Known for creative, colorful and sometimes quirky artwork, as well as a rich diversity of handcrafted artisan wares, the Florida Keys are recognized throughout the world for artistry inspired by stunning seascapes and landscapes.
Artists are lured to the Keys, a 125-mile-long island chain like no other, because of the color-drenched natural scenery — and also because of the deep collective creative spirit that’s richly apparent from Key Largo to Key West.
This season, the Keys feature fresh-air strolls that explore the matchless talent, fascinating work and unique lifestyles of skilled local artists.
So where and when can you experience the outdoor splendor of “art strolling” in the Keys? Check out some highlight opportunities here.
In Islamorada, the next Third Thursday Morada Way Art Walk is the evening of Feb. 17. Within a six-block corridor between mile markers 81 and 82 in the village’s thriving Morada Way Arts & Cultural District is a favored local scene for gallery shopping, imbibing and nibbling. Participants include Morada Way Clay, Jessica Ann Art, Rum Brush and Limelight Studio/Gallery among others. And if you can’t make the February event, don’t worry — subsequent art walks are scheduled March 17, April 21, May 19, June 16, July 21, Aug. 18, Sept.15, Oct. 20, Nov. 17 and Dec. 15.
The Stock Island Art Stroll on Saturday, Feb. 12, includes tours of off-the-beaten path art studios on the Lower Keys’ Stock Island — where the fast-growing creative community is becoming one of the most distinctive attractions. Stops feature a variety of eclectic shops and studios with multiple artists in disciplines ranging from sculptures to woodworking, mosaics and fabric art. Additional Saturday strolls are slated March 12, April 9, May 14, June 11 and July 9.
Art aficionados can enjoy popular Key West gallery strolls including Walk on White, a monthly tradition that dates back to 1999 and showcases the island city’s White Street Arts District. Upcoming strolls are slated Thursday evenings on Feb. 17 and March 17, featuring Stone Soup Gallery, Shade Ceramics and Shutter Photography, Harrison Gallery and many other don’t-miss arts emporiums.
Monthly 1st Fridays on Fleming happenings take place in picturesque downtown Key West and are scheduled Feb. 4, March 4, April 1 and May 6. The events, with different offerings each month, encourage strolling, sipping and shopping at locally owned galleries and businesses in the “Fabulous 500 block” of Fleming Street.
Also in Key West, you’ll find strolls to satisfy a passion for literature, architecture and history. In fact, they’re the subject of several guided walking tours including the two outlined here.
The Old Town Literary Walking Tour takes participants past sites, landmarks and hangouts of world-renowned writers — such as Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, Shel Silverstein, Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Frost — who lived or spent considerable time in Key West. Tours are currently offered on Fridays and Sundays (private tours are available on request), and they provide a fascinating overview of the island’s indelible place in American literature.
Architecture and history buffs are sure to enjoy the Key West Art & Historical Society’s Saturday morning Architectural Walking Tours celebrating the 200th anniversary of Key West’s settlement on March 25, 1822. The next walks are scheduled Feb. 5 and Feb. 26. Historic landmarks, including the renowned Custom House Museum at 281 Front St., and architectural styles are highlighted.
As well as art and cultural strolls, a variety of galleries throughout the Keys are well worth exploring. Among them are Shady Palm Art Gallery & Photography in Marathon and Artists in Paradise Gallery on Big Pine Key.
For additional options, click here to access a detailed guide that features some 50 Keys galleries. And for more information about artists and cultural events throughout the island chain, visit fla-keys.com/culture/ and keysarts.com.