You can find visual artistry almost everywhere in the Florida Keys: in palm-fringed shorescapes beside the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, orange and purple abstracts unrolling across the sky at sunset, and the arches of old Overseas Highway bridges silhouetted like sculptures against nature’s blue-green backdrop.
Philanthropists Jacob Dekker (left) and John Padget (center) and the Florida Keys Council of the Arts’ Elizabeth Young cut a ribbon to celebrate the July 31, 2018, debut of the Florida Keys Sculpture Trail. (All photos courtesy of the Florida Keys Council of the Arts)
Yet even if you discount these creative efforts, and even if you don’t step inside one of the Keys’ countless galleries, you can still spot an abundance of art.
Many intriguing creations can be seen along the Florida Keys Overseas Highway that traverses the length of the island chain — including, thanks to two Key West philanthropists, the large-scale pieces that make up the new Florida Keys Sculpture Trail.
The 81-mile trail stretches along the highway from Islamorada to Key West — and because the distinctive constructions are positioned beside or just off the road, they can be easily discovered and admired by art lovers.
The exciting new trail was conceived by Key West philanthropists John Padget and Jacob Dekker, who generously presented the sculptures as a gift to the Keys community and its visitors.
Collaborators who helped make the trail happen include the Florida Keys Council of the Arts, the Monroe County Art in Public Places Committee and the Monroe County Board of County Commissioners.
The stunning sculptures first stood in Manhattan’s Riverside Park South along the Hudson River as part of the Art Students League of New York’s “Model to Monument” program.
Now that they’ve relocated south, where can you find the unique creations in the Keys?
Look for Sarah Thompson Moore’s “Everything Between” in Islamorada Gardens at 81001 Overseas Highway in the Upper Keys, and “Leaves of Grass” by Markus Holtby at The Art Studio at 12353 Overseas Highway in Marathon.
“Stand Tall, Stand Loud” by Aaron Bell and “Everyone Breaks” by Tanda Francis share the landscape at Marathon’s oTHErside Adventure Park at 59300 Overseas Highway.
The compelling sculpture “Fragments,” crafted by Shiho Sato, is to be installed in Islamorada’s Morada Way Arts & Cultural District.
Don’t miss “Wind Tower,” a collaborative work by all seven “Model to Monument” sculptors, at 258 Cunningham Lane (the site of Grimal Grove) on Big Pine Key.
And if you’re flying into Key West International Airport, you’ll be greeted by the giant sculptures “Avis Gloriae et Lavdis” (or “bird of glory and praise”) and “Nature Eternal” — both crafted by Sheila Berger.
While they’re not installed as of this writing, James Mikhel Emerson’s “Bridge” will soon join “Everything Between” at Islamorada Gardens — and “Fragments” by Shiho Sato awaits installation in Islamorada’s Morada Way Arts & Cultural District.
The sculptures’ Keys locations are detailed on an easy-to-use map in the arts council’s 2018 Gallery Guide.
If vacationing is your favorite “art form,” then travel the trail and see the striking sculptures. And if these outdoor creations tempt further forays into the Keys’ rich visual arts scene, you can explore galleries offering virtually all types of art throughout the island chain.
In addition, the annual cultural calendar is packed with gallery openings, art walks, and art and craft shows featuring offerings in many mediums — making it easy to understand why the Keys, with their vibrant creative community, are sometimes called “islands of the arts.”