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The Keys: Richly Cultural, Colorfully Artistic

The Florida Keys & Key West, long recognized for supporting artistic, literary and creative endeavors, are known throughout the world as a colorfully rich cultural destination.

Visitors can experience life like a local through Keys cultural arts, perhaps influenced by warm subtropical breezes, storied architectural history and colorful scenery on islands surrounded by azure- and emerald-hued waters.

For example, a Key West pocket park, located at 1400 Duval Street between South Street and the Atlantic Ocean, is an outdoor venue for the city’s Art in Public Places program. It showcases six sculptures by artists Bill Lorraine, Trish Pleasant, Tim Marshall Curtis, Adam Russell, John Martini and Paola Effio.

Walking Tours

Self-guided I Love Stock Island Art Strolls, on the second Saturday of each month, highlight eclectic shops and working studios. Participants can see multiple artists in disciplines from sculpture to woodworking, mosaic, screen printing, soap and fabric art. Strolls are slated Feb. 13, March 13 and April 10 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visit facebook.com/ilovestockisland.

A two-hour Key West Art Walk, the Southernmost Gallery Tour and led by Key West native Maxwell Irwin, takes art lovers to galleries including the city’s oldest and studios throughout the Historic Seaport district. Tickets are $30 per person and include bottled water. Visit keywestartwalk.com or call 305-850-8343.

The 90-minute Old Town Literary Walking Tour takeparticipants past sites and landmarks recalling world-renowned writers’ presence in Key West, illustrating the island city’s significance in the literary world. Currently limited to six participants (masks required), tours are $30 per person and take place at 4:30 p.m. Fridays and 10 a.m. Saturdays. Visit kwls.org or call 305-293-9291.

Galleries and Exhibits

The Key Largo Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center features a permanent exhibit of works by local talents who are members of the Art Guild of the Purple Isles. The pieces, each priced at under $150, can be securely packed for transport. The center is located at 10600 Overseas Highway and is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Visit https://agpi.us/shows-exhibits/key-largo-chamber-of-commerce-showcase/ or call 305-451-1414.

In Islamorada, Portside Studio & Gallery opened its larger gallery at 81888 Overseas Highway bayside (upstairs and behind Sotheby’s), relocated from its previous Morada Way location. The studio is owned by artist Valerie Perreault, creator of linocut and woodcut art with an island vibe. Exhibitions feature woodcut works reflecting the artist’s world. Other exhibits include oversized block prints, linocut collage work and a love letter to Islamorada. It’s open 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays.Visit portsidestudioandgallery.com or call 617-756-9919.

Also in Islamorada, the History of Diving Museum’s exhibit titled “Art of the Abyss,” running through March 17, features art, abyssal science and history through depictions created by Art Guild of the Purple Isles members and local high school students. Visitors are “transported” to the ocean floor to view paintings and whimsical sculptures. At 82990 Overseas Highway in Islamorada, the museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visit divingmuseum.org or call 305-664-9737.

Marathon’s The Art Corner by resident artist Renee Anderson displays paintings, jewelry, pop art, resin casting and fused glass by local artists. Additional information is found at the studio’s Facebook page @Art Corner. It’s open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday in the space “Signs by Renee” at 72 Coco Plum Drive. Call 305-743-5151.

On Stock Island, the Collections Key West gallery and Key West Woodworks, a custom woodworking shop for over 35 years, are located at 6810 Front St. down the dock from Hogfish restaurant. Collections Key West offers classical and modern paintings, kinetic sculpture, antiques, fine wood furniture, jewelry, collectibles and Cuban cigar leaf renderings. Key West Woodworks builds finely crafted goods made from local hardwoods, including Cuban mahogany, woman's tongue, Jamaica dogwood, buttonwood and tamarind. They’re open weekends noon to 5 p.m. and by appointment. Visit collectionskeywest.com or call 305-923-4778, or keywestwoodworks.com or call 305-394-5249.     

Also on Stock Island, Washed Up Key West, a gallery, gift shop and local artist collective, is at 6475 2nd St., Bay One. Specializing in unique woodworking creations by gallery co-owner Kasidy Fritts, it also has a 60-by-8-foot mural wall. Also on-site are Made by Soto, featuring gold and silver jewelry by Nick Soto; Key West Island Art with “Conch villages” and paintings by co-owner Debi Fritts; and Concrete Ship Mercantile with modern macramé and fiber art by Kelly Raspa. It’s open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday or by appointment and for special events. Visit washedupkeywest.com or call 305-509-1856.

Clubs and Classes

The Studios of Key West offers in person, livestream and virtual classes and workshops in painting and drawing, writing and reading, music, performance and movement; sculpture, photo and mixed media; creative and professional development; and cultural studies. Its new Hugh’s View rooftop space, with outdoor terrace seating for up to 40, is located atop its three-story art decostyle building with a stage, sound system, grass-like turf surface, benches, two bar stations and flower-lined perimeter. The Studios of Key West can be found at 533 Eaton St. Visit tskw.org or call 305-296-0458.

The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum has a new virtual book club with nearly 60 members, coordinated through Facebook @Hemingway Home Book Club, with selected books every six weeks. Selections focus on books by author Ernest Hemingway and works of historical and modern fiction relating to Hemingway. Book discounts are offered through an online bookstore. Email hemingwaybookclub@gmail.com or call 305-294-1136.

"The Lakes" by Michael Marrero is a vivid example of artistry influenced by the Florida Keys' natural environment of seemingly endless open sea and sky.

"The Lakes" by Michael Marrero is a vivid example of artistry influenced by the Florida Keys' natural environment of seemingly endless open sea and sky.

Sculptures recently installed in the pocket park at the end of Key West's Duval Street include

Sculptures recently installed in the pocket park at the end of Key West's Duval Street include

"Art of the Abyss" at Islamorada's History of Diving Museum features evocative images by members of the Art Guild of the Purple Isles and local high school students.

"Art of the Abyss" at Islamorada's History of Diving Museum features evocative images by members of the Art Guild of the Purple Isles and local high school students.

Literary fans can take part in a book club recently debuted by Key West's Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum. Photo Courtesy: Rob O'Neal

Literary fans can take part in a book club recently debuted by Key West's Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum. Photo Courtesy: Rob O'Neal

This article was updated on February 18, 2021 at 12:32 PM
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