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‘You can’t have fine art next to handmade soaps’ at the Gulfport ArtWalk

Bill DeYoung



After 17 years, Gulfport’s First Friday ArtWalk was getting a little stale, Brenda McMahon believed.

McMahon is a ceramics artist, and proprietor of the Brenda McMahon Gallery on Beach Boulevard. She is also head of the arts committee for the Gulfport Merchants Chamber, which organizes and implements the monthly event.

Thursday on The Catalyst Sessions, McMahon discussed the long road and numerous conversations that led to the new and improved First Friday ArtWalk, which returns to Gulfport – in person – today from 5 to 8 p.m.

Overhaul plans, she explained, had begun well before the pandemic put everything on hold.

“We really took a lot of time to work on the redesign of it. Gulfport was one of the first art walks in the region, in 1993, and it was unusual in its time. Now every city has an art walk.

“We felt the need to pull it back, re-define it, freshen it up, make it a little more contemporary – and then have a new kind of coming out party, so to speak. Where we show our new design.”

Changes include the separation into two distinct stroll-the-street events: The Friday art walks will be devoted to fine art, juried and themed every month, with the Third Saturday IndieFaire makers’ market including crafts and other items.

“We separated the concepts,” McMahon explained, “and said ‘Let’s really have an art walk.’ Because Gulfport is filled with incredible artists. And I would ask all these artists, ‘Do you ever show at the art walk?’ And they’d say ‘No way.’ Because it was out of context. You can’t have fine art next to handmade soaps. It just doesn’t work.

“There’s nothing wrong with handmade soaps, and there’s nothing wrong with fine art. But you have to separate the two.”

Today’s theme is Metamorphosis: Art For Hope and Healing. “The theme is kind of a neat way for an artist to take a concept, and see how their work fits into that concept, or make something relating to the concept,” McMahon said.

What it boils down to is this: “What have the past six to eight months been like, in your experience?”

Details are here.


Friday on The Catalyst Sessions: The Palladium Theater is bringing back live performances this weekend. We’ll talk with executive director Paul Wilborn about the challenges of social distancing.

Streaming weekdays at 7 p.m. on the Catalyst Facebook page. All episodes are archived on our YouTube channel.

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1 Comment

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    Phil Kline

    October 7, 2020at7:11 am

    Sounds good to me- an improvement.

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