FLORIDA KEYS — The Florida Keys’ cultural offerings, ranging from a lively visual arts scene to vibrant theater and musical events, provide visitors an intriguing contrast to the island chain’s water-related and environmental activities. In late July, those offerings were augmented by the debut of the 81-mile Florida Keys Sculpture Trail.
Extending from Islamorada to Key West, the trail consists of nine large-scale sculptures at locations along the Florida Keys Overseas Highway. Because the highway is the only road stretching throughout the island chain, the sculptures are easily viewable by people traveling around the Keys.
The trail was the vision of Key West philanthropists John Padget and Jacob Dekker, who gifted the sculptures to the Keys community and visitors. Seven are currently installed and the remaining two are to be installed in the near future.
The sculptures were created by artists participating in the prestigious Art Students League of New York’s “Model to Monument” program. In 2016 the large-scale artworks stood in Manhattan’s Riverside Park South along the Hudson River and were viewed by approximately 200,000 park visitors.
The sculptures’ relocation and Keys installation is a collaborative effort involving the Florida Keys Council of the Arts, Monroe County Art in Public Places Committee and Monroe County Board of County Commissioners.
Works include “Leaves of Grass” by Markus Holtby, standing in Marathon at The Art Studio at 12353 Overseas Highway; and “Avis Gloriae et Lavdis,” or “bird of glory and praise,” and “Nature Eternal” — both by Sheila Berger and welcoming visitors at the Key West International Airport.
“Wind Tower,” a collaborative piece by all seven of the “Model to Monument” sculptors, is located at 258 Cunningham Lane, the site of Grimal Grove, on Big Pine Key.
“Stand Tall, Stand Loud” by Aaron Bell and “Everyone Breaks” by Tanda Francis share the landscape at Marathon’s oTHErside Adventure Park at 59300 Overseas Highway. Sarah Thompson Moore’s “Everything Between,” installed in Islamorada Gardens at 81001 Overseas Highway, is soon to be joined by James Mikhel Emerson’s “Bridge.”
The other sculpture awaiting installation is “Fragments” by Shiho Sato, to be placed in Islamorada’s Morada Way Arts & Cultural District.
Visitors eager to travel the trail and view the artistry can find an easy-to-use map in the arts council’s 2018 Gallery Guide. It can be accessed and downloaded atkeysarts.com.
Sculpture Trail information: keysarts.com or 305-295-4369
Florida Keys visitor information: fla-keys.com or 1-800-FLA-KEYS