Walking into the Shady Palm Art Gallery and Frame Shop for the first time is like walking into an adorable, vibrant museum. But to the curious spectator, it is a pleasant surprise to find out that all of the “museum pieces,” from paintings to sculptures, glass jewelry, coasters and more, are also for sale, ready to fit the bill as unique souvenirs, Christmas presents for loved ones or pieces of Keys culture.
The gallery isn’t new to the Marathon community, but its ownership is. Local artist Janice Nagel has taken the reins from former owners Lori and Barry Gaukel and has updated many aspects of the property, including a spacious outdoor event area available to rent, an indoor classroom where visitors can learn from local artists, and even a refreshed facade with a mural by local muralist Shannon Wiley.
“About a year and a half after opening my small gallery ‘Livin’ in Local Color’ in Islamorada, I received a call that the Shady Palm Art Gallery was for sale,” said Nagel. “I literally had five hours to make the decision. I thought about what my artist friends and mentors, BJ Royster and Pasta, would do. They always told me ‘don’t stop,’ so I’m not. They gave me pointers and encouraged me. That’s what I want to do for other artists, and this is the perfect outlet for just that.”
The art gallery features 57 local Florida Keys artists and is always adding more. Up for sale are a slew of different styles of paintings and prints as well as stained glass, pottery, carved wood, shell art, photography and driftwood, to name a few.
True to its name, the shop also offers a plethora of inventory and various framing materials, as well as glass preservation options, to go with an extensive inventory of ready-made frames in standard sizes.
A brand new room specifically designed for art classes taught by Monroe County artists is also available. Classes and events with full descriptions and instructors are posted on the gallery’s website (shadypalmartgallery.com), and Nagel noted that pre-registration is important to reserve a space.
“I really want to fill up the calendar with all types of classes … (and) I’m open to anything,” she said. “There are plenty of opportunities for growth like artist meet-and-greets, fundraisers and community events. It’s important to me to have a sense of community and that’s what I’m aiming at.”
An updated outdoor seating area equipped with padded chairs, tables, a tiki bar and space for catering is also available for private reservations, ranging from birthday parties to business functions.
Different creations are sure to stand out for each visitor. Take the “Sand and Soul Studio,” for example, a collection of functional ceramics and laser, lobster trap and seaglass art founded by artist Amanda Jorgensen. Every piece is handcrafted at her studio in Big Pine Key.
“I’ve enjoyed making functional pottery for years. I’m constantly learning something new, so I guess it’s natural that I moved to a new medium and a new way of using new tools – that’s how I got into laser work,” Jorgensen said. Her artwork reflects a love for the area, from earrings featuring local wildlife and flowers to pottery items that combine aesthetics and practicality. “I love that I’m able to make an even wider range of affordable items for everyone.”
Another unique collection is Becky Lee Mesa’s “Recycled Art.” Mesa uses items like bottle caps, aluminum cans, corks and soda bottles in her artwork – even her business card is made of recycled diet coke cans. One can find a birdhouse made of wine corks and bottle caps – complete with frayed bottle cap edges used for roofing material. There is a crab made from bent Coors Light bottle caps, hula girls with skirts made of shells and even a purse made from sewn Capri Sun juice pouches.
“I wanted to make something I hadn’t seen done before,” said Mesa. “I didn’t see anything at Shady Palm that involved recycling, so with my newly collected ‘trash,’ I made a few fish designs and some mermaids, turtles and the like. I presented them to Shady Palm, and they accepted me as one of their local artists.
“I so very much enjoy making art out of these things that would normally be tossed away. Even my backdrops are 90% pieces of wood I collect out of trash cans. My creative outlet is completely satisfied and my mind is always thinking of new and different ways to up-cycle what most would call trash.”
Two newer artists to the gallery who have formulated their own custom crafts are the “Shelling Sisters,” Mary Koester and Barb Johnson. Together, the duo has impressive creativity in making items from shells, beach glass and marbles.
“We love what we are doing. We’ve been collecting shells for over 25 years,” said Koester, admitting that she and Johnson are now “addicted to shelling.”
“Five years ago, our now 100-year-old mom told us we should start selling our pieces and that’s how ‘Shelling Sisters’ began,” she added. “We love meeting other shellers and ‘talking shells.’ … Any day is a great day to shell, high or low tide, doesn’t matter. We’ve collected all our shells from Florida beaches, NEVER taking a live shell.”
“There’s definitely something for everyone here,” said Nagel. “Come on in and check us out. My dog Daisy Dukes is here ready to give you a kiss.”
Find Shady Palm Art Gallery and Frame Shop at 2888 Overseas Hwy. in Marathon. The gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.