What is the first thing you think when you see this pink building?
Probably something like “It’s just another old, empty building on the outskirts of downtown”.
You wouldn’t be wrong. 401 N Baylen Street has been vacant for over two years – sitting silent, with no sign, no lights in the windows, and all but forgotten by the movement that has breathed new life into so many other sites on the outskirts of Downtown Pensacola.
Recently, Pensacola locals and visitors have witnessed a revitalization unlike any other. Palafox Street, which used to be best know for the warnings to avoid it after sundown, is now the most notable location in the city. It is the first choice for new business owners to set up shop. It’s where Gallery Night brings culture nuts together every month to taste the latest bites from local food trucks, watch fire spinners throw flaming batons, participate in karaoke competitions, and browse creations from local artists.
And, the revival has caught fire. Travel just a few blocks west to the historical Belmont-DeVilliers district, and you will find the rebirth in full swing. New sidewalks, brick paths, jazz clubs, and soul-food eateries pay homage to the once-bustling heart of Pensacola’s African-America history.
Yet, somehow those couple of streets between Palafox and Belmont-DeVilliers have been largely untouched, and 401 N Baylen Street is smack dab in the middle. What’s the story there?
The easy answer is – there isn’t one. Unlike Palafox, which is right at the heart of downtown business, and Belmont-DeVilliers, a place where Marvin Gaye use to croon and Langston Hughes used to recite, the Baylen-Belmont area doesn’t have such an exciting tale. How do you take a building without a riveting backstory and turn it into a culture hub in the midst of a historical reawakening?
Ask Gabrielle Herman. Because she is doing just T.H.A.T.
What is T.H.A.T.?
When Gabrielle was canvasing locations for her new business, she didn’t see the pink stucco building on the corner of Baylen and Belmont as just another empty structure in the revival dead-zone. She saw it as the missing link that could connect the neighborhoods together.
That’s why she chose this location for her latest passion project, The Happy Art Tour. T.H.A.T. is an all-immersive art experience that pushes the boundaries of traditional art museums. She has commissioned local artists and business owners to harness their talent and showcase their wares to offer Pensacola it’s first-ever pop-up art installation – an evolution that is taking bigger cities across the nation by storm with creations like The Museum of Ice Cream and POPSUGAR.
In just one short month, the doors will open to the public. Visitors will be invited along a whimsical journey that transports you from reality into something much more magical. Sounds, sights, smells, and tastes are all crafted to encourage you to #spreadhappiness, #livevibrantly, and #laughcolorfully – the building blocks that The Happy Art Tour was founded on. And, yes – you are encouraged to not only touch the art, but become a part of it.
Get your tickets for the opening night on November 1 to see the transformation of 401 N Baylen Street and experience what art can do.