I’ve been driving by EmKo for months now, trying to figure out just what the space is exactly. South Dixie Highway can be like that, an oddball historic stretch that pops with historic buildings redone and done up in fantastic, unusual ways. Murals and statues and bold graphic signs only beckon more questions for some places. A festooned cow, a painted bulldog, horses and car signs and fish murals and even furniture can be spotted decorating the facades.
One place that stood out for many years is Ragtops, with it’s bold retro mural design and lots full of classic autos. But now EmKo, a new joint graces the space in West Palm Beach’s historic neighborhood of Flamingo Park, a renovated, three-story building that was once home to Ragtops Antique Motorcar Museum. Resurrecting this 1926 historical property, EmKo is a multi-disciplinary art gallery/culinary destination dedicated to the enrichment of the community through the art of food and the visual arts too.
The day I went I had just left a sneak peak of the CANVAS VIP lounge on Fern Street where I bumped into Downtown District Authority man about town Rafael Clemente who was giving a tour to an out of town VIP. Clemente was instrumental in bringing CANVAS to the streets, helping pave the way with the city’s help. As soon as I pulled up to EmKo, Rafael pulled up right behind me and said “I’m stalking you today,” which I took as a compliment. Great art minds travel in packs.
“Inside Emko it feels like some secret clubhouse, with a dark, dramatic interior, high ceilings, cubbyhole cafes and bars and art everywhere.“
We were greeted by a helpful staffer who said their core mission is to create an environment that fosters and nurtures undiscovered artists in both food and visual art as well as performing, literature, and media arts. The upstairs gallery is not open yet but will exhibit emerging artists through in-house exhibitions that will be facilitated by rotating installations and special events. It will be called The Artist Independent Republic gallery or AIR, and welcomes “avant-garde, trendy, and innovative fashion designers, musicians, poets, photographers, sculptors and painters.”
The Culinary Art gallery on the main level incorporates a multi-operational concept featuring a restaurant, a coffee shop, and juice bar called Untitled, retail gourmet market called simply Market, and bakery called BAB – Back Alley Bakery. The two entities brush up against each other, merging bold graphic design with practical counters and food service cases. There were several people lounging about in the main room the day I visited, suited up professional types enjoying drinks and small plates in the main area.
The modern American menu is driven by local, seasonal ingredients in a main dining room, while smaller fine-dining, private rooms are set aside for culinary chef artists to push the creativity envelope. They host special wine dinners and themed holiday meals. A modern, state-of-the-art open kitchen looks out on exterior sculpture gardens that sets an artsy stage for cooking demonstrations, pop-up guest chef dinners and special culinary events. They even have in-house floral designers to create modern works of floral art with an offbeat, contemporary approach of spiky greens and color coordinated blooms.
The back garden and side alley is where the real art action is, dotted with sculptures and well manicured lawns that host Yoga on the Green classes called Mind, Body, Breath every Saturday. Bring your mats and an open eye. I was particularly amused by the many tree sculptures and painted artworks that made you look and think twice about the meaning and message. Continuing down the alley were more artworks and signs that question what may be real or unreal.
EmKo has great potential and someone certainly sunk a lot of money into the place to attract the hipster Millennial crowd. EmKo is a new art and food destination that serves up both informal and formal meals in an indoor/outdoor art gallery environment.
More photos of the art scene at EmKo…