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Cultural Sophistication in Vero Beach

In addition to the endless array of recreational activities available to residents and visitors to Vero Beach, the level of cultural sophistication in this seaside town is equally and exceedingly diverse. People here are as passionate for the arts as they are for their golf handicaps or their tennis matches.

From the beachside complex at Riverside Park, which includes the Vero Beach Museum of Art and Riverside Theatre, to the numerous nature preserves and wildlife refuges, Vero Beach residents take great pride in preserving their unique natural gifts and cultural lifestyle.

The Vero Beach Museum of Art is a 55,412 square foot cultural arts facility situated on seven acres of Indian River County’s 26-acre Riverside Park. This accredited art museum and educational institution provides cultural leadership and enrichment for the public through a wide variety of educational, studio art and humanities programs. The museum has five art galleries, sculpture garden and education wing that includes seven studio classrooms, an art library, seminar rooms, 3,800 square foot outdoor studio and foundry, 250-seat auditorium, museum store and exceptional public spaces for art installations and public programs. The museum also features guided tours, an International Lecture Series, Distinguished Professor Series, Film Studies Series, special events and studio art classes.

The Vero Beach Art Club, also located at the museum, sponsors art shows and exhibitions throughout the year, including Art in the Park, Art by the Sea, and Under the Oaks, a national fine art show. The Club also offers workshops, scholarships, art demonstrations and a gallery of their work.

Other museums in Vero Beach and Indian River County include the Indian River Citrus Museum, located at the Heritage Center in the historical downtown area. Artifacts, photographs and memorabilia of early pioneers who established the citrus industry along the Indian River Lagoon are on display year round along with a gift shop. Also in Vero’s historic district is the Indian River County Historical Society Museum, home to the original 1903 Vero Beach Train Station, with exhibits showcasing the history of Indian River County.

A few other museums worth visiting are located to the north in Sebastian, two of which pay tribute to the days of treasure hunting. Mel Fisher’s Treasure Museum features shipwreck artifacts and treasure from both the Atocha, which sank off Key West in 1622, and the 1715 Spanish Galleon Fleet, which sank off the Treasure Coast between Sebastian Inlet and Fort Pierce. The McLarty Treasure Museum, located at the Sebastian Inlet State Park, also features exhibits from the 1715 Fleet.

For music and theatre lovers, residents of Vero Beach are continually surprised and satisfied with the talent and productions that roll into town. Riverside Theatre features a 700-seat Stark Mainstage and 180-seat Waxlax Stage. All of the theatre’s events are produced in-house using The Acting Company’s staff. Under the direction of Artistic Director Allen D. Cornell, sets, props, lights and costumes are designed and built onsite. Actors, designers and directors from New York and other areas of the country are brought in for two and a half weeks of rehearsals and up to four weeks of performances. The theatre is also host to Second Stage productions, Celebrity Special Events, Distinguished Lecture Series, local programs and special events.

The Riverside Children’s Theatre is the educational youth-oriented arm of Riverside Theatre, hosting professional and local children’s productions year round in the Anne Morton Theatre, Stark Mainstage and Agnes Wahlstrom Playhouse.

Other theaters include the Vero Beach Theatre Guild, a 312-seat community theatre that presents a series of stage productions during season. The Vero Beach High School Performing Arts Center and the Waxlax Center at St. Edward’s School both host musical and theatrical productions, concerts and lecture series throughout the year.

Music lovers many choices all year round in Vero Beach, from open air concerts on Ocean Drive as a part of the Beach Concert Series, to the Vero Beach Opera performing under the direction of Roman Ortega-Cowan. There is the Vero Beach Choral Society, Atlantic Classical Orchestra, Indian River Symphonic Association, and Treasure Coast Jazz Society, among others that perform all year long in several different venues in Vero Beach. Deborah Voight, a native of Vero and Metropolitan Opera diva she returns each year to entertain us.

From the theatre, museum or music venue, tree-hugging, environmentally-minded residents can enjoy a variety of nature preserves, wildlife refuges and educational centers that focus upon preserving the area’s environment and habitats of the waterways and open landscapes.

The Environmental Learning Center, through its hands-on learning programs, provides children and adults with ways to get back in touch with the natural wonders of their environment. The 51-acre ecologically authentic campus is located on Wabasso Island in the Indian River Lagoon. Visitors to the ELC can take canoe excursions, explore winding trails and butterfly gardens and take part in hands-on labs.

Located on the barrier island north of the Wabasso Causeway, the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1989 as the United States first sea turtle preserve. It was named after Dr. Archie Carr, Jr., whose work on understanding the importance of endangered sea turtles led to the refuge’s creation and national acquisition. Guided night time sea turtle watch programs are available by reservation In June and July.

Heading south of Vero Beach on U.S. 1 in Fort Pierce is Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, one of the world’s leading nonprofit oceanographic organizations dedicated to exploring the earth’s oceans, estuaries and coastal regions for the benefit of mankind. Its 600-acre campus located on the Indian River Lagoon houses some of the world’s leading oceanographic laboratories and employs over 250 scientists and engineers, many of whom are leaders in their fields. The Institute offers programs/lectures for the public, campus and wildlife tours and lagoon wildlife boat tours.

Back in Vero Beach on U.S. 1 is McKee Botanical Garden (first project of the Indian River Land Trust), an 18-acre subtropical garden, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Its unique hammock supports a dense and diverse botanical collection as well as several restored architectural treasures, library and gift shop. Self-guided and pre-arranged tours are available.

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