Pasta Pantaleo can’t go more than a minute without interrupting himself. As the artist attempts to explain the painting of a sailfish that hangs behind him, he stops to holler hellos every time someone passes the open door of his little gallery in Islamorada, in the Florida Keys. He knows everyone. “That’s Bill,” he says, gesturing to the latest passerby. “He won the Hemingway look-alike contest in 1995.”
I’m at the Morada Way Art Walk, where, once a month, artists from all over the Upper Keys transform a stretch of the Old U.S. 1 highway, between miles 81 and 82, into an open-air gallery with kiosks set up for the occasion. Founded in December 2010, the event brings together ceramics, paintings and, most importantly, the community – it’s become an opportunity for neighbours to catch up over a beer.
Arrive at sunset and you’ll feel like you’ve driven onto the set of Survivor – dozens of gas torches lead the way. Park your rental near Palm Avenue and join the crowd meandering from gallery to gallery, like the Matecumbe Studio Gallery, on Industrial Road; it’s an ex-boathouse with atmosphere to spare, filled with pottery and paintings, that vaguely reminds me of my favourite art studios in Brooklyn.
Later, as I peruse the silver necklaces in the window of Gallery Morada, I’m approached by the special-events manager of a local hotel who’s noticed that I’ve just finished my beer. “We’re all going to the Green Turtle Inn for a nightcap,” he says. “Come along!” Clearly, I’ve found my arty home away from home. ®
Your Ticket to this Month's Stories
Islamorada via Miami
Air Canada offers daily non-stop service between Toronto and Miami, and three flights weekly from Montreal to Miami. Islamorada is less than a two-hour drive away.
Green Turtle Inn
Matecumbe Studio Gallery
Pasta Pantaleo Signature Gallery
Morada Way Art Walk
Every third Thursday of the month, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., on the old U.S. 1 Highway in Islamorada, between miles 81 and 8 moradawayarts.net