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Thursday, April 17, 2014

ART, Music, Writing.... and more, in Key West!

(Koz’s Green World Gallery, 712B Duval St, Key West… yeah, that’s Koz waving! )

Art is a major industry in Key West, as well as all of the Keys really. I’m not going to begin to count how many art galleries are in town, but, suffice to say, it’s quite ample and most of these galleries are on or off Duval St. The ones off the beaten path are definitely worth seeking out however!

(The Two Monkeys Gallery  518 Fleming st, Key West)

Naturally, there is a lot of art that is focused on the local area as a subject. Seriously, it’s an incredible subject to work with, as there’s so much of both beautiful and fascinating subjects to draw from. Key West can be a virtual cartoon if one chooses to look at it from said perspective. It goes from incredible sunrises in the east, to a myriad of homes in Old Town that date from the 1800’s with influences from New England, The Bahamas, and the South, to chickens running freely on the streets, street musicians playing, beautiful water that is different day to day, two beautiful harbors, some of the best bars in the entire world, sunset celebrations featuring jugglers, tightrope walkers, a banjo player with a bowler hat with a dog who collects tips, and the sunset itself… and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Key West and the entire Florida Keys make an incredible subject for any canvas.

(Art Gone Wild 619 Duval St, Key West)

Having said that, there is a lot of artwork available here that is not at all from the Keys. When I first moved here I had the pleasure of working for the Wyland Gallery at 102 Duval St. With the exception of Wyland himself, none of the artists we carried at the time were local (Wyland has a home in the upper Keys), however all sold quite well, most in themes that held no relation to the Keys at all. This was not unique to the two Wyland Galleries in Key West either. When I was there we carried artists from the Philippines, China, all across the U.S. Delaware to Hawaii, to Dino Rosin, arguably the finest glass sculpture in the world, from Murano, Italy. The point here being that Key West is a very versatile art town with a worldwide verity. If anyone is a lover of art, a few days in Key West is a MUST.

(Murano Grand Master glass sculptor Dino Rosin visiting Wyland Gallery at 102 Duval St. Seen here with his stingray sculpture in calcedonia glass)

You’ll find virtually any median of art in Key West, oils, water color, pen and ink, sculpture, photographs… the list goes on! The point here being that Key West is a very versatile art town with a worldwide verity. If anyone is a lover of art, a few days in Key West is a MUST!


(The Key West Gallery, Key West on the corner of Duval and Southard)

(one of two Wyland galleries in Key West, this being the larger of the two located at 623 Duval. The other is at 102 Duval and save for the signature artist Wyland, none of the other artists are the same)

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(the James Coleman Gallery, corner of Duval and Southard streets)


(L-R,  Bruce Turkel, Key West Chris Rehm, Bobby DeVito at Captain Tony’s Saloon)

Coming up May 7 – 11 will be the 19th Key West Songwriter’s Festival. This is the largest songwriter festival in the nation and put on by both Charlie Bauer, with his staff led by Dani Holliday, and BMI Nashville. Credit to all, it’s a very well organized and run! The event is pretty much hosts finest songwriters in the country, most of whom are based in Nashville. This is my favorite event, of all Key West events held over the year. The biggest issue I have, and there’s no solution to it whatsoever, is that there could be five of your favorite songwriters playing in five different places at the same time, so you have to make a choice. However, with 150 artists playing in town over four days, it’s the nature of the beast as they say and there’s no way around it.

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I’ve had the honor of being in the festival for the last three years, which was what I considered the greatest honor I could have as a songwriter! I’m extremely grateful indeed! This year I’m not scheduled. Naturally a disappointment, however I was told that they want to get some new people involved. I think that’s a great idea, even if it’s at my expense. HA HA!

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(Key West Chris Rehm …. Hey! That’s me! …playing the 2011 Key West Songwriter’s Festival)

Here in the Keys we have some really great songwriters! Take Adrienne for example. If you go to one of her gigs, there’s a large percentage of her set that are her original songs. Very good songs at that, by the way. Personally, I think that this is something that really sets a songwriter out from a performer, as being a songwriter, and not just a performer. Over the years I’ve seen some locals in this event and I said to myself when I saw them on the list “They’re a songwriter?” because the only thing I’ve ever heard them do are covers. At the Festival they’d do a few originals, but the next week those originals are put back in mothballs and they are back to playing only covers.While they may have written a few songs over the years, those folks are more geared as performers than songwriters.

 Someone like Adrienne is willing to walk out on that high wire without a net, at all of her gigs and take the chance. Sure, she’ll do cover songs, that’s part of what we all do and truly love. However, a songwriter lives to write songs and that’s what we do. We’re creators of stories and our canvas is music. I know at my gigs  30 – 50% is my original material, depending on where I am and the crowd. I always get a great reception on them from the crowd, I’m pleased to say. It’s like I mentioned in a previous blog, If one goes to Jamaica, Mexico, Puerto Rico, one expects to hear music native of the country. The Conch Republic is no exception. Visitors love to hear music that originates from here.

 Another great local songwriter is Ray West. Like any true songwriter, Ray also has no apologies for showcasing his own material, which, like Adrienne’s, is really outstanding.

Dani Hoy just moved to town as well, however I know she won’t be in the festival this year, but hopefully she will be next year. Like Adrienne, Ray, and myself, Dani’s sets are highly peppered with excellent original material from her two CDs.

Bottom line on the local songwriters, these would be my suggestions.

The Key West Songwriter’s Festival is a must see if anyone loves Key West and live music. You'll hear all sorts of famous songs that you know, done by the artists who actually wrote the songs, often with anecdotes that go along with how the song was written and influenced. This is far and away the largest musical event held here in Key West, bar none. In essence, all of Nashville heads down here, so put it on your agenda!


For the other 51 weeks out of the year, Key West is easily one of the most vibrant spots in the entire U.S. for live music. I would be willing to wager that in a ½ mile area, Key West has more live music venues than anyplace else in the world. I’d also be willing to wager that Key West has more live music venues per capita than any other city in the world. Frankly, it’s remarkable. In addition, you’ll get to see world class acts…. And there’s not even a cover charge, You just walk right in, grab a libation, and enjoy the music!

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(Scott Kirby playing Smokin’ Tuna Saloon)

In addition, Key West also has world class recording producers in Dan Simpson and Ian Shaw! Dan, of course did my CD “Shanghai’d and Marooned in Key West (things could be worse)”, however he’s also been producing Key West artists for over thirty years, most notably, Scott Kirby.

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(myself chatting with Dan Simpson while at the San Carlos Institute taking a breat from recording the rhythm section for my CD)

Ian Shaw came to these shores from London, England a few years ago with a long list of major successes to his credit which stretch over twenty years! Here Ian’s been busy with producing Bill Blue’s brand new CD, as well as other artists from near and far, including Renn Hoaloha Loren.
(Ian Shaw in his studio in Garrison Bight, Key West)


Key West has always been a magnet for writers. The artists of words and stories. No doubt the most famous is Ernest Hemingway, whose home you can visit and tour on the 900 block of Whitehead St. Hemingway had his most productive period during the years he spent living here. Tennessee Williams also lived here, though his home in mid-town is today a private residence and cannot be toured.

Currently however, there are quite a few authors who live here. Kevin May and Christina Oxenberg are two that come to mind. Jon Breakfield also lived and wrote here during his tenure on the island. There are others as well. Come to think of it, my book “Bar Stories” is nearing completion and will hopefully be out in the very near future. When that happens, your’s truly will join the contingent!

I’m a firm believer that there is some kind of creative energy that is a stimulant for those who are creative here in Key West. I don’t know where it comes from, but I assure you, it’s here.

And finally, one category of artists that you will not find in art galleries, stages, or bookshelves is a group that is without a doubt, the most populous on the island itself, without question. Likewise it’s true in any city, town, or hamlet, because it’s not unique to Key West. This artist is actually not recognized as any art form by those who establish who’s an artist and who is not, or what type of creativity is an art and what’s not. Actually, many who are true masters of this, have no clue that they are even regarded as artists themselves. Many make a living out of it in all walks of life, which is augmented with their craft.

These individuals are a unique breed of “Artists” and society has given them a very appropriate name. They are known as the Bullshit Artist. A bullshit artist will tell you any tale that comes to their head, in order to impress you, or give themselves some sort of redeeming, lofting quality that may, in some way, boost their self-esteem, under the guise of impressing whomever they are talking to. They are often insecure and need someone to say “wow!” after they’ve pontificated a sort of wild fictional fabrication, totally made up, often on the spot. This made up fabrication is known as “Bullshit”.

A key note here: They, usually tell their stories as though they have the inside information the no one else has. They want to come across as exclusive. Again, it’s that anti-insecurity ego boost they are looking for. One must use caution when dealing with these individuals, because if you fall for it, more often than not, if you repeat it, you’ll be looked at as an idiot yourself. Trust me, I've been in this predicament before. So it’s important to establish who is a bullshit artist as soon as possible. It can be difficult. The sad part about this is that anything they say thereafter, be it true or not, is regarded as bullshit.

Leaving names out of it, I recall being with a group of people and saying “I was talking with Ms. XYZ and she said..” Before I could continue the entire table saved my ass by interrupting me.  They all broke out at once and said while shaking their heads “Whatever she said, it’s all bullshit”.
The individual in question here was actually not from Key West, but the tales were told here. We certainly have a menagerie that slither our streets and most are at least entertaining to listen to. So if you take them as entertainment and certainly not verbatim, all will be well for you.

To obtain my music:
CD Baby:
Beachfront Radio:
For iTunes and Rhapsody search “Key West Chris”

Thank you everyone

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