The Gulfport Art Center hosts its first art exhibit

Gulfport Arts Center Steering Committee Members Cheryl Cassdollar, Marissa Dix, Kelly Lapuma, and Anne Minich-Beck 2726 54th St. S.
Jane Ring

The arts are tucked away in a nondescript building between two dog parks in Gulfport. The Gulfport Arts Center is preparing to host its first art exhibit under the auspices of the Gulfport Historical Society. Gulfport-themed exhibition, Show us your golfport, Opens October 7th, and is currently accepting submissions.

This isn’t the first time the little white building at 2726 54th St. has hosted an art event. But the new Gulfport Arts Center will be different from Frank Hilbrandt’s City of Imagination and Carolyn Duvo’s Abstract Art for Autism.

What Hibrand once called a “plain white ugly box,” GAC Steering Committee leader Marissa Dix called it a blank canvas “ready to be painted and created by the colorful and creative personalities of Gulfport and its residents.”

City of Imagination aspired to change the way people look at art. Abstract Art for Autism hopes to empower neurodivergent individuals with art. The new Gulfport Art Center, like most community art centers, wants to provide art for everyone, including children.

The last time The Gabber wrote about the Gulfport Arts Center, in April 2022, the Gulfport Historical Society was still pulling together a steering committee. Now that they have one, with arts professionals and led by Dix, things are moving forward.

When Dix first heard about the Gulfport Historical Society’s goal to reopen the Gulfport Arts Center, she immediately thought of children. An elementary school social worker by day, Dix joined the steering committee to provide input on children’s art shows and classes.

“I feel like kids, even in school, if you ask them what their favorite subject is, they say ‘art!'” Dix told The Gabor, “because they can be creative.”

Scrolling through Gulfport’s Facebook group feeds, Dix also noticed that parents were looking for opportunities to make art with their kids in Gulfport.

He is planning a children’s art program during the holiday season.

Professional artist and steering committee member Kelli Lapuma is excited about the opportunities the center provides for both children and professional artists.

“I think it will open up more opportunities for artists, as well as the ability to share art to help young people learn to express themselves through art,” Lapuma told The Gabbar.

GAC presents their first two art exhibition opportunities for professional artists and children.

Tracy Midulla of Tempus Projects judges the first exhibition, Show us your golfport, An all-ages show that encourages artists to create work that reflects what Gulfport means. According to Dix, there are about 30 slots in the exhibition and 5 to 6 of them are already filled. The artist selected by Midulla for Best of Show wins the cash prize. How does he choose?

Midulla says she is looking for the best piece.

“The best crafted, the most thoughtful, a piece that fits the theme,” she told The Gabor. “When you see it, you know it.”

Midulla is known for performing edgier acts in Tampa. We wondered if it was possible to make something tighter on the theme Show us your golf course.

“I think it’s possible to be strict,” Midulla says, “but I think it’s important for the judge to understand the merits, and I don’t think edge should always be the leading feature, but edge doesn’t hurt. I think edge falls under discretion. I think Really think it should be thought about.”

If you are an artist interested in submitting your work to GAC Show us your golfport, You can view the call for entries online through the Gulfport Historical Society website and send your questions to [email protected] The Gulfport Merchants Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring the exhibit, which will have cash prizes for the top entries.

The holiday program, featuring the art of school-aged children, is up next. Dix says they are in the early stages of this plan.

“We’re hoping the opening will coincide with the tree lighting in Clymer Park,” says Dix. “We want to make it non-sectarian, so it’s not like a Christmas children’s art show, but more like a holiday art show that covers not just Christmas, but the holiday season in general.”

They already have something special planned for younger kids, through Gulfport’s school-age vacation camps. Then, they hope to discuss with local high schools what kind of work these students would be interested in doing. She then plans to contact some high school drama or theater clubs to see if they would be interested in designing some holiday sets for the show.

“We have to keep thinking about what happens next,” Dix says. “I’d like to see something for Black History Month — a black artist opening or a black art opening. Something like that.”

Dix GAC is very passionate about providing opportunities for all types of artists.

“It’s an artists’ town — that’s the identity of Gulfport,” says Dix. “Reopening the center and making it accessible to everyone [is exciting] – those who are just starting out, those who are already established, children, all ages.”

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