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Utility Boxes in West Palm Beach

There have been some big leaps in public – also known as free, and we like free – art viewing the last few years in West Palm Beach. The most noticeable have been along the busy thoroughfare of Okeechobee Blvd. where thousands of cars a day cruise past murals and artworks that are smartly designed to be seen shining brightly by day and also lit up by LED lights or floodlamps at night. West Palm Beach seems to be a free art concert from now on around its downtown area.

The newest addition, finished just last month, is a huge new 4-story mural that can be seen south of the I-95 and Okeechobee exit by Anthony Hernandez. The sitting infant reaching for puzzle pieces was conceived and painted by Hernandez himself with no commission or Art in Public Places officials involved other than approving his proposal.

“I thought it was just a great place for my work to be seen so I did it on my own,” Hernandez said. The process took a few years but he got it done and it’s certainly something new, colorful and different for West Palm. Hernandez has many other murals downtown on Clematis and on Fern Street.

Free Art Concert
Gateway/Arrived sculpture spotted on Okeechobee Blvd
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The Gateway/Arrived sculpture on Okeechobee at Australian Ave. is a 25 foot high arched metal sculpture by Ulrich Pakker. Three standing figures give the feel of the sun, of reaching for the skies, of swaying trees, orbs of exploration. Pakker says “I used large glass arcs to involve light in this sculpture. Light adds a magical ambiance to the whole gateway park.  The lighted arcs act like a beacon for those coming home as well as the visitors seeing the area for the first time. I am continuing to experiment with light and glass, to expand my palette and still keep the essence of my work true.”

The Waves at the Convention Center by Barbara Grygutis
The Waves at the Convention Center by Barbara Grygutis

Continuing down Okeechobee is The Waves at the Palm Beach Convention Center by Barbara Grygutis.  This dynamic light and time based perceptual work of art, by internationally recognized sculptor Grygutis was commissioned for the Convention Center by the Palm Beach County Art in Public Places Program. Synthesizing multi-colored undulating light, color and form, the piece creates an instantly recognizable image for the Convention Center during the day and, like The Gateway, during the evening and night time hours. An integrated, environmental sculpture, the round forms soften the big box of the Center with its five, sculptural wave-form arches that playfully spring off the façade like waves and then gracefully cascade like a waterfall over its curved staircase wall. In the natural light of day, the surface of the sculpture displays a shimmering, rippled surface in relationship to the viewers movements. As the light fades and the deep blue of dusk appears, Wave transforms into an bright and ethereal work of light and swirling motion. Boldly colored light patterns change from clear sea worthy aquatic hues into deep city neon blue, tumbling through the tube of the wave-forms, evoking the sea and it’s roiling, tumbling swells.

The Norton Museum is now in on the free show, as families will have more reasons to spend Saturdays at the Norton, thanks to a generous gift made by Damon and Katherine Mezzacappa. The Museum is expanding its Family Studio program from the first Saturday of the month to every single Saturday, and provides free admission to all Palm Beach County residents every Saturday for the next two years, beginning June 6, 2015.
There is also an almost free Family Studios program where families can do art projects at the museum for $1 per person. The Family Studio program was launched in 2003 to provide families with kid-friendly tours based on the Museums Collection and special art and photo exhibitions, followed by art-making activities that combine what kids learned on the tour with their own creativity.

Museum docents and staff collaborate to make the tour and art activity a connected two-hour exploration of art and fun to be shared by adults and children of all ages. Led by a teaching artist and a docent, the Family Studio program runs from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. every Saturday beginning June 6 for ages 5 through 12. Recent projects have included using water colors and rice paper to paint floating tea blossoms to go with the objects and images presented with the High Tea exhibition, and sculpting figures from clay based on the Turning into Stone exhibition. This summer, themes will incorporate Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: Transportation Designs from the Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection, as well as artworks from the Museum Collection.

Utility-Boxes-Along-Downtown-West-Palm-Beach
View of West Palm Beach Waterfront in 1939 and Clematis St in 1928

Walking along Clematis there are some city utility boxes, a big boring object usually left metal gray. The Historical Society of Palm Beach County has taken these boxes and attached images from the cities past, making them into unusual art displays. The boxes near the library have great vintage 1950s photos of policemen along the streets on motorcycles. The installation was designed by Cory Gershberg and Beau Myers.

There’s more free art in the Clematis and Worth Avenue galleries, now we’re talking serious world class and contemporary work. One of my favorite stops is Holden Luntz on Worth Ave., where their groovy collection of 1950s and 60s black and white photos of pop stars, models and society are on a permanent, rotating display along with special spotlight shows.

Gavlak Gallery has a stellar new show up by Miami based artist Herbert Bush of Star Maps and single figures like astronauts. While the images have some deep personal connections for the artist going back to his film-making days in NYC during a time of the AIDS health crisis, they are a cool new way to think of the cosmos, playing connect the dots with constellations. Stars and heavens are really just big balls of dust that twinkle and explode with meaning. What our place in the universe is and what we’re supposed to do with it are questions with no answers, but make for heady viewing and beautiful contemplation.

Getting out, driving around, seeing art and taking in the big and small ideas of the day, and the world, are just outside the door. For free.

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Sandra-Schulman Sandra Schulman is an arts writer, music and film producer. Born in Miami, her work has appeared in Billboard, Variety, Rolling Stone, Ocean Drive, Country Music Magazine, The New York Daily News, News From Indian Country, and Entertainment Weekly. She was an entertainment columnist for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel for 8 years. She has authored three books on pop culture. She currently lives in West Palm Beach with her blue eyed whippet. Sandra Schulman’s column appears weekly. Contact her at sandraslink@gmail.com.

It’s a Free Art Concert From Now On in West Palm Beach. Find Interesting Art to See Around Downtown West Palm Beach and Palm Beach, Museums & Street Murals.