BERNADETTE SIMS - Founding Member


Ms. Sims, local artist and founder of the Northwest Florida Ballet, was trained at Ballet Arts Studio at Carnegie Hall in New York City. She served as Director of the Northwest Florida Ballet for 28 years and presently teaches ballet in the NFB Académie. As an artist, she has won numerous awards for her watercolor artwork and digital photography and has served as chairman of the National Exhibition of the Watercolor Society of Alabama. Her work is on display at HH Arts in Fort Walton Beach. Ms. Sims is a founding member and current President of Okaloosa Public Arts.


Her community service activities include: 

- Past President of Florida State Dance Association

- Past President of the Southeastern Regional Ballet Association

- Board of Directors of the National Association for Regional Ballet

- Board of Directors of the Okaloosa Arts Alliance

- Past President of the Arts and Design Society of Fort Walton Beach

- Past President of the Junior League of Fort Walton Beach


                        ELIA SAXER

Elia Saxer holds a BA in Arts and Humanities from the University of Southwestern. She has been recognized nationally in juried competitions for: Best of TV Guide Awards, Color Pencil Society of America, Prismacolor, and Addy Association of Ft. Walton Beach. She has served as a judge for art shows with Arts and Design Society of Fort Walton Beach, Okaloosa County Art Fair, and Pryor Middle School Talent Show. Her work hangs in corporate and private collections. Her artwork is currently being carried at Twiggs and Leaves Gallery in Waynesville, North Carolina as well as Artful Things in Niceville, FL. As a muralist, her work is enjoyed by the public in these venues: The Okaloosa County New Courthouse Annex, Okaloosa County Administration Building, Ocean City/Wright Firehouse, Old St. Mary Church, Arts and Design Society of Fort Walton Beach, and in private residences throughout Northwest Florida.


- Her community activities include:

- Portrait Society of America

- Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters

- Café Bienville Artist’s Guild

- Women’s Artist’s Network

- Color Pencil Society of America

- Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators

- Arts and Design Society of Ft. Walton Beach

- Member Show Plein Air South

LINDA CARR - Founding Member


Ms. Carr, a native of Niceville, graduated from Choctawhatchee High School and attended the University of Florida. She has trained with nationally known folk artists Priscilla Hauser and Betty Denton and is certified in stenciling by Adele Bishop. Her stenciling has been recognized nationally. Her decorative painted furniture, children’s table and chair sets and rocking horses sold in shops of northwest Florida. Her new found interest in photography has resulted in awards in juried shows.


She has been involved with the following local civic organizations:

- Original co-chair of the Junior League cookbook, Sugar Beach

- Past President, Northwest Florida Ballet

- Past President, Okaloosa County Medical Alliance

- Vice regent of the Choctawhatchee Bay Chapter of the Daughters of the             Revolution

- Sustaining member of the Emerald Coast Junior League

- Mentor for AbbVie Drug Company for those interested in DUOPA for treatment    of Parkinson’s Disease


ANNE JOHNSTON - Founding Member


Ms. Johnston is a retired Okaloosa County School administrator with thirty-two years of experience in education. She served as Deputy Principal at Choctawhatchee High School for fifteen years. She holds an undergraduate degree in English and art and two master’s degrees—School Administration and Supervision, and Counseling and Human Development—from Troy University. Her art works have been displayed at Signature Studios Gallery in Destin and at the Dowling Center for the Arts in Ozark, Alabama as well as the Arts and Design Society in Fort Walton Beach. Her art works have also been accepted into many juried shows and have won several awards and recognitions.


Her community service work includes:

- Past President, Arts and Design Society of Fort Walton Beach

- Past President, Alpha Delta Kappa Honorary Educational Sorority

- Member, Fort Walton Beach Woman’s Club

- Member, Children in Crisis Change for Children Campaign


LINDA KERNICK - Founding Member


Mrs. Kernick is currently an exhibiting artist at several galleries. Over the years,  she studied art with many instructors, all the while working as a School Psychologist. Her work is acrylic with mixed media on canvas.

She currently is in an art exhibit at Destin Library. She also is represented by Foster Gallery at  Grand Blvd., Sandestin, Florida. She is a member of Arts and Design Society in Fort Walton Beach and the Cultural Arts Alliance, as well as a Board Member of Okaloosa Public Arts.  She has taught several art workshops in the Arts and Design Society of Fort Walton Beach, the Cultural Arts Alliance in Walton County and in Pensacola.




Charlotte earned a BA in art from California State University Los Angeles. She worked as an illustrator in California before moving to Florida to pursue a career in fine art. She has furthered her studies with classes at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena and The Scottsdale Artist School. She has taken workshops with Master Painters such as David Lefel, Dan Gerhartz, and Rose Frantzen.  While living in Houston she taught Watercolor at The Art’s Alliance Center in Clear Lake and she illustrated the children’s picture book “I’m Glad I’m Me” in 2009. While living in the Chicago area she painted at the Palette and Chisel Academy of Fine Art where she served on the Board of Directors as the Artists’ representative. She has won numerous awards including honorable mention in the Palette and Chisel Gold Medal Show.  She is currently represented by Artful Things Gallery in Niceville where she has her studio.


Charlotte is an Artist Member of the Palette and Chisel Academy of Fine Art, the Portrait Society of America, the American Impressionist Society, the Oil Painters of America, Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters, the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County Florida and the Arts and Design Society of Fort Walton Beach Florida.


Her community service activities include:

  • Organizing and conducting Open Studios

  • Initiating the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters group

  • Fundraising for Children in Crisis

  • Fundraising for the American Cancer Society

  • Judging and/or jurying local art exhibits


THALIA NEWTON - Founding Member

Thalia is one of the founding members of Okaloosa Public Arts (OPA).Their signature project was placing art in the new Courthouse Annex on Beal Parkway in October 2011.  Later, art was placed in the new Student Services Building of Northwest Florida State University and the Northwest Florida Regional Airport.  Art has also been placed in several local area libraries.  OPA sponsors a yearly juried art show at the Okaloosa County Administration building in Shalimar, FL.

Since retiring as the owner of a successful interior decorating business, Thalia has had an opportunity to "Follow her passion".  She has developed her natural talent with a number of courses, workshops, classes, and sojourns.  In addition to depicting places she has visited and loved, Thalia's background in interior design is readily apparent in her works that depict interiors.

Her community service work includes:

- Serving in the creative areas of her church and with local arts and design groups. She has participated in a number of art venues, displays, workshops and exhibitions both locally and abroad

- Trustee of the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Society

- Traveling the state of Florida as a participant of the Florida Humanities Council’s Gathering



Toni Dineen has a BS degree in Systems Engineering from University of West Florida.  She has made her home in the Florida Panhandle for over 40 years and supports Engineering activities at Eglin AFB.  Toni began watercolor as a hobby in 2008.  In 2011 and 2012 Toni's art was selected for the Destin Seafood Festival poster.  These events were the starting point for her career as an artist. Her artwork is currently on display at the Okaloosa County Administration building and several Destin restaurants.  


Her other community service activities include:

- Member of Shalimar United Methodist Church Hand Bell Choir

- OPA Board Member

- Arts and Design Society of Fort Walton Beach

- Volunteer at Panhandle Animal Welfare Society



Pat Roberts has an AA degree from Ocean County college in Toms River, New Jersey. She has traveled extensively all over the world, and served for 10 years as a teacher’s assistant in the Camden, New York school system. Her artwork has been exhibited in New Jersey, Alaska and Florida. She has been honored with numerous awards throughout her career. Her paintings can be found in private collections in the United States and Europe.

 Her other community service activities include:

- Volunteer at Fort Walton Beach High School, Edwin’s and Liza Jackson elementary schools

- Volunteer at Jet Drive Community center

- Visiting art instructor at Westwood Retirement Center and Belvedere Commons Assisted Living Facility

- Instructor of acrylic painting at the Arts and Design Society of Fort Walton Beach Children’s summer camp.

- Gallery Chairman of the Arts and Design Society, and OPA Board Exhibits


                                     HELEN HARRIS

Helen Harris graduated from Fashion Institute of Technology, NYC, working in the industry for several years. She then made a career change working in the airline industry for 32 years, while drawing and painting on the side. Upon retiring to Fort Walton Beach, she continued her art, working in oil, acrylic, concentrating late in Encaustic and Paper cutting. As a member of the Art & Design Society, eventually she opened an art gallery; HH Arts.  She has judged art shows, mainly Children shows at Hurlburt and local high and middle schools. She has won some local art awards.

 She has been:

Past President of the Arts & Design Society, continuing on the board in various positions; Past Membership Chairman Daughters of the American Revolution, Choctawhatchee Bay Chapter; past Curriculum Chairman & current teacher- Center for Lifelong Learning; Ran the Kids Art Camp for ADSO for a number of years.



I sold my first piece of art in first grade (trade for a Hostess Twinkie) and never looked back. Without paint-stained, clay-smeared, glue-stuck hands, I feel a bit lost. For me, the creative process is quite simply the process of living. Seeing, feeling, touching, molding, envisioning, and altering my reality through the mind's eye is life itself. Everything I experience is enhanced because I have been blessed with sober clarity and an artist’s vision.

“Practice your art; you never get better sitting and waiting for inspiration. If you want to be a better artist, create more art.” R. Otoupalik

Over the years, the artist has won numerous awards for his work, and has pieces in private and public  collections across the U.S. and in Japan. Otoupalik took First Place in the 22nd Southeast Regional Juried Fine Arts Exhibition, Best of Show at the 15th Annual Photography & Digital Arts Exhibition at the Arts and Design Society. He lives in Fort Walton Beach and serves on the Board of Directors for ADSO and Artel Gallery in Pensacola.

“Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.” Paul Klee



Ruta is a Lithuanian born artist who has resided in the United States since 1994.  She graduated from the Fine Arts Gymnasium in Kaunas, Lithuania in 1992.  Having studied and worked in Europe, she often draws from her European roots for inspiration.  Her fascination with vintage photography and history is visible in her works and portraits.  Her mediums include oil, acrylics and watercolor.  In addition to gallery works, she has painted numerous commercial and residential wall murals.

Her Other community activities and services include:

-Member of the Arts and Design Society

-OPA Board Member





I love to paint, to put brush to canvas. To feel the paint and play with color is, to me, pure joy.


Oils are my favorite medium, but I occasionally work in acrylic, pastel and other media as well. With every piece I create, I try to improve my technique, always keeping in mind that “every stroke counts.”


Portraiture is my favorite, but somehow I always spend a great deal of my time creating landscapes. I guess that as long as I don’t just look, but actually strive to see, the subject matter takes care of itself.