I’m sitting inside on a comfy brown sofa on a gray windy day. The forecast is for ice pellets at the quaint Seaside cottage, Savannah Sands, owned by Bill and Heavenly Dawson. The Dawson’s have generously provided a home for the two weeks of my Escape To Create experience. The question my family and others had when I stated that I will be here at Seaside for four weeks in January and February was, “What is Escape to Create?”
Escape To Create is an artist program that, for almost thirty years, invites artists from around the world to stay as guests for a month in Seaside, Florida. It is an invitation for artists to “escape” to a small gulf coastal town for peace and quiet from a maddening crowd to create art.
Back in 2008 I had an interest to produce a full length documentary showcasing the dune lakes of Walton County. With some support funds from Walton County Tourist Development Council I was able to create a short demo video for the TDC and use this to support the idea of pursuing potential funding for full length documentary. About the same time the economy began to tank, and it was difficult to find funding for sponsorship. So, I moved on to other projects.
During this time I was able to produce two documentaries for public television in south Florida: The Kissimmee Basin: the Northern Everglades documentary followed by the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition: Everglades to Okefenokee project. After the completion of these programs, I began looking for my next project The dune lakes have always piqued my interest and, since I had already begun this project a few years earlier, I wanted to complete this story.
To gauge the interest of the area here in Walton County, I decided to attend the Coastal Dune Lakes Advisory Board meeting in October of 2012. During the past 4 years I had monitored the local interest of the dune lakes through the TDC, newspapers, social media and few friends that kept me up to speed with events dealing with the lakes. Upon arriving at the CDLAB meeting I looked upon familiar faces. Their eyes lit up, and I could almost see the wheels spinning in their heads, “Is Elam going to make the dune lakes film?”
Among the eager group was Lynn Nesmith, her first meeting as board member of the Coastal Dune Lakes Advisory Board. As we talked after the meeting she mentioned that she is a board member of Escape To Create, a program that she emphasized emphatically, “Elam, you would be perfect for.” The cutoff date was the next day, she explained, so I had to apply today. I looked at the website when I arrived back in the office. I filled out the forms and submitted the application. The following week I was informed that I was being considered as a 2014 artist. A few days later it was confirmed that I was accepted into the Escape To Create 2014 line up of artists.
For my four weeks as artist in residence at Seaside I will document, with HD video and still photography, the coastal dune lakes of Walton County. Several of the lakes are within walking distance, which makes it the perfect location. I have been here two week and the outpouring of the community to the arts, film production, and support has been amazing.
But it is not just the local community support that is amazing, it is also the fellow artists. The first two weeks of being here fellow artists, include Tommy Womack, Jenny Krasner, Jennette Andrews, Mark Lowry and a few days with Cynthia Barnett. Tommy is an author/songwriter who is working on a book that has been bouncing around his grey matter and sketched out on journals for over 10 years, Jenny has a collection of over 10,000 images from her travels around the world that she is editing and cataloguing, Jennette is creating a new magic show, Mark is a musician working on creating new songs and Cynthia is writing a book about the history of rain.
Having time together as artists to share ideas, listen to each other perform, watch our work being developed and share input into our content has been very satisfying.
Several of these special moments happened while sitting around the table, eating and sharing stories. We shared ideas, philosophical understanding, personal experiences and quizzed each other about our work style in creating art.
With a group of diverse artists, I learned something from each of these wonderful talented and gifted people. It could be argued that an artist starts with an empty space. An empty sheet of music, a page with no text, a stage with no sound or objects, a camera with no images, a script with no dialogue. But here at E2C, we all had an allotted time to fill these empty spaces, be disciplined in our time, be supportive to each other and have an environment that is very conducive in creating art.
E2C’s leadership with Marsha Dowler and Karen Holland, along with many other supportive people have created an advantageous atmosphere of community, support, family, friendship and art.
Here is a sample from two days journal excerpts on what happened during my stay at E2C.
Up early before daybreak to a cool morning and headed to Deer Lake. Filmed a few pan sequences and time lapse of the sunrise. Came back to the house, cleaned up and went to the CDLAB meeting at 9:00am to meet and listen to current issues concerning the lakes. It was good to hear and see what was happening around the lakes. Oyster Lake is currently having a new bridge installed. Need to document this. Went to the Seaside REP to set up and present a talk to a house full of 7th and 8th graders from the Seaside Neighborhood School. Came back to the house to edit a segment of images and video together to present at the screening in the evening. Hustled around to get the 4 minute segment complete before attending a supper with E2C at Great Southern Cafe. Evening screening at the REP at 7:00. The place was packed. Had to turn people away. E2C added an encore additional screening for Friday evening at 7:00pm. People wanted to talk after the presentation. Had a lively Q&A. Great questions and dialogue. Came home, tired, emotional exhausted, but very satisfied with the outpouring of support for the Dune Lake film project. This is a moment where so many ideas, strategies, and presentations all come together. Much like the stars lining up for a great event. Feeling very blessed and honored today.
Began at daybreak by documenting the ice covered water way at the outfall at Western Lake in Grayton. OMG it was soooo cold. 26 degrees is cold on the beach. It was the Grayton tundra. I had a pair of ski gloves, a heavy Carhartt coat, but I was not able to stay warm. The batteries of the camera died due to the cold weather. Not sure how photographers and film makers work in the sub zero weather to capture those amazing images we see. Later in the day, at sunset, there was an amazing show across Western Lake. The wind died down, a perfect reflection and the clouds and light kept displaying the color and beauty for a long time. Also, a good opportunity to chat with other folks who came by to observe the view and take picture. A prime location along 30A. The evening was spent at the Seaside REP hearing Tommy Womack preform his collection of songs and a reading, fresh off the press. This was our final event together, what an amazing group of artists and community.