Home for Artists
Under its quiet surface, Key West is a city where the unexpected keeps happening with almost monotonous regularity. Drawn to its warm climate and free-spirited attitude, Key Westers are inviting, amiable, and tolerant. This artful combination makes it one of the most relaxing, entertaining places to visit, and it’s no wonder that, after staying for only a short while, many choose to remain
A Home for Artists
Since 1820, the island has drawn visionaries, artists, entrepreneurs, nature lovers, escapists, dreamers, and writers – people like James Audubon, Ernest Hemingway, Winslow Homer, and Tennessee Williams. By the late 1940s, Key West was a growing tourist destination and center for the arts, fostered in part by the vision of Julius Stone and the work of Works Progress Administration (WPA) artists. Key West provided the best of both worlds for creative types – the spirited social life of a big city and the soothing solitude of a remote island.
Community leader Joe Allen recognized the need to form a dynamic organization to support Key West’s rich cultural heritage. In 1949, he and a group of artists revived the Key West Art Center Corporation under the new name: Key West Art & Historical Society (KWAHS). In 1950, with the approval of Monroe County, KWAHS opened Fort East Martello for use as a museum and art gallery. KWAHS, under the guidance of Mr. Allen and eager volunteers, spent months transforming the bones of this structure into a community cultural and art center. Overgrown vegetation and debris were removed, missing pieces of the roof were rebuilt, and an observation platform was installed on top of the Citadel to overlook the Atlantic Ocean.