COOL WEATHER DIDN’T DETER CROWDS FROM ART UNDER THE OAKS

Eddie Osborne, of Pan African Arts, demonstrating how to play one of his instruments — a xylophone.

For makers and creators of arts and crafts, there is a Saturday in the second week of January in the Upper Keys where they can get together and showcase them to thousands of visitors all in one event: Art under the Oaks. 

As the name suggests, under beautiful shady oaks, the items attendees found ran the gamut from handmade jewelry and artwork to books and candles, all original. In fact, a requirement to be a vendor at Art under the Oaks, you would need to showcase original arts and crafts.

On Jan. 14, San Pedro Catholic Church grounds in Plantation Key were converted into a meandering park-like pathway lined with friendly creators who were happy to discuss their oeuvres. 

One such vendor was Pan African Arts, featuring Eddie Osborne, a crafter of traditional African musical instruments, such as lamellophones, xylophones, rattles and kazoos made from gourd. As to why he likes coming to Art Under the Oaks: “I like interacting with people and I meet a lot of interesting people from different cultural backgrounds.” If you missed Osborne, he is a star seller on his Etsy shop as well, where one can appreciate the variety and beauty of his musical instruments with a few vintage ceremonial drums thrown in at www.etsy.com/shop/PanAfricanArts.

If it’s ancient Japanese techniques you’re after, local artist and founder of Gallery of the Arts Lisa Lee Herman featured her distinctive gyotaku pieces. Gyotaku is the art of printing fish started by Japanese fishermen as a way to tally them. Artist Lisa Lee has taken this artform and applied it to Florida Keys fish as a unique way to commemorate a catch. 

Lisa Lee Herman, of Gallery of the Arts, with gyotaku prints in the background and forefront.

She uses water-based black, gray and colorful ink on handmade paper, which highlights the scales and shape of each individual fish, resulting in an amazing keepsake. As for the artist, she enjoys attending the yearly event, this time celebrating its 39th year.  

“I love Art under the Oaks,” she said. “One of my favorite shows in the Upper Keys in a beautiful location. It’s a nice, cool Saturday to be at my all-time favorite show — so Keysy.” 

People can visit Lisa Lee and see her artwork in person at 88975 Overseas Highway in Tavernier. To read more about Lisa Lee and see her artwork, visit galleryoftheartsIslamorada.com.

The largest San Pedro Catholic Church fundraiser, Art under the Oaks also features a few vendors with philanthropic endeavors. One such vendor was AfriKids, a South Florida-based organization, whose mission is to help children in Tanzania get an education. Laurie Evans, Afrikids co-founder and mother of Afrikids’ co-founder Samantha Evans, said, “I started making art during the pandemic, and this is the result.” She waves her hand over the numerous colorfully decorated shells, which feature primarily ocean creatures. “100% of the proceeds go to Afrikids.” 

Her wares also included African tribal art, such as brightly-colored beaded bracelets created by the Maasai tribe. Referring to the event, which AfriKids is attending for its second year, Evans’ partner Ian McCluskey said, “We have primarily participated in farmers’ markets, but this is a whole different level, where people are specifically here to purchase art.” For the whole story and to donate, visit www.afrikids.org.

The AfriKids stand with Laurie Evans, co-founder and mother of fellow co-founder Samantha Evans, and her partner, Ian McCluskey. CAROLYN DEPAULA/Keys Weekly

Even though it was quite windy, and the temperatures were striving to reach 60 degrees but failed in the end, locals bundled up in wintry clothes and visitors alike milled around, enjoying the live music, participating in the raffles, and eating from the selection of foods. 

This year’s event attracted nearly 70 volunteers, including more than 20 Coral Shores High School students who helped this year’s festival be a success.

Besides brats, burgers and hot dogs indoors in Williams Hall, food trucks with Greek fare and Argentinian churrasco were stationed on the lawn. A stand serving deep-fried Oreos drew especially families with younger children. 

Said Art under the Oaks Chair Keith Douglass, “The premier fine arts and original crafts festival in the Upper Keys, funds from Art under the Oaks not only help sustain the parish but also its many ministries, which benefit the local community. Some of the examples of its ministries include Boy Scout and Cub Scout Pack 914, Men’s Club and Women’s Guild who provide scholarships to local Coral Shores High School students, religious education for students throughout the eighth grade, support for the local food pantry, financial and other assistance to the those in need, including the homeless.” 

Rain or shine, hot or cold weather, the Art under the Oaks festival is as enduring as the oaks adorning the San Pedro Catholic Church grounds. Only once in its 39-year history did Art Under the Oaks not occur – in 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“In addition to a record-setting amount of funds raised from 50 generous sponsors,” Douglass said, “in-kind support was obtained from a dozen other members of the community ranging from media support.” Douglass is grateful for the outstanding patronage and attendance of the whole community and visitors from out of town.

Whether you’re keeping warm, or wearing shorts and a T-shirt, check out next year’s Art under the Oaks, which besides being an extraordinary attraction, is a good cause for our people here in the Keys. It all happens in a peaceful location right off the highway at 89500 Overseas Highway in Tavernier, Florida. More information is at artundertheoaks.com.

Originally hailing from the tropical island paradise of Aruba, Carolyn, now a longtime resident of the Upper Keys, knows the islands and its people quite well. With three kids and a husband who was raised here, she also continues to enjoy the many events the Keys have to offer. Carolyn has always had a passion for language, reading, history and writing, her mom having been an editor and her father a translator. An FIU graduate, Carolyn believes in learning something new each day — preferably while enjoying a large cup of coffee with her dog on her lap.