Welcome to my backyard--the Florida Keys! I'm a travel writer, blogger and photographer with a passion for all things Florida, especially the Florida Keys. These islands are so much more than Duval Street and Jimmy Buffet. They are rich in history, culture, cuisine, nature and events--all surrounded by pristine waters teeming with wildlife. Whether you're a local or a visitor, the Conch Republic has many surprises in store. Let me be your guide.
Once a month, the art galleries in the heart of Islamorada in theFlorida Keys throw open their doors for the Third Thursday Art Walk. I joined this nighttime street party filled with delicious food, visiting artists, live music and multi-media entertainment, and the crisp cool night could not have been more perfect.
The road took on a festive air, as tiki torches lined the Old Highway (parallel to U.S. 1) between mile marker 81 and 82 from the Green Turtle Restaurant to the 1935 Hurricane Memorial and down the intersecting Morada Way to the Redbone Gallery.
My first stop was at MA’s Fish Camp’s outdoor bar to snag a glass of chardonnay, while local musician, Chris Miller, strummed his guitar in front of Bluewater Potters. Through the windows of the ceramics studio, I saw the vibrant blues and greens from the Reef Dwellers series by noted underwater photographer, Stephen Frink, practically popping off the walls.
As I meandered through tents packed with colorful works by local artists, the chimes from brightly painted Peace Bells, made from reclaimed scuba tanks, mingled in the air with the delighted squeals of children at Island Dolphin Care’s touch tank filled with squirmy sea critters.
Wandering into Pasta Pantaleo’s Signature Gallery, I chatted with the painter about his latest experiments with more abstract and impressionistic representations of tarpon, turtles and other sea life. “I want to get away from the more commercial look of gamefish painting and move towards bringing in more of the Old Masters’ style,” he explained.
At Gallery Morada, which represents over 200 artists and craftspeople, owner, Laurie Wickham, was playing the perfect hostess. Handing out glasses of cabernet, she met everyone with a large smile and mingled throughout the crowd. She avoids items that are mass-produced for the gallery, instead hand-selecting pieces that are exceptional within each medium.
Down at the Matecumbe Studio Gallery, a large slide show of images from photographers worldwide flicked across the outside of the industrial building. Inside the working studio, I could see Mike Willcox’s painting of a calm sea and sky in progress on his easel and David Meyers’ functional bowls and mugs in front of the 76-cubic-foot gas-fired kiln waiting for their coat of glaze.
I ended my evening at Kaiyo Grill with their to-die-for sushi and some Dreamy Clouds sake. For those who want to keep going, Green Turtle’s Thursday late-night happy hour and open-music jam rocks on until 1:00 a.m.