Public Art Adventures

Discover the Treasure Coast's al fresco art scene this summer.

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Catch the Wave of Hope. Courtesy of Lynne Barletta
During the summer months, it’s nice to be able to get your art fix without being cooped up inside a museum or gallery. Why not spend a Saturday or Sunday on a treasure hunt for applause-worthy public art that informs, surprises, and delights? With so many meritorious works on display, the question won’t be where to start but when to stop.

Like a fine wine, Martin County’s Art in Public Places keeps getting better with each passing year. Established in 1997, this evolving civic project has funded more than 15 prolific structures and installations, including Sue Lampert‘s Manatee Pocket Gateway, a waterfront pedestrian plaza that augments an otherwise-bland stretch of SE Dixie Highway in Port Salerno. In Jensen Beach, visit the Hoke Library on Jack Williams Way to view Dam de Nogales’ stunning, nearly 8-foot steel and bronze sculpture, The Poet, commissioned in 2001 to commemorate the library’s opening.

The Poet, Dam de Nogales. Courtesy of V & E Dam de Nogales

Art enthusiasts seeking aesthetic enrichment can consult area organizations like The Arts Council of Martin County or Martin County’s municipal website for a complete roundup of public art ranging from sculpture to stained glass and displayed outdoors between Hobe Sound and Jensen Beach.

For starters, visit the Florida Mural Trail, which runs through Fort Pierce, Hobe Sound, and Stuart. Nearly 40 artists collaborated on Hobe Sound Murals, a paint-the-town initiative spearheaded by artist Nadia Utto in 2009 that resulted in 17 large-scale displays spread across Hobe Sound. Grab a mural map at the Chamber of Commerce and head out on a self-guided tour or book a private one with Utto herself, whose oral narratives bring the works of art to life. In Fort Pierce and Stuart, some of the two-dozen-plus murals doubling as graphic, indoor/outdoor wall art for area businesses and city landmarks serve as portals to the cities’ storied pasts. Others bring attention to social causes, like Lynne Barletta’s painting, Catch the Wave of Hope, which she created to raise awareness about human sex trafficking. More information about these parts of the Florida Mural Trail is available on the Main Street Fort Pierce and Stuart Main Street websites.

Morning Backwater, Highwaymen artist Willie Daniels. Courtesy of Roger Lightle.

Intrigued by Old Florida? You won’t want to miss the Highwaymen Heritage Trail in Fort Pierce. This walkable sojourn introduces visitors to the inspiring world of the Florida Highwaymen. Mostly Fort Pierce natives, these 26 African-American segregation-era painters earned the nickname from the scenic coastal landscapes and native flora they painted and sold along U.S. Highway 1 and A1A between 1950 and 1970. Beginning at the Seven Gables House, the 10-stop tour includes visits to Eddie’s Place, a still-standing tavern on Avenue D where painter Alfred Hair sadly met his demise, and Pine Grove Cemetery, the burial site of five Highwaymen whose graves are adorned with mosaic replicas of their past work. Discover additional imagery, history, and videos on the city’s website.

Eddie’s Place, Highwaymen artist Harold Newton (the site where Highwaymen founder Albert Hair died in 1970). Courtesy of Roger Lightle/Collection of Tim and Eileen Jacobs.

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