Last month, this column focused on the thriving small businesses that call Northwood Village their home. This month, let’s focus on the art scene that has been a huge – but largely underappreciated – driver in the development of Northwood Village, Clematis Street and Cityplace.
One of the first organizations that committed to Northwood Village was the Center for Creative Education which, in 2005, purchased a building at 425 24th St. The building was an 18,000-square-foot 1950s-era roller rink and the dedicated team transformed it into an art gallery, digital theater, recording studio, computer lab, art studios, classrooms and meeting rooms.
CCE is an educational nonprofit that was created more than 20 years ago to strengthen the presence of the arts in the classrooms of Palm Beach County. It provides classes for all ages. Events are held at the CCE as well as a block away at the artist residency project at Lot 23 on Northwood Road. The schedule has a variety of free classes: Ukulele, Hip Hop for Teens, Introduction to Decorative Arts, Drawing Fundamentals, Drawing and Painting plus much more.
Trina Slade-Burks has been a teaching artist at CCE for the past 14 years. I first met Trina in 2014 when her annual art event, CONTINUUM WPB, came to Clematis Street. Since then, I’ve gotten to know her and her very talented artist husband Anthony Burks. I talked to her, wanting to understand her journey and how art is affecting the city.
“Northwood gave me my start as an art dealer,” says Trina. “We gave artists opportunities when other galleries would not. It started at my home in Northwood Hills and made its way in to the Village. Northwood Village has drawn more of an interest of people wanting to be part of something hip, unique and relevant.”
She adds, “Art truly helps drive the economy.”
And the art has spread from Northwood Village to CityPlace, which has used some of its available venues to provide homes to local and international artists.
In December 2017, CityPlace opened CultureLab which transformed the old Macy’s space into an immersive art exhibit and housed the work of acclaimed British artist Sir Michael Craig-Martin and sound artist Stephen Vitiello.
Earlier this year, Cityplace supercharged its annual Downtown West Palm Beach Art Festival and packed more than 100 artists’ tents arranged gallery-style and filled with all mediums of fine art. The next free outdoor art festival is scheduled for April 2019.
The Burks’ events have collaborated tightly with CityPlace and its focus on art.
“The 4th Annual CONTINUUM WPB in 2017 helped kick off the art scene in CityPlace,” Trina says. “We are truly grateful. Since then, we have had our 5th Annual CONTINUUM in the old Restoration Hardware Building and in September of this year we will have the 4th Annual Collaboration: African Diaspora Exhibition.”
Originally created in 2013, the African Diaspora Exhibition started off in the Burks’ home in Northwood. Since then, Collaboration has exhibited more than 350 artists. The art includes photography, painting, fiber, sculpture and mixed media. All of the artists are of African descent and reside in or are represented in Florida. The exhibit kicks off in CityPlace this September.
The artists of Lot 23 have also been instrumental in bringing art to the waterfront through the City of West Palm Beach’s Summer in Paradise events. Last year, the artists painted “Aesop’s Tables,” which graced the waterfront during the event and were then auctioned off to charity. This year, the artists painted elaborate “Fairy Tale Playhouses” which were available to play with until the grand finale on July 26.
While we celebrate everything that’s going on in our bustling city – the new restaurants, development and business, let’s also take the time to thank and support the people who are involved in art and cultural organizations around town.
“Supporting local artists helps drive the economy, they are in your community year round – season or not,” says Trina. “Supporting local helps growth.”
So, if you’re looking for something to do on a hot summer day, consider visiting a local art gallery or taking an art class at the Center for Creative Education. Maybe even learn how to play the Ukulele at Lot23.