27th Annual MKAF Festival of the Arts Celebrates Art, Music, Food and Fun


By Zandra Wolfgram

How do you frame up a festive, fall weekend on the Emerald Coast? Come take part in Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation’s 27th annual Festival of the Arts.

With dozens of artists taking part, this year’s free event, set for Saturday, Oct. 29 and Sunday, Oct. 30 at the scenic MKAF Cultural Arts Village in Destin, again promises to be a true celebration of art, music, food and fun.

One of the Southeast’s premier art festivals, the two-day signature event features exhibits of more than 100 artists venturing from 17 states showcasing a diverse palette of artistic styles in a range of different art mediums from oil, watercolor and glass art paintings to clay pottery, ceramics, metal sculpture, mixed media, jewelry art and much more.

Art lovers of all ages can watch artists demonstrating their techniques in their tented booths, browse art from dozens of emerging new and student artists, and get hands-on in the interactive Creative Kids station and more.

This year’s poster art features Seascape, a lushly layered coastal-inspired acrylic work of award-winning 30A artist Justin Gaffrey, South Walton 2005 artist of the year. As a professional, self-taught, artist since 2001, Gaffrey draws inspiration from nature, human nature and life experiences.

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, art-themed photo opportunities, lively art drawings and the sale of colorful keepsake souvenirs — all create a family-friendly festival feel.

Esteemed judges will award $10,000 in 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 must-not-miss feature is the Collaborative Art Exhibit, which showcases the work of both emerging and seasoned artists competing for the McIlroy Awards.

Six sensational local and regional musicians and bands will perform live throughout the weekend on stage at The Dugas Pavilion. The lineup includes The Wavy Winstons, Jones & Company, Tillman & Taff, Now & Then, Roman Street Trio and Casey Kearney.

The Festival celebrates the art of dining, too. Foodies will enjoy samplings of savory cuisine and sweet bites from area restaurants and food trucks along with craft beer and cocktails in the Beer & Wine Garden. Gather with family and friends to enjoy your meal seated at tables al fresco, while taking in the scene and listening to the stellar music line up.

Festival producer Deb Nissley guarantees there will be plenty of “new surprises” to enjoy. As for advice on how best to enjoy the Festival, she says, “Plan to spend the day and come prepared to see a lot of great art, hear great music, enjoy the outdoors and meet talented artists.”

The Festival is open to the public and runs Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Daily admission is free! Proceeds from MKAF cultural events help fund ArtsReach — MKAF’s arts education community outreach programs serving K-12 students, children and adults with special needs, and the military community along the Emerald Coast.

For more details follow MKAF on social media channels and visit MKAF.org.