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27th Annual Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation Festival of the Arts Showcases More Than 100 Visual Artists

Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation (MKAF) celebrates the cultural arts by enhancing the offerings of its annual Festival of the Arts set for Oct. 29-30 at the scenic MKAF Cultural Arts Village in Destin, Florida, on the Northwest Florida Gulf Coast.

One of the Southeast's premier art festivals, the two-day signature event features art exhibits of more than 100 artists (including the juried and collaborative exhibit) from 17 states showcasing a diverse palette of artistic styles in a range of different art mediums. 

“This year we are thrilled to welcome 37 new artists. We will have all of the offerings our Festival fans look forward to each year, but with more than three dozen new artists joining some of our longtime artists — all showcasing beautiful, new original works of art accompanied by live music, and some fun, new interactive moments, makes the Festival a fresh, new experience all over again,” said MKAF Festival Producer Deb Nissley. 

Art lovers of all ages will be able to watch artists create works during live art demonstrations, browse art from dozens of emerging and student artists, and get hands-on in the interactive children’s art station. Beyond the visual arts, the Festival will feature two days of continual live music and a sampling of the local culinary arts scene. Entertaining street performers, lively art drawings, and the sale of colorful keepsake souvenirs — all create a family-friendly festival feel.

A Celebration of the Arts 
The 27th annual edition of the Festival brings fresh art and new faces to the sugar-sand beaches of the Emerald Coast. This year, artists will be displaying everything from oil paintings and fine photography to mixed media, mosaics, sculpture, clay ceramics, jewelry, and more. After more than two decades, this Festival has become a popular and proven showcase for some of the best artistic talent nationwide who venture to Northwest Florida to compete for $10,000 in cash prizes. 

The judging panel includes Anna Killian Cavnar an artist/adjunct faculty member at Pensacola State College and Dan Taylor, a Tallahassee-based artist known for his bold abstract paintings, jewelry, and large-scale garden sculptures. They will award artist prizes in the juried and collaborative art categories. On Saturday, Festivalgoers are invited to vote for the “People’s Choice” Artist Award by casting a ballot located at the Main Festival Entrance. 

One of the unique features of the Festival is the Collaborative Art Exhibit, which showcases the work of seasoned and emerging adult artists and local student artists competing for the $850 McIlroy Awards given in honor of the late Patricia McIlroy, Destin’s first First Lady and an MKAF advocate and patron. 

The Festival provides opportunities for all ages to interact and immerse themselves in the vibrant art scene. A team of volunteers in the Children’s Creative station will work with young aspiring artists to create hands-on interactive art activities, fall-themed crafts, and face painting plus the chance to explore Uniquely Clever’s Creative Cruiser which is sure to put kids on the road to artistic inspiration.

A Celebration of Music
Six local and regional musicians and bands will perform live throughout the weekend on stage at The Dugas Pavilion. Saturday singer/songwriter The Wavy Winstons (10-11:30 a.m.) serves up folk, pop, jazz, and island music. Jones & Company (noon-2 p.m.) deliver jazz, soul, and world music, then rock, blues, dance, and original music by Tillman & Taff (2:30-4:30 p.m.). On Sunday, Now & Then (10-11 a.m.) will open the Festival with folk tunes that allow them to showcase their acoustic fiddle and guitar, followed by Roman Street Trio (11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.) — an instrumental band specializing in improvisational fusion of Classical, Gypsy and Contemporary Jazz, Latin and Nuevo Flamenco. Singer/songwriter Casey Kearney (2-3:30 p.m.) closes out the Festival by treating Festivalgoers to a performance infused with heartfelt ballads and upbeat crowd-pleasing favorites.

The Art of Dining
The Festival has expanded its culinary arts experience, too. Cuisine on the Green will serve up samplings of fish & chips from Spork (Saturday), gourmet burgers from Fuel (Sunday), Pan-Asian-style cuisine by My Ohana, Texas smoked BBQ from Red Neck Riviera Smokers, Hawaiian poke bowls from Priddy Mayjah, plus Italian ice and gelato from Repicci’s of the Panhandle and hand-dipped ice cream and fresh-squeezed lemonade from Dan’s Old Fashioned Concessions. Foodies can toast the arts with select wine, beer, and fresh-crafted Bloody Mary cocktails in the Beer & Wine Garden. 

More Festival Amenities:

Buy Festival Merchandise — This year's official Festival guide, poster, and t-shirt feature the coastal-inspired artwork of Santa Rosa Beach-based impasto acrylic painter Justin Gaffrey. Signed and numbered poster prints and souvenir t-shirts featuring Gaffrey’s lush acrylic artwork entitled “Original Seascape” will be available for sale in the Souvenir Tent. 

Win Art! — Be sure to also visit the Art Drawing Tent and enter the charity benefit drawing for chances to win a range of original artwork generously donated by the 2017 Festival artists. The drawing will take place on Sunday, Oct. 30 at 3 p.m., but you do not need to be present to win.    

Get the Guide —A complimentary four-color Festival Guide containing a roster of all artists, a map of the Festival site, the entertainment lineup, a list of food & beverage vendors, and other helpful hints on how to navigate through the Festival is available at the entrance. 

Free Parking/Shuttle — Park for free at Destin High School located adjacent to the Cultural Arts Village or at Emerald Coast Centre, located on Highway 98 near Beall’s Department Store, and ride the free continuous shuttle service right to the main entrance. The Cultural Arts Village is designed as an ADA-compliant venue with available handicap parking.  

Convenient Art Pick-Up — Purchasers of large artwork or multiple pieces can obtain an “art pickup” pass from the Festival Main Entry Tent. For Festival fans using the art shuttle, simply return to the satellite parking at Emerald Coast Shopping Centre to retrieve your vehicle and display your pass on your dashboard to gain access to the Festival entrance.    

Get Involved — The Festival is sponsored, in part, by local businesses and media partners, and is produced with the help of a team of more than dedicated volunteers. Volunteer shifts are available by contacting Volunteer Coordinator Patricia Parker at (850) 368-0988 and

The Festival is free and open to the public and runs Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Donations are welcome. Proceeds benefit ArtsReach, MKAF’s arts education community outreach program serving K-12 students, adults, and children with special needs and military and veteran populations. 

For more information about the Festival of the Arts, visit or call (850) 650-2226 and follow MKAF on social channels.

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