Art Walk a boon to downtown Ocean Springs

By Sylvia Hall - bio | email

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - From pottery to paintings, there was a little something for everyone in downtown Ocean Springs Saturday, at the city's 18th Annual Art Walk.

"There is no other event like this," said Diane Boyd, who owns Bayou Belle and organized this year's event. "This is sponsored by merchants. It's free to the artists, and it's about art, all day long."

The city's merchants banded together to breathe new life into this year's event.

"The numbers have been down for Art Walk, so we thought maybe some of the merchants needed to get together to help re-energize," Boyd said.

Fifty-six businesses joined forces this year, in an effort that seemed to pay off. Together, they sponsored 100 area artists who set up on Ocean Springs' sidewalks for the biggest Art Walk in recent years. One of those was Susan Cox, a Biloxi resident who sold hand-painted birdhouses and other pieces made from salvaged wood.

"I learned how to use power tools after Hurricane Katrina, like so many people," Cox said. "And that Christmas, there weren't many places to shop, so I salvaged all the wood off the road and made friends and family bird houses for Christmas. It kinda took off from there, and now it's a side business for my husband and me."

She's been selling her artwork at art fairs for more than a year now, but this is her first time to set up at Art Walk.

"I was so tickled to be chosen from Loveless Drugs," Cox said. "They sponsored me."

Most vendors said they were thrilled with the big turnout. But it wasn't just the artists who benefited. Business owners said they have come to depend on events like these, more so now than ever before.

"These small businesses live for these festivals," said Angie Sims, who owns The Very Thing.  "It's a time when a larger number of crowds walk through, get to walk through our streets, come in our stores, and that's basically how we survive is these festivals. Especially now, we're so pleased to have a huge crowd show up."

Many of the merchants downtown said events like these keep people coming back to Ocean Springs.

"As a merchant downtown, we know people love coming to festivals," Boyd said. "So why not have a festival and get people into our shops to see what we have to offer? It makes for a great day."

Boyd said the event was not only beneficial to local shops, it was a lot of fun, as well.

"We have such a beautiful downtown area; we want to share with everyone," Boyd said. "And it is a chance for the folks who aren't familiar with the shops to see what's new."

©2009 WLOX. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.