Welcome Back, Art Lovers! Summer Art Events in The Palm Beaches

June 4, 2021

The Palm Beaches shows off why it’s renowned as a world-class arts destination and Florida’s Cultural Capital®.

This summer, a comprehensive trip around the art world can be experienced without ever leaving The Palm Beaches. From Italian glass and Japanese painting to a major sculpture from a British contemporary art superstar and works by homegrown artists, you’ll find something artsy for everyone at museums and arts attractions throughout the region.

Boca Raton Museum of Art

“The raw energy, the surprise imagery, the unrestrained observations — they’re not beholden to conventional manners — it’s free flowing, it’s elemental.” That’s how Gary Monroe explains his obsession with Florida’s outsider artists, an obsession that led him to eventually collecting more than 1,000 objects, the highlights of which are on view through Sept. 5 at the Boca Raton Museum of Art in the exhibition, “An Irresistible Urge to Create: The Monroe Family Collection of Florida Outsider Art.”

Untitled, art by Miss Ruby Williams
"Untitled" by Miss Ruby Williams; image courtesy of the Boca Raton Museum or Art

“Outsider” artists are untrained. Their work often features found objects and discarded objects, and as the show’s title suggests, their artwork emerged from compulsion.

“For these artists, making art was as essential as breathing,” said Irvin Lippman, executive director of the Boca Raton Museum of Art. “Their artistic freedom was a pure, sincere and intimate means of communication.”

Many of the artists created as a form of escape from lives filled with deep conflict and personal struggles. Their art regularly served as a form self-care, a defense mechanism or a therapy of sorts.

“It (was) not a business either,” Monroe said. “Most of them didn’t consider themselves artists until someone told them.”

Before GPS, Google Maps and cellphones, Monroe logged thousands of miles touring every corner of the state during the 1990s searching for these artists, using an atlas, word-of-mouth and payphones to guide his journey.

“A lot of these people lived, tucked away, doing their thing without any sense of wanting to show the work or being known for it,” Monroe remembers.

Outsider art confounds conventional norms and expectations of what will be seen inside art museums. Prepare yourself; the experience can be bracing.

“The effect it has is visceral; if you’re going to stop that because you don’t think it fits a mold, you miss much of the greatness of the art,” Monroe said. “I find it all to be so immediate and powerful and interesting, but you do have to realize it does break all the rules.”

A full turn in the other artistic direction, yet simultaneously on view at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, “Glasstress Boca Raton 2021” highlights 30 international artists who have created dramatic artworks in collaboration with the master glass artisans at Berengo Studio on the island of Murano in the Venetian lagoon in Italy.

Blossom Chandelier by Ai Weiwei
Details of "Blossom Chandelier" by Ai Weiwei; photo courtesy of the Boca Raton Museum of Art

As is the case with “An Irresistible Urge to Create,” much of the work on view here has never been seen publicly before, but unlike the outsider artists, these creations are the result of partnerships between some of the most high-powered international contemporary artists working today, including Ai Weiwei, and craftspeople steeped in an artistic lineage going back hundreds of years who received thousands of hours of training to achieve the fantastically intricate forms on view.

Rosemary Square

Another huge name on the global contemporary art scene, Yinka Shonibare, debuts Material (SG) II, a colorful, hand-painted fiberglass sculpture standing 20-feet-tall and adding to Rosemary Square’s already distinguished public art collection. The piece is part of Shonibare’s ongoing “Wind” series, another example of which was the first sculpture permanently installed in front of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C.

Shonibare has been nominated for the Turner prize, Britain’s most prestigious honor for contemporary artists. His work has been featured at the Venice Biennale, contemporary art’s greatest global fair. He received the CBE recognition, The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, rewarding contributions to the arts and sciences, work with charitable and welfare organizations, and public service outside the civil service. The sculpture is set to be unveiled in late June in West Palm Beach.

Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens

Seekers of tranquility find refuge among the grounds at Delray Beach’s Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens which will exhibit “Painting Enlightenment: Experiencing Wisdom and Compassion through Art and Science,” until Sept. 19. Featuring works by Japanese scientist and artist Iwasaki Tsuneo, the serene paintings offer meditations on the interconnectedness of the universe. Iwasaki forms images using characters from the sacred Buddhist text, the Heart Sutra. Upon retiring from a career as a research biologist, Iwasaki expanded his personal practice of copying sacred texts, called shyakyō — a form of devotion with a long history in Japan. Tsuneo’s paintings harmoniously combine rigorous discipline with gentle luminosity in creating arresting imagery.

"Climbing Out of Hell" by Iwasaki Tsuneo at Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens
"Climbing Out of Hell" by Iwasaki Tsuneo; image courtesy Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens

Lighthouse ArtCenter

From the enormous to the miniature: Lighthouse ArtCenter’s “Summer Home” features the original dollhouse collection of Jupiter Island resident Lucy Bassett Andrews whose grandfather founded Bassett Furniture. The three dollhouses are known for the miniature art adorning the walls by world-renowned artists including Cy Twombly and Julian Schnabel. The artists came together in 1993, creating more than 50 custom-designed artworks in their signature styles for the dollhouse. “Summer Home” will be on view June 7 – Aug. 7 in Tequesta.

Miss Lucy's Dollhouse Party exhibition
Miss Lucy's Dollhouse exhibition; photo courtesy of the Norton Museum of Art

The Return of Performing Arts

The Palm Beaches welcomed back big-name live music when Jimmy Buffett hosted four sold-out shows to kick off his 2021 tour at The Pavilion at Old School Square in Delray Beach in mid-May, but that was only the beginning. Check out Arts Garage in Delray Beach’s Pineapple Grove Arts District for a full schedule of live music this summer. Every Thursday night at 100 North Clematis Street in downtown West Palm Beach, the long-running and free “Clematis By Night” welcomes guests for live music outdoors on the lawn from 6 – 9 p.m. And some of the biggest touring acts in the nation will appear at West Palm Beach’s iTHINK Financial Amphitheatre beginning in July with Brad Paisley and Dave Matthews Band.

Amphitheater at Harbourside Place, Jupiter
Amphitheater at Harbourside Place in Jupiter

Stop in at The Wick Theatre and Costume Museum in Boca Raton where comedienne and actor Cindy Williams, best known for playing Shirley in “Laverne & Shirley,” hosts a one woman show recalling stories from her legendary career June 10-27. An iconic television show, a role in “American Graffiti,” friendships and collaborations with Penny Marshall, Jack Nicholson, Harrison Ford, Gene Hackman, Richard Dreyfus and Hollywood’s A-listers — Williams enchants audiences by sharing personal memories of the entertainment world’s biggest stars. The Delray Beach Playhouse brings live theater back to The Palm Beaches, interpreting “the door slam heard ’round the world,” in “A Doll’s House – Part 2” throughout June. And ballet returns as well at Boca Ballet Theatre with performances July 31 and Aug. 1.

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Chadd Scott headshot
Chadd Scott
Chadd Scott is a freelance arts writer living in Fernandina Beach, Florida. His favorite cultural destinations in The Palm Beaches are the Norton Museum of Art, Mounts Botanical Garden and the Ann Norton Sculpture Garden. Follow his adventures in art at seegreatart.art.