This Soulful Art Town Is a Hidden Gem on the Gulf

Tracey Minkin
This Soulful Art Town Is a Hidden Gem on the Gulf

Along the pale sands that line Mississippi's toe dipped into the Gulf of Mexico, there's no sweeter coming together of art, place, and soul than in Ocean Springs. It was here, 101 years ago, that Annette McConnell Anderson and her husband, George, bought 24 acres of scrub-shaded land on the water, dreaming of creating an art colony and eventually moving their three boys from New Orleans to live there.

Shearwater Pottery at Walter Anderson Museum of Art | Maggie Robert

What emerged are two artistic legacies. Shearwater Pottery, founded in 1928 by son and master potter Peter, remains a family-owned studio on the original land that creates and sells highly original—and collectible—ceramics. Houseware pieces like mugs, bowls, and plates shimmer with glazes that capture the Gulf's hues, and Shearwater's famous ceramic figures—from pirates and dock workers to seabirds and fish—evoke a fairy-tale view of this historic shoreline.

The Little Room at Walter Anderson Museum of Art | Maggie Robert

The second legacy—that of son Walter Inglis Anderson—is embedded in many of Shearwater's legacy designs, and also in thousands of watercolors and ink drawings, hundreds of linoleum block prints and oil paintings, and several exuberant murals left behind after the artist's death in 1965. Deeply moved by nature, Walter regularly rowed an open boat out to Horn Island—a barrier strand 12 miles offshore—exposing himself to the impacts of weather, water, and wildlife.

His vivid captures of that world can be found two places in Ocean Springs: in prints and textiles sold at Realizations, a family-owned small shop and gallery—and at the Walter Anderson Museum of Art, which houses his works on paper and his boat, along with access to a mural-lined Community Center and perhaps most movingly, "The Little Room," a part of Walter's cottage covered floor to ceiling with mystical visions.

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The Anderson legacy infuses Ocean Springs with an artistic heart that supports independent galleries and shops, innovative restaurants, and a vibrant live music scene. Every fall, the town swells to creative bursting during the Peter Anderson Arts & Crafts Festival (November 2–3, 2019). As Walter Anderson said, "In order to realize the beauty of humanity, we must realize our relation to nature." In this small Mississippi beach town, humanity and nature hold each other close through the binding beauty of art.