Anne Hunter, an iconic mover and shaker on 30A for more than a decade, has returned to do it again. Hunter moved to 30A and opened Fonville Press Coffee Shop at Alys Beach in 2004 when the town was still new.

This wasn’t her first view of the community, however, as her grandmother initially brought her here in 1971. Her grandmother was a school teacher in Georgiana, Ala. and had taught Hank Williams.

“My grandmother instilled something in me that brought me back,” said Hunter.

After three years at Fonville Press, Hunter opened Ceruleans at WaterColor, a coffee shop, art gallery, and performance venue for area artists, which proved to be very popular with locals.

In 2008 Hunter opened two galleries in Rosemary Beach and one in Seaside. The artists she represented eventually took those over.

For the past five years Hunter has lived mainly in New York City’s Soho community, spending her time writing for various publications, working on a novel, and establishing herself in the arts community there.

But Hunter felt the pull of 30A again and saw a need that was not being met in what she refers to as the epicenter of 30A — Seaside.

The main downtown street has been without an art gallery for about a year. Hunter wanted to change that and make a difference through her special touch and sensibilities and opened The Anne Hunter Gallery at 25 Central Square on Seaside’s main street the day after Thanksgiving.

“Opening this gallery feels like I have come full circle,” said Hunter. “Having been in all the New Urbanist towns on 30A, I like returning to Seaside. It’s the center. This is where I first became connected to the arts on 30A. And the first thing I had from here was a tin metal painting made by Billie Gaffrey. She was the first who inspired me. She has had that influence on many.”

Hunter is representing Gaffrey at the gallery.

Gaffrey currently teaches art at Seaside Neighborhood School. She also designed the logo for the Red Bar logo and signage for other establishments that have defined 30A for many years.

“She is one of the original outsider folk artists on 30A,” said Hunter. “And she is one of the few still painting. She has helped define this area and paved the way for others.”

In addition to Gaffrey, Hunter is also representing the contemporary work of former Walton County Artist of the Year Allison Wickey, and the photography of New York-based Antoine Verglas.

“He’s known for introducing a new style of photographing celebrities in the ’80s and ’90s. He’s a true artist,” said Hunter of Verglas.

While she is opening with these three, Hunter said more will be coming.

“It’s my goal to forever mark Central Square as a place for artists,” she said.

Hunter will live at the beach and in Soho where she will continue to scout for more artists, write for publications, and work on her book.

“The five-year sabbatical I took while I was living in Soho helped me harness my own creative spirit and I feel I can now make a significant contribution to other artists,” said Hunter. “I never wanted to live in New York City, but that’s where my path took me. It is where I came to terms with myself and my own art — writing. I discovered a community of artists in Soho, and I think I found myself there. Now that I have harnessed my creative spirit, I feel a sense of ease and maturity. I am happy to return to the beach as a gallerist. It’s full circle. These are the beaches I grew up coming to. South Walton is my home. It’s filled with the people and places that I love. The artists in our community are very special. I really think we are on the verge of an art movement precipitated by the New Urbanism movement that began in Seaside. I am happy to be here.”

Anne Hunter Gallery at 25 Central is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week.

Written by Deborah Wheeler for The Walton Sun, Thursday, December 3, 2015

Photography by Jack Gardner