As Gulfport’s first Gulfport Merchants Chamber (GMC) artist in residence, Gary Alpers has made his acrylic abstract art vision a business reality.
The new $1,000 annual artist grant is “a way for us to give back to the arts community,” said GMC President Barbara Banno.
Funding for the grant comes from Gecko World earnings. The combination of annual events named Art Gecko, Gecko Ball and Gecko Fest are the biggest fundraisers for the non-profit business group. In 2018, a total of $5,500 was earned and $4,500 was donated to three local charities.
Banno said the new grant is a great way to build up fledgling artists and Gulfport’s art community.
Upon receiving the grant, the artist is given $500 to help with set up costs for a series of art walks, said Banno. Next, the grant covers the fee for 10 art walks within 12 months. At the end of the process, the artist receives the remaining $250.
The evening art walks in Gulfport are held on the first Friday and third Saturday of each month beginning at 6 p.m. Street vendors display their works under tents for several blocks along Beach Boulevard starting near the Casino. Typically, storefront arts-related businesses along Beach Boulevard are also open during art walks.
Banno said the GMC hopes to support two artists with grants in 2019.
“I heard about the grant and thought about it and had actually just started painting a few months before that,” said Alpers. “I was like, ‘Why waste my time on applying because I’m not going to get it. There are other people out there who have been doing art for a lot longer than me who will probably apply.’ I was talking myself out of it. Then, Terry Foster asked me if I had applied, yet.”
Foster was a local social media and publicity expert who assisted the GMC and other local non-profits and businesses with their promotional needs.
A few weeks after Alpers applied, he was notified he had been awarded the grant.
“I was beside myself because one of my goals was to participate in the art walk,” he said.
For the inaugural Rise and Shine Artist Grant in the 2018-2019 cycle, the application process required local artists to submit several things by May 31, including a short resume, artist statement and four images of completed artwork. The recipient was publically announced at Gecko Ball on August 25, 2018.