Inspired by the Masters: New art collaborative taking shape in Destin

Savannah Chastain
Don Sawyer, of Sawyer Art came up with the mentorship program for “The Ten” two years ago. He is finally seeing his plan realized. “You can’t hope it’s gonna work; you have to make it work,” Sawyer said noting that every dream takes action to see it through.

Don Sawyer is a man of inspiration. His bright beach paintings and iconic toothy-grinned fish have dotted the Emerald Coast for almost 15 years, and now this well seasoned artist wants to share his knowledge to create an art movement in the heart of Destin.

“What I want to do here is create a cultural art center right here,” Sawyer said. “This area is known as the Harbor District; I want it to be known as the Harbor and Art District.”

Sawyer recently opened up his gallery to ten local artists, and has begun a mentorship community, which he has dubbed, “The Ten.” Studio space within Sawyer Art, located on 707 Harbor Boulevard, has been allocated for the ten artists to both work and sell their art together.

Above his easel, Sawyer has painted portraits of art greats, Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and Paul Gauguin. He explained that it was these art masters and their collaborative philosophy that first gave him the idea for his mentorship program.

“All the masters knew each other,” he said, “because they knew each other before they were masters — that’s how they became masters.”

Sawyer hopes that through working together, painting together, and sharing creative ideas, this community of artists will sharpen one another and thrive.

“The whole organization is about helping each other become better artists,” he said. “This is a learning place; it’s very important to me that they are successful.”

Although Sawyer is an accomplished artist, with paintings sold worldwide, he does not consider himself any greater than those in his group.

“An artist is a piece of art,” Sawyer said. “He is never finished.”

Sawyer explained that if an artists believes they have arrived they may as well put down their brush.

“You never conquer it, you never own it,” Sawyer said, “We are students everyday.” 

Sawyer is currently looking to fill two more spots in the artist collaborative, and explained that no experience is required.

“They have to have the desire to become a great artist,” Sawyer said, “We need honesty and enthusiasm of people who have not arrived yet.”

Members of The Ten receive studio space, indoor and outdoor sales access, wholesale art supplies, art lessons, and Sawyer added, the most important component, “a constant learning place.”

Sawyer plans to host public art festivals weekly throughout the spring and summer in front of the gallery, complete with artwork, music and a crawfish broil. The first is planned for March 8, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.


To apply for The Ten mentorship email: or call 850-496-5484.


Joy Fine, Chad Broadley, Pat Federinko, Leslie Sullivan, Pat Roberts, Claire Gagne, Linda Quinlan, Gail Anderson, Deedee Phillips, and Don and his wife Claire Sawyer also include themselves to total 12 in the collective membership.