By Kelly Baughman
Alesha Barnett is creating local photo ops with murals and art that capture the essence of what makes the Gulf Coast great. Her work has been received with rave reviews from Louisiana to Panama City and all points in between. Now, she’s setting her sights on even bigger projects that remind everyone to take a moment and enjoy the scenery.
Born and raised in Sorrento, Louisiana, Barnett said she grew up in a family that was always fascinated with art. “My Dad worked on a tug boat when I was growing up, and decided to use his free time out there to take art classes. He purchased one of those art programs that you used to see in the back of magazines that teaches you techniques at your own pace. When I was a young kid, he let me use the books and I would do the lessons. It really taught me a lot and ignited my passion for art,” Barnett said.
In high school, Barnett continued to stay active in art classes, winning several awards at various art shows. But life soon moved on when Barnett became a mother of five and was forced to put art on the back burner for a while. “Having five young children was wonderful, but I didn’t really have time to think about an art career until they were all off at school. That was when I was finally able to pick up my brush again and reconnect with art,” she said.
Barnett said she spent her time during the day honing her painting skills and her talent blossomed. “The first murals I ever painted were on my own walls in my house. I then started doing murals and custom artwork for friends. I guess word of mouth got out, because people started seeking me out for commercial work,” she said.
Barnett’s first commissioned piece was a massive “Finding Nemo” themed mural in a children’s activity center in Louisiana. “They said they wanted something “like” Nemo, so I gave them all 28 characters. I’m not sure who loved it more, the client or the kids,” Barnett laughed.
Her work called her eastward down the coast when John McInnis III, owner of the Flora-Bama, called and said he and Kenny Chesney wanted her in Perdido Key as soon as possible. “When John McInnis says he and Kenny Chesney want to work with you, you jump. I had no idea what he wanted, but I was there the next morning,” she recalled.
The project was the Blue Chair Bay Rum Beach Bar at the, then newly opened, Flora-Bama Yacht Club, and was to be launched on the weekend of Kenny Chesney’s iconic beach concert that brought thousands to the beach for a free, once in a lifetime experience. Barnett’s 360 degree mural style design featured the Blue Chair Bay Rum logos in a realistic beach scene that Yacht Club go-ers have enjoyed for several years.
Barnett’s latest commercial piece is a massive photo op mural on the exterior wall of the Perdido Key Sports Bar, featuring all the things that make Perdido Key unique. “Judy (PKSB owner) told me she of course wanted the business logo, but she also wanted the Blue Angels and she wanted the Chamber represented. Other than that, she let me run wild with my design,” Barnett said.
The mural features a living beach scene with sand that extends on to the sidewalk, making it look like you are standing on the beach when next to it, complete with baby sea turtles emerging from a nest and headed to the emerald water. Barnett incorporated the Blues in formation over leaning palm trees, the famous ‘Welcome to Perdido Key’ Chamber of Commerce sign, a pirate treasure chest to honor the Perdido Key Sports Bar being the official meeting place of the local philanthropic krewe the Pirates of Lost Treasure, and even a tiny beach mouse peeking out from the dunes.
“I thought of that after I started painting. I thought it was necessary to put him in there because that little mouse rules everything on Perdido Key. Even in the mural, he’s pretty elusive which I think is funny because I know people that have lived here 20 or 30 years and have never actually seen one,” she said.
The mural has become a popular spot for locals and visitors alike to snap a picture with all the things that make Perdido Key special at one of the favorite spots on the island.
“Typically I meet with a client and get an idea of what they are wanting, and what key elements they want to incorporate. From there I just kind of run with a design that I create in my head,” she said. Barnett primarily specializes in murals, but also creates pieces on canvas, wood, and fine linens.
Barnett recently participated in a ‘Meet the Artist’ event at the Perdido Key Sportsbar to introduce herself as the woman behind the art to the community. “I loved seeing people’s reaction to the Sportsbar mural, and several other business owners in the community are interested in commissioning a piece as well,” she said.
For Barnett, bringing a plain wall to life with something special to the client makes the back breaking work all worth it. “Seeing the clients happy with my work and being able to add something really personal to them into the piece brings me so much joy. Being able to take their vision and push it just a little bit farther is what I strive to do,” she said. And it looks like Barnett is nailing it.
To see her work visit Alesha Barnett on Facebook or call 225-242-7522.