The history of our community-based artist residency is uniquely bound with the history of Seaside, FL, the small coastal town in the panhandle of Florida hailed throughout the world as the birthplace of New Urbanism. Seaside’s founder envisioned a new town built upon revived principles of traditional building with architectural design that would have enormous influence on social, civic, and cultural life.  The masthead of this philosophy was The Seaside Institute and with Escape to Create as a core program initiated by homeowners, the arts were the nucleus of civic life as the town emerged from the isolated dunes along Florida’s “forgotten coast.” 

Proclaimed “the most astounding design achievement of its era” by Time Magazine in the early ‘90s, Seaside quickly became an international phenomenon for its radical departure from suburban development. Florida’s “forgotten coast” was transformed into Florida’s “Emerald Coast,” the panhandle’s premier destination for family vacationers. During this time of rapid change, The Seaside Institute educated a generation of town planners, architects, and public officials in mixed-use development and sustainable building practices. Today Escape to Create serves as a cultural cornerstone of five New Urban towns located along the quiet coastal road known to millions of summer visitors as simply “30A.” 


As we embark on our third decade, Escape to Create offers the portrait of a town that extends a rare hospitality in welcoming artists as guests of the community. The residency itself is made possible by the extraordinary generosity of homeowners who donate their resort homes for artist housing during January and February. Our local arts organizations, galleries and restaurants provide intimate venues that facilitate powerful connection and exchange during artist presentations. E2C’s “bottomless pot of soup,” contributed by awarded restaurants, are served at weekly roundtable dinners where inspiration, collaboration, and often, enduring friendships are first savored.  These contributions and many others reflect the philanthropic character of the Seaside community that makes this unique creative retreat possible.

Since our first artists-in-residence arrived over 25 years ago, Escape to Create has gained national recognition for its impact in the region and in the creative lives of our alums. Over 150 writers, musicians, visual artists, and scholars have been awarded a month-long retreat as emerging and mid-career artists. E2C Alumni include nominees and recipients of our nation’s highest awards including Pulitzer and Pushcart Prizes; National Book Award; American Academy of Arts & Letters; The American Academy in Rome; ASCAP Awards; Aaron Copeland Award; Guggenheim Foundation; James Beard Award, Grammy Award and many more. We are honored to have furthered their creative work and celebrate their ongoing contributions to the arts.


“Seaside nurtured me and restored me in ways that I still can feel today. I will always be grateful for my month in residency... I left a part of my heart in Seaside.”   — Judith G. Levy, multi-media and video artist. 

Levy’s 2011 residency project evolved to include a short film, “On The Seventh Day”, which has since been screened at film festivals throughout the United States.

“My all too brief time in Seaside remains one of my cherished memories.” — Daniel Ott, Composer

Since his 2004 residency, Ott’s compositions have been heard all over the world.  A teacher at the Julliard School, he is noted for his collaborations with the world’s leading choreographers.


Escape to Create is a cultural leader in a town deeply engaged with the arts. We are proud to welcome our artists into this enriched environment and wish to thank the The Seaside REPertory Theatre and The Seaside Institute for their support of our educational and community outreach programs.


Escape to Create, Inc. is a volunteer organization and a 501 (c) 3 non-profit.

Our tireless board has a long record of service on distinguished civic and non-profit organizations that are the foundation of the vibrant cultural life of Seaside and the 30A community.

Directors Emeritus

Nancy Holmes, Founding Director of Escape to Create

Richard Storm, Former Executive Director of The Seaside Institute

Executive Board

Marsha Dowler, President

Karen Holland, Vice-President

Sue Trucksess, Secretary

Cathy Toole, Treasurer

Advisory Board

Brook Stetler, Executive/Artistic Director The REP, Director    Goody Fellowship for Playwrights

Gillian Gilbert, Dramaturge, Goody Fellowship for Playwrights





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