“A lot of artists have no place to come back to and I don’t want them to become too comfortable where they are now so that they don’t return,” was how Gwen Impson explained her quest to me of trying to find the 200+ artists who made their homes in Hancock County, MS (population 45,933). Hancock’s Waveland and Bay St. Louis were the epicenter of Hurricane Katrina. USA Today named Bay St. Louis as “one of the top three small art towns in America.”
Gwen is president of The Arts of Hancock County. She and her husband John moved back to area when they retired in 1998 from government service in Washington, DC. “What drew us back was family in the region and the art scene,” John told me to which Gwen quickly added, “Plus the food. You can’t beat the food.”
Their home was one of seven that were about 200 yards from the Gulf and 18 feet above sea level. “But the waves were 35 to 40 feet above sea level and all that is left on our entire street is ruble. You have to go at least 2 miles to find anything that is still standing,” Gwen told me. They intend to rebuilt but think that it will take them until 2007 to complete. Meanwhile they are living in a travel trailer in a friend’s back yard and working to reconnect with their local artists. Check out their artists at www.hancock-art.com when their website gets back up.