By Steve Plunkett
Despite the dissolution of the city’s Art in Public Places advisory board, the hunger for artistic experiences has not diminished.
The Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District pledged $25,000 on Oct. 4 for an art in public places fund, matching the amount budgeted by the City Council.
Deputy Mayor Andrea O’Rourke, who requested the money, gave what she called the “backstory” of the council’s vote to abolish the advisory board.
“It was very hard to be creative under the Sunshine Law and government regulations,” O’Rourke told the district commissioners. “So the board would meet once a month for an hour and a half and then they couldn’t meet again for another month.
“It didn’t spark energy. It didn’t spark creativity, “ she said.
The regulations, for example, forced Irving Lippman, executive director of the Boca Raton Museum of Art, to resign from the advisory board to avoid a conflict of interest when the museum offered to loan the city artwork to decorate Wildflower/Silver Palm Park.
“Doing a city board it just did not work out. (In between meetings) they could not talk to each other or collaborate,” O’Rourke said.
The coronavirus pandemic strained communication further. The advisory board met 25 times from its creation in January 2018 through March 2020, but zero times in the 17 months from April 2020 through August 2021.
But days after the City Council’s Sept. 14 vote to abolish the board, Lippman helped unveil the 30-foot-tall stainless steel Rocket sculpture on the grounds of the Boca Raton Innovation Campus.
The artwork’s polished surface “enlivens the sculpture reflecting the sky, lawns, lights and the people moving around the park, welcoming interaction with visitors — perfectly encapsulating the experience of art in public places,” Lippman said in a statement.
The monumental display is the result of a partnership between BRIC and the museum, O’Rourke told the Beach and Park District officials. She suggested a volunteer from the City Council and one from the district board could steer future efforts.
Since then the city has issued an official Call to Artists to produce a work of art out of recycled materials to put in front of the South Beach Pavilion where Palmetto Park Road meets State Road A1A.
Florida Atlantic University art students were originally tapped to create a sculpture at the site but that plan, too, was derailed by COVID.