By Lucy Lazarony
The Heart of the Square art exhibit at the Cornell Art Museum gets down to the heart of the matter, providing a showcase for Old School Square, the arts and cultural complex which has been serving Delray Beach for 32 years.
The complex, which features restored early 20th-century school buildings, is located in downtown Delray Beach and includes the Cornell Art Museum, Crest Theatre, Fieldhouse, Pavilion and Creative Arts School.
On August 10, the Delray Beach City Commission voted 3-2 to terminate its lease agreement with Old School Square. And unless a lawsuit from Old School Square against the city is successful, Old School’s lease will be over in February, a few days after Heart of the Square is completed.
According to Melanie Johanson, museum director and curator, Heart of the Square attempts to highlight the cultural impact Old School Square has had on the broader Delray Beach community over 32 years.
“Old School Square is recognized as being a catalyst for the revitalization of downtown Delray and this exhibition intends to remind us of those origins while simultaneously recognizing the dire reality of our organization’s future,” Johanson says. “After the city’s vote to terminate our lease, several artists were eager to show their support for Old School Square and contributed works of art intended to be a direct response to our current plight.”
For instance, Freddy Jouwayed’s installation piece Omen is surrounded by red walls to portray “code red” action. And Susan Romaine did a painting of the old schoolhouse without Old School Square’s revitalization. She also wrote a poem.
And there was even more outreach from artists.
“Several more artists reached out to me with their personal stories of how our organization impacted their career or just to express their sympathy and well wishes in this battle to maintain our position as the premier arts and culture destination in Palm Beach County,” Johanson says.
And some artists created art work and installations inspired by the buildings of Old School Square.
Giannina Coppiano Dwin translated the Cornell Art Museum, Crest Theatre, Creative Arts School, Fieldhouse and Pavilion into small-scale outlines, gilding them to symbolize their value and importance to the community. Surrounding the buildings’ outlines are a variety of leaves made from salt.
Jen Fisher’s optimistic watercolor painting featuring the center’s outdoor pavilion is called Keep Dancing. Crystal Bacchus gave a sparkling salute to the Cornell Art Museum with a watercolor painting featuring glitter and ink.
For those interested in the history of Old School Square there is a timeline stretching from the days when the buildings were schoolhouses to when the entire complex became a cultural arts center.
And one whole room is filled with colorful photographs of Old School Square through the years. There also is a wall filled with small notes from museum visitors who are asked to share favorite memories of times spent at Old School Square.
There is a room honoring local plein air artists with artwork by Pati Maguire, Ralph Papa, Lorrie Turner, Sheila Wolff, Steve Nash and Kerry Eriksen.
Also featured in the room are paintings from the Highwaymen, African-American artists who created about 200,000 paintings from the 1950s to 1970 in Florida. The Highwaymen are recognized for their vibrant images of nature and three such landscapes are part of the permanent collection at the Cornell Art Museum.
The most unusual room of the exhibit features The Boiz, small figures made of cut and welded sheet metal, spray paint and oil paint created by Delray Beach’s Tyler Levitetz. Each figure represents a different emotion. Levitetz says his army of Boiz are meant to show support for arts and culture in Delray Beach.
If you go
Heart of the Square runs through Feb. 5. The Cornell Art Museum is located at 51 N. Swinton Ave. in downtown Delray. Museum hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Suggested donation: $10.