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January 9, 2013


Who is crafty enough to be named the inaugural Grand Strand Artist of the Year?

The local visual arts community, such as it is, and greater Myrtle Beach, can make strange bedfellows. On one hand the area is rife with artistic talent and creative types, both in visual and performance art. Coastal Carolina University cranks out trained artists by the boatload, music and theater offerings are everywhere, and from Georgetown to Calabash, N.C., hundreds of galleries, gift shops and restaurants are happy to display and even sell locally-created artwork.

Yet a seemingly pervasive indifference toward the arts stands in the way of helping the Grand Strand fully realize that which many other small communities have embraced long ago; a thriving art scene. But all is not lost. A warrior is in our midst, and she’s a 5’8” blonde spitfire who is bound and determined to give the Grand Strand an arts makeover. Her weapon of choice? Information.

This arts-liberating local woman, Alli Baccus, has made it her mission to change the perceptions of frustrated art-loving locals (“Yes Virginia, there IS an arts scene,”), and to encourage those struggling and discouraged artists who call the Grand Strand home. Though naturally shy and leery of the spotlight, Baccus is marching forward, tirelessly and single-handedly leading this new charge for the sake of art, and picking up where other organizations left off (remember the now-defunct Horry County Arts & Cultural Council? And whatever happened to plans for a Performing Arts Center?).

Undaunted, Baccus has created Grand Strand Arts. On Jan. 19, her organization will showcase 12 area artists, along with live musical accompaniment, in an Art Crawl at various Barefoot Landing restaurants. An Awards Dinner at the House of Blues will follow the crawl featuring the crowning of the 2012 Grand Strand Artist of the Year, and the two-part event is open to the public.

Grand Strand Arts, LLC

“That the name [Grand Strand Arts] was even available, is telling,” said Baccus, a self-employed freelance marketing consultant by day who hopes to focus more attention on her one-and-a-half-year-old, one-woman organization. “I couldn’t believe the name was available.” Baccus doesn’t see an outward resistance toward creating an arts scene, but had found it hard to find information on all that does exist, and she hopes GSA will fill a communications void. “The goal is to promote the arts in general. There is a lot going on.”

“I created this as a business, an LLC (limited liability company),” she continued, “though it doesn’t make any money. I didn’t want to create a non-profit and compete with the already existing non-profits for scarce grant money. I want to help those arts organizations, and individual artists succeed.” She does so with an impressive online presence ( offering a calendar of arts events and arts-related news. From the skinny on new displays at Brookgreen Gardens to The Moveable Feast’s Literary Luncheons, The Long Bay Symphony, museum news, live theater, and much more, the Web site, she hopes, will become the clearing house for any and all arts-related content. But she moves beyond an online presence to hit the streets, too.

Artist of the Month Art Crawl

Her vision and inspiration came in late 2011 and by January 2012 Baccus had begun the Artist of the Month series featuring local artists and month-long art shows held at the Fresh Brewed Coffee House in downtown Myrtle Beach. At the Jan. 19 event’s close an awards ceremony will recognize the one artist that best resonated with the public.

Even while a brand new 2013 Artist of the Month series is already underway, and will also feature a Performing Artist category, Grand Strand Arts will celebrate the dozen 2012 visual Artists of the Month, and crown one overall winner. As determined by tabulated online votes at, the public is encouraged to visit, peruse the artists’ work, and vote online.

The Art Crawl begins in the Gallery Room at the House of Blues, where attendees will be given a map. Locations are walking distance for the stout-of-heart or a short drive within Barefoot Landing. Crawlers will have an opportunity to buy an optional $10 wristband for discounts at the participating host venues, which include HOB, Flying Fish Public Market, TBonz Gill & Grill, Greg Norman’s Australian Grille, and Castano’s Italian Steakhouse. Additionally, the Cowork office-sharing facility in Myrtle Beach, and Fresh Brewed Coffee House feature yearlong displays of art for viewing and purchase from past and present Artists of the Month. Flying Fish, Tbonz and Castano’s will also feature these permanent Grand Strand Arts displays.

The Art Crawl, conveniently timed during happy hour, will provide artists and attendees an opportunity to mix, mingle, imbibe, eat, and even hear live music.

The Tunes

A trained vocalist and violinist, Baccus studied music in college, she now only performs on rare occasion for friends and family. Though she has left dreams of music as a possible vocation behind her, her love of music and appreciation for the singer-songwriter has lead her to include performance art as a part of the Art Crawl, and the 2013 Artist of the Month series. Local musical notables and newcomers scheduled to perform at the Art Crawl on Jan. 19 include Feel No Other (Brian McKenzie and Claudia Gregory), Sleeping Policeman (Charles Grace), Brain Roessler, Jesse Uzzel, Candice Marotta, and Liz Kelly. DJ Cway and local vintage boombox manufacturer DomeCandy will also provide music along with possible last-minute additions.

While music will fill the air, it’s what’s on the wall that will take center stage at the 2012 Art Crawl.

But just who are these artists? Here’s a brief look. The Artists (source information courtesy

Sybil Alfano

Studying art at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, and at Deakin University in Australia, Alfano says she barely made it to class; there was the beach, sand, sunshine and surfing all competing with Statistics and Trigonometry. Her art, colorful and full of coastal imagery, reflects her love of nature and her skill with the brush. She was the May 2012 Artist of the Month and says she’s influenced by the surrealist masters - Salvador Dali, Frida Kahlo, and others. Samples of her work may be viewed at

Calvin Blassingame

For more than two decades Blassingame has called Myrtle Beach home. He’s the co-founder of the Roundtable Art Group, and he and his work - including his signature caricatures - are no strangers to the Myrtle Beach arts scene and to Surge readers as he has hand-drawn the images on a couple of our covers, most recently the June 7, 2012 issue likening the 7th Congressional District race to a circus. Blassingame’s works feature interpretations of the human form, jazz-inspired imagery, and afro-gospel selections. His own sponsored shows and workshops in the area have helped artists and admirers enjoy his art and that of the dozens of members of the Roundtable Art Group. Blassingame was the January 2012 Artist of the Month, and samples of his work may seen at

Blake Brown

This Surfside Beach native is usually not too far from a surfboard, camera, or a paint brush, and his style is a varied as are his abstract themes, though nature, the ocean, and beautiful faces figure prominently in much of his work. His Web site,, showcases Brown’s skill with the camera and the paintbrush, though he’s also not afraid of a can of spray paint. Moving between mediums, Brown has no one particular style and he says the diversity “just comes” and “I have to do it.” He was the December 2012 Artist of the Month. A renaissance man, Brown also penned the 2009 Surge cover story about female surfers, “A Wave of Their Own.”

Blair Browning

Browning has studied art, seriously. She was first a graduate of the Academy for the Arts, Science and Technology in Myrtle Beach, then on to undergraduate studies at the Savannah College of Art & Design, and then she obtained a BA in Studio Art from Coastal Carolina University. Back and forth between Raleigh N.C. and Myrtle Beach, she’s volunteered for fundraising events and is passionate about not only her own art, but that of her contemporaries. She’s served on the boards of various arts organizations and lately has been focusing on her own company, b.b. Designs, where her works include jewelry, mosaics, pop art, paintings, murals, and sculptures, highlighting humor, whimsy, and the lighter side of life. Browning was the February 2012 Artist of the Year, and her works can be sampled at or

Rachel Jones

The August 2012 Artist of the Month, Jones first began expressing her artistic passions while living in England and in the Caribbean. She says she wants to let viewers interpret her art on their own, and leaves “incomplete narratives where the viewer is free to step in and finish the tale,” according to an interview with Grand Strand Arts. Focusing on the female figure, Jones moves between the tragic and the hopeful, saying, “human suffering often triggers hope, strength and togetherness.” Jones has used her extensive travel as source material and her work may be viewed at

Gwen Mis

A Coastal Carolina University graduate trained in Marine Science and Nutrition, Mis took a left turn to revisit her lifelong passion for drawing and painting. Mis says on the Grand Strand Arts-supplied bio that she “loves to paint anything from wildlife to fantasy-like pieces. Whatever I feel moved by during that particular session. GSA’s June Artist of the Month, Mis’ work can be sampled at, where you’ll find examples of her bright and vivid works in portraits, wildlife and the fanciful.

Jeff Norris

A skilled graphic designer, Norris’ work is featured across the southeast and here on the Grand Strand in the form of his award-winning commercial advertising pieces, but his skill in the fine arts is where this Sumter native really shines. As a lifelong student of the arts, Norris once owned an advertising graphics firm based in Columbia and Florence, but moved to Myrtle Beach a decade ago. He still works in the graphic design field, but in his free time he enjoys painting on recycled materials and says his work is “inspired by the complexity of God’s creation.” This March 2012 Artist of the Month finds his subject matter often includes the female form and celebrity music icons of the past. Sample his work at

Don Perry

The April 2012 Artist of The Month, Perry is known for his artwork, photography, graphic design, advertising and publishing endeavors. Perry’s thumbprint is all over town in the form of logo design, high-profile publications, menu design, even movie posters and CD cover designs. His artwork covers a broad range of styles, though among the most striking of his images are his abstract paintings. Samples may be viewed at

Natalie Sexton

This Greenville native moved to Myrtle Beach when she was three-years-old. A self-taught artist and photographer, her artistic undertakings include jewelry designs, multi-medium collages, photography, and acrylic paintings. A former radio personality, this multi-talented creative force also does commercial voiceover work, event planning and interior design. Sexton was the November 2012 Artist of the Month, and owns Flying Pig Creative Studio where samples of her talents are featured. Visit

Scott Smallin

No stranger to Weekly Surge, Smallin, this publication’s first and only staff lens man from 2006-2010, is a photographer with an undeniable creative eye. A music fan, Smallin’s band portraits and candid concert shots have appeared in Spin and other national publications, and many regional publications as well. Covering commercial assignments of every type Smallin is equally at home at a sweaty rock concert as a corporate board room, though those who know him can tell you where he’d prefer to be shooting. This July 2012 Artist of the Month has samples of his photography on his Web site,, and at

Bill Strydesky

Instantly recognizable and original, Strydesky’s works - sometimes as large as the side of building - contain all the form and function of a Dr. Seuss Jing Tingler Carnio Flunx in the midst of a Picasso-esq abstract. Dazzling spectacles of color and organic shapes flow and morph, disappearing in one corner only to reappear in another. Some of his newer works, as featured on, are less frenetic than his usual style as showcased at, but no less vibrant. Flip through a digital copy of his art book “is this bs?’ posted on the artist’s Web site. This September 2012 Artist of the Month has lived in the Myrtle Beach area for the last 12 years and is well known in the arts community as an organizer and a patron of the arts, as well as a tireless promoter.

Joe Winkler

Photo-realistic sketches of well-known celebrities, are the hallmark of Joe Winkler, the October 2102 Artist of the Month. A graduate of The Citadel, this trained E.I.T. (Engineer in Training) is working toward professional licensing and works for his family’s business in residential construction by day. When time allows he puts pencil, charcoal and ink to notebook and creates, or recreates, amazing iconic pop culture characters including: Ironman, Dumbledore, Capt. America, and Curt Cobain, to name but a few. Check out samples of his work at

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