CAA Has A Special New Place on Hogtown Bayou
November 1, 2011 by Gwen Break
The Cultural Arts Alliance (CAA) of Walton County has officially opened its doors to what is sure to be one of Walton County’s most special and prized places of interest. Nestled in the scrub oak and palmetto, the building isn’t even visible from the road, but is just off CR 393N by Cessna Park, the new sign leads you to Walton County’s newest genesis for art and culture.
Sitting at the water’s edge a wooden ramp or stairs leads visitors to the wrap-around porch of the rustic Florida shotgun-style building that now serves at the Cultural Arts Alliance’s official residence.
The ebb and flow of Hogtown Bayou provides a grassy vista to the west and a watery roadway for boats coming and going to the north. It is a peaceful, home-like setting with a feeling of antiquity and good things to come.
Even before CAA came to occupy the location, 10 Hogtown Bayou was a place of some renown. For several years it was the home of Bayou Arts and Antiques, a place where one could find funky and unusual pieces for any décor, along with stories of how Walton County came to be settled as told by the owners Wilfred “Chick” Huettel and his wife, Cathy.
Always valued by the Huettels for its historic significance and its picturesque setting, the property was sold to the county in 2007 with the understanding those qualities would be preserved.
“The TDC and county needed to find a tenant for this building and our need for a new space coincided,” said CAA's Executive Director Jennifer Steele. “We were thrilled to be able to move here.”
Except for the new asphalt parking lot, most of the renovation to the property has been to the inside. A large country kitchen was made smaller and an office for Steele added. The main living area was cleared to provided a room for gallery showings and other cultural events.
The second building to the north, connected by the wooden walkway, has been made into a bright and modern art studio. Much of the original landscaping has been preserved including the small chapel on the northwest shoreline and patio area on the west side of the main building.
Art is even in the woods as hobbit-like creatures look hide on the stone wall surrounding the patio and other outdoor pieces pose in the garden spot.
Steele said when the organization first started looking for a new location, members thought they needed to have a highly visible spot on Highway 98 or CR 30A. And moving into the current location provided multiple challenges with all the time consuming renovations.
“Now when you get here, it’s almost hard to leave,” she said. “You want to linger and visit.”
The purpose of the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County is to support “the arts through leadership, advocacy, funding, programs and education.”
To that end, CAA is the primary sponsor of five main events each year, the 30A Songwriters Festival in January; the Tour of Homes in February; Artsquest in May; the Designer Showcase of Homes in the summer; and Flutterby in November. All are sponsored and promoted with pleasure by SoWal.com.
"Part of our mission is to foster community and we feel supporting the arts is essential to that," Said SoWal.com Publiser Kurt Lischka. "I hope people come check out the Bayou Arts Center. it is really a special place."
The CAA also provides adult education grants, a college scholarship program, mini-grants for teachers and need-based student scholarships.
Steele said the hope is the organization can expand its giving programs, especially for arts-in-school programs. She would also like to expand her members’ base and her instructional base to offer “nontraditional” classes,” “more cutting edge classes.” She cited a recent “aerosol art” class that was offered as an example.
“It was a graffiti class. It was neat to see so many different kinds of people in a class for a medium that normally has a negative connotation,” said Steele.
Currently there are 15-20 classes a month offered. Steele said she would like to bring in photography and more children-focused instruction as well.
Steele said perhaps the most important goal for her personally was to move CAA into a leadership position in the community.
“I want it to grow from a leader in the arts community to a leader in the community through arts,” she said. She said she could see CAA being a facilitator in bringing together the different venues and artists in the area and make everyone’s efforts a cooperative one.
To help open the facility to more of the community, the building can be rented for events such as business or civic meetings, classes, family reunions and children’s birthday parties. Alcohol is not allowed on the premises and a clean up deposit is required. Prices start at $75 for a half day.
Volunteers, members and sponsors are always need, said Steele. And looking around, could you really find a better place to spend an afternoon?