Ameri’ca Tickle is a 5th-generation member of the Allegri family, who settled in the Daphne area in the late 1800s. Her roots in the Scenic 98 Coastal area truly run deep! 

The first Allegri family member, Cipriano, came from Italy and was a produce broker in Chicago. He saved enough money to return to Italy and bring his family to America. He and his wife’s firstborn was a boy and they named him Americo, after America, their new country. The feminine version of Americo in Italian is Ameri’ca. 

I first met Ameri’ca and her husband, Jason, when I walked our dogs near their home. They had a few acres in Fairhope tucked away just north of our neighborhood with dogs, chickens, and two goats, Cupcake and Gumbo. Cupcake would often climb the ladder to a treehouse in an old oak tree to survey everything taking place nearby. Cupcake and I became friends.

Ameri’ca, as a teenager used to babysit Linda’s boys. She tells me that Linda was the first person she ever saw paint on a wall in a home. In high school, she wanted to study marine biology and considered attending St. Mary’s College in Maryland near the Chesapeake Bay. Then a surprising shift happened.

Growing up, Ameri’ca loved art. As a Senior at Bayside Academy, she won an award in a competition by the Alabama State Council for the Arts for a piece of pottery she created. She was invited to attend a ceremony in Montgomery. The keynote speaker was a well-known craft furniture maker, Craig Nutt, who spoke on behalf of Savannah College of Art and Design’s furniture program.

“I didn’t know there was an art school there, and after he gave his talk, they called the names of ten people in attendance who had been selected to receive a scholarship to attend SCAD. I thought, “How lucky are these people,” when my name was called. It didn’t hit me at first, and my teacher nudged me, saying, “That’s you.” I didn’t even know I was entered in the competition!” So off to SCAD, she went. 

Because of her trips to ADDSCO (Alabama Drydock and Shipbuilding Co) as a kid with her dad who worked in shipping, Ameri’ca decided to do large-scale sculptures. Welding metal seemed like the natural way to make big things! She asked her dad for a welding machine for Christmas, “He was floored.” 

She brought the welding machine back to school that Spring semester and her fellow art students were envious. “SCAD didn’t offer welding classes, so I attended a technical school, Savannah Tech, at night, to learn how to weld. The next year, SCAD introduced a new welding program which is now very well regarded.” If you sense that Ameri’ca is a bit unconventional, you’re correct, and it has served her well through the years.

After graduation, she spent two years in Annapolis, Maryland teaching art. “I decided to come back home where I could sit on my own pier and catch crabs,” she tells me. She spent the next 15 years in her studio in downtown Fairhope creating commission work and cultivating her brand “Gotta be by the Water,” a coastal lifestyle brand that included shirts, home goods, jewelry, and art.  Her products were carried in over 26 retailers from Texas to Maine.

Ameri’ca’s main interest has always been large-scale public art. She founded an arts nonprofit called The BayArt Project whose mission was “Art education through the creation of public art”. Annual events (such as the Mullet Run in Fairhope) funded public art installations along the Eastern Shore. 

A local piece she created is the renowned mural on the old Fairhope Hardware store at the corner of Fairhope Avenue and Church Street. Commissioned by FEEF, “It’s called Aboriginal Sea Life and reflects the  Australian Aboriginal artwork; their drawings and their use of lines and patterns. It was a style I learned about in Art History and it resonated with me.” She has now translated this pattern to textiles like bedding that she sells at her shop in Point Clear.

2009 she completed a fountain project behind the Fairhope Museum of History. It was commissioned by the Committee on Public Art (COPA) and is a take on the Cow’s on Parade movement all across the world. Her design was selected from a public competition and is called Mullet Run. The project took two years to research and create, culminating when she was finally able to see at the dedication, the sculpted mullet at play in the fountain’s water.

Recently, Ameri’ca has converted a small building into a pop-up shop at the corner of Twin Beach and Battles Road in Battles Wharf. Of the building, she says, “It didn’t want to be an art studio as I first envisioned, it wanted to be retail.”  She cleaned and brightened the space and had some tables constructed of old wharf boards to display her art. 

It’s a very cool place, and she has taken much of her art and translated it into pillows, linens, napkins, towels, and such. She has her original paintings and artwork for sale including metal ornaments of wharves, and ceramics with Mobile Bay's iconic environment as a consistent theme reflective of her childhood. It’s terrific and unique. 

“I need to physically manifest my creative thinking. I channel my thoughts of growing up on the Bay into my art.” She tells me about swimming under wharves, looking through the cracks in the boards, the barnacles, and the occasional crab on a piling. My favorite work is her orange life jacket art that she has repeated for linens, pillows, and prints.

“When you saw that old, stinky, moldy thing, but you put it around your neck, it meant a boat ride!” she says. For anyone who grew up on the water, it’s an instant fond memory. That’s what Ameri’ca has created in her art, a Bay memory. Her pop-up shop has beautiful paintings, pottery, sculptures, fabrics, and ornaments that are reflections of her life. Friend and neighbor, Robin Luce, walked in one day, looked around, and said, “This is not the beach, it’s the Bay.” 

Ameri’ca tells me that as she has gotten older, she would like to do collaborations with other artists. “People I have watched over the years, I love their work and think it would be fun to create together. I guess my sentimentality is showing. There is a brotherhood and sisterhood among artists, and integrating art with friends is one of my goals.” 

As our conversation continues, she reflects on her life and says, “It’s been happy, amazing, and curious. I appreciate the beauty of my childhood, and it’s still stuck in my brain. That’s been the inspiration for a lot of my work.”    

Her husband, Jason, is an out-of-the-box thinker as well. They have been involved in a few local developments and we discuss the impact of the growth in the area. “This place has been growing since the first flower was planted years ago and it’s not going to stop.” She tells me that Jason is a student of the Congress for New Urbanism and practices mindful development, with an interest in creating a win for everyone by the community being developed-enhancing, not just expanding.

“We believe in a proactive approach to development. One that aims to protect the beauty of our area. We study the approach towards the built environment from the best and brightest thinkers; architects, town planners, and such. We hope to take those best ideas and slowly implement them through working with our communities. Change is hard, but we love learning better ways to do things.”

Just as her art reflects the community and the people who have influenced her along the way, Ameri’ca says she feels a responsibility to want the best for all. We talk about a few conceptual ideas to incorporate local traditions into philanthropy, supporting worthwhile causes to create housing developments that are affordable yet creative. 

Ameri’ca has received numerous awards for her art and was inducted into Bayside Academy’s Hall of Fame for her contributions to her field and community. She graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design with two distinguished honors. Her art is shown throughout the Scenic 98 Coastal areas from Daphne and Fairhope to Orange Beach.

You can visit Ameri’ca at her Pop-Up Shop next Wednesday through Saturday, December 6- 9 at 18352 Twin Beach, Fairhope, AL. Or visit Ameri’ca Art and Design on Facebook, or follow her on Instagram@America-Art.

She ends by telling me that she told Jason, “If I disappear, I’m probably on a shrimp boat somewhere on the water.” Thank you, Amy. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you!

Nov 29, 2023
Artsy Side Of Life

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