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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Gifford Lane Art Stroll, a trip to the past

Everybody's favorite local Grove event is back on Sunday, March 6 - the 18th Annual Gifford Lane Art Stroll. That's when a tree-lined sleepy residental street turns into a picture of the past. No cars, no modern life, just friends, food, drink and art. Oh yes, and lots of live music.

"When eyes glaze over and people describe it as 'the Grove the way the Grove once was,' that’s because this little festival is more like something you experience than it is an event. It is happy, communal, and relaxed. There’s lots of conversation and laughter, and lots of art and artists, and live music, and there’s always dancing in the street," says David Collins, one of the yearly organizers. And Dave knows the Gifford Lane Art Stroll, he is known for one of the most famous parts of the Stroll - the Green Punch - the Cucumber Punch!

The free event, which runs from noon to 5 pm, takes place along Gifford Lane, near the Kirk Monroe tennis courts, between Oak and Day Avenues (3200 block) in Coconut Grove. 

The Stroll features the work of some seventy artists. Their art is displayed along the lane on fences, easels, clotheslines, even in trees.  Many of the finest artists in the region participate.  Nathan Kurland, neighbor and a Stroll organizer for the past nine years, says, “As far as I can tell, the Gifford Lane Art Stroll is Coconut Grove.”

The Stroll is a freewheeling art marketplace with plenty of good-natured bargaining. It is all here: sculpture, portraits, landscapes, jewelry, tile mosaics, large abstract paintings, photography, mixed media, found art objects, and whimsical creations with no names. All afternoon you will see people proudly marching up the lane with their art acquisitions tucked under their arms. Each year, artists send in submissions to be considered for the annual poster. This year, the remarkable poster is a festive painting of the Art Stroll itself by Katherine Penner, shown here.

Trina Collins, a painter and one of the founders of the Art Stroll, lives on the block and opens up her Grove cottage to the public to hang out and to sample the now famous Cucumber Punch. “Artists come to Gifford Lane to sell, and it’s no secret - we sell a lot of work here.  It’s all kind of a people party. It is planned and put together every year by a group of 30 neighbors. It has a great vibe.”

Live music at the Stroll provides the soundtrack for the afternoon. This year, featured for their seventh year at the Stroll, are the high energy rock tunesmiths Solar Dogs. Band members are Eric Wagner, Zip Robertson, Bill Kunz, and Robert Grabowski. Solar Dogs strikes just the right chord and provides the good vibrations that the Stroll crowd loves. Grove music legend Bobby Ingram will be performing wonderful solo vocals and guitar. Bobby has performed with numerous luminaries including Neil Young and Jimmy Buffet. Bobby has recently released a new CD, Postcards from Coconut Grove, which also features backup vocals by his long-time music buddy David Crosby.

Other music attractions this year at the Stroll will be the School of Rock, performers at this year’s King Mango Strut, and the rock band Cleaveland Jones, led by Grovite Lee Goun. Once again, the Coconut Grove Juggler’s Exchange will thread their magical way through the crowd. At the end of the day, the Gifford Lane Art Stroll gives away all of its money to two Coconut Grove charities, the St. Stephen’s AIDS Ministry and the St. Alban’s Child Enrichment Center in the Village West.

Again this year, there will be free monitored bike valet provided by Bike Coconut Grove on the swale at the intersection of Gifford and Oak Avenue. 

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