By Steve Plunkett
Armed with $20,000 from the City Council, Boca Raton’s fledgling Art in Public Places advisory board is tackling an ambitious first project — finding artists to paint cutting-edge murals on the walls of a maintenance yard at oceanfront Red Reef Park.
“It’s a good place to start, you know. It’s not a place where anyone can really worry about. It’s the right place for it,” Boca Raton council member Andrea O’Rourke said.
The advisory panel has set a tight timetable — it must put out a call for proposals, review them and choose up to 10 artists, divvy up the council grant among them and have them spray-paint their creations by Oct. 20.
“The more professional muralists will probably receive a little bit more funds than necessarily the amateur artists,” city resident and volunteer Milan De Vito told Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park District commissioners.
The maintenance area is at the northeast corner of the parking lot at Red Reef’s executive golf course. A boardwalk near the maintenance area connects the parking lot to the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center.
“I’ve always been fascinated by art. When I moved here, I said, ‘You guys have some great parks. Why don’t we combine the two?’ ” said resident David Sergi, who helped pick the maintenance area for the murals and also the three tunnels under State Road A1A that lead from Spanish River Park’s parking lots to the ocean.
The wall around the rectangular maintenance area is 6 feet high and 300 feet long.
The Art in Public Places board hopes to attract a combination of recognized muralists (“people that we know and recognize their work and talent,” De Vito said); artists from Florida Atlantic and Lynn universities and the Boca Museum of Art; and the public at large, a category that includes high school art students.
“Everything has to be family-friendly,” De Vito said. “I expect some of the art to be different and to challenge people’s thoughts and ideas, but that doesn’t necessarily mean in a bad way or negative way.”
At least one high school student was enthusiastic June 12 when the City Council approved the $20,000 grant.
“I’m just so appreciative,” said Luke Lynch, a junior and honors student at Boca Raton High. “I feel we can get the youth involvement for this project to create more of an engaged society.”
The advisory panel picked its target date to coincide with a new Friends of Gumbo Limbo fundraiser, the Red Reef Gumbo Cook-off, which will include restaurant tastings, food trucks and craft beers.
The board expects the murals to be comparable to those in Miami’s Wynwood art district, Fort Lauderdale’s FAT Village, Lake Worth and Palm Beach. The artwork would stay up for one or two years, then need to be redone, perhaps by new artists, De Vito said.
O’Rourke has promoted art in public places ever since she ran for her council seat in 2017.
“This is a passion project for me,” she told Beach & Park District commissioners.
Commissioners told O’Rourke to come back for a contribution once she learns how much the effort will cost.