Ever since Ernest Hemingway penned literary classics while living in 1930s Key West, the island has been a haven and an inspiration for writers. Now Key West visitors can boost their own creativity with a chance to write in the iconic author’s private studio — and explore his former Whitehead Street home and grounds.
As temperatures plunge in much of the United States, many people are seeking a place to avoid winter’s chill and continue to enjoy outdoor experiences. In Key West, the southernmost spot in the continental U.S., activities abound that enable participants to soak up salt air, balmy breezes and the island’s irresistibly laid-back vibe.
Among the Florida Keys’ most iconic landmarks is the "Christ of the Abyss" statue, placed in the waters of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary in 1965. Also called “Christ of the Deep,” the 9-foot bronze is a symbol for Key Largo's John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, which is part of the sanctuary.
Islamorada artist Jessica Ann Cecil has a unique flair for painting marine life — and she’s passionate about using her art to connect patrons, clients and students with Florida Keys marine ecosystem conservation efforts. She often earmarks a percentage of art sales for Keys nonprofits including the Coral Restoration Foundation, Dolphins Plus and Save-A-Turtle.
Bob Dylan loves Key West. In fact, the legendary singer-songwriter immortalizes it as “the enchanted land” and “land of light” in “Key West (Philosopher Pirate),” a ballad on his new album “Rough and Rowdy Ways.” And a bar stool with his name on it can still be found at Capt. Tony’s Saloon.
Many books about the Florida Keys are so well crafted that they seemingly transport readers to the island chain — portraying it so vividly that it’s almost possible to feel the humidity and smell the salt air. During this time of COVID-19 travel restrictions, what books provide the best “virtual visit” to the Keys?
Authors, playwrights, composers and poets have been lured to Key West by its one-of-a-kind environment of creativity, natural beauty and sometimes eccentric qualities — making it the muse for some of their most acclaimed career accomplishments. Those entranced by the island have included Tennessee Williams, Leonard Bernstein, Elizabeth Bishop, Terrence McNally and Jerry Herman.
While travel and socialization are largely at a standstill nationwide, one aspect of Florida Keys residents’ lives continues to flourish: their creativity. The Keys are home to artisan sandal makers, jewelry designers, producers of island-inspired beers and spirits, beekeepers and confectioners, and people whose passion is ceramics, woodcarving, metalwork, fine crafts and more.
Key West’s sunset is famed for its spectacular colors over the Gulf of Mexico, and for the nightly Mallory Square celebration that salutes it. Sunday, March 8, the South Florida Symphony presents a full-scale musical tribute to the colorful phenomenon: the Key West world premiere of John Gottsch’s orchestral symphonic poem titled “Sunset.”
Artists are drawn to the Florida Keys because of the islands’ deeply-hued, richly colorful natural scenery and an intensively creative spirit that infuses the local culture. Artistry flourishes throughout the island chain, and the winter season brings unusual new ways for aficionados to enjoy it — including enticing art strolls, classes and intriguing experiences.