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Islamorada's 'fishy' arts & culture scene, Florida Keys

Islamorada, Florida Keys, is home to a vibrant artists' community. Shown here, Matecumbe Studio Gallery.
Islamorada, Florida Keys, is home to a vibrant artists' community. Shown here, Matecumbe Studio Gallery.
Lesley Peterson

On Islamorada, second of the Florida Keys, visitors can watch the sun rise over the Atlantic on the island's east coast and celebrate sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico just a few hundred meters west. With tropical beauty above water, colorful sea life below and the extraordinary light quality found in the Keys, it's no wonder Islamorada is home to a growing community of artists and galleries.

Islamorada, Florida Keys, is home to a vibrant community of artists.
Islamorada, Florida Keys, is home to a vibrant community of artists.
Lesley Peterson

The junction of Old Highway and Morada Way is the heart of Islamorada's arts community and where you'll find the Morada Way Arts & Cultural District. This not-for-profit, grassroots organization is run by volunteers and thrives with the support of local businesses. Rent a classic Keys cottage or enjoy succulent seafood at an Islamorada restaurant displaying the Morada Way Arts plaque and you'll be supporting local cultural programming.

ArtWalk evenings take place the third Thursday of each month and offer a fun mix of art, music and food. The event is centered around Morada Way where several art galleries and studios occupy former industrial buildings. Representing more than 200 craftspeople, Gallery Morada is a Top 10 Retailer of Fine American Craft and founding member of the Morada Way Arts District. In keeping with Islamorada's reputation as sportfishing capital of the world, much of the work on display at Gallery Morada, Matecumbe Studio Gallery, Redbone Gallery, Bluewater Potters and the gallery studio of artist Roberto 'Pasta' Pantaleo is decidedly fishy.

Architecture buffs will want to check out Pasta's building as well as his dynamic marine paintings. His gallery occupies one of the houses constructed after the historic hurricane of 1935. Built by the Red Cross for returning families, the now-coveted Red Cross homes feature saltwater concrete walls and Dade County pine floors.

Just up the road, the Rain Barrel Artisans Village offers everything from fine art to crafty kitsch in a garden setting. Rain Barrel's maze of working studios and shops are a trove of paintings, pottery, jewelry, stained glass and local food specialties. Refreshment options on site include fresh coconut water straight from the coconut, hacked open with a machete to order. Rain Barrel is a roadside attraction, too. Just look for the giant lobster statue at mile marker 86.7.

For more things to do in Islamorada and the spectacular Florida Keys, see FLA-KEYS.com