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A Look At The Key West Artist

Updated on January 27, 2015
Art by Mario Sanchez at the Custom House in Key West
Art by Mario Sanchez at the Custom House in Key West | Source
Key West Museum of Art and History formerly used as a customs house.
Key West Museum of Art and History formerly used as a customs house. | Source

Art in Key West has a unique and lively background. Inspired by a warm climate, lush vegetation, ideal fishing, and turquoise sea water, artists have flocked to Key West for inspiration, relaxation and recreation. One of the most famous frequent visitors to Key West was Ernest Hemingway who spent many winters at his home in Key West. Hemingway wrote many of his novels while in Key West and was an avid fisherman. Other artists who were inspired by this tropical location were Tennessee Williams, Winslow Homer and James Audubon.

The Key West Art and Historical Society is an important center for visitors to Key West as well as local artists. The Key West Art and Historical Society is home to more than 25,000 pieces of art that represent the history and shaping of Key West.

The artwork collected ranges from textiles to postcards, paintings to artifacts, sculpture to archives. The Key West Art and Historical Society is currently working on developing an online source that will allow online visitors to view their entire collection of works. You can visit the Key West Art and Historical Society on Duval St. In Key West.

For more information about the Key West Art and Historical Society you can visit their website at

Mile Zero by Mario Sanchez
Mile Zero by Mario Sanchez
Letty Nowak at Studio
Letty Nowak at Studio | Source
The Lemonade Stand Studio - Key West, FL
The Lemonade Stand Studio - Key West, FL | Source

Well Known Key West Artists

One very well known and beloved Key West Artist is Mario Sanchez. Mario Sanchez was born in Key West in 1908. He did not start crafting art until later in life. As a self taught artist, Mario Sanchez carved scenes from wood and painted overthem bringing them to life. Originally he started carving a painting fish and as his skill improved he turned to carving and painting more lively and bright everyday scenes such as parades, street vendors and funerals.

Artwork on carved wood is called intaglio. Often intaglio involves carving on wood and then inking the carving to press it to create a print of the carved image. However, Mario Sanchez's work involves painting the carving to reflect his memories of the intended subject. Mario Sanchez painted scenes from his past. Street vendors, cigar rollers, fishermen and other colorful figures were often brought to life in his artwork.

Mario Sanchez is considered to be the foremost Cuban-American folk artist. In 1996, tha magazine Folk Art named Mario Sanchez as the most important Cuban-American folk artists of the twentieth century while the state of Florida honored him in 1991 with the Florida Folk Heritage Award.

Mario Sanchez passed away at the age of 96 in 2005.

Continuing the quest of painting the people of Key West is a talented young artist named Letty Nowak. Nowak studied art at the University of Michigan and traveled to Key West after graduation. Letty painted a series of 100 faces of Key West. Capturing the spirit and essence of local Key West residents. While in Key West Letty operated a local studio called The Lemonade Stand. It was a spot for her to work, promote herself and other Key West artists as well. Letty decided to close the studio after realizing she was focusing more on promoting the gallery than her own painting.

Letty has since moved on from Key West to continue painting faces of locals around the country. A recent series includes studies of surfers. This will be a series of 100 paintings like the Key West project. Her paintings are colorful and strive to capture the spirit of the subject studied.

You can learn more about Letty Nowak at her website. Visit

Learn More About Key West

Points of Interest in Key West

124 Duval St Key West, FL 33040:
124 Duval Street, Key West, FL 33040, USA

get directions

Key West Art and Historical Society

227 Petronia St, Key West, FL:
227 Petronia Street, Key West, FL 33040, USA

get directions

The Lemonade Stand Studio and Gallery

Gato Village Key West, fl:
Key West, FL 33040, USA

get directions

Mario Sanchez was born in Gato Village in Key West


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    • cabmgmnt profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Northfield, MA

      Thanks Carol7777,

      I visit often and cannot get enough of the Keys. Hope to go again next March. Glad you liked the info!

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 

      5 years ago from Arizona

      We used to go to Keywest often when living in Florida. It is so charming with so much local history. Thanks for sharing all the information.


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