.