Posted on 9/20/2022
The Ocean Reef Travel Blog has been an invaluable resource for visitors and locals alike for over a dozen years. We inspire, entertain, and inform readers of all the happenings near the shore in Destin and along Scenic 30A in South Walton. We have yet to have covered an event retroactively. World-class events do abound here, but recently a 48-hour-only pop-up style gathering took place in a discrete hideaway hidden in plain sight in Rosemary Beach. As you might have guessed, the bad news is you missed this event. However, fortunately, you still have the opportunity to participate virtually. But before we get to all that, let's review why you, the reader, need to be informed of an in-person experience you've already missed.
We've never divulged opportunities you've missed; however, an art event of this caliber hadn't yet come to our coast. Dubbed SOWAL House Selections, 30A local Christy Milliken brought together over a dozen top, fine artists who call our shores home. You see, Christy is often behind the (art) scenes as her firm Curate Marketing coordinates events throughout the United States — large-scale happening such as film festivals, music festivals, and visual art exhibitions. This event was to be very intimate, with A-list artists and A-list art aficionados in attendance. Time was of the essence. The entire program was conceived and executed in under a month! Before we divulge the talented folks behind the canvas or camera, let's discuss the venue, as it's truly notable in and of itself.
If you've explored 30A in recent times and were paying attention off the sand, chances are you've heard whispers of a secret, almost speak-easy-style space simply known as SOWAL House. The brain-child of Dave King, this special place is not a house at all; it's a one-of-a-kind destination that acts as a studio and event space for full-time creatives and entrepreneurs.
Dave hails from the state right above us, and after a successful career as a cybersecurity expert in the financial services industry, he relocated to 30A with his family. When discussing his inspiration for this space, he states, "I firmly believe that 30A contains world-class creatives that rival their counterparts in New York, Atlanta, and other creatives centers, and that's a bold statement. The reason is simple. Just look outside. We have beautiful beaches, great restaurants, and wonderful scenery. Why wouldn't creatives congregate here? We don't have skyscrapers or office parks, so people have to work at home." Well put - and we couldn't agree more! The venue was more than a perfect backdrop for this event, and now that you know where and why, let's get on with the show!
On September 9th, SOWAL House Club Members were invited to a pre-party between 5-6 PM, followed by invite-only ticket holders from 6-9 PM. The following day, September 10th, a rare opportunity for the public to access this luxe space was available from 10 AM - 6 PM. And for those who missed out, as promised, here is the virtual gallery tour of this amazing first-time event.
Just a few stats to put this show into perspective. Dave and Christy came together with a loose idea and, in just 4 weeks, took the project from conception to launch! 200 Tickets were sent out, and everyone accepted, and bought their plus ones, resulting in 400 attendants! 500 Drinks were poured at the VIP Soirée. And 200 people attended Saturday's gallery walk-through. All 14 featured artists created pieces in mediums and styles well outside of the art they are most widely known for. This brought special meaning to this event and has set the tone for what SOWAL House plans to bring to the area in the future, and that is the freshest, most exciting art possible.
We discussed some of the details and folks behind the event; now, let's dive into the stars of the show! (Be sure to check out the VR tour for the mentioned works below.)
Allison is a well-loved local artist known for her landscapes and beach scenes. Tiny details and brushstrokes define her style with a distressed overall presentation. For SoWal House, Allison switched gears and created one completely extracted abstract piece, and one lifestyle figure painted in her style; it was a huge departure for her, and the paintings are vibrant and alive with color.
Chandler is a prominent local photographer. Focusing primarily on natural scenes with dynamic light play. He travels internationally for his work and is even part of a special foundation for environmental conservatorship. His photo for SOWAL House is very evocative for him; it includes human forms and speaks to the environmental dangers of plastics, set over an infinite sky and water pallet. A sneak peek of his fine art collection to be unveiled next month.
Chris is widely known for his travels throughout the world with the band Kings of Leon. These days Chris is doing a lot more art; he likes to use his hands; his style is interesting and could very well be called high Americana in that it captures a cowboy vibe. It feels like the very late 1800s; the painting style is defined by its brushstrokes. His pieces for this show interestingly include figures holding guitars and figures painted with unrecognizable symbols. It's simple but intriguing.
David Allen King
A very interesting man who's been creating some even more interesting art. David retired to 30A from his position as a Technology Director for an NYC hedge fund. In 2018 he experienced a life-changing near-death experience that refocused him on the arts. His art for this SOWAL House event is completed in mixed media, including precious metals and currency. It sends a strong message and merges both of his loves seamlessly.
Born in fire, Dheron's love for photography grew from his need to escape the ravages of war. As a combat vet, photography became his coping mechanism. His photo work for SOWAL House is a blend of his military work and some very emotive bright images with brilliant light play. He's a new artist but one with an ever-expanding pallet.
Jim Clark is an award-winning creative director. His agency Clark & Company, has racked up numerous American Advertising Awards. Though commercial art may be his primary business, Jim's passion is photography. For SOWAL House, he presented a selection of aluminum art prints. Dynamic subject matter and near-perfect color make for unique images you can't stop looking at.
Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, Joanah Allen now calls the shores of South Walton home. Locally renowned for his dynamic images of the ocean, his presentations often blend drone and traditional photography, and his photographs are printed in a very large format; his largest for SOWAL House is over 5 feet wide!
Justin Gaffrey is probably one of the most famous local artists, known as much for his work as his philanthropy and support of the local Destin and 30A art world. He is best known for his sculptural 3D paintings, so much so that he offers a special line of acrylic paint so that you can create a multi-level masterpiece of your own. For SOWAL House, Justin presented two deeply abstract pieces, figure-esque, with unusual color play.
Justin Gaffrey Jr.
Justin Gaffrey Jr. is an accomplished multimedia artist whose work blends traditional painting with whimsical sculpture. His work for SoWal House is a playful collection of everyday items, a slice of life that feels very pop-arty and includes cartoony colors dripping over the tangible layers of life.
Lindsay Tobas is known locally for her oil paintings that have deep texture and light play. She recently painted art that was used as a cover for Vie Magazine. Her piece for SOWAL House features a very shapely figure; interestingly, the painting style transitions from clean lines and surfaces to a simulated movement created by numerous brush strokes.
Mark Little is a commercial and fine art photographer with a great sense of this place and how he fits into it. His photography has graced magazines, restaurants, and fine establishments all along 30A. His collection presented at SOWAL House includes a diverse take on a wide range of his work, underwater, in the forest, and in the tree tops. He seems to paint with his camera.
Nicole Paloma is a fashion designer, a mother, and an artist. She is driven by an inner light that comes out in all of her work. For SOWAL House, she chose to create a custom dress with painted canvas and leather strips. The dress was finished and painted live; the drop clothes in the space she created the dress were later cut up and used to create even more art!
So what is next for SoWal House? The gallery plans to continue this new tradition of pop-up gallery openings. The next iterations may have fewer artists or more pieces, but the premise will remain the same. The place is dedicated to bringing fresh art to our unique area. Drawing out local artists and drawing in artists from around the world to showcase their art on our shores. Stay tuned to the Ocean Reef Travel Blog for more on the arts in our remarkable area.