Eau Gallie Arts District: A culture vulture’s ultimate guide

Not Quite Right Comedy Improv Troupe

Just a short drive up the coast – a lovely, rambling drive along A1A or a quicker trip on U.S. 1 – you will soon come to Melbourne and the bustling area of cultural activity known as the Eau Gallie Arts District. In addition to its museum, art classes, a library and an abundance of colorful murals, there is also live comedy and improv theater, music, dance, yoga, hip galleries, lovingly restored historic buildings and even an award-winning concept school. And when it’s festival time, the area around Highland Avenue and the Eau Gallie Square literally bursts with excitement, good food, tunes, brews and sweets.

Steeped in History, Since 1860

As the landscape of the Eau Gallie Arts District shifts and the names on the shingles and storefronts change, the neighborhood is anchored by historic buildings, from St. John’s Episcopal Church to the Rossetter House Museum and Gardens to stately old homes to the Ginter Building, which recently won accolades from the Florida Main Street organization for its restoration. History buffs can download the Florida Stories app on their smartphones and take a self-guided, 12-stop walking tour of Old Eau Gallie produced by the Florida Humanities Council to soak in more than 150 years of history going back to when Abraham Lincoln was president of the United States. The app provides maps and directions, plus photographs and an audio narration for the tour describing the rich history of the dozen sites.

But it’s not all about looking back. The Eau Gallie Arts District is where the future is being charted by the students of the innovative Verdi Eco School, a nonprofit “urban farm school for hands-on learning.” Programs for students ages 3 to 14 are offered, with plans to expand to high school. The Verdi Eco School was named an Outstanding Local Program Supporter by Florida Main Street for its role in the rich tapestry that is the EGAD life. The next group tour of Verdi Eco School and its sustainable farm will be 9 a.m. Aug. 30. Space is limited and registration is required. Go to www.verdiecoschool.org for details.

Art Indoors and Out

Florida Tech’s Foosaner Art Museum is a gem that is often taken for granted. In its 41st year, the Foosaner has amassed nearly 5,000 objects of modern, contemporary, Asian and local Central Florida art, spanning 2,000 years of creative history.

Those who have not stopped in to see the “Clyde Butcher: Florida’s Photographer” exhibit have until Oct. 19 to savor the museum’s collection of 60 landscape photographs by the famed Florida artist. The Foosaner owns the only copies of these large-format masterpieces for the public to enjoy, as the museum states, “The images are only available for viewing at this exhibit, as they are not to be found in any of Butcher’s books or on his website.”

In conjunction with the Clyde Butcher exhibit, the museum is offering a “Swamp Walk in the Everglades” eco-tour on Sept. 21. Cost is $35-$50 including transportation.

Then in November, things are going to heat up, Cuban style, as the Foosaner hosts “Crosscurrents: Contemporary Selections from the Rodriguez Collection of Cuban Artists,” featuring 50 original works from a Miami collection focusing on the art boom of the 1980s and 1990s. That exhibit opens Nov. 2 and runs through March 14.

The Frits van Eeden Gallery also showcases the work of local artists and art educators, with its current exhibit “Kuhl, Marguerite: Welcome to the House of Marg” running through Oct. 11.

The Renee Foosaner Education Center, “an active studio for fine arts courses of all media,” is known as the creative center of the Foosaner museum complex. Classes and workshops for adults and children run throughout the year.

Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Parking and admission are free. For more information about Foosaner exhibits, classes and programs, go to www.foosanerartmuseum.org.

Art Expressions Custom Framing also offers art classes, with a four-week session starting on Sept. 7 focusing on Tar Paper Totem Painting, taught by artist Julie Kessler. For more information, call 321-259-1492.

More than 30 murals create an “outdoor museum” throughout the easily walkable Eau Gallie Arts District. Images of the murals, artist information and a detailed map of the “Anti-Gravity Project 2017” murals can be found at www.egadlife.com.

The First Friday Art Walks from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. the first Friday of the month are a great time to check out the murals, and also to poke your head into the galleries and shops that stay open during the evening hours for this event. Strolling entertainers and street vendors add to the festive atmosphere. First Fridays often have a monthly theme like “Dog Days of Summer” or “April in Paris” to coincide with the season, or with an upcoming holiday like Halloween or Christmas.

Eat. Drink. Shop. Stay.

Each year, the EGAD transforms more and more from a place to make one stop to a place to stay for the day or for an evening out. Part of what’s made that happen is more dining options within walking distance. All that gallery strolling, pondering great works of art and hunting for antique treasures, can make a person very hungry, or thirsty or both.

The Cottage Irish Pub serves lunch and dinner every day but Monday and stays open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. The Cottage has become a gathering place for traditional Irish folk musicians who jam on Wednesday and Saturday evenings, plus live bands on the weekends. When the weather is dry, that music on the patio fills Highland Avenue with lively Celtic melodies and old favorites, and really adds to the color of the neighborhood. You can also pile in to watch your favorite game, or just to sip an expertly poured pint of Guinness. Last March the Hogan family who owns The Cottage went to great pains to establish a new annual tradition – a St. Patrick’s Day street festival – and it was a great success.

Intracoastal Brewing Company has been a favorite spot since it opened for its tasty brews, but previously you had to go somewhere else for food or cart a takeout box in with you. Intruck Coastal Bites has been a boon to the area with a mix of sliders, dogs and other pub-grub type foods plus the mouth-watering Peruvian delicacies scores of people line up for at the EGAD food truck fests, and the biergarten is an awesome venue for parties. The upcoming Rocky Water Brewfest on Oct. 19 will highlight not only Intracoastal’s brews, but craft beers from across Florida.

For sweet bites and treats, Mathers Cake Shop and Josn’s Perfect Pie are dens of temptation and creative inspiration. Anaya Cafe offers great coffees and healthier, vegetarian and gluten-free fare. The Salty Fox, which just looks like a bar as you drive by, actually has a pretty impressive and creative menu. Then there’s the laid-back, family-friendly Squid Lips, where you can enjoy a cocktail and some seafood with your toes in the sand on the beach overlooking the Indian River Lagoon, and listen to great live bands on the weekends. Now open, FM Pizza Oven – that locally famous brick-oven pizza food truck that hopes to make a go of a bricks-and-mortar restaurant.

Move and Groove

When it’s time to work off that pizza, cake and beer, there are a few places to do just that in the Eau Gallie Arts District. Yoga Garden offers classes for every age and ability seven days a week in its lovely and serene studios, with creative and fun ways to introduce newbies to yoga practice including the wildly popular Goat Yoga, and the upcoming Kitten Yoga in partnership with Aloha Adoptions on Sept. 7. The venue also hosts a variety of educational workshops on topics ranging from henna designs to macrame. For details and class schedules go to www.yogagardenfl.com.

Brevard Ballet Academy in the heart of the district is not just for kids, and it’s not just about “The Nutcracker.” With movement and ballet programs for ages 3 to 18 plus contemporary and jazz dance lessons and adult ballet programs for beginners and more experienced dancers, the ballet school adds beauty, grace and rhythm to EGAD.

A few blocks up the street on Highland Avenue are practitioners of a very different kind of art – it’s about discipline, strength, physical and mental fitness as Rocky Waters Aikido teaches the Japanese martial art of self-defense.

The Eau Gallie Civic Center is always buzzing with events, classes and meetings. There’s the Dixie Diamonds Square Dancing, ballroom dancing, Tai Chi, bellydance, K-9 obedience training, Homeschool Physical Education, various iterations of martial arts, co-ed basketball, the Harbor City Dance Band and different BINGO games. A full schedule of events can be found at www.playmelbournefl.org.

Unpredictable Comedic Endeavors

Want to make it a dinner and a show night? Not Quite Right Improv offers a unique and intimate live theater experience. Saturday nights are “Fun & Games Improv” from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., with Friday nights offering a variety of different performances and even some workshops. The atmosphere at Not Quite Right performances is fun and informal with beer, wine and refreshments available for purchase.

Jessica Taylor, founder of Not Quite Right Improv, recognized the synergy that’s happening in the district. “We are entering our second year with the theatre in EGAD, and we are continuing to grow. We chose EGAD over Downtown Melbourne and Cocoa Village because we believe it is entering a Renaissance period,” Taylor said.

“From the restaurants, bars and brewery to shops and entertainment, more folks are making EGAD a true destination, rather than just a wide space on Eau Gallie Boulevard. We can’t wait to see what the future brings,” she said.

Improv classes for kids, teens and adults are held on weekday evenings during the week, with fall classes ramping up the week of Sept. 2. Class fees vary, but as Not Quite Right advertises, improv is “cheaper than therapy.”

For more information about improv classes, or to purchase tickets for weekend performances, go to www.nqrconedy.com.

Extra-Special Events

In addition to the First Friday shop and stroll evenings throughout the year, the following special events have been planned in the Eau Gallie Arts District and at the Eau Gallie Civic Center:

  • Sept. 7 – FLEAGAD Community Indie Market at the Community Garden (also Oct. 5, Nov. 2 and Dec. 7)
  • Sept. 28 – Space Coast Pride Festival and Parade
  • Oct. 5 – Eau Gallie First Baptist Fall Craft & Car Show
  • Oct. 18 – Adult Flashlight Pumpkin Hunt
  • Oct. 19 – Rocky Water Brew Fest
  • Nov. 2 – Space Coast Music Festival
  • Nov. 16 – Holiday Bazaar with Kids Zone and Santa
  • Nov. 19 – Preschool Olympics
  • Nov. 23-24 – ArtWorks of Eau Gallie Fine Arts Festival
  • Jan. 4 – Huge Indoor Rummage Sale
  • Feb. 8, 2020 – Whiskey in the District.

To keep up with all that is going on in the Eau Gallie Arts District, follow EGADLife on facebook, or visit www.egadlife.com.

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