Artists paint a new cultural landscape in two cities: Artist sees flourishing gallery off the beaten path

Vincent Cacace shows off artwork to Anne Walsh.
 Photos by Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

Boynton Beach: Trolley takes enthusiasts on art-related tour

By Mary Jane Fine
DELRAY BEACH —Vincent Cacace envisions the future of Artists Alley as if it were a canvas awaiting his brush. The colors. The shapes. The blocking.
    This is how it can be: “I see that as a gallery, at the end,” he says, pointing down the alleyway to a vacant building. “And there’s a guy who wants to open a café down there, and he’d hang the artists’ paintings on his walls.’’
    Cacace foresees bamboo plantings — the purple variety, 70 feet tall — and a butterfly garden where, now, there are only grass and shrubs. And a mural, a stylized wave, on the side of that concrete structure,  the one festooned with mildew drippings. That little red-and-grey-brick pocket-park, across the way, the one the city built? That’ll be a sculpture park.
    Dream it and they will come: the art aficionados, the collectors, the buyers. Since April’s initial third-Thursday Open Gallery and Studio night, there’s already been modest success: 100 or so people who found their way to this admittedly hidden enclave along the railroad tracks, on the edge of Delray’s Pineapple Grove District. The “street sign” is hand-painted; the studio/galleries occupy space in featureless rows of former garages.

A handpainted sign directs visitors to Delray Beach’s Artists Alley.

    Cacace flips open a page in a ring-binder of photos. This one shows him standing on an oil-stained concrete floor, the ceiling high above, the walls bare. That once-barren garage space is now his gallery-and-studio, its walls hung with paintings of banana trees and shorelines and poinciana-shaded houses. Nearby are the Vladimir Prodanovich Studio and Jeff Whyman Studio and Ian Levinson’s Cloud House Pottery and the Linda White Gallery, where Rebecca Kline hangs her paintings. (Levinson is fashioning the pineapple-topped ceramic totems that will mark the entry to Artists Alley; Kline’s stylized-wave mural will wash over the mildew-covered box-building across the way.)

Artist Rebecca Kline, artist Harry McCormick, and gallery owner Linda White visit at Linda White Gallery in Delray Beach.

    So far, nine galleries participate in the monthly Champagne-and-hors d’oeuvres open-studio evenings.
Another garage bay, 20-by-80 feet, rents for $1,600 a month — “the last possible spot in this downtown that’s affordable,” says Cacace, who used to rent space on Atlantic Avenue until, as he says, “The rents went up, and the area got younger. It’s more boisterous now, the pace has quickened. It’s less art-hip.”
    Certainly, there’s still work to be done here on Artists Alley, and, sometimes, getting permits for one thing or another makes for slow-going.
    “We got permission to put a mural on that building,” Cacace says, gesturing toward the future wave-mural site. “We need permits for sign boards. This is an arts area and they (city officials) need to treat us differently. Art needs to be a little free.”
    As Cacace and Levinson and Kline and their fellow artists see it, their burgeoning art colony is more than a venture whose time has come; it’s long overdue.
    The Pineapple District as an arts destination has been, in Cacace’s words, “sputtering along for 15 years.” He views Artists Alley as “the right thing at the right time. We have a very cohesive group of people who just happened to come together.”
    No one has to sell Chris Lano on the concept. He’s hooked. “I think it’s a great idea,” says Lano, who lives on Hypoluxo Island and is a longtime fan of Cacace’s work. “I think it’s something Delray needs, and if the city gets behind it, they could create a walking area . . . it’s another destination for people to come and do things.” Lano and girlfriend Anne Walsh, who lives in Ocean Ridge, try to attend every Open Studio.
    They’re just the kinds of visitors Artists Alley seeks to attract.
    “We don’t want everyone here,” Cacace says. “We want people who are interested in art here.”                                         

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