It might seem unusual for a historical society to develop an arts program, but the Gulfport Historical Society says the idea is right there in its mission statement.
“The mission of GHS is about preserving and celebrating Gulfport’s history and culture, so we see hosting arts programming as a natural extension of the mission,” says Gulfport Historical Society Secretary Amanda Hagood. “In a town like ours, the arts are a very important part of our identity. By helping to highlight and explore the work of local artists, we’re exploring the same questions that frame a lot of our work with Gulfport’s history: What does it mean to be part of a community?”
The Gulfport Arts Center is located in the City of Imagination building in Chase Park, between the two dog parks. Ciara Carinci, who previously ran the City of Imagination there, will work in collaboration with GHS to merge the two arts programs. Plans include exhibits from Florida artists and other art and cultural events. They also plan monthly art exhibits, with an emphasis on Gulfport and other local artists.
“Having two separate buildings allows us many advantages, including more wall space and the ability to offer separate or complementary events and programs,” says Hagood.
One ongoing program that will continue is the Abstract Art for Autism and other Special Abilities that will now fall under the GHS umbrella. The non-profit works with children and adults with physical, developmental or neurological challenges. The popular Art Exhibit Opening and Fundraiser events help bring out hidden artistic talents and enhance self-esteem – and are a big crowd pleaser.
“Our events have really grown,” says Caroline Duvoe, president of the non-profit and owner at Studio Duvoe. “Our last opening was so crowded people were lined up outside to get in.”
Duvoe says the art workshops are offered at no cost to students with challenges. When an artwork is sold, the artist receives half of the selling price and the other half goes to the non-profit. Duvoe will continue to run the bi-monthly workshops and monthly art openings on Third Saturdays, with the GHS and Gulfport Arts Center helping to support the cost of the instruction. In addition to abstract art, other activities, such as Improv, woodworking, clay and anime have been added, with more planned for the future.
“We had to back off during COVID-19 because of student health issues,” said Duvoe, “but once it’s safe, we’re planning to continue our service to the community.”
Hagood says the art center has plans to integrate with existing art events, such as the Gulfport Art & Gallery Walk.
“We are excited about this for two reasons. First, it allows us to provide a great venue for emerging artists and tie that into this fantastic local event,” said Hagood, “and second, because we would like more visitors to Gulfport to know about the great things happening in Chase Park. It’s just off the main route but worth a couple of extra steps.”
Like everything else, the Gulfport Arts Center is in a holding pattern due to the pandemic, says Hagood, and there is no plan to roll out the programs until city facilities have fully opened at full capacity but excitement is already building.
“We’re better able to support our humanities-focused mission when we think in an interdisciplinary way: How could an art show help to creatively explore a historical moment or topic? Or, starting with a historical framework, what role did the arts play in building the fortunes of our particular part of the world?”
They do need volunteers to clean, paint and help spruce up the facility but currently the number of volunteers working in a space at any given time is limited to two. They also have a wish list of items for those who want to donate. For more, contact Daun Fletcher, GHS operations manager, at info@gulfporthistorical society.org.