Sixteen years after she arrived in Gulfport from upstate New York, ceramic artist Brenda McMahon still thinks there must have been some sort of pixie dust in the air.
She was driving between Florida art shows, selling her work, when she realized she was lost. “I got out of my van and I thought ‘I have no idea where I am, and this place is adorable.’” Within a year, she’d purchased a house.
McMahon is the guest on today’s episode of the Arts Alive! podcast. She’s joined by emerging artist Madie Gotshall, one of the Gulfport Merchant Chamber’s newest “Rise and Shine” grant awardees.
“We always consider Gulfport like an incubator community for young artists and emerging artists,” says McMahon, who headed the chamber for four years. “We want to give you the funds to help to buy your tents and start your small business up.
“And in terms of the mentoring, give you the skills – because the hardest part of any art business is the business part. It’s not the art part – we all love being in the studio! If I could be in the studio more I would, but I’ve got to run my gallery and my ceramic business. Madie’s learning that as well.
“We really pride ourselves on being that kind of a community.”
McMahon’s thumbprint is found all over the city. “I’ve always been a community worker,” she says. “I love the arts and I love working with my artist community.” Back in New York, she organized numerous studio art tours.
She founded Gulfport’s annual Art Jones studio tour in 2017, and was instrumental in transforming the monthly First Friday ArtWalk into a juried fine art show – separating the crafts and other non-fine arts into a separate event, the Third Thursday Indie Fair.
And the Brenda McMahon Gallery was the first in Gulfport to feature new, revolving artist exhibits monthly.
Both McMahon and Gotshall will be at the city’s annual Fine Arts Festival Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., at Veterans Memorial Park (it’s right on the water – Gulfport’s so small, you can’t muss it).
This is what’s known as a “boutique” art festival. “In that there’s 48 to 50 artists … it’s really a nice representation of the arts. And the boutique part means you’re not going to get exhausted walking through 300 booths and walking around.
“And if you find someone and you want to think about it, you can walk around and easily find their booth again.”
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