Tag Archives: WPB History

Don’t be afraid of Ethnicity

Don’t be afraid of public artwork that strongly demonstrates its origination in  ethnic visual traditions.  Murals can be show people from different backgrounds or painted in the art traditions of non-western cultures.  Why can’t public sculptures be bronze castings of African masks.  Why can’t ceramic murals clearly originate in the traditions of Spanish or Moroccan wall and floor tiles?

In the 19th and 20th century, the dominant art establishment and intellectuals believed that progress and newness in art came exclusively from the artistic inventions in Europe and then the Americas.  Still today, despite the great respect in museums and universities for all traditions in art, the vast majority of public art is dominated by euro-american art.

One major flaw of public art thinking is that works from other cultural traditions should only be seen in the neighborhoods of those ethnic communities.  It is sometimes known as “race matching”.   Art about or by African Americans should be seen in African American neighborhoods, not in the center of downtown.

Given the 150 years of public art in the USA and Florida, some catching up may be required in African American, Caribbean, Mexican and South American neighborhoods.  Pride in community through public art is still a valuable service.

In the 21st century, many mature and talented artists exist from any cultural or ethnic backgrounds.  Many ethnic traditions have been continued by contemporary artists and craftspersons.  Perhaps ethnic and cultural diversity in a public art collection is the true new future.

Idea: Move Henry Rolfs Sculpture

Henry Rolfs Statue

In 1994, the City of West Palm agreed with the family of Henry Rolfs, Sr. to honor his contribution to the City with a sculpture in the median of Okeechobee Blvd.    Artist Marsha Montoya Meyer made the statue that  welcomes visitors to West Palm at the intersection of Tamarind/Parker and Okeechobee.

Mr. Rolfs and his partner David Paladino were responsible for consolidating all the 77 acres that eventually became City Place, the Kravis Center and the Convention Center.  Without their visionary purchases, it is very unlikely that City Place would exist.   Unfortunately for Rolfs and Paladino, the economic downturns of the late 1980s and early 1990s ruined their opportunity to complete their vision and the land was acquired by the City.

Land Purchased by Rolfs and Paladino
Land Purchased by Rolfs and Paladino

In our community discussions on public art, we learned that most people don’t know anything about the sculpture.  If they have  thought about it, then most assume it is second memorial to Henry Flagler.  Part of the reason for the lack of knowledge is that sculpture is undersized for the site and almost no pedestrians cross at this location to learn about Mr. Rolfs.

Henry Rolfs, Sr. by Marsha Montoya Meyer
Henry Rolfs, Sr. by Marsha Montoya Meyer

Given the contribution of Mr. Rolfs, the sculpture seems better located near or in City Place.  Pedestrian could enjoy the artwork and read information about Mr. Rolfs’ life and activities in West Palm.

What do you think?  Should the sculpture be moved or remain in place?

Existing and Possible New Locations
Current Location
Rosemary and Okeechobee




Palm Beach Post Writes about Master Plan

Elliott Kleinberg publicly opened the debate future public art in the City with his article on January 13, 2015.  Kleinberg wrote about ideas to relate future public art to the history of West Palm Beach.  Many non-historical ideas are also under discussion.


City develops its artistic side
Consultant offers many ideas for art in public places.

By Eliot Kleinberg Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

WEST PALM BEACH — Gershwin on “Tip-Toes” at the West Palm Beach Tri-Rail station. Side-by-side comparisons of old West Palm Beach firefighters and the Dutch Masters.

And that’s just for starters.

The Broward County firm contracted to create the master plan for the city’s Art in Public Places program envisions photos and paintings bringing both history and the arts to the city.

The program requires as part of the city’s approval that a developer with a construction or renovation project of at least $500,000 provide art, or cash, equal to 1 percent of the project’s value.

If the developer offers money, it must be spent somewhere other than at the project.

If it’s art, works with the project must by approved by the city’s Art in Public Places committee.

Pompano Beach-based IBI Group won the contract to develop the master plan for the next decade.

The city included the $75,000 in its 2014-15 budget and selected IBI through a bid process, Christine Thrower, the city’s recreation and strategic innovation director, said Friday.

“With the potential for millions of dollars flowing into the (Art in Public Places) account, we thought it was prudent to have a master plan to figure out where that money would be spent, what it would be spent on, and how the process would work to make sure there’s balance citywide,” Thrower said.

She said IBI is expected to finish its report in June.

The group is posting its ideas and soliciting feedback through a blog, https://ibiartwestpalm.wordpress.com/.

Glenn Weiss, public art planner for IBI, said Friday his group is starting with the blog, which includes a link to a survey, https://www.research.net/s/WPB_ART.

The group will hold town hall meetings in March and April, he said.

“Right now, we’re just in the beginning,” Weiss said.

As for his blog: “They’re just my ideas. I’m just putting out things to get people to think creatively about public art in the city.”

Weiss said it’s no coincidence that many of his ideas mix art with history in a city that already plasters historic photos on electric boxes right on Clematis Street. “It’s the city’s character,” he said. “Whether it comes from the past, or going to the future.” Among the ideas:

  •  Display public artwork at the train station, along Tamarind Avenue, “interpreting the first act” of “Tip-Toes.” This 1925 Broadway musical, set in Palm Beach, was inspired by George Gershwin’s visits to Florida and the public’s fascination with the state’s real estate boom.
  •  Design replicas of long-lost landmarks, such as the iron gate that once stood over Woodlawn Cemetery, and which bore the famous inscription, “That which is so universal as death must be a blessing.” (When the iron gates came down to widen Dixie Highway, these words were etched into the new concrete arch built in 1925.) Another example: the ornate sign for the 1924 Kettler Theatre, which towered over downtown, flanked by giant winged angels.
  •  Display historic photos side-by-side with classic works of art. For example, the blog paired an undated photo, probably from the 1930s, of West Palm Beach firefighters standing alongside a truck with Rembrandt’s classic “Dutch Masters” painting, which actually is titled “De Staalmeesters” and shows Dutch big-ticket drapery cloth inspectors.  ekleinberg@pbpost.com   Twitter: @eliotkpbp 


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Currie Park

Martin Luther King JrTo celebrate Dr. King, consider visiting the West Palm Beach memorial in Currie Park.  The memorial was created in 2004 through the leadership of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Coordinating Committee.  Here is the description from their website:

“The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Park, located at 2200 N. Flagler Drive, was completed in 2004. The park is the largest of its type in Florida and one of the largest memorials commemorating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. anywhere in the Southern United States. The park contains numerous plaques and photos commemorating Dr. King’s life, family and speeches, interspersed with highlights of the civil rights movement. The highlights are a bronze sculpture of Dr. King backdropped by cascading water on a granite wall and the display of flats, representing areas of great influence to King’s life, waving over the Intracoastal. This park was chosen as only one of five of PSC MILLENNIUM Legacy projects.

Augusta Savage at the Norton
Augusta Savage at the Norton

To celebrate African American heritage, be sure to see Augusta Savage’s “Gimin” in the Norton Museum of Art permanent collection.  Savage lived in West Palm Beach before moving to NYC and joining the artists of the Harlem Renaissance.    More information on Savage here.

On January 16-19 weekend, the MLK Jr. Coordinating Committee has organized many events.  Click the image to view the calendar.

MLK Flight Schedule


The sculpture at the MLK Jr Memorial Park was made by Steven Dickey of Tampa, Florida.  See more of Mr. Dickey’s work here. 

Seminole Memorial by Steven Dickey
Seminole Memorial by Steven Dickey

Bringing Back lost Signs and Gates

The Art in Public Places ordinance includes the ability to preserve historic buildings and elements.  But why not ask contemporary artists to bring back some great lost gates and signs from WPB past.

Ketter Theater Sign
Kettler Theater Sign (The silent movie is the “The Foolish Virgin”)
Seminole Sun Dance festival.
Seminole Sun Dance festival.
Original gate to Woodlawn Cemetary
Original gate to Woodlawn Cemetery
Kelsey City. Actually in North Palm Beach, but the obelisks are very interesting.
Kelsey City. Actually in North Palm Beach, but the obelisks are very interesting.


Honoring George Gershwin with Public Art

Tip-ToesIdea:  Public artwork at the WPB train station interpreting the first act of Gershwin’s 1925 musical “Tip Toes”


PorgyBess1935Idea:  Public artwork about African American life in the 1920s based on Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” that he wrote in Palm Beach during 1935.



1920s in African American West Palm Beach
1920s in African American West Palm Beach

gershwin1As early as 1925, George Gershwin’s visits to Florida, and the public’s fascination with the state’s real estate boom, inspired his Broadway musical Tip-Toes, set in Palm Beach. Gershwin spent the winter of 1933 at a Palm Beach home on South Ocean Boulevard that oil tycoon Emil Mosbacher had rented with his wife and three children. It was there that Gershwin wrote variations on I Got Rhythm. And in 1935, after studying black culture in Charleston, S.C., he returned to the island to write much of the groundbreaking opera Porgy and

“Palm Beach is once more itself after a few days of cold weather,” the Gershwin wrote. “I’m sitting in the patio of the charming house Emil has rented, writing to you after orchestrating for a few hours this morning . . . it goes slowly, there being millions of notes to write.”

1925 Tip Toes Program on Broadway
1925 Tip Toes Program on Broadway
TrainStation (3)
West Palm Beach Train Station

ACT ONE: ” TIP TOES” — At the train station in West Palm Beach, flirtatious Rollo Fish Metcalf is surprised to see his socialite wife, Sylvia, planning to give a party for her millionaire brother, Steve.  Steve is set to inherit the family glue factory. Rollo agrees to wait for vaudevillian entertainers, the “Komical Kayes” (Tip-Toes Kaye (a woman), Al Kaye and Uncle Hen Kaye). The Kayes are so poor that Tip-Toes had to travel in the luggage to avoid paying for a ticket. They stay in Palm Beach to see if they can find a millionaire for Tip-Toes to marry.

Arrive in West Palm Beach
Arrive in West Palm Beach


Idea: Group Paintings from WPB History

Since the Renaissance, large paintings have captured the likeness and psychology families, friends or business associates.  Several images from the history of West Palm Beach are consistently used to represent the people of this place.  Here are some historic pictures and work by famous artists that have interpreted similar groups.

What if the Art in Public Places commissioned large painting by contemporary artists to interpret our past?

WPBhistory (68)
WPB Fire
Francisco de Goya
Francisco de Goya
WPBhistory (51)
Boys and Girls Club
WPBhistory (61)
Henry Flagler and Family
Sunrise Club
John Biggers
John Biggers

WPBHistoryy (4)




Coleman Park Baseballs by Shauna Gillies-Smith

On the site of a former Florida State Negro League field, Shauna Gillies-Smith of Ground, Inc. created a space of 9 concrete baseballs and pebble paths in 2005.  Engraved into the baseballs are the names of significant local leaders.    After ten years, the City plans to add new names in 2015.

ColemanPark (10)

coleman park Ariel View

ColemanPark (2)


Lincoln Giants, Palm Beach, (1915)
Lincoln Giants, Palm Beach, (1915)
1906  Royal Poinciana Team of the Palm Beachs
1906 Royal Poinciana Team of  Palm Beach


We are starting the Art in Public Places master plan

Over the next six months, IBI Group-Pompano will develop the Art in Public Places master plan for the City of West Palm Beach and plan the future public artworks for the next ten years.  Please join the effort.

Artist Ann Norton at Ann Norton Sculpture Garden

All the activities by the public art planners from IBI Groupywill be published on this blog.  Each week, an email will arrive in the your inbox showing the art in West Palm, ideas of art projects, possible locations and future public meetings to discuss everything about public art.

If Facebook or Twitter is better for you, then follow the project at
Facebook.com/ibiARTwestpalm or @ibiARTwestpalm

IBI Group Team:  Glenn Weiss, Surale Phillips and Sybille Welter

Glenn, Surale and Sybille at DDA A&E Kickoff
Glenn, Surale and Sybille at DDA A&E Kickoff