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2017 South Walton Artist of the Year MARISOL GULLO

Marisol Gullo of Santa Rosa Beach was named the 2017 South Walton Artist of the Year on October 11, 2016.

Gullo is the 15th Annual recipient for the community recognition program that helps to promote the outstanding arts culture of Walton County on Northwest Florida’s Gulf Coast. An accomplished acrylic artist who owns and operates the Not Too Shabby Boutique in Santa Rosa Beach, Gullo was selected after a record-setting year for applications received by Visit South Walton.  

“I am so honored to be awarded Artist of the Year and now I have this opportunity to give back to our community,” says Gullo. “I want to promote South Walton the best way I can through my art, through my store, through my story.” Gullo has quite the South Walton story to tell.

Then a lawyer in Costa Rica, she first traveled to the area on her honeymoon with husband Tony who had vacationed in South Walton from his childhood home in New Orleans.

“I immediately fell in love with the area,” she says. “We promised each other that we would move there one day to start our family and sure enough, within a year we packed up and moved to Walton County in 2001.”

The couple and their young son have called South Walton their home ever since.

Gullo says she felt a connection to the boho chic, natural style of South Walton immediately.

“I really love the connections you feel here. Connections to the natural beauty of the area. Connections with all the diverse people and happenings — (but) it still feels like a small town... I feel that as an artist, you are compelled to be in beautiful areas to find inspiration all around you. Art is beautiful. This area is beautiful. What better place to live and find that inspiration?”

Gullo has certainly enjoyed the thriving and supportive artist community which attracts the creative class of makers to the coastal oasis of South Walton.

“I’ve been very blessed to have built up a wonderful group of friends in this area,” she adds. “I have been lucky to become part of a community of friends where we build up and inspire each other. We support each other no matter what, and they challenge me to push myself artistically all the time.”

Saying that she believes in following her dreams, adapting to any situation and challenging herself, Gullo notes that “discovering new inspiration is the most rewarding part of my work as an artist.”

Many themes run through Gullo’s work — but colors, textures and subjects of her art are heavily inspired by her South Walton surroundings. Inspired to start painting when she first moved here, Gullo began experimenting with different textures and colors to capture the beauty and movement of the coast, such as the stilt-like legs of the heron disappearing into tall grass.

“I am inspired by local coastal birds, marine life, florals and the many things one finds along the sugar-white sand,” she says, noting that recently she has also been inspired to paint lionfish in support of the local effort to remove the invasive species to protect the local ecosystem.

Gullo’s love of travel and old buildings has also played a large role in her painting and furniture designs in her shop.

“I find beauty in the older pieces I see along my travels, and my way of expressing love for these things is through my art forms: both furniture and painting,” she explains. “The antique technique seen in my piece, ‘Blue Roses’, also represents the inspiration I have gotten from the many strong women in my life.”

The Gullos opened the Not Too Shabby Boutique in Santa Rosa Beach in 2011. Since then, they have worked with Emeril and Alden Lagasse, and actor Alan Ritchson and his wife. Gullo’s artwork hangs at local hotspots like The Bay restaurant, and she was chosen as April’s Artist of the Month at 45 Central wine bar in Seaside. Most recently, she has worked with Mike and Angela Ragsdale, founders of 30A.com, to create several custom pieces for their new home.

Gullo has taken her life experience and built her own one-of-a-kind aesthetic and vision. Drawn by the beautiful and peaceful lifestyle in South Walton, she has now built a life, business and family here.

“I love the melting pot feel of the area and that so many people have chosen to live here on these beautiful beaches because they realize how special a place like South Walton truly is,” she adds. “I travel a lot for business and for fun. No matter where in the world I travel, one thing that amazes me is the way our community embraces and welcomes people, especially someone like me who comes from another country. It is so amazing to see how everyone has come together to embrace my business over the years and now has embraced me as an artist.”

As the 15th annual South Walton Artist of the Year, Gullo joins an impressive list of local artists. Prior designees have included Melody Bogle, Juan Francisco Adaro, Mary Hong, Andy Saczynski, Allison Craft, Allison Wickey, Michael Granberry, Michael McCarty, Donna Burgress, Bill Stephenson, Phil Kiser, Justin Gaffrey, Susan Lucas, and Dorothy Starbuck. Each artist has created a piece of commissioned work displayed either at the Visit South Walton Visitor Center and Conference Room or at the Walton County South Walton Annex building.

As the 15th annual recipient of the award, Gullo fills a special role in the community public arts program. The Artist of the Year serves as a spokesperson for the thriving local creative community here that helps to shape the lifestyle of this culturally dynamic destination.

Gullo’s work can be found at her boutique and on display at several local restaurants and businesses. As part of the Artist of the Year program, her work will also be on public display with the art collection at the Visit South Walton Visitor Center located at 25777 US Hwy 331 South in Santa Rosa Beach.

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