top of page

Dwelling On Art: 309 Punk Project Launches Artist-In-Residence Program

By Dakota Parks for Pensacola Magazine

If you ask a punk, a punkhouse is more than just cheap rent and a place to host a wall-reverberating, earplug- worthy house show—it’s a community hub of likeminded people connected and bonded by shared ideas, music, art, writing, zines, D.I.Y. subculture, politics and activism. Within these walls, plastered with band posters, pictures and flyers, art is constantly at the forefront. Located at 309 N. 6th Avenue, the 309 punkhouse has been sprawling with punks and artists since the late 1990s, and it is one of the oldest continuously inhabited punkhouses in the South. Over the years, internationally renowned photographers, painters, writers, activists and musicians have lived in 309, and several local businesses and nonprofits started within the house.


Back in 2016, the non-profit 309 Punk Project was established by a group of former residents to purchase the house and turn it into a punk museum. After curating the “Punksacola: Reflections of a Subculture” exhibit in the Pensacola Museum of History and participating in an oral history project spearheaded by the University of West Florida (UWF) that resulted in the book A Punk House in the Deep South: The Oral History of 309, coauthored and edited by Aaron Cometbus and Scott Satterwhite, the house was officially procured and the archive well-stocked with historical artifacts. The pandemic has halted an official grand-opening celebration, but the 309 punkhouse has since evolved into a venue space, community arts center, a punk archive and an artist-in-residence program.


Fellow punk, visual artist, drummer and UWF Professor of Art, Valerie George explained that studio space and affordable living quarters can be hard to come by for artists, which makes both punkhouses and artist-in-residence programs so important and similar in nature.


“There is a sacrifice that comes with being a creative,” George said. “Since the world doesn’t respect art and culture quite as much as they love to consume it, they often want it all for free and devalue art. So, you often find creatives getting together and living in these large houses to make rent affordable and give them the ability to work for themselves, create art and bounce ideas off each other.”


Since the inception of 309 as a punkhouse, it has always operated as an open-door community space, which made the decision to launch an artist-in-residence program, a no-brainer for the founders. While COVID-19 continues to surge and limit international travel, the residency program is limited to invitation-only for 2022 and will open for an international call for artists in 2023. The program is open to all D.I.Y. art practices including songwriters, authors and poets, painters, photographers, visual artists and any medium that can be created within the small, but cozy studio space.


A walk through the historic 309 house includes three upstairs bedrooms which are rented to permanent residents; a kitchen and community room used for exhibitions, readings, workshops or popular zine challenges; the punk archive, filled with historic zines, books, protest posters, fliers, t-shirts and photographs; a band room/recording studio; and the downstairs bedroom which is used for the international artist-in-residence program.


“309 always had that aspect to it—part gallery, venue, archive and even an artist-in- residence space. We’d never call it that, but it always had all of those characteristics. The fliers constantly hanging on the wall were really old— from the early 90s—which is a long time to exhibit something, but it was constantly growing and always curated. We had a pretty extensive library in the upstairs bathroom. Nearly everybody that lived there was an artist. So really, what we’re doing now is definitely different, but it’s also kind of the same thing,” former 309 resident, writer, educator and historian, Scott Satterwhite said.


In true helping-hand punk tradition, the 309 Artist-In-Residence Program officially kicked off, unplanned, when artists from New Orleans were displaced from Hurricane Ida in late 2021. The first artist of the program, Tiana Hux, a performance artist and musician hailing from New Orleans used the space to compose songs for her upcoming album with her band, Malevitus, and worked on a new performance project to be shared with an audience at 309 when it is safe to do so. The second artist of the program, Mallory Luana, a Panhandle-based activist, voodooist, indie artist and illustrator, used the space to create and sell their art.


“I love that 309 is creating space for struggling artists to showcase their works. Being able to live in a space and focus on making art helps to distract me from other life stressors for a moment. I’ve been using the space to try my hand at making watercolor ink from nature found around the neighborhood surrounding the house. It’s been a great experience,” Luana said.


Mallory Luana’s closing exhibition featuring their work produced during the residency will be held at 309 N. 6th Avenue on February 23 from 6 to 10 pm. The next upcoming artist to begin residency this March is former 309 resident and renowned photographer, Mike Brodie aka “Polaroid Kid,” who launched his career from the porch of 309, where he began hopping trains and photographing American train culture. While he is a resident of the program, Brodie will host a solo show at 309 on March 12 from 6 to 9 pm containing prior works that were inspired and created during his years at 309, and he will host a new body of work at Good Children Gallery in New Orleans on April 9.


“As a visual artist and musician, myself, the artist-in-residence programs that I have participated in were life changing,” George said. “I think the world becomes a better place as we learn more about each other. We demystify otherness and realize that beauty is everywhere. An artist-in- residence program does just that and brings new people into our community and immerses them into our community. They get to know new humans, places, streets, sounds, visual inspiration—there’s just so much that can be mined from being immersed into a new environment. These artists also bring in cultural aspects from all over the world to share ideas and experiences, which is really important.”


As the housing affordability crisis wages on across America, punkhouses like 309 are becoming scarce as they continue to be torn down and sold for development. Artist-in-residence programs too are becoming harder to maintain as the cost of living rises and art grants and funding continue to shrink. Here in Pensacola, many artist-in-residence programs have been forced to shut-down temporarily and permanently as a result of the pandemic. The 309 artist-in-residence program is one of the only programs locally supporting multidisciplinary artists and experimental art forms.


As the program grows, relying strictly on donations and grants, the 309 Punk Project hopes to incorporate a stipend to financially support emerging artists. Each artist in the program will be given the opportunity to create a community event, exhibit or activity to showcase their art, and each will also donate one piece of art as their own contribution to the 309 Punk Archive. As part of a collaboration with the Pensacola Museum of Art, the museum will host an annual group show to showcase work created by artists in the 309 Artist-In-Residence Program.


“We hope the Artist-In-Residence Program will bring a diverse group of artists from all sorts of artistic genres to Pensacola and have their influence rub off on our community,” Satterwhite said. “Ideally, it’ll make 309 and Pensacola more interesting, and hopefully some of the good stuff from our community will carry on to wherever the artists go afterwards. We also love the idea of helping support local artists and giving them a space to create. There are so many directions we could take this, and we’re excited about those possibilities.”


To learn more about the 309 Punk Project, upcoming events or ways to donate and volunteer to support the new artist-in-residence program, visit 309punkproject.org.

Comments


bottom of page