Arts & Culture
Polk State Lake Wales Arts Center
A beautiful, historic Catholic church in Lake Wales repurposed into an art center that delights Central Florida visitors with classes, professional plays, concerts and art exhibitions.
The current Polk State Lake Wales Art Center was built in 1927, and for 60 years, served as The Holy Spirit Catholic Church. When the church body outgrew the beautiful Spanish Mission-Style building, the community came together and the Lake Wales Arts Council acquired it and arranged for a State Historic Preservation grant, which would allow them to restore and adapt the building into a center for the visual and performing arts. The Lake Wales Arts Council transferred ownership of the building to Polk State College in 2012.
“Now, as the Polk State Lake Wales Arts Center, we will broaden the draw of this location to extend throughout Polk County,” says Osubi Craig, Director of the Polk State College Lake Wales Art Center. “It will be a place where children in Lakeland and Lake Alfred come to learn, where aspiring artists in Frostproof and Fort Meade come to refine their crafts, and where art enthusiasts from Bartow and Babson Park come to hear great music and view new exhibits. Like everything this College does, the Arts Center will serve all of Polk County.”
Art Exhibitions in Lake Wales
Art typically has a place on a wall before it finds its way into your heart – right? That’s the beauty of a fine art gallery like the Michael Crews Fine Arts Gallery. Beautiful art from seasoned and emerging artists is displayed, sometimes for the very first time, for all to see and celebrate. The gallery originally opened in 1999, and features works of artists from throughout Florida and beyond.
You never know what type of art you’ll find in the gallery either.
“All genres of art are welcomed in the Michael Crews Fine Arts Gallery. We've displayed everything from photography to ceramics.”
Galleries are rotated every one to two months, and artists are chosen by a gallery committee. The gallery committee is also tasked with determining when and where the exhibits will be displayed, as they have access to galleries on Polk State College campuses in Lakeland, Winter Haven and Lake Wales. Sometimes they even split large exhibits among multiple sites.
“There is just something delightful about watching a play in a sanctuary surrounded by beautiful stained glass windows.”
The Lake Wales Art Center doesn’t have a traditional stage so to speak, but the small area where the church’s pulpit once stood can accommodate one to two-person person plays.
Even more delightful is that the center tries to schedule art exhibits openings that coincide with live performances. That’s essentially two shows in one!
Concerts and soloist performances take place in the sanctuary, outdoors on the center’s grassy courtyard and outdoor seating area. You can hear everything from gospel to Jazz at one of their concerts during your Central Florida vacation.
The Lake Wales Art Center is known for some of their recurring events, which keep spectators coming back year after year.
The Downtown Concert Series – On the first Wednesday of the month, September through May, there is a free outdoor concert on the steps of the JD Alexander Center from 12:30 – 1:45 p.m.
Jewel of the Ridge Jazz Festival – In the Spring, the Polk State Lake Wales Art Center presents a series of FREE concerts by renowned Jazz artists.
Art Exhibits – Popular art gallery exhibits include an international photo competition, black history month exhibit and Hispanic heritage month exhibit.
Classes and Workshops
Through Polk State College, the art center offers courses in design, ceramics, music and digital photography.
Check the Center Calendar for the most recent information about collections, presentations and classes.
While you are in Lake Wales…
Other fun and free experiences you should check out during your Central Florida vacation include a Bok Tower Gardens and Spook Hill.
Where to Eat
Some of our favorite places to dine in Lake Wales include The Blue Palmetto Café (located inside Bok Tower Gardens), Manny’s Original Chophouse and Cherry Pocket Steak & Seafood Shak, which is an experience in itself.
You may also be interested in Lake Wales Museum & Cultural Center.