The Studios of Key West
The Studios of Key West is a center for the arts in Key West, an island community at the southernmost tip of the Florida Keys. The Studios of Key West is a nonprofit organization established in 2006. Its annual catalog states that the organization works to promotes multidisciplinary arts, to provide artist-in-residency opportunities for artists worldwide, and to maintain long-term studio spaces dedicated to Florida Keys artists. Through classes, performances, lectures, gallery exhibits, partnership projects, and special events, the Studios unites Pulitzer Prize winners and world-renowned artists with local audiences and art practitioners at all stages of their creative careers. The organization publishes a yearly catalog of events and classes and maintains an extensive website at tskw.org.
- 1 Campus
- 2 Programs
- 3 History
- 4 Mission
- 5 Notes
Main facility at Eaton Street
The Studios of Key West established its new home in 2015. The location at 533 Eaton Street is in the heart of downtown Key West just one block from Duval Street. The building, an iconic piece of Miami Deco architecture, was built in 1951 at the corner of Simonton and Eaton, and is the former Scottish Rite Masonic Center. After a total renovation, the building now includes Key West’s largest exhibition space dedicated to contemporary art, a wine bar, a box office/information center, a 200-seat auditorium, nine artists’ studios, and two classrooms (Filosa). In 2016 Books & Books @ The Studios opened offering over 2,500 titles. In addition to the new Eaton Street space, the Ashe Street artist-in-residence cottages along with the Sculpture and Nature Garden continue to anchor the Artists In Residence Program.
Ashe Street facility and sculpture garden
In mid-2011, to respond to the growing demand for additional work space for artists, The Studios of Key West renovated 607 and 609 Ashe Street as residency cottages for visiting artists. Completed in early 2012, the cottages now include three suites with two attached working studios and an outdoor area for small gatherings (“About the AIR Program”). Adjacent is a landscaped Sculpture Garden that is home to an ever-changing series of sculptural works by established and emerging artists including John Martini, Susan Rogers, Lauren McAloon, CR Gray, Anja Marais, and many others. The area also provides a setting for classes, outdoor events, and native plants.
Books & Books
Books & Books @ The Studios is the newest branch of the locally owned, independent-minded neighborhood bookstore, which won Publishers Weekly “Bookstore of the Year” in 2015, serves as a community center for writers and readers, and hosts a diverse and stunning selection of author events each year.
The store opened as part of The Studios of Key West’s new center, creating a dedicated space for the literary arts alongside the visual and performing arts. Books & Books @ The Studios houses over 75 running feet of shelves and 2,500 titles, featuring local authors and art books alongside the latest best sellers and more. The selections are carefully curated by Books & Books in Coral Gables, with input from Key West literary luminaries like Judy Blume and James Gleick.
According to the Key West Citizen newspaper, the mission of The Studios of Key West emphasizes partnership and collaboration, community interface and involvement, and cross-cultural exchange. Its programs work to build on the creative legacy of past and present Key West residents such as Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, Elizabeth Bishop, James Merrill, Richard Wilbur, Judy Blume, Meg Cabot, Mario Sanchez, Henry La Cagnina, and Annie Dillard.
Artists In Residency (AIR) program
The Studios of Key West launched a residency program in 2007. Since then, the Studios has since hosted dozens of artists, musicians, and cultural figures from all over the world, including Madison Smartt Bell, Nemo Librizzi, New York street artist MOMO, Coleman Barks, Helsinki-based photographer Curt Richter, Herbert Weissberg, Sandra Kopp, Helen Whitney, Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips, Barbara Hammer, Eric Dyer, Victoria Reynolds and Jeffrey Vallance, Jiayin Shen, Cheryl Tan, and many others.
From several hundred applications per year, up to 40 artists working in the literary, visual, and performing arts are selected by jury to spend a month drawing inspiration from the colorful sights, fascinating people, and remarkable culture of the island. In turn, the residents give back to the community by offering workshops, concerts, readings, performances, and exhibitions during their stay. In 2014, to expand The Studios of Key West’s collaborative efforts, the AIR Program included two-week residencies for three Art Students League of New York artist/instructors.
The Studios of Key West hosts 30 to 40 exhibitions and installations each year. Proposals for exhibitions are accepted from local and visiting artists and are installed for two-week to one-month periods. The first Thursday of the month brings a recurring Key West event known as First Thursday. The Studios of Key West and other businesses and galleries in the neighborhood opens their doors for a festive gallery walk and multi-site creative adventure. The Studios of Key West presents its exhibition(s) of the month in the first-floor Sanger Gallery and adjacent Video Alcove, the second-floor Zabar Lobby, and the third-floor XOJ Gallery. Also open for First Thursday are The Studios of Key West artists’ studios on the third floor.
Workshops and classes
Each program year between October and May, The Studios of Key West offers a full season of weekly classes, workshops, and longer-term courses that cater to local island residents and visitors. The Studios' largest program serves over 1,000 people each season, with more than 50 distinct classes in a range of media for artists from beginners to professionals. Instructors include year-round local artists and artists visiting from across the globe, either to live at The Studios of Key West for a month as artists in residence or just to teach what they know. Notable among the list are American cultural figures including painters Mike Rooney, Charles Reid, and Robert Burridge, writers Roxana Barry Robinson and Robert Stone, photographer Alan Rokach, and mixed media artists Thomas Mann and Roberta Marks.
Weekly classes and courses provide opportunities for study with artists like Rick Worth, Karen Beauprie, Jim Salem, Rosalind Brackenbury, Richard Grusin, Mike Rooney, Roberta Marks, and others. The Studios of Key West also offers many multi-day workshops in the visual, performing, and literary arts each year. These workshops are taught by instructors like Frank Francese, Robert Burridge, Charles Reid, William Welch, and Susan Sugar.
The Studios of Key West also hosts a diverse range of music programming each season, including a contemporary singer-songwriter series. Past performances have included Peter Mayer, Emily Saliers, Livingston Taylor, Susan Werner, Noel Paul Stookey, Carrie Newcomer, and Ben Harrison. By popular demand, some artists make yearly appearances, like singer-songwriter Zoe Lewis. In 2011, The Studios of Key West began presenting classical and chamber music concerts each year with esteemed musicians from around the world.
Cutting-edge performance at The Studios of Key West includes dance, performance art, small-scale theatrical productions, and burlesque and circus arts. Highlights of 2014 included "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" and "Naomi’s Flight" by Mara Neimanis. In 2015, The Studios' hosted A Thousand Splendid Suns, the first act of a contemporary opera in progress set in Afghanistan. In a less-serious vein, New York City’s Wendy Taucher Dance Opera Theater mixed original tunes with Mozart in what they billed as the 1780s’ top forty.
The Studios presents several speakers of note each year. For example, it recently hosted American newspaper columnist and former assistant managing editor of The Washington Post Eugene Robinson and 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama winner Ayad Akhtar. In 2016, Bob Perlow presented “Tales from Hollywood,” revealing an inside look at shows he’s worked on from Laverne & Shirley and Cheers to The Tonight Show.
Past events in the free lecture series co-sponsored with The Friends of the Library have include leading writing and cultural figures such as Calvin Trillin, Jean Carper, Lee Smith, Lou Harris, former US Poet Laureate Maxine Kumin, poet Billy Collins, and authors James Gleick, Barbara Ehrenreich, Judy Blume, and Meg Cabot.
In March 2016, the inaugural edition of The Studios of Key West’s visual arts conferences named “Currents & Confluences” addressed issues of nature, identity, and place and featured artists, authors, art historians, and curators. Participants included Edgar Heap of Birds, Aurora Robson, James Lancel McElhinney, Katherine Manthorne, Jillian Russo, and Frederick Brosen.
The Studios of Key West strives to be an integral part of Key West life. Central to its community programs are youth education programs in out-of-school settings, presented in collaboration with other institutional partners. One popular annual event for kids at spring break is Bounce and Ooh La La's Circus Camp. Other children's programs include individual classes and a weekly Summer Art Camp for Kids with different themes each week.
Artist studio tours
An annual event, the studio tours are organized around different locations and an ever-changing variety of Key West artists including wood workers, welders, potters, jewelry makers, painters, and more.
Each year The Studios of Key West sponsors and organizes a trip to Miami Art Week/Art Basel Miami and its auxiliary events such as Wynwood Walls and over 20 pop-up art festivals in the area. The Studios of Key West also plans trips to explore local art and culture in destinations such as Arkansas’s Crystal Bridges and Cuba.
The Studios of Key West proceeds from the traditional approach to the artist colony established by the likes of Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony and expanded more recently by Anderson Ranch, the Vermont Studio Center, and the Atlantic Center for the Arts. Key West's version has advanced this progression and established the artist community model for the 21st century. Core programming has grown from a few workshops in 2007 to over 100 creative classes each year.
Between 2001 and 2006, initial ideas for The Studios of Key West were developed by civic and arts leaders throughout the community. The Studios of Key West was officially founded in 2006 as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization cultural organization in 2006, with a mission to support the island's creative community, the development of artists and audiences in the Conch Republic, and new partnerships near and far. It is based on successful 20th century models for artist colonies but is expanding the approach and model for the 21st century artist community. Founding executive director Eric Holowacz was installed in early 2007 and was responsible for developing and implementing a new strategic plan for the organization. The founding staff included Sharon McGauley, Elena Devers, and Lauren McAloon.Founding Board members were Peyton Evans, Lynn Kaufelt, John Martini, Ken Domanski and Ann Henderson; and the first home for The Studios of Key West was the historic Armory on White Street, originally built between 1900-1903 as the drill hall and armory for the Florida state militia.
The historic Key West Armory, built in the early 1900s, was the hub of The Studios of Key West activities and programs from 2006 through 2014 (The Armory (Key West). Since 2015, the operation has been headquartered in the building at 533 Eaton Street.
The Studios of Key West’s mission is to build audiences and sustain the advancement of established and emerging creative people in the Florida Keys now and for generations to come. The mission is pursued under the guidance of the executive staff, the board of directors, advisers, and a cadre of dedicated volunteers.
Executive Director: Jed Dodds; Deputy Director: Elena Devers; Artistic Director: Erin Stover-Sickmen; Gallery and Facilities Manager: Lauren McAloon; Office Manager: Lea Moeller; Master Volunteer: Bree Anne Buckley.
President: Mary Jean Connors; Vice President: Rita Linder; Secretary: Paula Tishok; Treasurer: Tom Swain; Roger Heinen; Stephen Kitsakos; Richard McChesney
Lucy Barker, Bill Brown, John Hammond, Helen Harrison, Susan Henshaw Jones, Ashley Kamen, Maxine Lopez-Keough, Adam Russell, Richard Tallmadge, Rita Troxel, John Vagnoni
Judy Blume, Susan Cardenas, Jacob Dekker, Peyton Evans, Susan Henshaw Jones, Martha Goode Lynn Kaufelt, Rita Linder, Richard McChesney, Holly Merrill, Claudia Miller, Jay Scott, Kerry Shelby, John Spottswood III, Judith Zabar
Artist Advisory Council
Eric Anfinson, Cynthia Crossen, Michel Delgado, Deborah Goldman, Helen Harrison, John Martini, Marky Pierson
- "What We Do," The Studios of Key West. Retrieved August 26, 2014.
- 2014 Catalog, The Studios of Key West.
- “Minutes of the Key West Planning Board,” March 13, 2014.
- Gwen Filosa, "Arts Nonprofit Buys 1950s Center for $2.2M," The Citizen, November 1, 2013. Retrieved August 26, 2014.
- "The Studios of Key West (TKSW)," Artists of Alliance Communities Residency Directory. Retrieved August 26, 2014.
- 2014 Catalog, The Studios of Key West.