Thanks to a group of citizens dedicated to make Destin the best it can be, Main Street will look a little different in the new year.

Five years ago, Ron Sandstead formed the Mainstreet Betterment Alliance to help beautify Main Street. They chose five projects to begin with included adopting Main Street, planting trees on the street, starting a community garden, painting the old Crestview Produce building and featuring local artists on banners down the street.

Now, the last project is becoming a reality.

As soon as the city takes down their Christmas banners, banners featuring local artists’ artwork will replace them.

“I hope it really, really helps out our local artists,” Sandstead said. “Most of their art is in galleries and most of us don’t have time to go walking through galleries so we have no idea what kind of art is out there in our town.”

Sandstead said he hopes this project will accomplish three things.

“I want to beautify Destin, promote art in the city, because there really isn’t any art on display, and I want to promote the artist,” he said.

Every four months, eight pieces of art from artists located in Pensacola to Panama City will be featured on the banners, but Sandstead hopes he’ll be able to change the art more often.

“If I can more artists that are interested, I can go to 3 months,” he said. “I’d rather rotate the art more frequently because I want it to be a reason for people to come and drive down Main Street.”

It’s no secret that the art community has a large presence in Destin, but Sandstead said there isn’t a place that could be called the “arts district” in the area.

“I’d like to see an arts district somewhere in our area and I personally believe that Main Street is perfect for that,” he said. “Main Street doesn’t really have an identity and there are warehouses and empty buildings that could be converted into galleries.”

Artists such as Estelle Grengs – who won the Mattie Kelly T-Shirt art competition this year – Jennifer Viaene, Andrea Chipser, and Robin Cannon of Redbird art will be featured in the first banner display. Sandstead said he eventually plans on displaying children’s art as well.

Allison Yii's piece called "Look Ma," which depicts a young boy holding a seashell, was the first piece chosen to be a part of the project.

"I wanted people to look at him and smile so I'm really excited about it," said Yii, who has a background in fine arts and graphic design. "There’s so many good artists in our area and to be selected in the first set of eight is quite an honor."

Although he hopes the art brings more traffic to Main Street, Sandstead said he wants them to slow down.

“I told the artists whatever you draw or paint, it needs to be recognizable at 40 mph because that’s what they do down Main Street,” he said with a laugh.

At the end of 2019, Sandstead said they will host a party/auction where the artists and their work will be introduced, along with the project’s sponsors. All of the original art will be sold and the proceeds will go into upcoming art projects.

“I have a few projects I’d like to see happen, but I just want to see Destin be the best community it can be,” he said. “If I get anywhere close to what I imagined, then it’ll be wonderful.”