Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation Announces 2017 Festival of the Arts Artist Winners

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November 02, 2017
DESTIN, FLA. — (Oct. 31, 2017) On a sunny fall weekend the Emerald Coast arts scene sparkled a little brighter as 28 local and regional artists who ventured to the Northwest Florida Gulf Coast to exhibit in the 22nd annual Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation Festival of the Arts were awarded $10,000 in cash art prize awards honors. The two-day signature art celebration held Oct. 28 and 29 in the Mattie Kelly Cultural Arts Village in Destin, Fla. featured exhibits of more than 200 artists from across the United States and Europe showcasing a diverse palette of artistic styles in 22 different art mediums. 
"We were thrilled to see 38 new artists join us for this year’s annual Festival of the Arts," said Deb Nissley, artist market chair and Festival co-producer. "We are passionate about ensuring the Festival includes quality artists and a variety of artistic styles and mediums, and I think this 22nd anniversary year’s diverse range of winners reflects that.”
Guest judges Claudia O’Steen, post-doctoral fellow at the University of West Florida in Pensacola and Ann Kozeliski, Art Director of the Lemoyne Center for the Visual Arts in Tallahassee awarded 28 ribbons that each included a cash prize. Honors were given for one Best in Show, three Awards of Excellence, five Awards of Merit and 10 Judge’s Recognition Awards given to artists whose work reflected exceptional talent and craftsmanship. Seven of the winners exhibited in the Collaborative Exhibit, which featured emerging adult artists and local student artists.
"Is it a painting or a photograph?" This is the most asked question about the larger than life oil paintings of Best in Show winner Jeannie Maddox that have been capturing the attention of art festival crowds for more than three decades.
"To the viewer, my paintings appear to focus on photo realism,” she says. “As an artist, my journey is through small abstract areas of shape, color and contrast, that, when completed and taken as a whole constantly surprise me by becoming hyper-real. I often say that I am a photo realistic painter who paints abstractly!"
Festivalgoers deemed sculptor Jordan Aucoin of Miramar Beach, Florida, the 2017 winner of the “People’s Choice” Artist Award. His vibrantly painted seabird sculptures had art lovers flocking to his tent.
Husband-wife art duo Tony and Vivian Zack whose whimsical mixed media mermaid piece entitled “Can’t Catch Me” graced the official poster, t-shirt and Festival guide as winner of the 2017 Poster Art Contest for these first-time winners.
The Best in Show winner of the Collaborative Art Exhibit was awarded to John Groah of Destin, Florida for his piece “Shrimp Basket.” 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.
The full roster of artists honored follows:
Best in Show Winner ($1,600)
Jeannie Maddox, Dothan, Ala. – Oil
People’s Choice Award ($800)
Jordan Aucoin, Miramar Beach, Fla. – Sculpture
Award of Excellence Winners ($800)
Christon Anderson, Panama City, Fla. – Mixed Media
Thomas Radca, Port Washington, OH – Clay
Gary Worthington, Destin, Fla. – Mixed Media
Award of Merit Winners ($400)
Michael Fagan, Pensacola, Fla. – Mixed Media
Paul Hofrenning, Minneapolis, Minn. – Pottery
Lesha Porche, Niceville, Fla. – Watercolor
Ricky Steele, Panama City, Fla. – Acrylic
Sherrie Venghaus, Niceville, Fla. – Jewelry
Judges Recognition Award Winners ($200)
Francisco Adaro, Freeport, Fla.­– Mixed Media
Wendy Edwards & Kay Bonnell, Foley, Ala. – Jewelry
Brooke Gontarek, Freeport, Fla. – Photography
Mitchell W. Landry, Crown Point, La. – Metal
Jitka Lesakova-Manousakis, Tallahassee, Fla. – Fiber
Connie Nabholz, Lynn Haven, Fla. – Jewelry
Don Nedobeck, Deland, Fla. – Painting
Kelly Pierre, Santa Rosa Beach, Fla. – Oil & Acrylic
Roger & Renae Poer, Sylvan Springs, Ala. – Jewelry
Hannah Spiegleman, Panama City, Fla. – Acryic & Gouache
Poster Art Contest Winner ($500)
Tony & Vivian Zack, Destin, Fla. – “Can’t Catch Me” ­– Mixed Media
Collaborative Exhibit Winners
Best in Show ($250), John Groah, Destin, Fla. – “Shrimp Basket”
Adult 1st Place ($100), Kathleen Simpson – "Reeds at Inlet, NY"
Adult 2nd Place ($75), Marie Jackson – "Fishing Boats"
Adult 3rd Place ($50), Patricia Sweet-McDonald – "Setting Sun"
Student 1st Place ($100), Giovanni Caballero, Choctawhatchee High School
Student 2nd Place ($75), Angela DeJesus, Fort Walton Beach High School
Student 3rd Place ($50), Kyzer Schilling, South Walton High School
More than 5,000 art lovers attended the sunshine-filled two-day Festival. Thanks to the generous support of local business and media sponsors and a team of more than 100 volunteers, art lovers of all ages watched artists create works of art before their eyes, browsed art from dozens of emerging new and student artists, and enjoyed hands-on fun in 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. Entertaining street performers, lively art drawings and the sale of colorful keepsake souvenirs — all created a family-friendly festival feel.
Event proceeds help to fund MKAF’s cultural season of events and arts education outreach programs. 
The application deadline for the 23rd annual MKAF Poster Art Contest is June 21, 2018.
MKAF will begin accepting artist and poster entry applications for the 2018 Festival of the Arts in February 2018, which will be held on October 27-28, 2018.
For more information on how you can become a member of MKAF, provide a donation or explore opportunities to get involved, call (850) 650-2226 find MKAF on Facebook or visit
PHOTOGRAPHY: For images of some of the 2017 Festival of the Arts artist award winners, click here.
Photo Credit of award winners: Kay Phelan


Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation (MKAF), a 501-c-3 not-for-profit charitable arts organization, was founded on the cultural, educational and spiritual beliefs of the late Destin matriarch, Mattie Kelly. MKAF’s mission is Northwest Florida’s champion of cultural arts and arts education for all. Since it formed in 1995, its art programs have reached and inspired more than 300,000 children in over 61 schools, and United Way agencies, children and adults with special needs, and wounded warriors. 
Zandra Wolfgram
Wordplay Ink
(850) 218-8805