By Laura Myers
The Upper Keys’ Old Road Gallery, tucked between the Overseas Highway and the Old Highway at mile marker 88.8 in Tavernier, is a destination for those seeking finely crafted art in the peaceful setting of a native hardwood hammock.
Owned by artists Dwayne and Cindy King, Old Road Gallery is a working studio and gallery for artists, overflowing with handcrafted works of pottery, bronze and copper. It’s also an outdoor sculpture garden.
Each day brings visitors, invited to take a tour, who stroll through winding trails and learn about artistic techniques and styles.
“Every day we look forward to interacting with art lovers from all over the world and sharing with them what we have created,” Cindy King said.
“Old Road Gallery is geared toward those looking for a true artistic experience combined with a tranquil, natural Keys environment,” added the artist, known for her whimsical influence.
The Kings’ custom works can be found throughout the Upper and Middle Keys.
Together, Dwayne and Cindy have created large reef murals for homes in the Ocean Reef community, a bronze lighthouse for Marathon’s oceanfront park and a copper osprey nest for Mission Wild Bird Hospital in Tavernier.
“We have been fortunate enough over the years to be given a variety of large custom jobs for private homes as well as public spaces,” Cindy said.
The couple especially enjoys developing a concept with a client and “making it come to life over a series of weeks,” Cindy said. “Seeing the reaction to finished pieces is very gratifying and what keeps us going.”
The Kings purchased the half-acre property in 2014, seeking space to expand their own gallery after successfully operating Islamorada’s Rain Barrel Sculpture Gallery for more than 20 years.
Each is an artist, brimming with individual creative energies and talents. The two have worked together, mostly side by side, for more than 30 years.
“We both need each other to do what we do,” said Dwayne. “I’m the mechanic and she’s more the natural artist. It’s a symbiotic relationship.”
The couple first met in Central Florida during the mid-1980s when they were in their 20s. Dwayne spotted Cindy in an aerobics class.
A recent University of Arkansas graduate with a B.A. in graphic design, Cindy was visiting her brother.
Dwayne was also in Central Florida, taking a break between jobs of salvaging treasure on shipwrecks off the Florida Keys, the Bahamas, Florida’s east coast near Fort Pierce and Mexico.
It was love at first sight.
Dwayne, who grew up in the Keys, lured Cindy to the island chain in 1987. She immediately began archiving coins and artifacts in pen and ink and rendering intricate galleon scenes on ballast stones brought up from wreck sites.
Besides salvaging treasure, Dwayne owned and operated King’s Treasure, creating jewelry from items recovered from wrecks, with his father.
“Eventually, Cindy and I started casting our own bronzes. It was a natural progression to a life-sized charm instead of a jewelry charm,” Dwayne said.
When not working, the couple typically enjoys a day out on the water.
“We are so fortunate in that creating art doesn’t feel like work and that is probably what we would be doing on our day off if we weren’t already doing it for a living,” Cindy said. “However, we still need a boat trip out to the Gulf or a quiet afternoon in our kayaks in order to recharge our batteries and get inspired for the next project.”
Future plans include converting an on-property Red Cross House, built in 1936 as one of 29 such homes throughout the Keys, into a facility for visiting artists to host workshops.
“They’re built literally like bank vaults,” Dwayne said, describing the tiny Keys homes built of concrete after a hurricane in the mid-1930s.
Old Road Gallery also is an occasional venue for meetings, wedding receptions and birthday parties.
Besides a gallery offering authentic Keys-crafted artworks, the Kings consider it an educational facility.
“In this age of ‘imports,’ we feel it is important to show people what goes into creating a piece of art hands-on, from conception to completion,” Cindy said. “This way they can truly appreciate what they have purchased and also know that they are supporting American-made crafts.”
Cindy King with one of her pottery creations.
Old Road Gallery is a destination for the senses.
Cris' Easel is an outdoor art easel placed in the park behind Murray Nelson Cultural Center in Key Largo, to honor the late artist Cris Sandifer but also provide a creative place for artists to paint, plein air.