Style has many meanings. One is a lifestyle that reflects everyday living: work, home, friendships, nature, pride of place, and community. Cedar Key definitely has style – unique though it may be. It’s a working-waterfront fishing village with a mere 800 permanent residents, hundreds more part-time winter residents, and many daily or weekend visitors throughout the year.
Located on SR 24 just 67 miles from Ocala, Cedar Key welcomes all as they cross the #4 bridge with a panoramic view of the Gulf of Mexico’s wetlands, islands, wildlife, and the entrance to a town that is the second oldest in Florida. What visitors won’t see are high-rise condos, fast-food restaurants, or big-box stores. Coming into view will be colorful cottages, evidence of clam and oyster operations, an active marina, small businesses, and residences tucked in between. The town has also been a haven for artists for decades.
Driving down Cedar Key’s Historic 2nd Street you can’t miss the colorfully painted Cedar Key Arts Center (CKAC) and its adjacent whimsical sculpture garden. CKAC is the center of nurturing and encouraging the arts in the community. The building houses the Cedar Keyhole Artists Cooperative on the main floor, and the Cedar Key Arts Center upstairs. The non-profit organization, which celebrated its 25th Anniversary in 2019, fulfills its mission by hosting a dozen or so gallery exhibits each year, a wide variety of adult art workshops, a Summer Children’s Art Program, and coordinating the Old Florida Celebration of the Arts, a juried fine arts festival, each spring.
Following a formal visioning process in the spring of 2019, the Arts Center Board added Art in Public Places to its list of ways to promote the arts in Cedar Key. Bev Ringenberg, CKAC president at that time, describes the Art in Public Places initiative as “an evolution of ideas, talent, and community support that began back in 2014 when Cedar Key Arts Center was planning for the 50th Anniversary of the festival by sponsoring its first mural.”
The story goes something like this according to Ringenberg. Each year the festival committee chooses a theme and holds a design contest. In 2014 the theme was Cedar Key’s iconic Honeymoon Cottage. Amazing artwork poured in and though there could only be one winner, the festival committee liked the 2nd place design so much that it decided to ask the CKAC to co-sponsor a mural, created using photographer Ann Kamzelski’s design entry. After getting permission from the owners of the building adjacent to the Arts Center’s Sculpture Garden, Kamzelski’s design was recreated by Travis Parks, a talented artist who had recently returned to Cedar Key.
The second mural was inspired by the 2015 festival design theme Seeing Art in Nature. This mural was done with the support of the Friends of the Lower Suwannee & Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuges – demonstrating the power of partnerships for funding the projects. It is located on the north wall of the Marathon Gas Station. Again, this mural was created by Travis Parks.
Continuing the mural tour, in 2016 after Hurricane Hermine damaged the wall of the Cedar Key Market, the CKAC coordinated a community effort to finance a third mural on the north side of the market. The pirate theme that year was the idea of market owner Darlene Skarupski and designed and painted by Travis Parks.
Travis Parks continued to make his mark in 2021 when he painted the Working Waterfront, which was the festival’s theme that year. The artwork this time was a collaboration between Ann Kamzelski’s photography and Travis using a 3D application of a clam boat applied to the new CKAC addition as part of the initiative to finish the sculpture garden, and in keeping with the mission of creating Art in Public Spaces.
The most recent mural was completed in early December. Inspired again by the upcoming 2023 festival’s theme of Island Life. Bev Ringenberg and Travis Parks came up with the idea of using trompe-l’oeil, a visual illusion technique that tricks the eye into perceiving a painting as a three-dimensional object. The mural, which is located on the south wall of the NAPA store on 3rd Street, shares a picture of island life that is typically hidden from the view of most visitors.
Fortunately for Cedar Key residents and visitors, there are many other examples of public art throughout town created by a variety of artists, as well as two artist co-ops displaying the original work of over 50 talented artists year-round.
The pinnacle of the Cedar Key art scene is the juried fine art festival, the Old Florida Celebration of the Arts. The festival’s reputation has grown, and it is now recognized by ArtFairCalendar.com as one of the top small town art fairs in the nation. The festival welcomes 100 artists and approximately 15,000-18,000 visitors annually. This free event benefits the Cedar Key Arts Center, the coordinating sponsor, in addition to local nonprofits and Cedar Key school groups.
The 2023 festival will be held April 1 (10am – 5pm) and April 2 (10am – 4pm). In addition to the outstanding art, visitors will enjoy local seafood, baked goods, music, and children’s activities in City Park.
So, come visit to see the murals, attend the festival and/or all the art activities going on! The Art Center galleries are open daily from 10am-5pm at 457 2nd Street. Questions, contact CedarKeyArtsCenter@gmail.com and visit the websites at CedarKeyArtsCenter.org and CedarKeyArtsFestival.com