There’s been lots of construction at the site of the Palm Beach Post’s building at Dixie Highway and Belvedere Road, which will now be called Shops at the Press. Where the Post once had over 150,000 square feet of printing, shipping, and distribution areas will be transformed into a 2,220-square-foot Starbucks coffee shop with a huge patio, a 29,000 square foot organic grocery called Sprouts, a one-story parking garage and a pedestrian bridge beside the existing four-story office tower. A back area with 95,000 square feet will house future retail and office tenants. A pedestrian bridge will link the whole site with a parking lot across the train tracks to the west.
The city mandate for a percentage of construction costs to be devoted to public art was fulfilled in a big way. As approved by the WPB City Commission and the city’s Art in Public Places Committee and valued at $121,500, the new piece is a 44-foot tall Linotype-themed artwork called “Beacon of Infinity” by Ya La’ford, and will be affixed to the eastern facade of the office tower. The Palm Beach Post is still the anchor tenant in the 25-year-old, 140,000-square-foot building which is now branded Workspaces at the Press.
The 44-foot-by 30-foot sculpture is comprised of 55 laser-cut aluminum panels in a geometric pattern that is based on the lines of the type generated by the Linotype machines that are used to produce the newspaper. The 4-foot-by-6-foot panels are powder-coated in gleaming silver and will alter in color at various intervals that change with the sun and shadows, La’ford said.
Based in Tampa, La’ford explained how she approached this large scale project. “Within my public art practice, I am often challenged with finding the connection, purpose, or value of the what quintessentially is the fundamental function of a historical or contemporary space within a community,” she said in an email. “I soon discovered while I have grown accustomed to the ease of using a keyboard on either a computer or cell phone, that perhaps there was a time that mass communication was a burden or germane to those specialized. I soon discovered while visiting the Palm Beach Post, there exists the leftover linotype machine, representing one of the last news media relics and through its invention, the world was able to achieve news. After much research, I wanted to create a sculpture that would symbolically honor the impact of this space as a place of media while also recognizing the historic value of the invention and use of the linotype machine. Given the building is central to a highly visible topography, I wanted to ensure that the scale centered on creating a public art experience to mobilize locals and visitors to appreciate both the space and the art while also orchestrating a conversation between humanity, history, and art. While the art is quite large, as a multi-media artist, I really like to work with large industrial materials and over the last several years, I’ve concentrated on creating large scale work using a diverse body of media. This particular project is uses extruded aluminum profiles, where I cut, form and weld and fabricates to a length that will allow me to mobilize smaller panels so that I can relocate the work from the studio to where the sculpture is going to its new home at The Press @ Palm Beach Post.”
Ya Levy-La’ford is an artist, educator, and foremost a “transporter” – working between the visual and the community – through various mediums including painting, sculpture, installation, video, and sound. Her labyrinth patterns explore self and place and reference her Jamaican background. She holds a BFA Magna Cum Laude in Painting, Florida State University; and MFA in Interdisciplinary Art from the Art Institute, Boston. She is known for site-specific installations of her bold, geometric paintings that explore themes of transformation and transcendence.
La’ford is interested in the additive and subtractive processes, negative and positive spaces, obsessions, interconnectivity, evidence, and manipulation.
She says this work fits in with her overall aesthetic and approach to art in a few ways.
“My mission is centered on creating art and public experiences, which exist to immeasurably transform and revolutionize the social, cultural, and historic contexts of creative expression within the human journey. I firmly believe we are all interconnected, the universe, the country and in this case, the West Palm Beach community is defined by a measure of creativity and is weighed against a backdrop of how art can add new dimensions of civic consensus, vibrancy, and identity to local boundaries and the world beyond. As such, the Beacon of Infinity sculpture seeks to mobilize Palm Beach citizens and visitors to challenge conventional thinking and understand the intrinsic value of exercising creative license within this dynamic community. Once completed, our aim is to offer a citizen-centered, community-first art experience as a lifelong treasure.”
In addition to this large scale work, she also has exhibitions scheduled for 2021 at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art; a 2021 solo exhibition at Gallery 22; and a design geometric for a new History Museum. La’ford has exhibited in the US, Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America. She has partnered and is collected by Tampa Bay Rays, Tampa Bay Rowdies, Gensler, Nike, Louis Vuitton, Converse, St. Petersburg Holocaust Museum and Libraries across America. She has exhibited with Venice Biennale Activation Projects, St Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts, among others.
This new work aims to be a nod to the newspaper’s past and the interconnected future it will have for the community.
Beacon of Infinity: New typeset themed mural by artist Ya La’ford