KEY WEST, FLA.
April 22-May 1
The Florida Keys' Conch Republic brags that it ''seceded where others failed." This mock secession was triggered in 1982 when the US Border Patrol blocked traffic in and out of the Keys. In response, the ''fifth-world" country declared independence and salutes secession every spring in the streets and bars of Key West. The 23d annual ''Conch Republic's Independence Celebration" opens with a conch shell-blowing contest and gets crazier with each passing day. It's a week of friendly competitions, parades, and races of all kinds, among them bed, drag, pedicab, and boat. The ''Great Battle for the Conch Republic" naturally has a follow-up victory party. The revelry's finale is a stargazer cruise.
Various locations. 305-294-2298.
April 16-July 31
Sculptor Bruce Beasley is a prolific artist whose modernist works are in public, private, and museum collections. In the first exhibit of its kind, the Oakland Museum of California premieres ''Sculpture by Bruce Beasley: A 45-Year Retrospective." Comfortable using aluminum, acrylic, bronze, stainless steel, iron, granite, and wood, the 64-year-old West Coast artist varies the scale from bread-box size to bigger-than-life pieces. Last year ''Vitality," a 37-foot-tall bronze sculpture, was installed in Oakland's Frank Ogawa Plaza. The exhibit features 75 Beasley creations and a tableau of his studio. In 1964, he transformed an old warehouse in West Oakland into a foundry, studio, and living space.
10th and Oak streets. 510-238-2200.
Through July 3
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts unveils ''Illuminating the Word: The Saint John's Bible," a 1,150-page, seven-volume masterpiece. It's the first handwritten and illuminated Bible created in 500 years. Saint John's Abbey and Saint John's University in Collegeville, Minn., commissioned the contemporary Bible to be done like a medieval manuscript. Artistic director Donald Jackson, Britain's royal calligrapher and scribe, worked with a team of artists and scribes in rural Wales for the four-year project. They used medieval tools and techniques, among them quills and hand-ground paints of lapis, vermilion, silver, copper, and 24-karat gold on the oversized vellum papers. After Minneapolis, the exhibit begins a national tour at the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha (Jan. 21-April 15, 2006).2400 Third Ave. South. 612-870-3131. www.artsmia.org.
The Cincinnati Horticultural Society cultivates international angles for this year's ''Color My World" Flower Show at historic Coney Island. Among the 44 display gardens is British designer Julian Dowle's salute to the end of World War II. In May, Dowle re-creates the garden back home at the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show in London. The society previews its main entrance garden, which will be installed at September's China Flower Show Expo in Chengdu City, China. Cincy's event also includes a Professional Floristry Pavilion, amateur flower section, and marketplace.6201 Kellogg Ave.513-872-5194; 800-670-6808.
Through July 10
The Metropolitan Museum of Art's ''Max Ernst: A Retrospective" is the first big US survey in three decades of the influential avant-garde artist who was never locked into one style. With 180 paintings, collages, frottages, drawings, sculpture, and illustrated books, the exhibit examines his inventiveness. ''Celebes," ''Ubu Imperator," ''Oedipus Rex," and ''The Wavering Woman" are among the exhibit's iconic surrealist works created between 1921-23. The German-born artist escaped to the States in 1941 and stayed 12 years before returning to Europe, where he died in Paris in 1976, one day short of his 85th birthday.
1000 Fifth Ave. at 82d Street.212-535-7710;TTY: 212-570-3828, 650-2551.www.metmuseum.org.
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