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Northwood Open Studios Tour
Anthony Burks and his art

The Art Night Out event in Northwood was even better on Friday as a squad of cheery trolleys let us on board to tour the area’s Industrial District where lots of artists – and a few galleries – have warehouse studios. Most people probably don’t even know this area exists, making this tour an eye-opening experience to see where art actually gets made.

The Northwood Industrial District, located just a few blocks west of Northwood Village, consists of large warehouses that are working studios for several prominent local artists. I boarded the trolley at the end of Northwood Road by the new colorful art fence along with about 20 other art lovers including West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio and her husband who were trying to be low key and just enjoy an Art Night Out.

Our cheery hostess Jasmine Etienne of the Community Redevelopment Agency gave us a history lesson as we headed toward the Industrial area, telling us about the large cemetery and other points of interest on the fringes of Northwood.

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At the first warehouse stop there were several warehouse bays open, there was live music playing and wine and food laid out for visitors. Most of the artists had their studios cleaned up for the night, displaying the work in a cleaner gallery type environment.

I really enjoyed the large scale mature work of Terre Rybovich, whose father Tommie Rybovich is the noted boat designer and builder.

Northwood Open Studios Tour

Of her work Rybovich says” “These large drawings each began with me charcoaling the entire surface and then lying down on it. The idea came to me years ago when I was delirious with the flu. “Drawing backwards” is how it initially presented itself. In other words, removing charcoal to create an image instead of adding charcoal to a white sheet of paper.

Because I was focused on figurative work, the body seemed like the most promising means for removing charcoal. And it was. The imprints were subtle but they were also powerful, even edifying.

One unexpected outcome of this technique is how my mind reacted (and still reacts) when confronted with creative input that it did not generate. Every new drawing requires a period of slow absorption, or acquiescence, before the mind can yield to the body’s input. Yet then the imprint guides the process of completing the drawing.

Ultimately, the result of the body calling the shots at the drawing board is that I create artwork that my mind could not have imagined. It means I work in perpetual wonder.”

Rybovich’s education is in politics and economics. Her first career was in social justice activism and grant-making. The activist experience forged an enduring commitment to this world. She says activism “instilled a courageous drive that I now channel into art-making. I am happiest when I venture beyond what is known to me. Other artists have imprinted their art with their bodies since the earliest cave paintings. What captivates us, I believe, is the unadulterated impact of this most literal means of making the immaterial material—which is the essence of art.”

Photo Gallery: More of Northwood Open Studios Tour

Next door to Rybovich is the Wisewood Studio run by Melo Wisewood that had some great paintings of Jean Michel Basquiat, flowers and strong figurative work.

AGModern Gallery is using the warehouse district as a storage/showroom until they get larger digs. I spotted some Purvis Young paintings stacked up against the wall and the owner, Jeffery Ciociola told me he has thousands of Youngs drawings and paintings. Young was an ex-con self-taught street artist who lived in Overtown Miami who grabbed mattresses, doors and window frames off the curb and turned them into priceless folk art he touted around in shopping carts. These strange new worlds were populated with mysterious angels, blackened horses and gritty urban cityscapes from which there was no escape. Young made ghetto heads turn when mega collectors Don and Mera Rubell – kin to the late Studio 54 disco kingpin Steve Rubell –  bought the entire 3,000 piece contents of his studio in one fell swoop. Money and media attention made for a messy end, but Youngs work lives on. Ciociola hopes to have a special exhibit of his Young work soon at his new possible gallery in Delray.

More African American work was spotlighted at the studio exhibit of Anthony Burks, fresh off his exhibit at the Continuum space in CityPlace.  Burks, a native Floridian, is a unique and prolific conceptual artist, working in numerous forms of media including pen and ink, pastels, watercolor and color pencil. He exhibited some exceptional paintings of rhinos and lions and hummingbirds. Burks was there greeting guests and digging the live drumming going on in the courtyard.

In a statement he says:

“All of the visual art that I do comes from my mind and my heart. It is a gift from God that I love and cherish immensely. Change is a challenge for many artists; however, I have learned to embrace it. Incorporating bright colors into my images has always been an objective; but I have learned to also integrate abstract images into my concepts. This has allowed me to be more diverse and creative with my work. I want my audience to be as free in viewing my work as I am in creating it.”

There were other studios that were the home base for wood repair and restoration, and group shows for other artist co-ops.

“The Northwood Industrial District studios tour is a wonderful opportunity for art enthusiasts to not only meet some of our notable local artists but to also see how they work,” said Jon Ward, West Palm Beach Community Redevelopment Agency Executive Director. “The artist colony and working artists from the area have come together to showcase what the community has to offer.”

Back on Northwood Road the streets galleries and vendors were out in full force. I strolled the street, sampling gelato, poking around the consignment stores, and even buying a fab 70s leather jacket. It’s a unique, welcoming environment, a model district that West Palm is nurturing for the future.

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.