By Samantha Lambert
The Oxford Dictionary defines art as the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as a painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.
In Fort Walton Beach, there is a place where one can enjoy great works of art from great regional artists at great prices. That place is HHArts.
HHArts was created by Helen Harris and her husband Eric, both of whom are from New York and moved to Fort Walton Beach in 2006. Most of Eric’s family already lived here. Helen grew up in Floral Park, New York. She attended college out of state but came back to New York after two years and attended the Fashion Institute of Technology.
She then worked retail for four and a half years before joining the reservations department at United Airlines. After deregulation and a buyout, Helen transferred to Lufthansa Airlines where she worked in the ticketing department for 21 years. She retired in 2005.
Helen and Eric married in 1982. Eric grew up in Queens and joined an electrical union after high school. He was drafted in 1966 and spent time in Vietnam. When he came back to the states, he went to college and then went to work for major companies in engineering along with being an electrician. In 2001, he started his own electrical contracting business. Eric also retired in 2005.
“I was always drawing and painting,” Helen says. “In 2003, I started really getting back into art and took classes in oils.” When the couple moved to Fort Walton Beach, she joined the Arts and Design Society, a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to sponsor, stimulate and promote art in its many phases and to further the intelligent appreciation of all forms of the arts within our community. The organization was started 62 years ago.
Helen became very involved with ADSO and was elected president of the group a year after she joined. She was the president for four years and is presently serving as vice-president. When she and Eric moved into a house in Fort Walton Beach, she used the guest room as her art studio. At that point, Eric started talking about opening a gallery. They found a perfect location at 100 Beal Parkway.
HHArts opened in April 2015. Its purpose is to support local artists and help sell their fine and varied work. Artists can rent a space to display their artwork for $40 a month. There is a three-month commitment and a two-week notice before leaving.
“That is their space. We receive no commission,” says Helen. “We do ask that the artist volunteer once a month to sit in the gallery when it is open.” HHArts offers gallery space, studio space, classes, lectures, and workshops. Children’s classes are offered on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 to 5 PM. On the outside wall of the building are various murals created by local artists.
A four-week mosaic class starts the first Saturday in September from 10 AM to 2:30 PM. The cost is $80, cash or check, and materials are included. To sign up, contact Thalia Newton at 850-974-9882 or email@example.com.
“I like a lot of different art,” Helen says. “I have tried every kind of art there is and have won many awards.” Helen has most recently enjoyed doing encaustic wax classes at the Center for Lifetime Learning. Many of Helen’s pieces are on display at HHArts.
Coming up next for HH Arts—their yearly involvement with ADSO’s Fine Arts Show at the Northwest Florida Fairgrounds this fall. It’s an ideal place for both established and aspiring artists to showcase their work.