PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Dear Michael. That’s how Jason Hedden begins his poem, which he says is an open letter to the storm.
He wrote it about a week after Michael hit while he was trying to process the devastation.
“It was my way of controlling something, you know,” Hedden said. “[All of us] bombarded with images and emotions and not knowing what to do with them.”
He knew very quickly after the storm that this community would need artists to help put meaning to the things that may not make sense, “The arts have the ability to give shape and voice and form to the most abstract ideas or the most difficult emotions.”
When the exhibit opened on Friday at Gulf Coast State College, people were moved to tears after seeing the collection. Hedden said the fact that everyone in our community experienced this together gives them a stronger connection to the artist that created these pieces.
Gallery Director Pavel Amromin said part of their mission at Gulf Coast is to be there for the community, and they used the tools they knew best to make sure that happened.
“We’re trying to capture this for the entire community,” Amromin said. “We’re kind of providing a mirror for the community to deal and process and see where we are now–a year after Michael.”
He said the planning for this gallery started during the spring, but the inspiration came the moment the storm passed. And that’s been the case for many people across the panhandle, not just the artists in this gallery.
“There’s a facebook group that’s called the Art of Michael that’s been sort of a respository for work that’s created,” Hedden said. “There’s three books, that I know of, that have been published since [with] all the poetry, and photographs and stories, and all the proceeds benefit the United Way of NW Florida fund.”
While the “Michael” exhibit will only be up until November 8th, both Hedden and Amromin believe we’ll continue to see artwork from the community in response to the storm.
You can check out the exhibit at the Amelia Center Main Gallery, on Gulf Coast’s campus, Monday through Thursday from 10 am to 6 pm, and on Fridays from 10 am to 4 pm. It is free to the public.