By Sharon Geltner
When a 35-year art preservationist from Delray Beach met with the curator of the Schmidt Boca Raton Historical Museum to plan Palm Beach County tours for global art and architecture enthusiasts, she was surprised to learn of significant architectural treasures at nearby Lynn University.
“For years, I’ve said there is no Art Deco in Boca Raton, it’s strictly a Mizner town. But now we have discovered incredible architecture on a college campus and a business complex,” Sharon Koskoff said.
Sue Gillis, curator of the Boca Raton Historical Society, was already planning a mid-century modern exhibit at the Schmidt Boca Raton History Museum, when Koskoff came to confer about upcoming World Art Deco Congress tours. The 16th Art Deco World Congress toured the Orlando area earlier this week and is now in Miami Beach for the main congress. It comes to the Palm Beaches from April 28-30.
Gillis suggested walking the Lynn University campus with Cesar Santolo, dean of the College of Communication and Design. After the three toured; Koskoff decided to kick off the tour from Lynn on April 28, World Art Deco Day.
Koskoff is a muralist, art historian and author of Art Deco of the Palm Beaches. She also has been president of the Art Deco Society of the Palm Beaches for 36 years and spent two years planning the complex three-day bus and walking Palm Beaches itinerary to supplement the World Art Deco Congress.
“This is the first time these aficionados, who are experienced world travelers, will explore the Art Deco and mid-century modern (MiMo) art and architecture of the Palm Beaches,” Koskoff said. “This group has convened in New York, Los Angeles, Melbourne, Havana, Cape Town, Montreal, Buenos Aires and elsewhere but never here.”
“I am thrilled to have new discoveries, just when we think we have found everything significant. Spreading education and awareness of the fabulous cultural institutions in the Palm Beaches is my passion,” Koskoff said.
“What I noticed during the campus tour with Sue Gillis and Dean Santalo was that the architecture wasn’t one building in one style, another building in another style 10 years later,” said Koskoff. “It was fully designed and it all had a sense of rhythm. It’s not confusing, it’s all the same. It’s well-designed.”
Koskoff added, “Gillis, Dean Santalo and I also learned that New York architects who designed the mid-century modern buildings at what is now Lynn University, also designed buildings at my alma mater, Brooklyn College.”
“One of the best parts is, we’ve gotten young people aware about our history,” Gillis said. “Lynn University students photographed these beautiful buildings and then we put their photos in a slide show in our mid-century modern exhibit. “None of these students had shown before; now they can put this on their résumé.”
She added, “And now the Lynn University faculty gets excited that their campus, which is well over 50 years old, is interesting historic preservationists from around the world. They respect the heritage.” (The earliest buildings on campus date to 1962, when the school was Marymount College, a two-year Catholic junior college.)
“Then I found another Boca surprise,” Koskoff said: “BRIC.”
“I recently discovered that Bauhaus architect Marcel Breuer designed the former IBM building, where the personal computer was invented. It is now Boca Raton Innovative Campus (BRIC.) That’s our stop after Lynn.”
She explained, “This is Brutalist architecture from Bauhaus architect Marcel Breuer. ‘Brutalist’ doesn’t mean violence. Rather it connotes something that isn’t smooth and polished. These buildings were constructed by cement being poured into wooden molds. You can see and feel the wood grain and nails in the concrete structure.”
BRIC is now a business incubator whose interior hallways exhibit art from Lynn University’s NFT Museum, the Boca Raton Museum of Art and the outdoor “Rocket” sculpture, Koskoff added. It also boasts the longest corridor in the Western Hemisphere.
Upcoming exhibitions in tandem with the 16th Art Deco World Congress:
Schmidt Boca Raton History Museum / MiMo in Boca Raton: Mid Century Modern Style, featuring architect Howard McCall. Now through June 30; www.bocahistory.org.
Cornell Art Museum, Delray Beach / Art Deco Delights: A Pop-Up Exhibition / Art Deco paintings by mural artist Sharon Koskoff, April 28–30. www.ArtDecoPB.org
Deco in Delray: Walking Tour / Sunday, April 30 at 11 a.m.-2 p.m. / RSVP tickets at www.ArtDecoPB.org or call 561-699-7899.