Art In Public Places
Visual artistry can be seen all over the Florida Keys: in palm-fringed shorescapes that edge the Atlantic Ocean, orange and purple abstracts unrolling across the sky at sunset, and the clean-lined sculptural arches of the old Overseas Highway bridges.
Click here to learn more about Sculpture Key West, one of the most prominent outdoor contemporary sculpture events.
Each year, the open-air exhibition typically runs the months between December and March, and features pieces by renowned and emerging international, national and local artists.
From offbeat large-scale sculptures to murals promoting ocean conservation, outdoor artistry flourishes in the island chain.
Some prime examples can be spotted along the Overseas Highway in the Upper Keys; as the road stretches above and beside the waters of the Atlantic and Florida Bay, a good number of the roadside creations depict the area's abundant marine life.
For example, Betsy, the larger-than-life replica of a crustacean, greets visitors to the quaint open-air colony of artists at Rain Barrel, in Islamorada.
An outdoor mural by artist Rick Worth, entitled "The Nitch", can be seen on the exterior of the departures terminal at the Key West International Airport.
Visitors can find many other public spaces in the Keys with local art: the Roth Building on Plantation Key, the Freeman Justice Center in Key West, Big Pine Park Community Center, and the Murray E. Nelson Government & Cultural Center in Key Largo.
Back to the top
The Florida Keys are home to South Florida's only nonprofit, independent film multiplex. Located in Key West, the Tropic Cinema, brainchild of the Key West Film Society, has a yearly schedule of exciting new releases, contemporary, Cinematheque, independent, foreign and alternative movies in digital and 35mm format.
Lovers of classics are equally well served, whether it's a biography of Oscar Wilde, a Hemingway tribute or films in which scenes were shot right here in the Keys.
Each year, Key Largo is host to the Humphrey Bogart Film Festival, the only one of its kind, celebrating the life and films of the man the American Film Institute named "America's greatest male screen legend." Endorsed by the Bogart Estate, the film fest is produced in partnership with the Key Largo Chamber of Commerce and features indoor and outdoor single- and double-feature showings of several Bogart classics, social events and meet-and-greets with celebrity notables.
The Key West Film Festival aims each November to showcase films that exhibit excellence in storytelling and capture the essence of what Key West is all about: creativity, diversity, sustainability, and beauty.
For more film venues in the Keys, click here.
Back to the top
Visitors seeking the work of visual artists can find it literally from one end of the Keys to the other.
Morada Way Arts & Cultural District
The Florida Keys are characterized by a freewheeling exuberance and zest for life, spiced by a healthy irreverence — qualities mirrored in much of the visual art created in the island chain. Aficionados can view the art and meet the creative spirits behind it during neighborhood art strolls held each month in Islamorada and Key West. These art strolls offer a vibrant visual feast for attendees, as well as a chance to discover off-the-beaten-path galleries that spotlight the work of established artists and nurture the growth of emerging talents.
The Morada Way Arts & Cultural District, whose mission is to feature regularly scheduled casual gatherings where visitors and residents can discover, enjoy and obtain stimulating, one-of-a-kind fine art showcases eclectic galleries rich with affordable original artwork, during a monthly evening "walkabout" that occurs the third Thursday of each month from 6 to 10 p.m., in galleries at Morada Way between mile markers (MM) 81 and 82.
Walk on White
In Key West, several regular neighborhood gallery strolls are designed to draw art lovers. Perhaps the best known is the Walk on White, held on the island city's White Street from Southard to United streets and onto Truman Avenue the third Thursday of each month. The popular evening features exhibitions and receptions at galleries, shops and occasionally other venues.
A portion of Key West's famed Duval Street known for its eclectic galleries comes alive with art exhibitions, receptions and culinary offerings during the monthly Upper Duval Street Stroll. Participants can explore galleries, boutiques and food and wine emporiums during the event that usually takes place the first Friday of each month. Key West's Caroline and Greene streets and Historic Seaport neighborhood form a lively art and design district, site of the Art and Ambiance Walks spotlighting galleries and merchants the first Thursday of each month.
The Art Studio
The Studios of Key West unites Pulitzer Prize-winning authors and world-renowned artists with local audiences and art practitioners through classes, performances, lectures, gallery exhibits, partnership projects and special events. TSKW also exhibits contemporary art and hosts rotating gallery exhibits as part of Key West’s monthly art stroll events.
Visiting and resident art lovers in the Middle Keys can explore and express their own creativity at The Art Studio, located at 12535 Overseas Highway, MM 53.6 oceanside. Offerings include workshops to learn painting in oil, watercolors and acrylic, as well as sculpting and painting pottery. Among the subjects taught in workshops and classes are throwing clay, fusing glass, creating jewelry and painting and glazing self-selected ceramics.
Selected works from the Culture Magazine
Karen Beauprie: Raspberry Croissants Are The Bomb
Tom Buckard: Sunrise at Long Beach on Big Pine Key
Marc Caren: Old Town, Shrimpers
Fran Decker: The Place Between the Sea and the Sky
Kathleen Denis: Department Of Transportation
William Le Dent: Simple Pleasures
Christine Fifer: Keys to the City
Veronica Frecknall: Hemingway House Party
Denise Graham: Key West Landmarks II
CJ Groth: Dog Beach
Michelle Nicole Lowe: Blue Pelican
Deborah J. Moore: The Queens of Truman
Susan O'Neill: That Bicycle on Fleming
Betty Rondeau: Fishing in Florida Bay
A. Rose: William Reid Kerr House on Simonton
Jim Salem: Atlantic Morning
Noel Skiba: Sunset View in Paradise
Peter Vey: 90 miles to Cuba
Mally Weaver: Heading Out
Gabrielle Wilson: Carrying on Tradition
Kim Workman: A Good Egg
Back to the top
Visitors interested in literature can find both history and inspiration in Key West. For approximately three-quarters of a century, Key West has been a haven and an inspiration for some of the United States' most influential writers.
Tennessee Williams at his Key West home
For more than 30 years, internationally renowned playwright Tennessee Williams lived in a cottage on a quiet Key West street. Tennessee Williams maintained his home on the island from 1949 until his death.
Robert Frost was a frequent visitor, and served as U.S. poet laureate in 1958-59. Frost first visited Key West in 1934 and wrote one of his best-known poems, "The Gift Outright," on the island. He subsequently paid winter visits to Key West from 1945 to 1960, staying in a small cottage behind the home of local hostess and preservationist Jessie Porter. Once a historic house museum, today Porter's home and the cottage, which has been named a National Literary Landmark, are privately owned and no longer open to the public.
Ernest Hemingway produced some of his finest work during his decade-long residence in the 907 Whitehead St. home that is now open for tours. Ernest Hemingway was the first popular author to make Key West his home, and a wealth of sites are associated with his decade-long presence.
Among them is Casa Antigua, 314 Simonton St., where he stayed during his initial 1928 visit. Now restored to feature a Caribbean gift shop and a spectacular atrium garden, the unique property is currently open for garden tours. Each July, Hemingway's life, work and love for Key West are honored during the city's Hemingway Days celebration. The festival features literary readings, a popular look-alike contest and a short story competition directed by Hemingway's granddaughter, critically acclaimed author Lorian Hemingway.
Leading contemporary writers from throughout the United States and abroad gather together in Key West to share insights with lovers of literature at the annual Key West Literary Seminar. Past seminar themes have included "Wondrous Strange; Mystery, Intrigue & Psychological Drama," "Historical Fiction and the Search For Truth," and "The Literature of Adventure, Travel and Discovery."
Literary Landmarks Showcase Key West's Creative Heritage
Back to the top
Hemingway Home and Museum (Photo by Andy Newman/TDC)
While many Florida Keys locales are well known and well traveled, visitors often overlook an array of hidden treasures. Exploring the region's environmental and historic attractions can deepen an enjoyment of the Keys' colorful culture and character — particularly for artists and writers seeking pristine natural locations and landscapes to spark their creativity.
A registered national historic landmark, the Hemingway Home and Museum offers guided tours of the author's home, writing studio and Key West's first swimming pool. The six-toes cats which roam the grounds are descendants of Hemingway's pets.
And a number of other historical museums and attractions such as Audubon House & Tropical Gardens and the Key West Art & History Museum at the Custom House draw visitors who seek a cultural experience to supplement the traditional "fun and sun" lure of this subtropical resort area.
More Key West Museums
Adderley House (Photo courtesy of Crane Point)
Tucked away in Marathon is a 63-acre tropical oasis that is one of the most important historical and archaeological sites in the Keys. Crane Point Museum and Nature Center contains evidence of prehistoric Indian artifacts and was once the site of a Bahamian village. Highlights include the Museum of Natural History; a gift shop; nature trails; Adderley House, one of the oldest homes in the Keys outside of Key West; the Marathon Wild Bird Center; a butterfly garden and flight habitat.
Keys History & Discovery Center
In Islamorada, the Keys History & Discovery Center is developing exhibits incorporating a combination of static displays and interactive media delving into first Florida Keys inhabitants, shipwrecks and salvage, Keys pioneering families, sportfishing legends and Henry Flagler's Florida Keys Over-Sea Railroad. In addition, traveling exhibits already are being presented that reflect upon nature, art or history of the Keys.
Florida Keys History of Diving Museum
Dedicated to collecting, preserving and displaying artifacts, antiques and photographs relative to diving and its heritage, the Florida Keys History of Diving Museum is not only a unique Upper Keys attraction, but is a valuable educational resource. During tours of the unique museum, visitors come within inches of the earliest diving machines, including a full-scale replica of an all-wood diving bell and the Parade of Nations exhibit, an unparalleled collection of historic hard-hat dive helmets from around the world. Helmets from 25 nations are presented side by side for close inspection. The museum also hosts an annual "Immerse Yourself" free lecture series.
Back to the top
Photo by Jaqlin Medlock
Keys-wide studios offer classes and lessons including line dancing, tap, jazz, salsa, swing, ballroom, contemporary, Celtic and more. Amateur and professional dancers also perform throughout the Keys. Dance Key West creates seasonal original, evening-length shows at local theaters, parks and events of Key West, and coordinates community outreach dance programs.
Musicals, comedies and direct-from-Broadway productions can be found from Key Largo to Key West.
Key Largo’s Key Players community theater troupe produces 3-4 shows per season in different Upper Keys venues.
Marathon Community Theater began as a small community group in 1944 and garners its performers from a talented pool of local residents. The theater is located at 5101 Overseas Highway, MM 49.5 oceanside.
Key West Theater presents original plays, musicals, films, concerts at its location at 512 Eaton St.
A cultural cornerstone of Key West at 319 Duval St., Red Barn Theatre has built a national reputation for creating BIG things in a small space.
Tennessee Williams Theatre hosts regular productions by visiting and resident professional music and theatre companies.
The intimate, 150-seat Waterfront Playhouse has entertained audiences in Key West over 75 years, at 310 Wall St. adjacent to Key West’s Mallory Square. When the sun sets, the curtain rises at the Waterfront Playhouse.
The eclectic Key West Fringe Theater presents a lively season with “immersion” performances in various non-theater settings chosen to complement each production.
The Studios of Key West’s 200-seat auditorium includes cutting edge live concerts, dance, performance art, theatrical productions, burlesque, circus arts and acrobatics.
Islamorada Community Entertainment offers exceptional classical and contemporary musical performances, including live jam sessions, reggae and bluegrass festivals throughout the year.
The Florida Keys Concert Association is a volunteer, not-for-profit organization that holds seasonal Monday evening classical music concerts in the Middle and Upper Keys.
Florida Keys Community Concert Band presents an entire Pops in the Park season of free admission, themed outdoor concerts at Founders Park, mile marker (MM) 87 bayside in Islamorada.
Key West Theater presents yearlong live concerts at its renovated performing arts venue at 512 Eaton St.
Tennessee Williams Theatre hosts regular productions by visiting and resident professional music and theatre companies, including the South Florida Symphony, a unique gathering of professional musicians from around the United States guided by nationally recognized conductor and Key West native Sebrina Maria Alfonso.
Back to the top
For more information please contact:
Florida Keys Council of the Arts
1100 Simonton Street, Key West, FL 33040