With its stark-white architecture, Alys Beach is the perfect canvas for an arts festival.
However, when the town's evangelist, Mike Ragsdale, was looking to create an event for the urban community it had to be different from all of the activities along 30A.
"It had to be as unique as Alys Beach," Ragsdale said. "Not another wine or music festival."
With his background in technology (he developed several online communities for America Online and is the mastermind behind 30a.com), Ragsdale imagined an event where art was more interactive and larger than ever.
"Instead of traditional art, we invite artists to project their digital art on the white architecture," he said. "After six years it's grown into one of the most unique festivals, and the first projected art festival in the world."
Right now, only 10 percent of Alys Beach is covered during the event. As the festival grows, Ragsdale said he'd like to see the entire seaside community covered with the colorful, graphic designs.
"It's going to keep getting bigger," he said.
The festival will be divided between two days. Friday, June 7, will be the Gallery Stroll, where guests will be able meet the artists and see their work. On Saturday, June 8, festivities continue as judges award the winning artists. The evening ends with a pool party at Caliza Pool.
"I'm personally always amazed at how the artists marry the art and the technology," said Rebecca Sullivan of Bountiful Creative.
Sullivan has worked with the Digital Graffiti team for the past three years and says it's one of her favorite events on 30A.
"I never walk away from the event anything less than amazed each year," she said.
Nearly 200 artists from all over the world submitted art to the Digital Graffiti Festival. At the beginning of May, judges narrowed down the selection to 23 artists hailing from places such as France, Iran, and Brazil. Just a handful of submissions are from Florida, and only one comes from Destin.
Representing the local area is Destin’s Shane Sauer and South Walton’s Justin Lyons, two separate artists that joined forces to submit a piece to the festival.
Sauer, a local filmmaker, and Lyons, a mixed-media painter, met at last year's Digital Graffiti festival through Madra McDonald, a mutual friend. It was their first time at the festival and it led to their first collaboration.
"It's not the typical arts festival," Sauer said. "There were some inspirational pieces that made us want to do it."
Stepping a bit out of his comfort zone, Sauer is excited to be a part of the festival.
"It's more experimental than I typically do," Sauer said, careful not to give away too many details.
Blending the work of Lyon's paintbrush with Sauer's camera, the two developed a piece that allows you to see another side of painting.
"It's the whole story, an effect you wouldn't see otherwise," Sauer said. "Justin's painting is the graffiti. We photographed it in stages and merged different exposures to give it depth. I actually shot footage of Justin himself."
What the two have in common is their ability to tell a story. Whether it's through his films, or through Lyon's thick, layered paintings — there's a story, Sauer said.
As Lyon's work has been featured on t-shirts, YOLO boards, not to mention local art festivals, it's only fitting that he represents the local art scene at the Digital Graffiti festival. The remaining 23 pieces will be awarded in several categories including: Best of Show, Most Innovative, Most Experimental Submission, Best in Florida — Homegrown, Best Animated Submission and Curator's Choice. But the grand prize is not what drives the artist.
"After going for the first time last year, I think it's super cool just to be a part of the festival," Lyons said. "I'm pumped to be in it."