Surrounded by friends and Chamber of Commerce representatives, Janice Nagel and Sheri Griffin, pictured middle, cut the ribbon to their new art gallery at MM 80.9 in Islamorada on April 15. JIM McCARTHY/Keys Weekly

Artists Sheri Griffin and Janice Nagel brimmed with smiles as they snipped the ribbon to mark the beginning of a new business venture on April 15 — a gallery in Islamorada. 

Walls covered in paintings by Nagel, of Livin in Local Color, capture the beauty of nature and Keys’ color. Photographs by Griffin on shelves and walls show scenic Florida Keys sunsets. Bright, beautiful blooms from Griffin’s air plants hang around the store. 

A suite rented by Griffin at the plaza building at MM 80.9 once served as an office for the photographer, who’s widely known for her calendars filled with jaw-dropping Keys sunsets and unique air plants. Griffin couldn’t think of a better artist to partner with than Nagel, who only recently began painting. 

“We’re happy to be on this journey together,” Griffin said. “It makes perfect sense to team up with another artist who deserves all the exposure for her amazing work.”

Originally from Upstate New York, Griffin moved to the Keys in 2011. She recalls a time roughly two years ago when Nagel waltzed into her office. There, an artist friendship bloomed. Seeking to purchase a calendar, Nagel was also curious about starting her own business. Having spent time at numerous art shows and farmers markets, Griffin was more than happy to get Nagel connected to the arts scene. 

“She likes to be here during the day to paint. I like to go out and do photography,” Griffin said. “She has the business mindset being here, and then we both have creative mindsets.”

Born at the Jersey Shore, Nagel spent her life at the beach watching the seas and admiring the beauty of the sunflower fields and green pastures of the Garden State. Her appreciation of local color stems from the ever-changing seasons of New Jersey.

Nagel draws inspiration from her grandmother who was creative and a teacher of all things cooking, crafts, gardening and painting. Nagel remembers finding her grandmother’s art box containing paintings. It propelled her to try her hand at painting. 

Nagel moved to the Keys in 2015 and had aspirations to become a photographer. But she couldn’t find anyone to teach her. Nagel’s first painting came from a photo of a white heron she took on her husband’s charter boat. 

“I brought it over to BJ Royster and asked for her opinion,” Nagel said. “She said, ‘Don’t stop painting.’”

Like Nagel, Griffin’s inspiration comes from her grandmother. While working at Cheeca, Griffin would shoot some pictures on the side. 

“I’d be out every day doing sunsets and sunrises,” Griffin said. “I taught myself with the help of some other professional photographers. I started learning photography and became obsessed with it. It’s an amazing dream.”

Then plants fell into Griffin’s lap in 2017 after Hurricane Irma. While out of work, Griffin would collect sea urchins to bring a bit of the ocean into her home. Thinking of a way to create a product to sell for people to enjoy, one of her artist friends suggested Griffin give air plants a shot. Out of it came Griffin’s new venture in Air Plant Jellyfish. 

Nagel and Griffin’s artwork is regularly on display at Art Walk in the Morada Arts & Cultural District. Now, there’s a gallery for people to view beautiful paintings and photographs of unforgettable Keys scenes.

“I love having people come to see my artwork in a gallery situation,” Nagel said. “I love being at Art Walk, but this brings my dream to a new level.” 

The artists say they are looking to host art shows, classes and other events with fellow local artists. The gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

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Jim McCarthy is a northerner who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since his graduation from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 3 years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. Behind every community is resiliency and resolve in difficult times. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim serves as President of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. “It’s a group that lives by the motto ‘Service Above Self,’” he says. “We’ve done service projects at the Tavernier nursing home, sitting down and socializing with residents. “We’ve also supplied cameras to young students exploring the Keys ecosystem.” Jim loves sports, family and time exploring underneath the water depths.