No stuffy galleries and snobby art shows here: Artists are often on hand creating their works, demonstrating their techniques and engaging with art lovers. Here’s where you can interface with some of the Keys’ widespread artists’ community.
Kim and Corky Wagner work and sell in the same location, so it’s a sure bet you can catch one of them at the potter’s wheel any given day. At once functional and decorative, their pieces range from signature vases and kitchenware to one-of-a-kind pieces where their creative talent blazes.
Nine storefronts make up the colorful, lush little village of Rain Barrel. The Main Gallery up front showcases the craftsmanship of the resident artisans, whom you can watch create your marine-inspired work of art in their studio shops.
At Spectrum Studio of Glass Design, for instance, Micheal Robinson crafts underwater glass sculptures that come alive before your eyes. Joan Purcell uses ancient slabs of coral reef as canvas for her sea life portrayals. Nancy Jefferson’s raku and porcelain clay works, too, take their cue from the striking reef structures and electric-hued fish that inhabit local waters.
More than 40 artists form the co-op en route to National Key Deer Refuge, home to the nation’s tiniest species of white-tailed deer. Many of the artists find fascinating studies in the delightful creatures. Others’ talents range from Japanese fish prints (gyotaku) and gourd art to shipwright crafts; and one artist paints scrimshaw-like works on billfish bills.
The artists, as in most such co-ops, take turns minding the store, so you’re always guaranteed a chat with one when you visit. Sometimes you may catch them at their art, but every time you’ll find an artist who loves to talk about his or her work and that of fellow co-op members.
In the heart of Old Town, artists of all disciplines converge in the beautifully restored, 100-year-old Gothic-style Armory Building for mutual support in an atmosphere charged with creativity. Besides its 12 art studios, it supports local artists with an artist-residency cottage and other affordable living space.
Visitors can stroll the landscaped sculpture garden, browse the changing exhibitions or sign up for one- or multi-day workshops and lectures offered by acclaimed local and visiting artists.
Topics include plein-air painting, watercolor, digital portrait photography, furniture painting, collage, mixed media, precious metal clay, beading and mosaic making. Those, along with literary and performing art workshops and performances, hit all the creative bases. Monthly gallery strolls feature the work of the artists and the opportunity to visit them in their upstairs studios.
At Kona Kai Resort and Gallery, owners Joe and Ronnie Harris integrate art and inn for an experience that blurs the lines and nurtures the spirit. While their gallery represents international artists, their inn rooms exhibit the black-and-white Florida nature photography of Clyde Butcher and Greg Sobran’s exclusive artistic renditions of endangered Keys’ heritage sites.
This article is brought to you by The Florida Keys & Key West Tourist Development Council. For more information on the Keys’ art scene, visit The Florida Keys & Key West's website at www.fla-keys.com, or call 800-FLA-KEYS.