For me taking a walk to explore the plethora of art galleries and shops in our arts districts in the evening is one of the most enjoyable, free evenings you can find anywhere. From antique furniture and paintings to rugs, jewelry, sculpture and art-to-wear, I challenge everyone to find that special needle in the haystack of artsy things just perfect for your home, self or friend.
On a budget? There are plenty of artsy treasures to be found on a dime in tucked-away rooms in The Village of the Arts cottages. Not on a shoestring? Go for it all in these exquisite shops in the area’s hot shopping spots.
Monthly Art Walks in the evenings are magical and a great way to view art, gardens and listen to music. We are fortunate to have these festive perks living in what some refer to as Florida’s Cultural Coast.
Village of the Arts, Bradenton
Held on the First Friday night and Saturday afternoon of each month, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more diverse, eclectic assortment of studios and art than you’ll find at The Village of the Arts. Nestled in one of the biggest success stories of what was once a run-down, blighted area, The Village of the Arts is a magical place with hundreds of 1920’s and 30’s bungalows painted in every color of the rainbow where artists live and work. Village boundaries stretch from 9th Ave West to 17th Ave West between 9th St West and 14th St West. Not all are yet artist’s studios but with the 16-year growth of the Village, there are dozens popping up every year, from award-winning restaurants to fine art studios of every genre. A handful of these amazing homes are always for sale or rent if while you’re there you really catch the bug to live your artist dream.
Twinkly lights, statuary, metal art and more liven up the yards, eaves and gardens of this eclectic village that truly stimulates even the least artistic of your group. Musicians playing on the front stoops or in yards add to the ambience.
An incredible array of offerings include art to wear, fabric, jewelry, paintings, metal art, ceramics, mixed media, repurposed art – it’s all there and then some. One of my favorites for repurposed art and more is Bobcat Studios. You’ll also find specialty shops and services, from massage to knife sharpening, framing and vinyl records. A book store features a bit of everything with a solid Florida authors section and is a spot where local writers meet monthly to support and critique one another’s works.
I’ve found some incredible values on original art in The Village so this is a good bet for the budget conscious or for those seeking unique gifts for the holidays. While you can start your walk just about anywhere, I like to start with the Artists Guild of Manatee building on 12th St. They’re helpful in filling you in on the latest studios, restaurants, book readings, and new offerings, and have a nice little gift shop to boot. They often have an artist reception during the Art Walk. You’ll pick up your map there, or you can get them in the other shops.
Definitely wear your walking shoes for this one. You’ll meander blocks and blocks this way and that and find live music at several venues along the way. The sprinkling of eateries in The Village are always packed on these nights, so you may want to bring snacks and a drink just in case.
The Village of the Arts main address is 1113 12th Street West. Call 747-8056 for more information or visit villageofthearts.com for a look at all of the galleries.
Towles Court is one of Sarasota’s ‘hidden treasures’ and another fabulous glimpse of Old Florida bungalows in an enchanting, moon-lit and twinkle-lighted setting. Much smaller than The Village of the Arts in Bradenton, it holds its Art Walks on the Third Friday of the month, but still features an array of activities including live music, tastings, meetings with the artists, even hands-on art activities. I did a group mandala drawing the last time I was there and it was a great way to actually DO art and meet other artists and like-minded art enthusiasts.
Another stellar example of a work-live-create community, Towles Court has evolved to include interior and graphic designers, art therapists, event planners, internet and financial services and hair and skin care. But plenty of art – from abstract to traditional, ceramics, jewelry, photography, painting, prints as well as fiber and glass are found in formal galleries and gift shops as well in artist’s studios. Consider commissioning a portrait or a new piece for your home. Perhaps sign up to take an art class. Or just enjoy the fresh air and creativity in the making on this night to remember.
Towles Court Art District is listed at 1938 Adams Lane, just off Ringling Blvd. downtown. Visit towlescourt.com for more.
Last but not least, the longest running art walk in the area is Palm Avenue’s First Friday Walks in Sarasota. Start on Main Street and Palm Avenue and enjoy a pleasant array of art and antique galleries as well as popular restaurants and eateries. Several home décor, jewelry and specialty shops are also featured and open during the walk.
Expect live music, free samplings of wine and food and a nice, upscale offering of antiques and art galleries open for your viewing pleasure. The Palm Avenue Arts Alliance promises gallery openings, the chance to meet the artists, plenty of antiques, dining, specialty shops and overall a magical, muse-inspiring evening.
Palm Avenue is situated towards the end of Main Street in Sarasota if you’re accessing it from Hwy 301. Visit palmavenue.org for a list of walks and shops.
Photos by Patti Pearson