OCEAN BLUE GALLERIES MAKES FINE ART FUN ON DUVAL STREET
From hypnotic blue oceans and bronze elephants to glass muppets and classic cartoon characters, Ocean Blue Galleries is making fine art a fun and affordable investment.
Owners Jay and Amber Shaffer opened the Key West location of their Ocean Blue Galleries on May 1 at 109 Duval St., after the pandemic put multiple Key West art galleries out of business.
“We brought on a lot of artists who just couldn’t keep their gallery doors open during COVID,” said Jay Shaffer. “Talented artists like James Coleman and Anna Sweet who had to close their Key West galleries would quickly have found homes for their work, but we wanted this to be their new home and we’re honored to be representing them.”
“We have 10 of the finest artists in the world here, but our philosophy here is to make fine art accessible to more people in terms of pricing,” Amber Shaffer said. “We really want people to be able to start their art collection here by getting an original piece they truly love for a few hundred dollars rather than several thousand.”
The Shaffers are also pleased to have “elevated” lower Duval a bit with their new gallery.
“This storefront used to be a $5 T-shirt shop, and we took it down to the concrete walls to renovate it,” Jay Shaffer said. “We’re thrilled to be here, and to be reinvesting in Duval Street while helping others invest in original art.”
And the 10 artists housed at Ocean Blue truly do offer something for everyone.
Anna Sweet’s fluid underwater photography is expertly and artistically enhanced with poured resin that shines with bits of diamond dust, sea glass and minerals in the liquid, said gallery director Ashleigh Facenda. Sweet also uses her proprietary poured-resin technique to create captivatingly blue oceans and white wave scenes.
James Coleman’s love for Key West is obvious in his original paintings of fish, boats — and yes, the legendary Green Parrot Bar. Coleman started his art career painting background scenery for Disney films. He worked on “Winnie the Pooh & Tigger, Too,” “Beauty and the Beast” and dozens of others.
“Coleman actually sold his first painting to Roy Disney and his second to Walt Disney while working in the mailroom at Disney,” Facenda said, pointing out Coleman’s layering techniques that create an almost three-dimensional look to his paintings that are then sealed behind a high-gloss resin.
And then there’s Nano Lopez’s extraordinarily colorful bronze animals.
“I just had a couple who was so excited to see that we had Nano Lopez works here, because they’ve been saving up to start collecting him, and they were thrilled to get a bronze turtle from Key West,” Facenda said, moving on to some of the most familiar faces from everyone’s childhood — Snoopy, Charlie Brown, the Cat in the Hat and Dr. Seuss’s lovable Sneetches.
Ocean Blue Galleries works directly with the publisher who has the exclusive rights to “all of Dr. Seuss’s paintings, illustrations, political cartoons, everything,” Facensa said. “His widow wanted to protect his work, while also making it available to the public. So she found Chase Art publishers and since the late ’90s, they select a few original works each year to reproduce with the best technology. We’re one of a handful of authorized galleries that have access to these classic drawings and completed illustrations.”
And everyone smiles nostalgically when they see these classic characters, Jay Shaffer said.
The nostalgia — and fun — continue on the next wall, where Snoopy smiles silently from one wall in works by Tom Everhart, an expert art mimicker, who worked with Peanuts creator Charles Schulz to do all the illustrations for all Peanuts and Snoopy merchandise — including the lunchboxes we all carried as kids.
Ocean Blue also carries dozens of the Borowski brothers’ whimsical glass fish, giraffes and other animals that are lit from inside and sturdy enough to be placed outside.
The staff and owners are eager to help and expertly informed about each artist they represent. The gallery is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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