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January 5, 2021 – (Key West, FL). Art of Stephen Avila to be presented by Key West Art & Historical Society at Custom House Museum

Key West Art & Historical Society invites the community to view its newest exhibition “Sand in his Shoes: The Life and Art of Stephen Avila” starting Friday, January 15, 2021 from 10:00am-4:00pm.  The exhibit celebrates the work of Key West native, Stephen Avila, whose art will be on display in the Bryan Gallery at the Custom House Museum, 281 Front Street. The exhibit features many oil paintings, handmade signs, wood sculptures, bespoke furniture and personal objects created during the course of his career.

“Key West became increasingly popular after it turned its attention to the tourist industry in the 1940s and beyond.  Avila, who spent time on Key West’s bustling docks during this period, recognized the historical significance of what was in front of him,” say Cori Convertito, curator for the Key West Art & Historical Society.  “His impressive oil paintings portray a bygone era in the island’s history – dock workers, fishermen, spongers and the like all come to life.”

Born in 1894 to Cuban parents, Avila scavenged Key West Bight’s wharves for near-empty paint cans, using the remnants to paint pictures at a very young age.  He continued to develop his artistic talents, venturing into custom furniture making and wood sculpture.  Avila’s name became well known in the Dade County area where he won many awards while exhibiting at prestigious galleries such as the Miami Art League, Coral Gables Art Club, University of Miami, Lowe’s Gallery and Miami Beach Washington Art Gallery.

Avila was also among the first to purchase and restore one of the island’s run-down Conch houses to its original beauty.  At 625 Eaton Street, he realized his lifelong dream to own and operate his own gallery and studio when he opened ‘Casa Avila’ in this beautifully restored home.  The first floor held both his own work and art from many other Key West artists, while the second floor housed his studio and frame shop.  Casa Avila quickly became the meeting place of Key West art aficionados.

“For decades, our family has enjoyed our grandfather’s vision of old Key West,” says granddaughter, Caroline Bleske.  “His art, tools and personal belongings have been kept as they were, in memory of him.  His art has been a source of pride for our family and we have remained faithful stewards to his legacy.”

“Sand in His Shoes: The Life and Art of Stephen Avila” runs until March 7, 2021.  For more information call Cori Convertito, Ph.D., at 305-295-6616 x112, email her at, or visit kwahs.orgYour Museums.  Your Community.  It Takes an Island.

IMAGE: “Repairing Nets Thompson’s Dock, Key West,” will be featured in an exhibit of art by Stephen Avila.  The exhibit is on display at the Custom House Museum beginning January 15, 2021.