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Gallery Girl

As a child standing in front of Georgia O’Keefe paintings in museums or squirming in her seat during an opera, Anne Hunter may not have realized that the seeds for a love of art were being planted; but decades later, when those seeds began to fully take root and grow, her need to express her own creativity and open up doors for other artists was undeniable, and her journey to a life in color began…

True, she may not be an artist in the sense that she paints or draws. But the art she’s learned to create herself is with words, taking those words and weaving them into stories that she hopes will one day find life on the stage, penning captivating tales with dynamic plot lines patterned after the theater performances she watched in her youth.

Despite her love of writing, however, Hunter considers her true calling to be advocating the talent of other artists. And as someone with a long history in business, she’s learned to use that business savvy and meld it with her love of art. Her goal is fusing them together to open galleries showcasing the works of South Walton artists; and she can’t wait to see what beautiful things are in store for the future.

First with Fonville Press, a coffee shop she opened in Alys Beach in 2005, Hunter sought ways to provide a venue for the local arts, showcasing art books and opening her cafe space to singers and songwriters for performances. She felt that she was not only offering a service for the artists themselves, but also perpetuating an appreciation for the arts and making them accessible to the community that had become so much a part of her inspiration. “I met so many artists while I owned Fonville and I really loved providing that type of a gathering place. I realized that we had a need for that, that the artists needed a place to perform and show their work.” That realization led her to establish a wine bar and “gathering spot” called Cerulean’s in WaterColor, still in pursuit of opening eyes and ears and hearts to visual and performance arts along the Gulf Coast.

As time went on, Hunter became even more deeply enmeshed in the art world and began representing artists. She gave them a place to thrive by opening a succession of small galleries in the South Walton community. Meanwhile, she found she was unlocking something in herself that she’d allowed to slip away. “Each art gallery that I opened helped me gradually release my own creative spirit and the artists inspired me,” Hunter notes. “In creating spaces for them and helping them thrive, I was inadvertently doing the same for myself, until I rediscovered writing stories as my form of creative expression.”

In 2010, life took a funny turn, sweeping Hunter off to the bright lights and big city of New York, where she spent the next five years writing until she felt her need to focus on her own creativity fulfilled. Only then was she ready to come back to the beaches she called home once again on a mission to open the community’s eyes to the talent of so many yet undiscovered artists in South Walton. “It’s important to me that we advocate art and give it room to grow. This is such a special area, and the art and the culture here needs to be preserved and celebrated,” says Hunter. “I really see the opening of this gallery in Seaside as an important step in designating spaces for the artists. My goal is that (Anne Hunter Galleries) isn’t just open during my lifetime, or during the years that I can conduct business, but that the values and principals I establish now in nurturing art are passed on for the generations ahead.”

As she walks the beaches, Hunter looks to the horizon and sees not only the beauty of nature, but the beauty of the people here unique in their vision and inspiration, gifted as artists to convey what so many are unable to express and hopes that she helps them leave a legacy, planting those very same seeds that were planted in her years ago as a child.

For more information on Anne Hunter Galleries, visit the online gallery at www.annehuntergalleries. com, which officially launches March 1. Located at 25 Central Square, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459. Open daily, 10:00 a.m.- 6:00 p.m.

THE THIRTY-A REVIEW | MARCH/APRIL 2016

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