For The Observer | The Florida Keys‘ rich history, diverse culture and constantly evolving art scene make this unique series of islands a world-class destination. International influences, especially those from the Americas and Caribbean, have made the area a favorite getaway for artists and writers searching for a relaxed atmosphere with unrivaled natural beauty that serves as constant inspiration.
The Keys have always attracted a large variety of visual artists and artisans, as evidenced by the many galleries featuring oils, watercolors, sculpture, pottery, woodcarving, blown glass and more. Two favorite places to visit are the Guild Hall Gallery on Duval Street and Mallory Square. The Guild Hall Gallery houses works by over 25 local artists in the heart of downtown Key West. At sunset, Mallory Square provides a one-of-a-kind opportunity to get a better feel of the local culture, attracting hundreds of artists, street entertainers, and visitors each evening. At both destinations, visitors not only get to see many works by local artisans, they have the opportunity to mingle with residents and speak with the artists to learn more about their inspirations. Interacting with the many talented local artists is one of the main reasons that so many international travelers visit America’s southernmost art colony each year.
In Key Largo, art and nature come together at the Kona Kai Resort, Gallery & Botanic Gardens. This distinctive boutique property includes a beautiful inn as well as one of the most sophisticated art galleries in South Florida, featuring world-renowned artists like Greg Sobran and Dirk Verdoorn.
From Key Largo to Key West, the performing arts flourish, and one of the most notable theatres is the Marathon Community Theatre, which presents live theatre and art exhibits for the Florida Keys community. Marathon is also home to the Florida Keys Celtic Festival and the Pigeon Key Art Festival. The Celtic Festival brings live Celtic bands, Irish and Scottish dancing, Highland athletics, sheepdog herding, and Celtic food and beer to the Keys. The Pigeon Key Art Festival is a yearly fundraiser for the tiny island of historic Pigeon Key. It is a nationally recognized outdoor fine arts festival that showcases the works of over 80 of the finest artists and craftsmen in the world, offering visitors the opportunity to meet with exhibiting artists.
One of the best times to find yourself in the Keys is during the winter months, and if you are visiting the Keys at the end of November, the Big Pine & Lower Keys Island Art Festival is a must-see cultural attraction. The event is supported by local artists and features distinctive island arts and crafts. Local musicians serenade guests and put visitors in the holiday spirit while they shop. Another way to continue to explore the works of local artists in the Lower Keys is by making a visit to the Artists in Paradise Gallery, which is a vibrant co-op of artists working in the Lower Keys offering fine art in sculpture, painting, photography, glass, and fine crafts.
Wildlife enthusiasts can launch their kayak or canoe along the beautiful beach of Bahia Honda State Park. Paddle along the edges of the uninhabited mangroves and you are almost sure to see egrets, herons, kingfishers, and white-crowned pigeons among other migratory and shallow-water bird life.
Don’t Miss: Experience Ernest Hemingway’s Key West
It’s also this island atmosphere that brought the literary great Ernest Hemingway to reside in Key West. The Keys’ inspirational ambiance proved instrumental for some of his most famous works, including “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “To Have and Have Not” and “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.” He and his second wife, Pauline, arrived for the first time in 1928, and quickly fell in love with Key West, residing at the infamous 907 Whitehead Street until they divorced in 1940. During this time they developed the property that would become The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum, a prized landmark and a favorite retreat for visitors to experience the Florida Keys through the eyes of Ernest Hemingway.
With so many remarkable experiences stretching from Key Largo to Key West, the Florida Keys are an ideal international destination for those interested in a cultural and artistic experience unlike anywhere else in the world.
Plan your own artful getaway to the Florida Keys now at fla-keys.com.