By Zandra Wolfgram
Tony and Vivian Zack have been collaborating as a devoted “art team” for more than 22 years in their Destin space called Zack’s 5th Avenue Art Studio. The unique individual styles of these two self-taught artists combine to create their signature whimsical form of funky folk art.
The Zacks are always up for new adventures and creative challenges, and they love to try out new art techniques, so they are familiar with “firsts.” But being selected as the 2017 Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation Festival of the Arts poster contest winners was one first that surprised even them.
“I’m not the bridesmaid anymore, I’m the groom!” Tony quips of his first-time win in the annual poster contest.
Though they have participated in the Festival of the Arts for 19 years (1998 was their inaugural year) and entered the poster contest from time to time, this is the first year they have been honored as the winners.
The winning mixed media (metal, leather and paper on painted wood) is entitled “Can’t Catch Me” and depicts a majestic mermaid clad in a pink butterfly bikini with flower blossoms woven through her flaming hair as she floats effortlessly in emerald waters amid turtles and sea swirls.
As the poster art contest winners, the Zacks will receive a cash prize of $500. Their winning artwork will be used to promote the 22nd Annual Festival of the Arts by being prominently showcased on the official festival poster, postcards, the festival guide, t-shirts and souvenirs, on the MKAF website, Facebook page and more.
This creative couple met in 1994 as employees of Big Kahuna’s in Destin, where Tony, a carpenter by trade, carved many of the attraction’s wooden tiki-style pillars and sculptures from a chainsaw. Vivian has moved on from her stint as a gem assayer for a mining attraction no longer in operation, but Tony still works there full-time overseeing all daily maintenance.
Before trying her hand at a few different entrepreneurial businesses along the Emerald Coast, Vivian entertained audiences all over the nation (and on cruise ships) as a professional singer. Now she focuses her time on the couple’s artwork and custom commissions, taking the lead on their line of Zack Cats—whimsical canisters and mugs depicting the likeness of the couples’ cat, Kiki.
Making art together was always by design. “We were looking for something we could do together as an outlet for our creativity,” says Vivian. “Now it is our passion.”
When they are not collaborating on a new direction for their artwork, you can find this good humored, gypsy-hearted couple traveling cross-country by car.
“We stay off the interstate and try different routes. If the map says it’ll take three days, we’ll spend eight enjoying the sights along the way,” Tony says.
“When you travel, you see things differently when you come home, and that’s what makes our art what it is. We have different creative minds that combine when we collaborate on art,” adds Vivian.
When you visit the Zacks at the festival—set for Oct. 28 and 29 at the Mattie Kelly Cultural Arts Village in Destin—your congratulations will be especially appreciated. In addition to their poster art kudos, they will be celebrating Vivian’s birthday and their 18th wedding anniversary.
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