Seaside hosts resident artists, illuminating the world of the arts to the 30A community By Marsha Dowler
Famed oceanographer Jacques Cousteau once said of the sea, “Once it casts its spell, (it) holds one in its net of wonder forever.” The same holds true about the extraordinarily multifaceted phenomenon of Seaside. There is no singular experience of our beloved town. Architectural and design laboratory, birthplace of New Urbanism, vibrant civic and cultural capital of 30A, beloved family resort — and since 1993, host of one of our nation’s most unique multi-disciplinary arts residencies, Escape To Create (E2C). With the arrival of our artists, we wish you a richly rewarding New Year and hope you will join us in welcoming our distinguished guest-artists as leading innovators of the literary, theater, music and visual arts:
Session I: Jan. 3 – 31
Hailed for charismatic performance and dazzling virtuosity, The Escape Ensemble returns to Seaside following a summer of intense study, competitions and international touring. Celebrated pianist Jacob Mason, cellist Kyle Stachnik, violinist Laurence Brooke and Hannah Culbreth on French Horn are top students at Frost School of Music (University of Miami), New England Conservatory of Music and the University of South Carolina Music School. Their residency is focused on research, arrangement and performance of classical and chamber masterworks. Following two sold-out concert seasons at The REP Theatre, the 2020 Ensemble will perform at The REP Theatre on Saturday, Jan. 11 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 12 at 2 p.m. in a concert celebrating works by Mozart, Chopin, Telemann and American masterworks by Theofanidis, McGee and Hindman. The Ensemble will contribute performance of Renaissance and Baroque liturgical music at The Chapel at Seaside as part of Sunday services throughout January. Their final Chapel performance on Sunday, Jan. 26, will include chamber masterpieces performed as meditative prayer. Throughout their residency, the Ensemble will contribute pop-up performances in Seaside and will visit Coastal Branch Library and Walton County Schools. The Escape Ensemble is under the artistic direction of Dr. Dorothy Hindman, distinguished Escape To Create Composer and Alumnus.
New York writer Sonya Chung is writer-in-residence at Skidmore College and teaches fiction writing at Warren Wilson College. Chung probes the mystery and complexity of human nature in critically praised fiction novels The Loved Ones: A Novel and Long For This World: A Novel. Her numerous works of short fiction and essay have been published in leading U.S. literary publications. A nominee for the Pushcart Prize, Chung is recipient of the Charles Johnson Fiction Award and is a fellow of The MacDowell Colony. Chung dedicates her E2C residency to developing the advanced draft of her third work of fiction. As part of a special Literary Luncheon at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 13, at Coast Branch Library, Chung will read selections from her published works and her novel in process. Chung will visit creative writing students at Walton County High School during her residency.
Singer Songwriter Caroline Cotter’s captivating soprano and awarded original songs of home recall the early works of Mary Chapin Carpenter. A prolific artist and self-taught musician now living in Maine, Cotter produced five albums while touring non-stop around the globe and teaching with the Institute of International Education and the Council on International Educational Exchange. Cotter was Finalist for the 2019 Rocky Mountain Songwriter Showcase Contest, performed in the 2016 30A Singer Songwriter Festival and has since performed at The REP. She will devote her residency to creating a new song collection exploring themes of loss and grief, hope and healing. Cotter will perform new works and audience favorites at The REP Theater on Saturday, Jan. 25, at 7:30 p.m. She offers a weekly songwriting workshop for county schools.
Jeremy Dennis is a contemporary fine art photographer and tribal member of the Shinnecock Indian Nation in Southampton, N.Y. His stunning visual narratives examine indigenous identity, assimilation and traditional storytelling. Among his many honors and awards, Dennis was one of only 10 national recipients of the Dreamstarter Grant from Running Strong For Our American Indian Youth for his series On This Site. For his next series, Rise, the artist created staged supernatural images that transform North American indigenous myths and legends into depictions of actual experiences captured in a photograph. The series was awarded the 2018 Creative Burser Award by Getty Images. A 2016 MFA graduate at Pennsylvania State University, Dennis has exhibited in numerous group and solo exhibitions throughout New York and the Northeast. He is a fellow of a number of our nation’s distinguished artist residencies including Yaddo, Vermont Studio Center and Eyes on Main Street Residency & Festival. His Seaside residency will advance his planned new series, RISE. Dennis is the featured January artist at the Anne Hunter Gallery in Seaside where his digital works will be on exhibit throughout the month. He will also contribute an illustrated artist talk at Coastal Branch Library on Jan. 8, 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. and offers a portrait and collage photography workshop based on storytelling traditions for high school students.
Los Angeles-based writer Todd Kessler is quoted extensively in Malcom Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, the NYT bestseller about visionaries and new world trends. A self-taught writer and filmmaker, Kessler began his career directing short subjects for Sesame Street and as story editor of the internationally syndicated series of Maurice Sendak’s Little Bear. Kessler is best known as the original creator and showrunner of Blues Clues, considered one of the most successful series in the history of children’s television. His work on the show garnered a Peabody Award, seven Emmy nominations, two Television Critics Association awards and five Parent’s Choice awards. Kessler continues to write books and plays for young audiences that promote understanding, self-worth and invite deeper levels of understanding of complex ideas. While in Seaside, Kessler will work with The REP Theatre and students at Seaside Neighborhood School to workshop a new playscript based on his critically praised children’s books The Good Dog and The Bad Cat. Interactive scenes will be read before the entire student body as part of a special presentation for the entire student body near the end of the residency.
Best-selling author and poet Heather Sellers is an awarded professor of English at the University of South Florida (Tampa) and is co-publisher of the micro-press Combine Books. Her first book of fiction, Georgia Underwater, was part of Barnes and Noble’s Discover Great New Writers program. Her works of non-fiction and poetry are widely published in leading anthologies and literary publications. A fellow of Escape To Create (‘01), Ragdale and Millay Colony, Sellers is author of You Don’t Look Like Anyone I Know, her memoir of coming to terms with face blindness that received critical and national acclaim. Sellers returns to Seaside in 2020 while on sabbatical from teaching to complete her third volume of poetry set in the Edenic Gulf Coast of Florida, “hurricane-ravaged, over-built and the site of great beauty and mystery.” Along with fiction writer Sonya Chung, Sellers is co-presenter at Escape To Create’s Jan. 14, 11:30 a.m. literary luncheon hosted by South Walton County’s Coastal Branch Library. She will also contribute an intensive poetry workshop for Walton County high school students utilizing techniques from spoken word and rap.
For more information, visit Escape to Create online.
Session II: Jan. 31– Feb. 28
Visual artist Laura Elkins began painting as a child in her hometown of Oxford, Miss. Based in Washington, D.C. since 2000, Elkins immerses figures in the events and issues of our times to create contemporary portraits charged with tension of being both the observer and the observed. Her explorations of the human form are heavily influenced by her architecture degree from the University of Virginia. Elkins is recipient of a number of prestigious grants and awards. She has exhibited widely in New York and Washington D.C. and is a fellow of the Virginia Center For The Arts and the Santa Fe Art Institute. While in Seaside, Elkins will focus on plein air self-portraiture that expresses the “terrible beauty” of the earth being lost through extreme climate. The artist offers a plein air portraiture workshop, will exhibit works created during her residency and will give an artist talk in a salon setting in Seaside.
Escape To Create Fellows and visual artists Lisa Endriss (’05) of Munich and Gail Gregg (’01) of New York City met while students at Vermont College of Fine Arts and have remained international colleagues for decades. Endriss is a leading abstract expressionist shown throughout Europe and Brazil. She is included in the Critical Encyclopedia of Contemporary Art and her work is collected in prominent museums in Germany and in international corporate and private collections. Gregg’s abstract works are represented in a number of New York galleries and are included in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, N.Y. Her freelance writings appear in leading U.S. cultural publications including ARTnews and the New York Times. Working together as a collaborative team, Endriss and Gregg will create fictional environments out of found objects to simulate habitats humans might elect to live in should climate change alter our current homes along the Gulf of Mexico. Their constructs will be used as backdrops in a video featuring local residents and artists discussing how they might live as future “pioneers” in these conceptual environments. Works and project studies by the artists will be exhibited in the Anne Hunter Gallery in Seaside during the first two week of February.
Alonso Fiallega has worked in leading roles in professional theater for 15 years: producer, director, teacher, and stage manager. Fiallega was technical director for the internationally prestigious Centro Cultural Helénico in Mexico City and coordinated academic programs for the Festival Internacional Cervantino (FIC), the most important international artistic and cultural event in Mexico and Latin America. Currently a resident of Benito, Juarez, Mexico, Fiallega’s first play, La Princesa e El Ministro, won critical praise in Mexico and was awarded the 2017 California Fine Arts Prize — Dramaturgy in the U.S. Fiallega devotes his E2C residency to developing his next play based on a fictional examination of the final hours of the 2017 Las Vegas shooter. The playwright will visit South Walton High School drama students following their annual One Acts at The REP Theatre.
Zakk Jones is a jazz guitarist, educator and band leader from Columbus, Ohio. A 2015 graduate of Capital University, Jones has since performed at renowned jazz clubs across the country. In addition to working as a private instructor, he is a part-time adjunct faculty member of Mt. Vernon Nazarene University and is columnist for jazzguitartoday.com. Jones writes, arranges and performs regularly with his group, The Zakk Jones Trio, noted for their fresh Modern Jazz/Americana/Fusion style. While in Seaside, Jones will compose and arrange works for a second album and continue developing music education materials for students and educators. Along with jazz pianist Jackie Myers, Jones and will perform in our annual Valentine To 30A concert at The REP Theater on Saturday, Feb. 15, 7:30 p.m. Throughout his residency he will contribute pop-up performances in Seaside venues and at South Walton Coastal Branch Library. Jones will present a musical lecture on the history of jazz and the influences on his own music career at Coastal Branch Library at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 4.
Following graduation from Grinnell College, jazz pianist and vocalist Jackie Myers established herself as a mainstay performer in the famed Austin, Texas, indie scene for almost a decade. Her passionate interest in jazz led her to relocate to Kansas City where she now performs regularly while continuing jazz studies at UMKC. Myers is music director of 12th Jump Street, a nationally syndicated Jazz radio program based in Kansas City. She also continues as project leader, producer and performer for Silent Films Out Loud, an initiative she launched while in Austin to support emerging composers. Paired to an iconic Buster Keaton film, composers create new scores which are then performed live in tandem with a screening of the film. Myers will screen video of Silent Films Out Loud at the Coastal Branch Library on Tuesday, Feb. 14, at 11:30 a.m. in a program with fellow jazz artist Zakk Jones. Both are featured in our annual Valentine To 30A concert at The REP on Saturday, Feb. 15, 7:30 p.m.
In this our 27th season, Escape To Create is deeply grateful for the longstanding generosity of our homeowner hosts, Seaside merchants and awarded restaurateurs who not only provide vital support but contribute a welcoming fellowship that reflects the very heart of our diverse and engaged community. Our partnerships with The REP Theatre, The CHAPEL at Seaside, the Seaside Institute and Seaside Neighborhood School provide access and intimate connection to the incredible artistic excellence our professional and emerging artists contribute through performance and impactful educational outreach. We are especially honored as recipients of a generous grant from the Seaside Arts & Entertainment Corporation, which makes every endeavor possible and is tribute to our commitment to advance the essential role of artist before an increasingly global cultural audience. Together, we create an inspired and enriched environment, an invitation for all to partake in a transformative experience found nowhere else but in Escape To Create’s “Celebration of Art, Life and Community.“
For more information, visit Escape to Create online.