/Art gumbo’ simmers in Ocean Springs

Art gumbo’ simmers in Ocean Springs

In its 38th year, the festival will feature another diverse group of artists who will display their “art gumbo” starting Saturday in downtown Ocean Springs. Washington Avenue and Government Street will be lined with food and craft booths for the largest Mississippi fine arts festival. The festival, which is steeped in culture and nostalgia, has been a major factor in Ocean Springs’ growth to the point of explosive, according to Cynthia Dobbs Sutton (Ocean Springs Chamber of Commerce Executive director). She said that the festival’s growth has been remarkable over the past seven to eight years due to the efforts of volunteers and staff, including Margaret Miller, who was the former director, as well as Shawn Sutton (events coordinator). “The festival slowly grew out of the chamber parking lot onto Washington Avenue. Shortly after, it ventured onto Government Street which was a street with very little retail and travel.” Government Street now hosts more than 150 vendors during festival. Peter Anderson Festival attracts a staggering 150,000 people to see works by over 400 artists, craftsmen, and vendors. It brings in more that $23 million in revenue to Ocean Springs and fills local hotels. Sutton stated that this weekend is one of the most successful weekends in our community. “Our local shops and restaurants stock up on inventory because it’s one of the most profitable weekends,” he said. Kathryn Davis, Alley Kat’s Glass in Starkville, has been a participant at the Peter Anderson Festival ever since 2006 when Hurricane Katrina devastated the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Davis stated that she was excited about coming but then Katrina struck and made the mistake of thinking the festival had been cancelled. Davis, who has been a stained glass artist for over 30 years, said that her love of the festival started when she saw the strength of the Gulf Coast people and how grateful they were to the craftsmen who came out. She says she always requests booth 669 due to the amazing aromas from the Phoenicia Gourmet Restaurant. Davis said, “The quality of the artists is always excellent.” The Peter Anderson Festival is a tradition for Coast residents, as well as many visitors from across the United States. Sutton said that there has been a growing trend of families getting together during the festival weekend. Sutton said, “Many families gather for the holidays and, just as that, many families consider it a meeting place for them.” The festival started in 1978 with 56 booths. It was intended to showcase the work of local artists and was considered a local bazaar. Peterson Anderson was the original potter at Shearwater Pottery which was founded in 1928. The festival was renamed in 1984. Sutton stated that their family shop, Shearwater Pottery still has a booth at this festival. Since the 1980s, the Anderson family has provided commemorative festival cups for sale at the festival. Sutton stated that these mugs have always been a hit and sell quickly during festival weekends. The festival is family-friendly and has survived the test of time. This year will be the Young at Art Children’s Market. Students aged 8-18 can set up a table and sell their handmade art on the grounds of Walter Anderson Museum of Art. The event gives students a glimpse into the business side and how to sell and market their art. According to the festival’s website, the festival’s mission has been to “increase the public awareness of local shops, artists and restaurants and to provide opportunities for artists, business growth and a welcoming quality life for residents and visitors alike as they share in the creative economy.” Sutton stated that the festival has fulfilled this expectation. Annette McConnell Anderson (Peter Anderson and Walter Anderson) started an arts colony. The family then established Shearwater Pottery. This business grew, inspiring others businesses and artists to move into the town. Ocean Springs is home to 17,000 people and has 200 restaurants, shops, galleries, and other amenities. Sutton stated that Ocean Springs is known for its arts community, and the city is full of entrepreneurs. Ocean Springs is a business-friendly city._x000D