The Plum Contemporary Art Gallery during the First Friday Art Walk.

Give the Gift of St. Augustine Art

Find the perfect holiday gift this year by visiting St. Augustine's amazing art galleries at the First Friday Art Walk on December 5, 2014, from 5 - 9 p.m.

  • Beautiful places inspire beautiful art. St. Augustine's distinctive look and feel, from its architecture to its historic brick streets to the natural beauty of the surrounding area, has been attracting artists for many years. At this week's First Friday Art Walk on December 5, visitors can join in the wonder and variety of St. Augustine's visual splendor, celebrate the holiday spirit, and indulge their own creativity in finding the perfect gift for everyone on their holiday shopping list.

    The Story Behind the First Friday Art Walk

    Henry Flagler started it all, when he built his magnificent Gilded-Era hotels here in the 1880s. He commissioned art from such well-know artists as Louis Comfort Tiffany, George W. Maynard, and Martin Johnson Heade for his Ponce de Leon Hotel. In addition, Flagler had artists studios custom built in the rear of his landmark hotel, thus setting the stage in two ways for a thriving artists community that continues to this day.

    For one, Flagler's hotel has been converted into a liberal arts college with an extensive art and design department. This art college program cultivates a love for art in the community. Students regularly participate in local art community by showing in galleries and visiting them, and some students stay after graduation to further contribute to St. Augustine's art scene.

    Second, the artists that stayed at the hotel in its heyday opened their studios to the public on Friday evenings, and this tradition has grown to become, well over a century later, St. Augustine's First Friday Art Walk.

    These contemporary stained-glass panels, displayed in the Georgia Nick Gallery, are designed by Sister Diane Couture, S.S.J., and crafted in the studio of the Sisters of St. Joseph.

    Some 30 fine art galleries host this cooperative open house for visitors who come to browse the amazing variety of work produced by local artists and to enjoy the friendly creative atmosphere. The galleries set out food and wine and other goodies, and many of the featured artists are on hand to answer questions about their work. The monthly event takes place on the first Friday of every month from 5 – 9 p.m., rain or shine, throughout St. Augustine's historic downtown area.

    The December 5th Art Walk will be a very special one; you could call it the "First Friday Art Walk: Nights of Lights Edition." With the Christmas season upon us, the lights have once again been lit in downtown St. Augustine, illuminating the bayfront and historic buildings with three million tiny white lights, glittering and twinkling and practically singing as the nation's oldest city celebrates the holidays with its world-famous Nights of Lights festival.

    Creative Gift-Giving

    The "Nights of Lights Edition" of the Friday Art Walk is a great opportunity not only to enjoy the dazzling festival of lights in the historic city, but also to capture the holiday spirit and your own creativity as you shop for Christmas. Art can be a fantastic gift – it's a luxury item that can have value way beyond the price tag. It can also express emotions that other consumer gifts can't.

    In St. Augustine there is a gift for every budget. From stunning original works that can cost upwards of $10,000 to reproductions and creative craft items for as little as $10, price doesn't have to be a factor when shopping here. A fantastic original painting shown in a gallery window may be out of your price range, but a reproduction of that painting could fit perfectly in your budget. Small prints can be very affordable, and giclées are a great way to give an original-looking gift on a more modest budget. And not all originals are astronomically expensive. There are many talented up-and-coming artists who produce fabulous works for a reasonable price.

    "Textuality" fiber art created by Amy Hemphill Dove and shown at Butterfield Garage Art Gallery.

    Art Unique to St. Augustine

    St. Augustine's history is long, encompassing diverse cultures over the 450 years that Europeans have lived here (and for the many centuries of Native American inhabitancy before that). So it stands to reason that there will be some things you can find in St. Augustine that you just can't find anywhere else.

    There's a refreshing wealth of styles represented here, from contemporary to traditional and everything in between. Our local artists work in oils, pastels, photography, stained glass, ceramics, wood, textiles, metal, and more. Some work in more than one medium and some love to collaborate with other local artists or directly with the customer. Whether it's big or small, smithed or thrown, hammered or stamped, painted or sketched, knitted or sewn — you'll find something that is unique, original, and sure to delight your friends and loved ones this season.

    Architectural Salvage table by Kenneth Darnold; Minorcan figures by Eleanor Hughes and Curtis Bowman; displayed at Amiro Art & Design.

    An example of this is the remarkable furniture created by Kenneth Darnold from salvaged pieces from local buildings that have been torn down, in many cases preserving the distressed conditions and finding new uses for these wonderful old pieces of history. A single piece may incorporate items from several different historic St. Augustine homes and businesses — and one even uses an old lightning rod from a building in Elkton, just west of town. You'll see his work exhibited at several of the downtown galleries, including the Elaine H. Darnold Gallery (9 North Leonardi Street).

    The statuettes on top of the table in the picture above are also St. Augustine-centric, as they represent a whimsical side of the important cultural influence of Minorcans in our history. Created by two local artists, Eleanor Hughes and Curtis Bowman, the series of figures bear such wonderful titles as "Minorcan Heritage" and "The Fish Whisperer."

    While art depicting landscapes and nature can be found anywhere, St. Augustine produces some of the most inspiring paintings on the subject. From Tripp Harrison's tropical beach-scapes and marine paintings to Sydney McKenna's incredible sky-scapes, art enthusiasts will find this type of art re-imagined in the nation's oldest city.

    St. Augustine keeps its history out in the open, and with this constant reminder of days past it is easy for nostalgia to work its way into the art produced here. The old crafts that artisans engaged in when St. Augustine was first founded, such as blowing glass and forming metal, are still practiced today in the art community.

    But St. Augustine's history does not stifle modern expression and experimentation. Interspersed with pieces that feel new and familiar at the same time are works that present entirely new aesthetic ideas. Contemporary art thrives in St. Augustine, in a way that can only come from a city as rich in current beauty as it is blessed by its past.



    When you're out on the town on First Friday, there are a lot of galleries to see. Below is a complete list, which you can print out and carry with you.

    Aviles St. is the oldest street in St. Augustine. It has been a center of the art community from the very beginning. This charming bricked street is lined with art galleries, sidewalk cafes, specialty shops, and much more. If you have limited time to enjoy First Friday Art Walk, a trip down Aviles will give you a great cross-section of the St. Augustine art community.

    (click to enlarge)

    Amiro Art & Design (9 Aviles Street)

    One of the newest galleries on the street is Amiro Art & Design, celebrating their grand opening on December 5 with a stunning exhibit of the work of Eleanor Hughes and Curtis Bowman, both former St. Augustine residents, who are known for their innovative use of painting, collage and sculpture. Eleanor Hughes' oil paintings will take your breath away, and her small (and affordable!) pottery bowls will win your heart. The two artists also collaborate on some very whimsical statuettes, with such wonderful titles as "The Fish Whisperer" or "Menorcan Heritage."


    Oil paintings and ceramic bowls by Eleanor Hughes at Amiro Art & Design.

    Artfully displayed along the back wall of the gallery is jewelry created by Gabrielle Gould, who has been featured in Ornament and Exhibition in Print magazines. Her delicate and delightful pieces interpret coastal Florida in their use of organic items such as feathers, birds, and shells from beaches and dune hammocks. She also makes the most delightful bird pins, all based on Florida species, but with characters all their own.

    Gabrielle Gould makes use of organic forms and her boundless imagination to create her elegant jewelry.

    Amiro Art & Found (9C Aviles Street)

    Just two doors south on Aviles St. is Amiro Art & Found, the original Amiro gallery. This gallery is full of color and inventiveness, and offers original work that tends to be a little less expensive than that found at Amiro Art & Design. The artists' creations here are supremely unconventional, ranging from fantastic to frilly to very funny (look at those eyes in the picture below).

    The eyes (by New Orleans artist Matteo Neiver) have it at Amiro Art & Found.

    The jewelry of Marcia Myrick Siany is the featured exhibit at this Friday's Art Walk. It is easy to take your time looking at her jewelry and the way she plays with metal. If you're like me, you'll find something that truly speaks to you. (I'm going broke doing the research for this article!)

    Plum Contemporary Art Gallery (10 Aviles Street)

    Across the street is the Plum Contemporary Art Gallery, which has also just moved into its new location at 10 Aviles Street, and is celebrating its grand opening in this larger space at this Friday's Art Walk.

    The Plum Gallery carries original works of art only — no prints or reproductions of any kind. Careered artists are shown here, several of whom are quite well-known even outside St. Augustine, but that doesn't mean that everything here is outrageously priced.

    The Plum Contemporary Art Gallery draws a good crowd on the First Friday Art Walk.

    Sara Pedigo's oil paintings are large and dramatic snapshots of daily life that resonate with feeling, and they are priced to match her reputation and the quality of her work. But during the holidays she also offers delightful "tiny smalls"— 3 ¼" x 2" mini paintings on mini block panels — that capture her extraordinary use of color and detail. They're only $60 each (3 for $150), and they'll fit in a stocking!

    The Plum Contemporary Art Gallery is spacious and beautifully laid out by gallery owner Karen Sheridan. Be sure not to miss her own art — stunning oils of Key West and St. Augustine houses and neighborhood scenes that capture the tropical sunlight like you've never seen on canvas before. And there's a secret to that — she adds gold powder to her paint to gild the highlights.

    P.A.St.A. Fine Art Gallery (214 Charlotte Street)

    P.A.St.A stands for the Professional Artists of St. Augustine, who participate as a group in running this gallery. It is the oldest gallery in Saint Augustine, established in 1984, which has continually expanded and evolved over the years, and features a wealth of local talent and award-winning artists, working in oils, watercolors, pastels, and so much more. Many of the artists offer affordable prints of their work. Sally Douglas' phenomenal stoneware pottery is on display here. Her style is rustic and elegant at the same time, beautifully glazed in colors that reflect the natural world. She also offers toothpick holders (great stocking stuffers!) during the holiday season for just $10.


    Georgia Nick Gallery (11A Aviles Street)

    Located in the historic Hamblen-Holiday Building at 11A Aviles Street, the Georgia Nick Gallery boasts great diversity in her collections. Artwork exhibited here includes Rick Peterson's evocative paintings of the marshes and seashores of northeast Florida, architectural stained glass panels crafted by the studio of the Sisters of St Joseph {see photo above), and digital artist Georgia Nick's own painterly expressions of photographed scenes of St. Augustine.

    Joel Bagnal Goldsmith Gallery (11B Aviles Street)

    Joel Bagnal combines many years of experience as a goldsmith with his own passion for collaboration to create his "pieces of personal adornment." Eighty-five percent of his work is custom-made for clients looking to commemorate a wedding, reunion, or other important event in their lives. What he loves about collaboration is that you start with someone's ideas, which challenges you creatively, and then that original idea is enhanced as you work together. The process becomes almost as important as the finished product. Since so much of his custom work is created for people who don't live in St. Augustine, Joel takes pictures of the pieces at all the stages of their creation — thus giving his customers a chance to watch the piece being born.

    The grace of the swan is captured in Joel Bagnal's series of "swan earrings," available in both silver and gold.

    But there's more than enough to drool over in the Joel Bagnal Goldsmith Gallery, even if you're not ready to dive into the collaborative process. And some of his original designs are quite affordable. Above you can see the Swan series of earrings, with their fluid lines that are reminiscent of the graceful neck movements of a swan. In sterling silver, the earrings range from $110 - $155; they're priced from $195 - $350 in gold.

    Aviles Street Gallery (11C Aviles Street)

    The Aviles Street Gallery is run like a cooperative and features the work of professional, award-winning artists. There's a waiting list for the wall space at this elegant gallery, where the original artwork of only local artists is displayed. The style of the art here varies from gallery co-owner Hookey Hamilton's incredible photography to oil paintings, watercolors, pastels and fine wood sculptures by wood turner Bob Stoker, just to name a few.

    Pastels by Lyn Asselta; Architectural Salvage table by Kenneth Darnold; wooden sculpted pieces by Bob Stoker -- all exhibited at the Aviles Street Gallery.

    Lyn Asselta's dreamy pastel landscapes have earned her international acclaim. During the Christmas season, she offers small sizes of her work (some just right to hang on a tree) for gift-givers on a budget.

    You can also build your own box of holiday cards here, choosing from Hookey Hamilton's rich collection of enchanting photographic cards. All the artists who exhibit at this gallery try to be on hand for the First Friday Art Walk. They are a close-knit group who are just as knowledgeable about the work of their fellow artists as their own, and they can provide insights that make each piece more meaningful.

    Lost Art Gallery (210 St. George Street)

    At the Lost Art Gallery, you'll find just that – "lost art" – paintings, sculptures, decorative arts, and much more, all of them cherished objects from personal collections of St. Augustine area residents and all of them looking for a good home. The gallery is run by Victoria Golden, who, as a fine art appraiser and archaeologist, is about the best steward you could find for these items. They come with provenance to spare, since Victoria knows the stories behind them intimately, and they are sold on consignment in the gallery. If there were such a thing as degrees of "uniqueness," these precious objects would be off the chart. On this Friday's Art Walk, Victoria is hosting a grand opening of her new gallery, Sea Spirits Gallery & Gifts, right next door.

    Butterfield Garage Art Gallery (137 King Street)

    A few blocks west of the Aviles gallery district, at 137 King Street, is the Butterfield Garage Art Gallery. It's located in a 1927 building that housed an auto dealer and service garage for many years. When Jan and Max Miller turned it into an art gallery in 1999, they kept the original sign and included "Butterfield Garage" in the name. But now, as the gallery owners point out, "the only oil changes that are made here are when an artist sells a painting!"

    Spacious rooms and gorgeous exhibits are featured at the Butterfield Garage Art Gallery.

    This artist-run gallery is spacious and then some. As you wander through the various displays, you just keep finding another room! They are all gorgeously laid out and full of amazing original artwork by local artists.

    The Butterfield Garage is proud to introduce a new exhibit during this December 5 Art Walk called "Artisans of Fire," featuring the work of two artists who use essentially the same process and tools (i.e., fire) to create work in very different mediums — ironwork and glass-blowing. Seth Satterfield fabricates impressive forged and fabricated ironwork and sculpture, while Joshua Dennard uses color and luminance to create his organic blown-glass sculptures and lighting fixtures. The two artists have collaborated on many projects in the last year, and they will be on hand at the exhibit's opening reception.

    Simple Gestures (4 White St. East, St. Augustine 32080)

    Across the Bridge of Lions to Anastasia Island is Simple Gestures. You'll have to drive, but believe me – it's well worth the trip. (There are a few galleries on the Island that participate in Art Walk, and they do not disappoint.)

    It's a "vortex of color and imagination" at the Simple Gestures Gallery on St. Augustine Beach.

    Gallery owners and artists Stevo and Sue Marrazzo have put together a shop that is simply a feast for the eyes, exhibiting dozens of local artists in this old beach home. The "beachy" feel of the gallery is distinctive -- funky and whimsical and absolutely jam-packed with affordable original art. Simple Gestures throws a great party on the First Friday Art Walk, with live music, and delicious food from the popular island restaurant, The Purple Olive.

    Outside the gallery is Bubbles the Wonder Horse, perched on his post. Bubbles is a great example of the eclectic nature of the art sold here – you just never know what you will find. In fact, you'll even find art in the restroom (follow the arrow on the sign that points to "Art in the Toilet"). And if you're doing holiday shopping, Simple Gestures offers complimentary "phantasmagorical" gift wrap when you've made your choices!

    More Galleries

    There are many more galleries in St. Augustine, and all have their own unique style and offering. Visit our Art Galleries section for a complete list and descriptions of each gallery.

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Updated: Monday, December 1, 2014

Kate Hensler

Kate's career has been all about words. She reads them, writes them, edits them, and proofreads them, sometimes even in her sleep. She and her husband Rick have two wonderful sons, Sam and Will, and an amazing granddaughter named Ruby.