Local art by owner Jim Bonner, unique gifts, jewelry & coastal décor
Stepping inside The Bonner Collection, visitors are surrounded by ship models and fish sculptures and vibrant paintings of wildlife. Every item in the shop seems to celebrate the rich quality of life along the Gulf Coast.
Located in the distinctive French Settlement building on Beach Boulevard, The Bonner Collection is just steps away from the new Bay St. Louis harbor. Tucked into the back of the shop is the studio of artist Jim Bonner, who’s created most of the remarkable original paintings and prints in the store.
Everyone in the New Orleans area is familiar with Bonner’s work, even if they’re not art collectors. The well-known graphic artist designed the iconic Barq’s root beer cans – along with many other popular logos and advertising campaigns during his stellar career.
Bonner spent decades in the demanding world of advertising, but it’s clear by glancing around the shop that he never lost his love of art. The paintings are the masterful works of someone who’s extremely competent, yet also completely in tune with his heart. For instance, while pelican paintings are more common than the birds themselves, Bonner’s birds possess a majesty that sets them apart.
Originally from Meridian, Mississippi, Bonner seems to be one of those rare “born-artists.” He was only eleven when his older brother gave him a set of colored pencils, setting him on a lifelong path that brought both satisfaction and recognition of his talent. The list of art and advertising awards Bonner has won could fill pages with fine print. While a small collection of his commercial “home-runs” are set up in his studio, it’s clear that Bonner is most enthused about his latest works.
Currently in high demand are Bonner’s exquisitely rendered watercolors of boats and wildlife. Sometimes the artist will use vintage boating charts as a painting surface instead of white paper. All his finished pieces make show-stopping classics that are sure stand-outs in any room.
Bonner also accepts commissions and enjoys painting anything from pet portraits to boats and airplanes for clients. His wife, Patsy, manages the retail part of the business. She’s worked in retail since the 1970’s and the experience shows in the quality of the merchandise. While not an artist herself, Patsy was gifted with an eye for fine design and stocks the shop with coastal style jewelry and home décor that complement her husband’s art.
The couple opened their first shop together in Pass Christian over 15 years ago. The Bonner Collection came to Bay St. Louis in 2003, moving into The Rink in uptown New Orleans in 2006. When the French Settlement Building was constructed on the Old Town beachfront two years ago, Patsy and Jim were lured back to the coast that inspires so much of the artist’s work. The new prominent location has boosted business, and the opening of the new harbor promises to keep the couple busier than ever. But business aside, it’s easy to see that the Bonners are glad to be living and working back on the gulf.
“Our home’s on the water in Pass Christian,” says Patsy. “We both have an enormous love for the coast and the beauty here.”