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2016 Artist of the Year Melody Bogle

When Melody Bogle was a child, she never dreamed that she would one day become the 2016 South Walton Artist of the Year.

"Having grown up on a farm in rural Alabama, I would have described myself as a farm girl," Bogle says.

In the 1960s, Bogle moved with her parents to the warmer shores of Walton County on the Gulf of Mexico. Living on a farm on the north side of the Choctawhatchee Bay in Freeport, Bogle was inspired by her father who was a leader in the local business community as the region grew.

"I know that seeing me become Artist of the Year would have made him very proud," she says. "He believed that we should give back to the community and he had always encouraged me artistically."

She started taking art courses in colleges and workshops in the early 1980s.

"I have studied with David Leffel, Albert Handel, Maggie Price (here and in Italy), Barbara Flowers, Carolyn Anderson, Roger Dale Brown, Anatoly Deverin, Quang Ho, Scott Christensen and others painting still life, figures, and plein air, in oils and pastels. Many of these are our present day masters and I'm honored to have studied under them."

Bogle has certainly taken an artist's winding career path. After attending college in Chicago, first as a math major but then switching to art, she began her first professional career - with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as an air traffic controller.

"I started in Chicago and then moved to work for the FAA in Memphis," she explains.

She retired as an air traffic controller at Memphis ARTCC in 1998. She moved back to Walton County in 1999 to be near her parents. Leaving the high stress work provided Bogle with the time and inspiration to take up her lifelong love of art as a full-time second career. A passionate oil and pastel painter who specializes in painting “en plein air,” meaning “in the open air,” Bogle's passion for painting comes alive through painting on location and capturing the relationship between natural color and light. Her kind nature and giving spirit earned her a quick reputation in the developing South Walton creative community of artists and makers as a dedicated artist and teacher.

"I was actually introduced to pastels in Memphis in the early 1980s. When I saw the beauty and brilliance of this media, I was hooked!"

After serving as the 2015 South Walton Painter of the Year, Bogle was named as the 2016 Artist of the Year at the Walton County TDC's Annual Meeting in October of 2015. The honorees also included Acrylic Painter of the Year, Gordie Hinds, and Mixed Media Creator of the Year, Sara Lierly.

"The South Walton Artist of the Year program not only brings attention to the winning artist but to the arts in general," she adds. The arts and the artists here are just one small part of the beauty of South Walton. I have been introduced to people I would have never been able to otherwise through interviews and teaching opportunities. As a plein air artist, it is rewarding to teach and watch someone who has never painted to get excited not only about our Coastal Dune Lakes but with painting also. This program has not only been about the receiving but the giving by opening the eyes of others to the beauty of making art. In this way, one is sharing for me the beauty of the place we call home."

As the 14th Annual South Walton Artist of the Year, Bogle joined an impressive list of local artists. Prior designees have included 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.

Bogle filled a special role in the community public arts program. The Artist of the Year serves as a spokesperson for the thriving local creative community which creates the lifestyle for the culturally dynamic destination. Bogle travelled with Visit South Walton to Dallas in 2016 to promote the area and provided special art classes to visiting media and VIPs during the Travel Media Showcase Family Travel Summit held in Sandestin. The creation of her commissioned artwork was also the subject of one of Visit South Walton's Facebook Live videos on location at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park.

As the Artist of the Year, she was commissioned to create a piece of art to hang among the collection from previous recognized artists.

"I was given a tour of Topsail Preserve State Park by a park ranger who took a couple of us on a four wheeler over the area and along the shore of this beautiful park," she recalls. "As we exited the beach through an exit point that they use, I saw the view that I painted. It took my breath away as many dunes do, but with the coastal dune lake peacefully at it's base, I thought that I had to come back and paint this."

Bogle could not get the visual out of her mind so she decided to go back and paint a plein air study. From there, she created the studio piece. As part of the Artist of the Year program, her work will 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.

"We have an abundance of natural beauty here in South Walton and it offers an endless supply of subject matter. The dunes and the shadows that the light creates stirs an emotion in me. It is a respite, an offered pause, a peace that calms me and so the title, 'The Dunes' Offered Respite.' The shadows and the light is always changing, just like our dunes from the storms and winds. From the morning light to the evening, one could spend a lifetime painting our dunes and the beauty they hold. Fragile they are, and protected in our State Parks, and for that I am so grateful."

Bogle’s work can be found on display at several local businesses. and at the new Cultural Arts Alliance Foster Gallery. To learn more about Melody Bogle's artwork, visit her website or check out this timelapse video of her painting at the Dallas Cattle Barron's Ball in 2016!

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