Art in Port St. Joe has just received an upgrade.

Art in Port St. Joe has just received an upgrade.

Five years ago Patti Blaylock, Dana Boyer and Nancy Swider successfully operated the Taste of the Coast Committee, a group whose art shows and auctions were paired with area restaurants for tastings to raise awareness for the burgeoning Gulf Coast art community.

While in operation they gave more than $25,000 in scholarships to up-and-coming artists and art-based facilities working alongside the Gulf County Chamber of Commerce, the Gulf Alliance for Local Arts and the Gulf County Scholarship Committee.

While the group disbanded four years ago, the members recently discovered $1,900 left over in the account and were able to award two final scholarships.

 One went to art teacher Julie Hodges, the other to Leslie Wentzell of the local studio, The Artery.

Hodges, the art teacher at Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School used her scholarship to purchase additional supplies for her Art 2 class.

“I was pleasantly surprised,” said Hodges when she was notified that she’d be receiving funds from the group. “I had been making a wish list just in case I found extra funding.”

With her part of the scholarship she was able to buy tabletop easels, stretched canvases, artist-grade watercolor paints and oil paints for the new school year.

She was also able to pay the necessary dues to open a chapter of the National Art Honor Society for the school which will provide additional extracurricular activities and honor cords at graduation.

Students will be able to join the society based on a recommendation and will work on upcoming art projects. Hodges has planned the society’s first event to coincide with Veteran’s Day in November.

“It helps the students who are more inclined to do something with art later on,” said Hodges. “It gives them the same opportunities as the bigger schools.”

Hodges will also submit art from the classroom to the Savannah College of Art and Design so that students can get feedback on their work.

Currently, Hodges has 20 students in the class and is excited for them to compete on a fair playing field with other high school programs and views the new supplies as a way to push students to try new mediums and get outside their comfort zones.

Student Brandon Hall was excited about the new additions to the classroom and had already begun his next masterwork on one of the stretched canvases.

“We’ll produce a lot of better artwork,” he said. “Last year, we were limited to what we could do, so this is awesome.”

Hodges still has more supplies she’d like to add to her classes including a printing press somewhere down the line.

“If we don’t do what everyone else is doing, then we can’t get better,” said Hodges.

Leslie Wentzell, owner and operator of The Artery in Port St. Joe received funds to improve her studio programs in any way she saw fit.

Known for hosting summer and afterschool classes for kids across a variety of mediums that include acrylic painting, clay and watercolors, Wentzell chose to put the funds toward scholarships for prospective pupils who have an interest in art, but may otherwise not be able to afford them.

“The biggest impact is to use for the funds for scholarships,” she said. “A good number of children take advantage of them.”

While some students are referred through area schools for scholarships, Wentzell encourages parents to call for more information.

Last year during the holidays, students made and sold Christmas ornaments and the funds went directly toward helping future students get enrolled in classes.

Wentzell’s next class is focused on clay and will begin on Sept. 24. The six-week program is available for kids 7-11 and 12 and older.

For more information on classes and scholarships, visit

Former Taste of the Coast committee member Dana Boyer remembered the organization fondly.

“We were really trying to do something different in the community,” said Boyer. “We were very successful.”