A Thriving Visual Arts Scene

With a variety of galleries and studios, Amelia Island is developing a dynamic visual arts scene with fine art available in various media and lots of workshops and events.

For a small island, it is amazing how much is always going on here. In the world of music, we have chamber music, jazz, and blues events, and the latest newcomer, Amelia Opera. The island has two thriving community theaters. In addition, the Story & Song Center for Arts & Culture offers a wide variety of special events in its second-floor performance space and courtyard.

The visual arts scene offers an amazing variety of galleries and studios, where one can purchase fine art and discover opportunities to participate and learn. Several major galleries on the island offer a wide variety of classes, programs, workshops, and events.

The Plantation Artists Guild and Gallery (PAGG), located in The Shops at Omni Amelia Island, is a co-op gallery operated by 40 area artists whose work is displayed. In 2008, a group of artists worked together to open the gallery, and you will always meet an artist when stopping in. Themed member shows are popular events. They offer an Art Lovers member affiliation, which offer programs and activities, including workshops and presentations, to non-artists.

Established in 1972, the Island Art Association (IAA), located in downtown Fernandina Beach, is a volunteer, non-profit organization supporting the arts and artists in Nassau County. The busy gallery with its distinctive mosaic facade is located on N. 2nd Street and offers the work of 50 local artists, including paintings, photographs, pottery, jewelry, fabric art, and glass.

The IAA’s Art Education Center is in constant use, offering programs and classes by local and nationally known artists. Involved from its earliest days, the IAA coordinates the popular arts and crafts portion of the Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival each May. The gallery offers an opportunity to non-exhibiting artists to display their work in Nouveau Art, a bimonthly themed and juried show.

Blue Door Artists offer a different approach. Located on Centre Street, a collective of 13 working artists have individual studio/shops at their space, and visitors can tour and view the artists at work. The Blue Door Artists create in a wide variety of media, including jewelry, photography, sculpture, weaving, watercolors, oils, and acrylic paintings.

Barbara Hopkins, a former art teacher, and practicing artist on Amelia Island for 18 years, has seen great changes on the local art scene. She is currently an exhibiting artist at Plantation Artists Guild and Gallery, and board member of Cummer-Nassau, a non-profit supporting Jacksonville’s Cummer Museum. She has watched the explosion of galleries, studios and through her years as an island artist. “There is an amazing variety of workshops and lectures by renowned artists and impressive original art accessible for first-time buyers to sophisticated collectors. The island is an artist’s and collectors’s paradise.”

Something is always happening on the arts scene, so it’s a good idea to watch for events. Cummer-Nassau focuses its fundraising efforts on the school children of Nassau County, providing school tours at the Cummer and art supplies for students. On March 7 at 2 p.m., in partnership with the Story & Song Center for Arts & Culture, Cummer-Nassau will sponsor a free “Friendraiser” event featuring Jill Steinhaus, a noted international artist and Cezanne expert. An additional event will be offered March 9 at 4 p.m., where the artist and her sculptor son will talk about art and show the movie, Painting the Invisible. French wines and hors d oeuvres will be served. There will be a small charge. Jill’s internationally recognized paintings will be on display in the second-floor gallery.

Every second Saturday of the month, Second Saturday Artrageous Artwalk opens participating galleries for free art events and open houses. Meet featured artists and enjoy a variety of art, which might include visual art mediums like photography, pottery, metal, glass, watercolors, acrylics, oils, batik, resin art, and paintings.

The galleries and studios on Amelia Island all work together to promote art. They offer programs and classes, showings and special events, and opportunities to sell art. Many artists display at more than one gallery. It is a good idea to sign up for their mailing lists to get announcements of all their classes, workshops, and special events. Many local artists have websites that share information about where their work may be seen or classes they offer.

Arts and Culture Nassau promotes awareness, appreciation, and interest in all types of arts and cultural organizations throughout Nassau County and offers a wide variety of grants. For more arts and culture opportunities countywide, visit www.artsandculturenassau.com.