Artists and business owners might seem like an unlikely match, but in Gulfport, where many artists live and work, such a collaboration has begun. The Gulfport Merchants Association (GMA) and SIK Productions (SIK) have initiated the Adopt an Artist program, which pairs sponsors with local artists to highlight their work at the Gulfport Art and Gallery Walks, held the first Friday and third Saturday of each month.
“We’ve been trying to get this program started for about a year,” said Terry Foster, social media manager for SIK and the GMA. “Adopt an Artist allows artists to showcase what they do.”
For the cost of a booth at the Art Walks, any Gulfport business, organization or resident can sponsor an artist. The artist receives free space and social media marketing. If an artist does not have a booth, sponsors can donate tents, tables or other necessities. To qualify, artists must work in sculpture or paint mediums, photography, folk art, upcycled items, handmade/designed clothing and accessories. Applicants are required to submit three images of their work, then the applications go to the GMA board for approval.
The first artist sponsored through the program was metal artist Tom Pitzen, whose work can be seen throughout Gulfport. Pitzen has created tile and ceramic parking signs for the city, artworks for the Clymer Park Sculpture Garden and a Cheshire Cat for the Gulfport Public Library outdoor reading garden. Pitzen’s work can also be seen at Pitzen Studios, 5437 29th Avenue S. Sponsored by Pia’s Trattoria, his booth was set up outside the popular restaurant during the Third Saturday Art Walk on September 17.
“I had such a great time. Pia’s hospitality and all the great people I met made the evening a success,” said Pitzen. “There are so many artists that live and work in Gulfport but we never see them. They travel to shows and have pieces in galleries outside of our city. I hope that the Adopt an Artist program will encourage these established and up-and-coming artists to come out for Art Walk and help reestablish Gulfport as a true arts destination.”
Artist sponsorships are limited to one artist per each Art Walk, and already there is a waiting list.
“The first event at Pia’s was fabulous. This is the perfect time of year to start,” said Foster.
For more information regarding how local businesses and residents can get involved with Adopt an Artist at an upcoming Gulfport Art and Gallery Walk, email firstname.lastname@example.org.