The Escape to Create artist residency program provides a vessel for creativity By Wendy O. Dixon
Creative types sometimes need a change of scenery to nurture their artistry. The natural beauty of the gentle coastline of Northwest Florida — as well as the inspirational treasure that is Seaside — seduces artists, poets, novelists, musicians, playwrights and composers from all over. Each winter, Seaside plays host to a spectrum of artists who can immerse themselves in their work.
Escape to Create (E2C), a temporary artist residency program, was founded by Seaside homeowners as an interactive residential retreat available to writers, scholars, composers and visual artists from emerging to mid-career. It is the only such residency of its kind in the Florida Gulf region, and has welcomed artists to 30A since 1993.
Seaside provides a unique setting for this multi-disciplinary residential retreat. A meaningful component of Seaside’s civic life, E2C has gained national attention for its impact on the local community and in the creative lives of the artists. And while the fortunate few who are awarded a spot in the program share their talents, they add to the thriving cultural flavor of Seaside, drawing audiences from all over North Florida.
The heart of the Escape To Create experience is the gift of time and place to artists fully engaged in creative ideas, says Marsha Dowler, president of the board. Housed in private cottages donated in support of their projects, artists enjoy complete immersion in their work balanced with opportunities for cross-disciplinary dialogue in an intimate group setting.
Dowler is excited about the wide variety of artists who attended this year. “The diversity of the arts as they are represented by the artists’ works, and the depth of talent we had this year is a whole new hallmark to Escape to Create,” she says.
Area restaurants and markets provide E2C’s weekly “soup kitchen,” a tradition that brings the group of no more than eight artists together in the casual intimacy of a private home. E2C artists are celebrated in programs and salons produced as community service. Readings, performances, lectures, and exhibits take place in the intimate venues, each distinguished for architectural design. Educational outreach brings a larger world to schools located in an underserved county. And just a short stroll away, the beauty of the Gulf of Mexico is a constant source of creative inspiration, reflection, and renewal.
Dowler sees the program as a benefit for everyone in Seaside, including those temporary residents. “We are accumulating a list of distinguished artists here,” she says. “The collective body of work that bubbled out of this experience is something that this community takes a lot of pride in. It’s a legacy, not just for the community but for all our artists.”
Meet this year’s featured artists at www.Escape2Create.org/Artists.