12686706660?profile=RESIZE_710xMuseum Director Irvin Lippman says the school ‘is definitely staying in Boca Raton,’ but that the 60-year-old building must be replaced at some point.
Larry Barszewski/The Coastal Star

Related: Summer arrives with no plan for art classes at Crest Theatre

By Mary Hladky

The Boca Raton Museum of Art’s offer this spring to move its art school to Delray Beach alarmed art students, who feared losing a school that they love.

Even though museum Executive Director Irvin Lippman has since withdrawn the proposal he made to Delray Beach officials, students’ anxieties that their school is in jeopardy have not lessened.

Students who spoke with The Coastal Star said they had no idea Lippman intended to approach Delray Beach about operating and managing the Crest Theatre and Center for Creative Arts at Old School Square and had not sought their input.

“Nobody knew this was going on,” including the teachers, said ceramics student Rebecca Vaughan. “I felt like this whole thing was happening and nobody was saying, ‘Wait a minute. You are about to give away Boca’s art school.’”

Donna Winton, who has taken three art classes a week since January, said that when she spoke to other students, “they were in shock,” because they were unaware their school might be moved.

“You find community at the art school,” she said. “You look forward to going to your classes. It is just a really magical place to go and to be. The school is so special. It is a creative hub for students of all ages.”

“It is very important to the community…” said longtime art student Sheryl Satzman. “How is it the Boca Raton art school if it is in Delray?”

The art school offers a wide range of day and evening classes for students of all ages year-round and seven days a week.

Lippman said “it was never the case” that the museum was going to close the art school, and it will continue operating at its current location at 801 W. Palmetto Park Road. “It is definitely staying in Boca Raton,” he said.

There was no intention of keeping anyone in the dark about what was happening, he said.

“The staff at the school certainly knew what the story was,” Lippman said, and “we tried to address this to students.”

If students were unaware of the museum’s interest in Delray Beach, “I am sorry they did not get the message,” Lippman said.

This also was not the museum’s first approach to Delray Beach. Two years ago, officials proposed running the Cornell Art Museum, but fractious Delray Beach politics stymied that.

The most recent overture ran into a roadblock when, among other issues, Mayor Tom Carney wanted to offer a short-term use permit for this summer rather than a long-term lease.

That would have been unworkable for the Boca museum.

But change will be coming in Boca Raton at some point because the 60-year-old art school building is in too poor shape to be renovated, Lippman said.

That point also was made in an April 22 letter to Delray Beach City Manager Terrence Moore that was signed by Lippman and museum Board of Trustees Chair John DesPrez III.

“The Boca Raton Museum of Art has been looking for an alternative space for its Art School, which is currently housed in a 60-year-old building that is nearing the end of its useful life,” the letter said.

Lippman said that museum officials have been in conversation for eight years about how to improve the studio program on the property, and had made plans for a new building about two years ago. The proposed building, however, was too large for the property, and those plans were scrapped, he said.

The museum leadership is now considering again how the building can be replaced on the existing site.

But first, a new design is needed and funds must be raised to build it. “We are not even near a point of talking about a new building,” Lippman said, and a decision is “some years away.”

If the decision is made, museum officials will need to find a temporary location for the school, with possibilities including the Boca Raton Innovation Campus on West Yamato Road immediately west of Interstate 95.

He and DesPrez made the overture to Delray Beach because “we thought that might be a way to reach a larger audience.”

The location is logical, he said, because while half of the museum members live in Boca Raton, the rest live in Delray Beach and nearby towns. “It made perfect sense to have the auxiliary program elsewhere,” Lippman said.

But the art school students see the situation differently.

While they agree that the school is run-down, they think it simply needs renovations that would be less costly than a new building. They disagree that the building needs to be replaced.

They love the school’s location next to the beautiful Old Floresta historic neighborhood and question how many students would attend classes in Delray Beach since many of them live near the current location.

“It is convenient. It is for Boca. It is not for Delray. Delray can make their own facility,” Winton said.

Students fear what will happen next.

“Our concern now is that it is not over. They will look for another way” to move the school, Vaughan said. “I am afraid for its future. It is a matter of what will they do next.”

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