Everyone always thought of Anna Maria Island as that charming area with the great beaches. Even the people who lived there pretty much thought about it that way.
Then about a decade ago, some local residents started looking at the island from a new perspective.
“We have all these artists and galleries, we have an orchestra and chorus, we have a museum, we have great restaurants, we have a theater,” said Joan Voyles. “All of that in just seven miles of Anna Maria Island. And people didn’t even know each other.”
Voyles and her friend, Joyce Karp, got the idea to get the people from the island’s different arts groups to start communicating and coordinating. They formed what amounts to an arts council for the island, and inaugurated the Anna Maria Island artsHOP. It started as a gallery walk in Holmes Beach in 2007, and it has grown into a 10-day event.
We have all these artists and galleries, we have an orchestra and chorus, we have a museum, we great restaurants, we have a theater. All of that in just seven miles of Anna Maria Island.
This year’s 10th annual Anna Maria Island artsHOP gets going Friday and runs through Nov. 20. No matter what your taste in arts, it’s likely you’ll find something intriguing at the this year’s event.
That Holmes Beach gallery walk is still going on, and this year’s artsHOP features gallery walks in Anna Maria and Bradenton Beach as well. Many of the galleries will have artists working live, painting and sculpting so visitors can watch the artists’ creative processes and musicians will perform outside some of the galleries.
The Holmes Beach Art Walk runs 5:30-8 p.m. Friday in the arts district around Marina and Gulf drives. The Anna Maria Art Walk is 5:30- 8 p.m. Nov. 18, on historic Pine Avenue and Gulf Drive, and the Bradenton Beach Art Walk will get going at noon Nov. 13, and run until 5 p.m. on Bridge Street, where there are water views from beach to bay.
For people who prefer performing arts instead of (or in addition to) visual art, this year’s artsHOP includes the Island Players’ production of “Murderers” by Jeffery Hatcher. Hatcher’s best known for writing the screenplays for “Stage Beauty” and “Casanaova,” and the stage version of “Tuesdays With Morrie.” The people at Island Players describe “Murderers” as a comic story of “revenge, blackmail, jealousy and justice at Florida’s Riddle Key Luxury Resort.” It’s a murder mystery, with the twist that three charming murderers freely admit their guilt.
Although there’s music all over the island during artsHOP, the musical highlight of the festival has always been Symphony on the Sand, a musical and gourmet event featuring the Anna Maria Island Concert Chorus & Orchestra.
This year’s Symphony on the Sand starts at 4:40 p.m. on Nov. 12 Coquina Gulfside Park and continues into the evening.
For the first time, this year’s artsHOP also features concerts the evenings before and after Symphony on the Sand. On Friday, country artist John Michael Montgomery performs. The Nov. 13 concert is “The Stranger — The Ultimate Billy Joel Experience.” Both concerts are at Coquina Gulfside Park.
Music’s not the only thing happening on the sands of Anna Maria Island’s beaches during artsHOP. Sandblast, the annual sand sculpting competition sponsored by Keep Manatee Beautiful, is scheduled for Nov. 19 on Manatee Public Beach, 4000 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach. Sculptors will be creating their works from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and judging continues until 2 p.m. This year’s theme is “free form or wildlife,” which is pretty wide open.
If you’re a sand sculptor yourself, you can still register to compete in sandblast until Nov. 14 at keepmanateebeautiful.com. You can have up to 15 people on a team and enter either the elementary-middle school division or the high school-adult division.
It’s difficult to estimate how many people come to artsHOP every year, because there are so many events under the artsHOP umbrella. The Holmes Beach gallery walk alone draws about 300-400 people, which is a lot for a visual arts event in a small beach town.
But the success of artsHOP isn’t entirely dependent upon large numbers of people anyway.
“One of our goals was to build Anna Maria Island’s reputation as an arts destination,” Voyles said. “I think we’ve done that.”
Details: Nov. 11-20, locations around Anna Maria Island. Free, except for some ticketed events. islandartshop.com.