This summer, NPR'sDestination Artseries went off the beaten path to visit small to mid-sized North American cities that have cultivated lively arts scenes. We asked you, our NPR audience, to tell us about your favorite art towns. Several Florida residents wrote in to recommend Anna Maria Island.
"Anna Maria Island is home to hundreds of artists, many of whom show their work in local art galleries or take classes on the island. During the winter/spring season, many gallery walks, outdoor art festivals and juried art shows are offered. ... Anna Maria Island artists support each other. Many are part of Cultural Connections, an island organization [whose] mission is to promote AMI as a cultural destination. ... Even with the annual influx of tourists and snowbirds, Anna Maria Island remains a close-knit, small town where neighbors know and care about each other." — Marlane Wurzbach, artist, Holmes Beach, Fla.
"Anna Maria is a beautiful island on the west coast of Florida — it still has a lot of the old Florida feel about it, with smaller Florida-style homes and a large art community. There is an art league that puts on monthly art shows, gives classes in many kinds of art for children and adults, puts on two large outdoor art festivals and donates in many ways to the community. There is a community orchestra and chorus, a theater, and quality art galleries and art walks. ...
"Many artists live in this area because of the endless inspirational views of paintable scenes and the number of art organizations that support their work. World-class artists give workshops in this area because it is such a wonderful vacation place for them, as well as the groups of people wanting to take their workshops." — Shirley Dean, artist, Bradenton, Fla.
"Art is prevalent everywhere, on the walls, rain barrels, in our many diverse galleries and most importantly in our hearts. ... All of us in Anna Maria live by one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The sunlight can be captivating, the atmosphere is positive, and the vacation vibe is inspiring!" — Annie Weir, art director, Arts for the Earth Gallery, Anna Maria Island, Fla.
"Wake up and head to the Village Cafe or Minnie's [Beach Cafe] for breakfast. If it's a Saturday in January to March, sit in on a free morning art demo at Island Gallery West. Or if it's summer or fall, go out to the causeway to rent a kayak to paddle through the mangroves in Robinson Preserve where no motors are permitted. Maybe you'll spy the eagles nesting. They also offer horseback riding in the causeway bay!
"Grab some lunch at the Anna Maria City Pier, and then get some serious shopping/gallery hopping in Anna Maria or Holmes Beach. You'll still have time in the afternoon to head for the beach as the day cools down. A great way to enjoy the spectacular sunsets is at the Sandbar beachfront restaurant/bar. An after-dinner walk on the beach caps the perfect day on Anna Maria Island." — Marlane Wurzbach, artist, Holmes Beach, Fla.