By Sandra Schulman
Construction is never fun. But the city of West Palm Beach is making lemonade out of construction lemons this summer with a lineup of orange cone-themed events and activities while the 100 and 200 blocks of Clematis Street is undergoing its “pardon our dust” period.
Past summers have found twirling tops and fairytale-painted cottages in the waterfront park at the end of Clematis. This year, to “cone-ect” with the public, officials have brought in nationally recognized prop maker Frank Navarrete and artist Bruce Sutka for an effort under the theme “iCONE-ic Summer in Paradise.”
How did the city choose the theme and the artist for this year’s summer installation?
“Our primary event space on the West Palm Beach waterfront will be framed with construction this summer,” says Mary Pinak, community events manager. Instead of hiding from the construction, officials have decided to embrace it with takes on the orange traffic cones familiar to every motorist who has asked why the smoothly moving traffic they were just enjoying has turned into a jam.
The major art project to result from this idea is “Cone-y Island,” in which Navarette has created a maze that also includes interactive play zones, shade areas and water misters on the city’s Great Lawn. Navarette “has worked closely with the city on our last two Summer in Paradise campaigns,” Pinak said, which were Aesop’s Tables and the Fairy Tale Playhouse.
“I’m a multidimensional artist,” Navarette said. “My scope of work encompasses from paintings and murals to scenery for theater, television studio sets, giant-sized sculptures and different kinds of promotional events. So it falls right in line with other work that I have done.
“The challenge in this particular project is to combine the use of imagination in creating some fun elements for the kids to play with that requires them to use some skills while still being entertaining. Something that creates a childhood memory,” he said.
Sutka, who runs Sutka Visual Design in West Palm Beach, “is renowned for his imaginative and memorable events and design productions,” Pinak said, and created the “star” mascot of the project, Sir Sip, in a matter of hours.
The city is undergoing several big construction projects at once. Newly elected Mayor Keith James says it’s all part of the plan.
“The Clematis Streetscape project is one of many ways we are working with organizations and businesses to revitalize our downtown,” James said in a prepared statement. “There is an incredible amount of revitalization activity working towards one of our goals … an improved pedestrian experience throughout our downtown core.”
Details: Summer in Paradise activities are taking place along the West Palm Beach waterfront at 101 N. Clematis St., and run through Aug. 1.
Installations include the Cone-y Island maze; Cone Checkers (in which cones serve as giant checkers on a checkerboard); and the Kid’s Cone Zone (city trucks and construction vehicles on display for kids to examine and explore).
In addition, waterfront visitors can get a free small snowcone on Saturdays from noon to 2 p.m. through July 27. Location of the free snowcones will be announced each week on the city’s social media pages