Saturday, March 03, 2012

I've arrived in Key West ... aka Paradise!

Even as the days were counted down, it was hard to believe that I was actually going to get in my car and drive all the way down I-95 to Miami, pick up the historic Route #1 and travel causeways the bridges over the Florida Keys and end up at The Studios of Key West. But, it happened!

(Above: My feet on the dock ... overlooking pelicans and tarpons! Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)

The drive was more glorious than I dared imagine. The colors of the ocean glistened mint and teal in the sunlight ... shades I never knew existed ... streaked with periwinkle in the shadows of puffy white clouds overhead.

Laurie McIntosh, one of the resident artists at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios, told me "Be sure to stop below Islamorada and feed the tarpons." I took her advice by stopping at the information center in Islamorada. There, I was told ... "Oh, you want to go to Robbie's! It's five more miles down on the right ... only costs a dollar ... a little more for bait". It was SO MUCH FUN!

(Above: Hungry pelicans hoping to steal tarpon bait at Robbie's. Pelicans also crowded the dock ... not the least bit afraid of people! Please note the great bridge in the background ... causeways and bridges provided excellent views to some of the most scenic vistas I've ever seen.)

It was also a little bit dangerous! Yes, tarpons and pelicans both bite! The pelicans were rather pushy. One even grabbed a fish out of a visitor's hand before she could toss it into the water. Everyone laughed though.

There were plenty of tourist shack along the roadside. One vendor had bird houses made from coconuts ... so I took this photo for my Dad, an expert birdhouse builder who hasn't tried this unique material yet!

I arrived at The Studios of Key West in time for an orientation. There are two other artists-in-residency here for the month of March. One is an actress, Kristin Michelle, who is here in a partnership with The Waterfront Playhouse. The other is an oil painter, Anne Ireland, from Maine. We were all dazzled by the fabulous accommodations, the friendliness of the staff, and the sheer beauty of this island paradise.

So ... what's it like?

(Above: Sign for the historic Key West Armory ... now The Studios of Key West.)

The main building at The Studios of Key West was once the historic armory. It now houses two exhibition spaces, several affordable rental studio spaces for local artists, offices, and workshop classrooms. It is beautiful ... and beautifully restored too! The front faces White Street.

(Above: Ashe Street 607 to the left and 609 to the right. I'm in the downstairs of 607.)

The street directly to the south of White Street is Ashe Street. The Studios of Key West were able to acquire and renovate two former residences ... Ashe Street 607 and 609. These are the brand new artist-in-residency accommodations. This is only the second group to use them! I'm so honored!

(Above: Side of Ashe Street 607 ... looking into the garden area.)

Between the back of the Ashe Street residency units and the back of the White Street historic armory there is now a landscaped garden with commissioned sculptures, benches, and places for neighborhood cats to sleep and visiting groups to meet.

(Above: The covered patio area in the garden space behind Ashe Street 607 and 609.)

The photo above shows the covered patio ... just off the communal kitchen and dining room at Ashe Street 607. Yes ... I get to use this lovely space! In fact, even as I'm typing this blog post, the staff is busy setting up for their 5th birthday bash. The public will be coming at 4 PM this afternoon to browse through the studios ... and see me at work!

(Above: Side view of 607 Ashe Street from the garden.)

The Studios of Key West (TSKW) also have a long-term lease for space in another building backing up to the garden area. This is called "The Mango Treehouse". There's an industrial sink for artists' use and a storage place ... from which I was brought two sawhorses and a hollow table that is now my giant ironing station!

(Above: The Mango Treehouse)

The garden area also has access to the recycling bins and a place to lock the provided bicycles! From there, it is only a few feet to Bill Wood's High Road sculpture and to Lauren Mcaloon's Song of Passage installation.

(Above: Bill Wood's High Road and the back of TSKW. Below: Lauren McAloon's Song of Passage and the side of TSKW.)

On the very first night, there was an exhibition opening in the upstairs space in the main building. It was fabulously attended and sported plenty of "red dot" sales tags! Everyone was so nice too.

(Above: Downstairs exhibition space at TSKW. Photo from yesterday's opening.)

In fact, "nice" isn't a strong enough word! Not only do the artists-in-residences have attentive staff members for orientation but we were each introduced to a local art lover as a personal contact! Wendy was there to greet me upon my arrival and she's already taken me grocery shopping and checked-in this morning with a telephone call! She's also enrolled in my workshop next week ... which is SOLD OUT!

(Above: Another view from the opening reception last night for Abstract Realities.)

(Above: TSKW's colorful van.)

Also "beyond nice" is the fact that bicycles were provided for the resident artists. So ... I've got a bike ... a nice, one-speed, coaster break bike with a Kriptonite lock. Everyone in Key West seems to ride via moped or bicycle. It is so much fun!

(Above: Entrance to Mallory Square)

I've only just begun to explore Key West. This morning was a perfect time to cycle the streets, watch tourists taking breakfast on shady porches, and seeing busy city workers sweeping away the remains of a Friday night party along Duvall Street's charming shops. There was almost no traffic and the breeze was so pleasant.

(Above: Behind Mallory Square ... boat for the nearby key ... back of the Weston Resort.)

The water really is this blue!

(Above: Local fisherman)

Even though there are now lots of modern conveniences, new city ordinances, and a booming tourist season, there are still signs of a laid back lifestyle here in Key West ... like the fisherman above!

(Above: The historic Key West Cemetery)

Naturally, yesteryear is apparent in the historic cemetery. This was obviously one of my first destinations ... and it is literally a block away from my new front door! For at least two years people have been telling me about one particular epitaph. It is in this cemetery!

(Above: The grave site of B. P. "Pearl" Roberts, 1929-79, a local hypochondriac whose epitaph was one I've heard of frequently over the past two years!)

Unfortunately, there's a posted sign prohibiting grave rubbings ... but there's no rule about taking photographs! So ... here it is ... "I Told You I Was Sick".

During the rest of the month I plan to blog about Key West, the residency experience, and the work I will make here. I know that my next post will include photos of my new interior space ... and probably a few with people who will be coming to the 5th Birthday bash in a matter of hours! I probably ought to get ready for this!

(Above: I saw an iguana in the cemetery! He was very nice to pose for me!)


Julie said...

Your excitement and energy are pouring out of this post Susan! What a wonderful place to spend time teaching and creating. Fabulous that your workshop has sold out, I wish I could be there too. Looking forward to seeing more and so sorry you can't do any rubbings in the graveyard.

Connie Akers said...

In 1966 my future inlaws took me to Key West to spend Christmas with my future husband who was in the navy there. It was a magical place that I've always hoped to visit again. I'm excited to visit it thru your eyes.

lynda Howells said...

Oh l remember that area well..poaradise indeedxxHave fuin creating your Residency Art..looking forward to seeing it and its processesxxxlynda

Dreams can come true! said...

Oh, among the snow flurries,I am loving the blues of Key West, yellows, pinks too. I miss all the chickens running around. You have been so blessed and thank you for sharing your adventure with us.

Roberta said...

Ahhhh. Key West.

I lived there for many years. Back in the 70's and eighties. It was really laid back then. Rent was $60 a month for a 2 bedroom apartment. I still have a few friends there although most of us left when it became financially impossible to live there any more.

Key West was where I learned to "BE" an artist. I first began with small pen and inks of the pelicans and banana plants. A man named Bill Huckel, RIP, owned a small newspaper called "Solaris Hill". He began to buy my illustrations and a career was born.

My youngest daughter was born there. A true "conch".

My days in key West were the best of my life.

Enjoy your time there and don't forget the sunscreen. Especially on your feet! Flip flops + bike riding = sunburn!

Gale, pursuing as much as I can as fast as I can! said...

Shhh! We want to keep the Keys a secret!

It's so wonderful there. When you head home, take US1 through Miami (then pick up i-95 again) to see some spectacular architecture and color.

Have a blast during your stay! We Floridians treasure the Keys.

Terry Jarrard-Dimond said...

Enjoy your paradise and have all best for a productive stay.

Wanda said...

I have been looking forward to 'our' residency in Key West and now it is here! I am so thankful I can tag along with you! It is beyond anything I had thought. There must be artistic overload going many colors, shapes, sounds, smells, feelings and ideas. And warmth!! It must inspire 24 hours a day. I can't wait for the next post! And a sold out What a place! on to a couple of things that I found very interesting in a 'nonartist' sort of went grocery shopping? Were you looking for particular letters and words on the labels or did you actually buy real food? have a bicycle? please please please don't try to stitch and ride at the same time!!! ha ha ha