Celebrating 50 Years of Art in Pensacola 1973 – 2023
A group of artists got together in homes around Pensacola and dreamed up what an art co-op could be in Pensacola. The vision was to have a place for local artists to sell art and have events to expose visitors to many aspects of art world. They incorporated and became PENSACOLA ARTISTS, INC. (PAI). Quayside Art Gallery began in an abandoned warehouse on South Palafox Street that was rented with no AC and with metered parking. The artists of that era had parties and fish fries to keep the doors open, hoping to sell art and share it with the public. At that time, many businesses were abandoning the downtown area for the new mall that had AC and free parking. On top of this, every time PAI made an improvement to the building, the rent would go up, so many spouses and local leaders encouraged our search for a new home that we could purchase and claim as our own.
The building was selected. It was decided the new home would be the former Germania Fire and Hose Company. Through a mountain of volunteer labor, we were able to create 3 floors of art, and spaces were determined by random drawing. Laurie Flynn had jewelry hanging from the mezzanine at the far end. There still was no AC, and there was a warren of individual rooms with doors on the upper floor.
We are in year 20! Our sales were recorded on a waitress tablet and then hand posted to the posting book and triple checked by our trusty accounting team before checks were written to the artists for their sales. We opened the window every morning to hang out the American flag upstairs. (Sometimes our smaller stature artists had to hang on to each other so no one fell out the open window.)
30 Years and we are going strong! Little did we know what the next year would bring…
Hurricane Ivan made a direct hit on Pensacola. Quayside was sandbagged, but we still took in about 6” of water. Unfortunately, the ability to get a crew in to remove the damaged carpet was too long, and we had an awful mess that set in. One bright outcome was that rather than remain the same, we were able to redesign the 3rd floor into a fabulous maze that allowed all of the art to have a great view from many an angle!
After surviving three years of Covid (including 4+ months of shutdown and many more of only limited hours of operation), we are back stronger than ever. The quality of the art that Quayside offers is unsurpassed. We have an ongoing presence at Palafox Market each week, we offer workshops to the public and our membership to encourage artistic expression, we continue to coordinate and run the Fine Arts Exhibit each year at the Interstate Fair, we are an active participant of Foo Foo Fest (as a Friend of Foo), an annual event, and we are a popular presence each month at Gallery Night. Our sales have never been higher, and our enthusiasm for Quayside Art Gallery and what it offers our community is matched only by our pride in what we have brought to Pensacola over the past fifty years and look forward to expanding into the future.