MKAF Awards $12,100 in Festival of the Arts


The 28th Annual Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation (MKAF) Festival of the Arts held October 28-29 in Destin, Florida, featured exhibits of more than 100 artists from across the United States showcasing a diverse palette of artistic styles in 16 different art mediums.

MKAF FOA_Betty LonglegsHighlights of the cultural weekend celebrating art, music, food, and family fun featured seven live music appearances, a kid’s creative station, pop-up photo booths, street performers plus six local favorite food trucks and beverage bars.

“Marking 28 years is a testament to how important the arts are to our community and a direct reflection of the talented participating artists, musicians, vendors, board members, and volunteers — all beautifully managed by our incredible festival producer Deb Nissley,” said MKAF CEO & Artistic Officer Demetrius Fuller.

Guest judges Carrie Ann Baade an award-winning artist and art professor at Florida State University and Dale Castellucci, a mixed media artist and adjunct instructor at the University of West Florida, awarded 29 ribbons and cash prizes. Recognizing artists whose work reflected exceptional talent and craftsmanship, the judges awarded “Best in Show,” three Awards of Excellence, five Awards of Merit, 10 Judges’ Recognition Awards, and eight Collaborative Exhibit awards.

Of the honor bestowed on him, Best in Show glass artist Tony Cray of New Melle, Missouri, said, “It’s always nice to be recognized. I’m amongst a pool of really talented people. I’m very appreciative.” Cray, who has been creating art for 40 years, said of his glass art, “It is all handmade start to finish. I’m responsible for every aspect of it. I’m a designer and maker. I like things that are well-made and finely crafted. I appreciate work that’s very organic in nature, but my aesthetic is in the vein of Italian and Scandinavian designs — it’s about craftsmanship.”

The Best in Show adult winner of the Collaborative Art Exhibit was awarded to Ian Fagan of Pensacola, Florida, for his photography. The Best in Show student winner was Eliana Batarao from Fort Walton Beach High School for her oil entitled “Sick.” The Collaborative Art Exhibit features adults and students competing for the Special McIlroy Awards in honor of the late Patricia McIlroy, Destin’s First Lady, and an MKAF advocate and patron.

Freeport artist Estelle Grengs won the “People’s Choice” Award. This is her third win in this award category. “It’s amazing. I was not expecting it,” Grengs said. “For me, it means a lot, because it means that I’m touching people with my art and so if there’s any award, this is probably my favorite thing to win.”

Best in Show Winner ($2,000)
Tony Cray, New Melle, Mo. – Glass
People’s Choice Award ($1,000)
Estelle Grengs, Freeport, Fla. – Acrylic
Poster Art Contest Winner ($750)
Roger van Lieshout, Cape Coral, Fla. – Oil
Award of Excellence Winners ($850)
Katherine Meade, Brookhaven, Ga. – Oil
John Townsend, Sanford, Fla. – Sculpture
Robin Renee Hix, Wimberley, TX – Mixed Media
Collaborative Exhibit Winners ($850)
Best in Show (Adult) – Ian Fagan, Pensacola, Fla. – Photography
First Place (Adult) – Karen Stein, Niceville, Fla. – Watercolor/Batik
Second Place (Adult) – Bojana Grujovska, Destin, Fla. – Acrylic/Mixed Media
Third Place (Adult) – Don David, Destin, Fla.– Pen & Ink/Watercolor
Best in Show (Student) – Eliana Batarao – Fort Walton Beach High School – Oil
First Place (Student) – Aileen Lu – Crestview High School – Acrylic
Second Place (Student) – Chloe Aldrich – Niceville High School – Mixed Media
Third Place (Student) – Lily King – Crestview High School – Collage

“After unprecedented interest, this year’s festival included a wide array of amazing artists from all over the United States (and even Estonia!) including many new artists. We were truly honored to be able to present them and they were absolutely thrilled at the incredible support from our community,” said MKAF director of operations and Festival producer Deb Nissley.

Proceeds fund the MKAF’s community outreach mission to provide cultural outreach programs serving K-12 students, adults and children with special needs, at-risk youth, and active/veteran military recovering from visible and invisible injuries in our community.