by Katie Hendrick | May 24, 2017

Catching Art in the Keys

Exploring the galleries, museums, markets, historic homes and natural habitats that make up The Florida Keys' rich cultural heritage

Local pottery at an open-air market; photography Florida Keys & Key West

Local pottery at an open-air market; photography by The Florida Keys & Key West

Lapis water and the treasures within—coral reefs, shipwrecks, sports fish, and crustaceans—lure visitors to The Florida Keys year after year. Above the surface awaits a dynamic cultural scene teeming with museums, theaters, concert halls and art studios. Here are just a few of The Florida Keys’ cultural highlights, from north to south:

In Key Largo, catch a ride aboard the African Queen, the original steamship featured in the 1951 cinematic classic of the same name. Each year, Key Largo honors the film’s star at the Humphrey Bogart Film Festival, an event with roundtable discussions, celebrity meet-and-greets and open-air showings of Bogie’s most famous movies. While in town, visit The Gallery at Kona Kai. Nestled amongst lush botanical gardens, it captivates inside and out. The curated collection features premier international and local artists, including French sculptor Dominique Pollés and renowned Florida landscape photographer Clyde Butcher.

In 2010, a visionary trio including an artist, a gallery owner and a CPA saw in Islamorada’s Industrial Road a blank canvas for a space where curious minds can mingle with creatives, learn a skill and shop for original art. Thus, Morada Way Arts and Cultural District was born. Painters, sculptors, ceramic artists and gallery owners, notably aquatic painter Pasta Pantaleo, contribute to this vibrant nucleus, which runs between mile markers 81 and 82. Locals flock to the community’s monthly art walk to peruse artists’ booths and enjoy live music and street food.

Inside the Adderley House; photography Florida Keys & Key West

Inside the Adderley House; photography by The Florida Keys & Key West

Marathon’s Crane Point fosters an appreciation for the local ecosystem and the way early settlers lived off it. Two-and-a-half miles of trails crisscross this 63-acre oasis of hardwood trees, mangroves, marsh pools, fragrant flowers and butterflies. Don’t miss the Adderley House, where Bahamian immigrants homesteaded in the early 1900s; a museum detailing the history of island natives, explorers, pioneers and developers, illustrated with artifacts that date back to the 1400s; and a wild bird center.

Whether your style leans more classical or whimsical, you’ll find something to cherish at the Artists in Paradise Gallery on Big Pine Key. Founded in 1994 by 14 local artists, this cooperative has more than 40 members representing disciplines, from watercolors and fused glass to gourd art and Gyotaku (a Japanese tradition of fish printing). The group’s social calendar includes juried art shows, $99 sales and classes.

The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum; photography Florida Keys & Key West

The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum; photography by The Florida Keys & Key West

America’s southernmost key has been a stomping grounds for many legendary writers, including Judy Blume, Tennessee Williams and Robert Frost. But no literary figure looms larger in Key West than Ernest Hemingway. Each July, the island celebrates “Papa” with a week of festivities. The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum and its famous six-toed cats welcome guests 365 days a year. Tour the novelist’s living quarters, writing studio and pool or go on a self-guided adventure using the museum’s app.

For an in-depth list of events, organizations, artists and venues, go to  fla-keys.com/arts-culture.