It has been a long time since a place impressed me as much as the Coastal Arts Center did during a recent visit. I had no idea what to expect but drove up to an absolutely beautiful setting and a building bustling with activity on a Monday morning.
The actual Arts Center Gallery overlooks Wolf Bay and sits on the spot where the first hotel in Orange Beach once stood. Some of the elements of that 1923 building are still visible today. Former bedroom doors are now bathroom vanities, octagonal columns have become display pedestals, heart pine flooring is glimpsed in the Conference Room, and the original front door and some of the windows are now in the Gift Shop. The rest had to be torn down because of severe structural damage. The present structure is Southern to its core and perfect for extending Southern hospitality for weddings, concerts and corporate, public and private events of all kinds. What is even more remarkable is the fact that the facility is run completely by the City of Orange Beach (with the generous help of the Friends of the Arts non-profit group), and staff members, as well as teachers for various classes, are employees of the city. What a commitment the City of Orange Beach has made to its permanent residents, property owners, snowbirds who spend a few months each year AND the thousands of vacationers who flock to the Gulf coast for a week every summer.
On the day I toured, the gallery, gift shop and offices were open and greeting guests, while classes in glass, ceramics and painting were in full swing in separate buildings on the grounds.
The Hot Shop offers Hot Glass Blowing under the expert instructions of Kerry Parks and Dan Rush, Glass Artists in Residence. The student in my photos was Jean Kocher.
The Clay Studio is overseen by Maya Blume-Cantrell, Ceramics Artist in Residence. She offers students instruction in wheel-throwing or hand-building, or visitors may choose pieces that have already been created and paint them to their liking — called “pick-n-paint.”
Jane Sellier and other talented colleagues teach classes in acrylic, watercolor and oil painting.
I urge you to visit the gallery and maybe schedule a class during your next trip to Orange Beach. This would make a great Girls’ Getaway while the men are off playing golf. How about a gorgeous new ornament for your Christmas tree that you made yourself?? And, by the way, I have my eyes on a lovely piece of art that I hope will find its home in my new house before long. I promise you’ll find temptations of your own.
The Center is open Monday – Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
If you hurry, you can make it for the Festival of Art to be held on the grounds this coming Saturday and Sunday, March 10-11.