'A NEW DIMENSION': Environmental artists collaborate on the beaches of Holiday Isle

Matt Algarin
Merritt Kraft Fletcher, left, and Stuart Frost, right, are spending the week in Destin and have been creating a one-of-a-kind piece of art. The artists first met while working on a project in Africa.

Art comes in all shapes, sizes and mediums, but for a pair of visiting artists working along Holiday Isle, it took the shape of a washed-up piling.

“This is something that could have been here already,” said Stuart Frost, a sculptor who currently resides in Norway. “It's something that you might have come across, but you were not quite sure where it came from.”

Frost, an environmental artist, and Tampa-based artist Merritt Kraft Fletcher have spent the past week tucked behind a sand dune near the east jetty working on their Destin-inspired creation.

Searching for a canvas, the artists came across a roughly 6-foot long piling that was covered with a hard plastic shell. With their creativity leading the way, the duo created a stencil and traced hundreds of triangles on the thick plastic, before they precisely removed them with only a chisel and muscle power.

"It took about two days to carve it out," said Fletcher, a 20-year gallery artist.

With the wood now showing through, the next step was to add a little pizzazz. Each cutout was filled with glue one-by-one and then filled with a natural element — Destin's sugar white sand.

"You've had the hurricanes come through here and I found out that they were going to be pumping sand to create a beach here," Frost said. "I suppose (my inspiration) was using something that they had been working on — using something that was washed up and could have been part of a storm — and giving it new life, like they are giving a new life to the beach."

Separated by thousands of miles and multiple bodies of water, Fletcher and Frost first met while both attending an International Land Art workshop in Africa back in October where they were tasked with creating individual pieces using indigenous materials found on the African continent.

"We had applied separately," Fletcher told The Log. "I made a site specific sculpture from glass that I kiln cast and brought with me, then incorporated it into other materials I found there."

Back in the United States, Fletcher and Frost have more collaboration planned, as they will meet up in the near future to work on a tree burning project in Britain.

"This is only the second week we've been working together," said Frost, a 20-year art veteran.

Before arriving in Destin, the duo had spent time at Fort Desoto State Park creating a unique piece constructed out of large shells that had a "metallic look."

"We broke the shells into small pieces, which totally changed the whole perception of what it was, so they didn't look like shells anymore," Frost told the Log. "When people approached it, they weren't quite sure what they were looking at. The idea is to change something that exists and give it a new dimension."

As of Wednesday, the artists said they had planned to wrap the project up, which left them with a lingering question, “what to do with the finished work?”

Staying at the Jetty East condominiums where her parents own a few units, Fletcher said they are contemplating donating the piece to the beachfront condominiums that she has been visiting since childhood.

"It's nostalgic to be here," she said.

As with most site specific pieces they create, Fletcher and Frost said they are accustomed to leaving them behind, purely for the nature of environmental art.

"After putting all of this time and effort into this piece, we might want to put it in a place where more people can see it and appreciate it," Frost said. "This is between what you would consider a gallery piece and a site-specific piece."

To learn more about Stuart Frost and his work visit Merritt Kraft Fletchers' work can be seen at

When they are not creating one-of-a-kind pieces abroad, Fletcher (University of South Florida) and Frost are instructors at the university level. They said teaching gives them the opportunity to share their passion with up and coming artists.

"It's just something you want to do to," Frost said. "It's important because they are the ones that are going to be the future."