Spring is a subtle season in South Florida with scant explosions of flowers and green shoots, but in Boynton Beach this month, pops of color and movement are in bloom everywhere.
The 2023 Kinetic Art Biennial is in full swing, with movable sculptures that dance in the wind along Ocean Avenue, inside and around City Hall, and in parks and galleries.
To celebrate Boynton Beach’s ties to fishing and the sea, six brilliantly colored spinning sailfish will be placed this month on 12-foot poles along Ocean Avenue from City Hall to the marina.
Until then, these fiberglass sculptures — done by local artists — grace the lobby of City Hall.
“This is my first time creating art for Boynton Beach and the first time I’ve done work for an external public art space,” said Michelle Drummond, a Delray Beach resident who describes herself as a mixed-media fiber artist.
“I’m very excited to be part of the initiative,” she added. “I think Boynton Beach’s emphasis on art is amazing.”
Drummond’s sailfish sports a bright yellow dorsal fin and tail, an orange bill, and spots of orange made of polyester fabric run along its body.
“I’m from the Caribbean and I wanted my sailfish to be happy and sunny,” Drummond said. “I think the kinetic art exhibit is a perfect tool to bring more foot traffic to the arts district and the businesses along the way.”
Joseph Velasquez of Lantana created a bright blue sailfish with a bright red crest and a pattern of waves along its body.
“I went down to Boynton’s beach a few times to sketch the waves so the fish would look like it’s emerging from the sea,” Velasquez said. “Seeing one of these fish in the water is an amazing experience. They look almost prehistoric.”
Velasquez, who besides being an artist is an art professor at Florida Atlantic University, said this is the first piece of art he has made for Boynton Beach.
“I was very happy for the opportunity to be included,” he said. “It was also a great opportunity for my students to learn about civic involvement.”
Boynton’s commitment to art in public places goes beyond the current exhibit.
Murals have begun appearing on the sides of older buildings, thanks to a grant program begun last year to encourage creative works in the downtown area and in micro-districts such as Brewery, MLK Boulevard and Industrial Way.
A mural by Jacksonville artist Cody Edwards — just down the street from City Hall — looks like a black and white postcard and it, too, brings an ocean theme into play. A sea turtle and a sailfish swim among giant, puffy letters that spell out Boynton Beach.
“Murals enhance the visual appearance of buildings and sites,” says a brochure explaining the purpose and requirements of the mural program. “They reinforce the identity and pride of the whole city; its many micro-districts and neighborhoods; and its many diverse communities. The stories told through murals present the city’s history and contemporary goals and ideas.”
If you’d rather enjoy indoor art, the Boynton Beach Arts & Cultural Center has constantly changing exhibits. A Haitian art exhibit is coming this month.
The city also has older pieces of art on display at unexpected places — at bus stops or in the parking lot of a city building. A 2018 sculpture of carved metal, created by artists David Dahlquist and Matt Niebuhr, houses a water fountain on the lawn of the Utilities Department on Woolbright Road.
“Are you thirsty yet?” The question is inscribed on the roof of the sculpture, titled Water, You and I.
Wave pergolas — blue stained glass and metal shelters — stand along Federal Highway and add whimsy to the Avion Riverwalk development near the intersection with Woolbright Road.
These 2020 sculptures were created by West Palm Beach artist Mark Fuller.
The driving forces behind Boynton’s art-centricity are Glenn Weiss, the city’s public art manager, and the members of the art advisory board.
Weiss, however, declines to take credit for the emphasis on art.
“We have city commissioners and executive staff that are very supportive, and a city manager whose wife is an artist,” Weiss said.
In addition, Boynton’s neighboring cities — such as Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Palm Beach Gardens and West Palm Beach — have flourishing public art programs, Weiss said.
Like those cities, Weiss said, Boynton has established a program whereby developers seeking to build in the city must donate 1% of their construction budgets to public art projects. The artwork can be located on their sites, or a developer can set aside money for a project in another part of the city.
“Only Florida, Arizona and California allow art to be a design criterion for development,” Weiss said. “It’s pretty unusual.”
Weiss said he is excited about sculptures, murals and other work that will be included in the campuses of two big development projects coming to downtown Boynton Beach over the next few years.
The Pierce apartment, retail and office complex at Boynton Beach Boulevard and Federal Highway, for example, will sponsor murals, and a huge, perforated metal corner treatment on its south parking garage will be emblazoned with retro images and lettering that says, “Welcome to Boynton Beach.”
But you don’t have to wait to see art in action. Take a walk around City Hall and Town Square to see the moving sculptures that make up the kinetic art exhibit.
One of the crowd favorites is Twirling Blooms, a multicolored sculpture of bicycle wheels turning atop two-story-tall metal stems. It is located on the lawn of the Schoolhouse Children’s Museum and was created by Dr. Alex Rodriguez, an Atlanta dentist, Weiss said.
“You have to be half artist and half engineer to design kinetic art,” Weiss said. “There are a lot of moving pieces, and I should know — many of these works arrived in pieces and I had to put them together.”
Many of the works will be on permanent display in Town Square. Others, like the sailfish, will be on display along Ocean Avenue for the next two years.