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Traveling to WPB for the Arts: Murals, Shipwrecks and A Guy Named Tomata By Sandra Schulman
The arts are always changing in West Palm Beach, giving visitors and residents new reasons to go exploring. This season the good news is that there is a dazzling array of new art to see and the messy construction downtown in the last year has been mostly finished up.
The Canvas murals and Art Park are a great way to see high quality art. The huge metal BE ART sculpture on Flagler has new landscaping around it and a bonus is that getting up close to inspect it reveals a pattern of cut out tiny birds in flight, an unexpected airy delight on such a heavy earthy piece. On the next block the three octagonal white sculptures are pretty by day and then illuminated by night, changing them and the park around it completely. Cool murals on the back of the park by Amanda Valdes and wrdsmth are highlights. Wrdsmth also has murals scattered throughout the city, a large one that says Dream Bigger resides on a building on Dixie Highway and three smaller ones can be found on the building that faces the small parking lot on Fern Street west of the Wine Scene Graffiti Garden that spell out typewritten poems.
One of the more exciting but little known projects that has begun to bring world class art to town is the Art In Public Places program that requires developers to devote a percentage of their budget to public art. The city had an ordinance for many years that required a percentage of the cost of public buildings — libraries and fire stations, for example, be dedicated for public art. But following a national trend, in June 2014 city commissioners adopted revisions to apply that law to private construction, as well.
Four key projects have come to fruition through the program, which requires developers to either place art for public viewing on their sites or contribute to a fund for art elsewhere. They are responsible for the maintenance of the art and can pick their art and artist.
A dramatic sculpture by West Palm Beach sculpture Alexander Krivosheiw, who also recently was commissioned to design trophies for the 2016 Olympics, now graces the front facing streetscape at Tara Cove, a Kennedy Homes townhouse community at 3775 N. Military Trail. At 333 Fern St., beside The Alexander, the 16-story gleaming white apartment building that was built across the street from the historic Alexander Lofts, a pocket park now features a sculptural stone bench that emerges from a curving footpath. The artistic elements are focal points for the corner next to The Alexander, where the sensuous curved stone bench has layers of multi-colored stone and metal inserts to divide the seating areas. Restoration Hardware has an expansive new mural by the LA artist Retna on its east facing store wall. “We’re doing really well with the program,” says Sybille Welter, the city’s AIPP coordinator, placing new art in new construction projects.
Down the street at The BoxGallery, upcoming exhibits include one by Tomata Du Plenty, a pioneering punk singer turned artist who lived in Miami for many years making murals, watercolors and cut out wood paintings of pop culture figures like Elvis, Norman Mailer, Waylon Jennings and the Ronettes. In addition to an exhibit there will be a panel discussing his art by collectors and critics; and a preview of an upcoming documentary being made on his life. With revved up new art, exhibits, buildings and fairs, traveling to WPB for the arts is a picture perfect destination.