Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation’s 26th Annual Festival of the Arts Has a Record-Breaking Weekend

$10,000 in cash prizes awarded to 29 artists, roughly 6,200 plus attendees, and more made this Destin festival one for the books
Best In Show Curtis Whitwam Mkaf 2021 Photo By Kay Phelan
Curtis Whitwam, Best in Show Festival of the Arts Winner. Photo by Kay Phelan

Fine art welcomed a record-breaking 6,200 plus art lovers to the 26th Annual Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation (MKAF) Festival of the Arts. The two-day signature art celebration held October 30 and 31 in the Mattie Kelly Cultural Arts Village in Destin featured exhibits of more than 110 premier artists from across the United States showcasing a diverse palette of artistic style. The weekend was brought to life thanks to ideal weather conditions and live music featuring six musicians and a cameo appearance by the Sinfonia Youth Orchestra, a kid’s art corner, and more than seven local favorite food trucks and drink stations.

Artist Event Photo Photo By Frances Roy Agency“We are thrilled at the response and support for the 26th MKAF Destin Annual Festival of the Arts. This year’s success is a testament to how important the arts are for our community and a direct reflection of the 100+ talented participating artists, musicians, food vendors, and most importantly, our incredible festival producer Deb Nissley,” stated MKAF CEO Demetrius Fuller

Guest judges Adrienne Clow, Marketing and Exhibits Director for the Eastern Shore Art Center in Fairhope, Alabama; Jerry R. Johnson, Director of Public Art and Exhibitions for Thomasville Center of the Arts, awarded 27 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, and 10 Judges’ Recognition Awards.

Best in Show artist Curtis Whitwam was born and raised in Tampa, Florida. Whitman expresses his love for waterways and wildlife, “I love to share the feeling of deep connection to nature through watercolor paintings and underwater videos that I create to inspire everyone to get outside and appreciate the beauty and abundance of wild Florida”, says Whitwam.

The Best in Show Adult winner of the Collaborative Art Exhibit was awarded to Ian Fagan. The Best in Show Student winner was Veronika Jacobson from Fort Walton Beach High School. 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.

MKAF will begin accepting artist and poster entry applications for the 2022 Festival of the Arts in February 2022. The 2022 MKAF Annual Festival of the Arts is scheduled for Saturday, October 29, and Sunday, October 30.

Artists honored as follows:

Best in Show Winner ($1,600)
Curtis Whitwam

Award of Excellence Winners ($800)
Michael Fagan
Roger & Renae Poer
Kelly Hatfield

Award of Merit Winners ($400)
Robin Holt
Jeff Waldorff
Kelly Rysavy
Wanda Azzario-Goldberg
Joseph Frye

Judge’s Recognition Award Winners ($200)
Chandler Williams
Andrea Chipser
Michelle McLendon
Maria Spies
Dorothy Starbuck
Robin Renee Hix
Tom Radca
Roger Disney
Michael Lunsford
Royal Miree

Peoples Choice Winner Estelle Grengs Photo By Frances Roy Agency

Peoples Choice Winner Estelle Grengs Photo by Frances Roy Agency

People’s Choice Award ($800)
Estelle Grengs

Poster Art Contest Winner ($500)
Estelle Grengs

Collaborative Exhibit Winners
Best in Show ($200) – Ian Fagan – Taygaytay Market
Adult 1st Place ($100) Don David – Happy Face
Adult 2nd Place ($75) Steve Morrison – Rainbow Horizon
Adult 3rd Place ($50) Clint Eager – Pintail Duck
Best in Show – Student ($200) Veronika Jacobson
Student 1st Place ($100) Tara Row- Mind Peace
Student 2nd Place ($75) Olivia Huff – Untitled
Student 3rd Place ($50) Rayna Lowery – Chew Toy

Thanks to the generous support of 50 business partners, media sponsors (including Emerald Coast Magazine), and a team of more than 100 volunteers, art lovers of all ages watched artists create works of art, browsed and purchased art from dozens of emerging and student artists, and engaged at the interactive children’s art station. Beyond the visual arts, the Festival featured six music acts performing two days of continual live music and a sampling of the local culinary arts scene. Live blacksmithing demonstrations, entertaining street performers, and the sale of souvenirs set the tone for a family-friendly festival.

“This year’s festival included a wide array of amazing artists from all over the United States. We were truly honored to be able to present them and they were absolutely thrilled at the incredible support from our community,” said Deb Nissley, director of operations, Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation

Event proceeds help to fund MKAF’s cultural season of events and community outreach programs serving populations of K-12 students and families, including children and adults with special needs, at-risk youth, and a wounded warrior initiative for our returning combat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

For more information on how you can become a member of MKAF or provide a donation, please call (850) 650-2226 or visit For a full list of upcoming MKAF events, follow MKAF on Facebook.

Categories: Art