Long Island, New York transplant Helen Harris is delighted with her latest venture, HH Arts in Fort Walton Beach. Defined as an all-inclusive art space with artist studios, a gallery, classroom and workshop areas, HH Arts is a welcome addition to the area and a must see.
When the neglected post-war, midcentury-modern building (located at 100 Beal Parkway SW) came on the market, Harris and her husband of 33 years jumped in to buy. “We decided to renovate it ourselves, and the end result could not be more perfect,” says Harris. “This style of architecture, with its high windows and open floor plan, is a blank canvas. A perfect venue to show artists’ work and enough space to provide a variety of classes.”
The light-infused and freshly painted white interior is divided into two sections. Studio and workshop areas occupy one side, and the gallery is located on the other. “After just three months, we are representing 28 artists and have a wait list,” says Harris. “We can offer reasonable rates because we just wish to pay our bills. Our artists commit to rent space for three months at $25 per month, and we ask them to be available to run the gallery once a month.
“My husband and I have been vacationing here for years. But after taking the plunge and deciding to actually move here, I wanted to get back into my creative work. Fort Walton Beach did not have a gallery that could offer both classroom space and a consistent display area for artwork.
“The sine qua non for any artist is to get their work seen. I felt we should and could do that. I wanted to come up with reasonably priced studio space, options for classes and a convenient gallery location for myself and other local artists.”
So far, HH Arts has rented studio space to four artists. There is an onsite kitchen plus two bathrooms, LED lighting throughout, a covered outdoor area for events or Plein-Air painting, and a separate maintenance building. There is also a showcase wall up front where individual artists can highlight an entire body of work.
Currently on display is a photo exhibit by Harris’s husband, Eric. The show features photographs from Vietnam in 1966, where Eric was deployed as a U.S. Army Ranger.
Any art form is acceptable at HH Arts. The look is diverse and eclectic. There are jewelry designers, photographs, decorative mirrors, and works in concrete and pottery. The gallery promotes work in encaustic wax, acrylics, watercolor and oil. All the artists are from the area and most present at local festivals and belong to several local arts organizations.
“We have lots of plans for the future,” says Harris. “Right now we have a call to artists for our outdoor mural panels. There are several spots near our parking lot that could feature large works of art. Artists must submit a design in order to be considered.
“We also hope to have more workshops and regular classes for both kids and adults. I have been teaching for the Center for Lifelong Learning for several years. I would like to involve more artists in that program and eventually offer a range of classes to suit anyone in the area wishing to study.”
Our area needs successful art galleries, and we should all do our part to counter our (untrue) reputation as a cultural wasteland. Support local artists and go visit HH Arts today.
HH Arts is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more info, call (850) 218-2155.