There’s a new face at The Artery in the form of intern Leanna Knapp.
Though Knapp was raised in Macon, Georgia, she found her way to Gulf County when her mother recently relocated to Mexico Beach.
Once Knapp had finished up her studies at the University of Georgia in September, she faced the task of figuring out what was next. Determined to find a job she loved, she moved in with her mother at the beach for some relaxation and inspiration.
On a trip to Port St. Joe, she visited The Artery where she met owner and operator Leslie Wentzell.
The recent recipient of a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in sculpture, Knapp felt right at home in the studio and eagerly showed Wentzell her art portfolio.
Wentzell liked what she saw and mentioned to Knapp that she needed some extra help around the studio and was looking for a face to help her business appeal to a younger crowd.
As it happened, Knapp was looking for some experience working in an art-based environment. The meeting led to Knapp starting an internship with The Artery in February and it’s been “a dream come true” for the young sculptor.
“Everything fell into place,” said Knapp. “I’ll work here until Leslie kicks me out!”
Knapp admits that she never saw herself as the type to work an office job. She was drawn to more creative roles spurred by a love of photography that hit during her high school days.
In college, she bounced around majors, starting in art history and toeing the waters of experimental art before finding her niche with sculpture. It was when she took a trip to study abroad in Italy and saw the historic sculptures that adorned buildings, streets and parks that her true passion was ignited.
“They knocked me off my feet,” she said.
Though she started school at the Savannah College of Art and Design, she transferred to University of Georgia and it was there she said she flourished and made friends.
Knapp revealed that she had a love affair with pottery and clay from a young age and she received her first potter’s wheel as a gift at age seven.
“I love working with my hands and throwing on the wheel,” said Knapp. “It allows me to put emotion into something.”
Though she’s recently enjoyed some watercolor classes taken through The Artery, Knapp doesn’t find much inspiration in paints and said that a blank white canvas scares her. She feels that her art is best created and represented on a three-dimensional plane.
In April of this year, Knapp was accepted to showcase a life-sized sculpture of a wedding dress at the Art Fields show in Lake City, South Carolina.
The event is the largest art show in the Southeast with over 800 applicants and only 400 invited to exhibit. On her first time out, Knapp snagged a second-place victory and a prize of $25,000.
The win validated Knapp’s talent, especially since the sculpture had been created under the duress of a relationship-gone-wrong.
“Sometimes you want something so bad, you don’t see what it’s doing to you,” she said.
Both the sculpture and the positive feedback from the piece helped her get through a very emotional time.
Though Knapp is proud of her success to-date, she also understands that the bar has been set and her future works need to meet or exceed her wedding dress piece.
In the meantime, she’ll continue learning from Wentzell and creating art with her hands. She enjoys meeting the artistic people that Gulf County attracts and is flattered when visitors to the studio find out about her background and ask her opinion of their art.
“A strong art community can positively impact everyone,” she said. “Art is a great way to express love, joy, sadness — all range of emotions.”
She reported that she was happy to have found a community of supportive and encouraging people and wants aspiring artists to know that a career doing what you love is possible.
“I take pride in what I create,” said Knapp. “I love my life, and I love my job.