By Jane Smith
The historical Cornell Art Museum, closed for about 15 months in a dispute between the city and its previous operators, hosted a grand reopening reception on Dec. 28.
The Surfing Florida Museum has an exhibit on the top floor. On the ground floor is the #LoveDelray collection of artworks from Delray Beach-area artists.
The museum will be open and be free to the public on Thursdays and Fridays from 4 to 9 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m.
It is now being operated by the Delray Beach Downtown Development Authority under a $25,000 agreement approved by the City Commission.
At the Jan. 10 commission meeting, an overall agreement between the city and the DDA to oversee the Old School Square campus will be discussed. That deal would replace the DDA’s current Cornell agreement with one that covers all five venues on the 4-acre campus: the Fieldhouse, the Pavilion, the Cornell, the Crest Theatre and associated arts classrooms.
The Surfing Florida Museum has been searching for a permanent home since it started 14 years ago, said Tom Warnke, its executive director. The Cornell exhibit will stay through June. “I’m hoping the exposure will lead to something permanent,” Warnke said. “I’m beyond excited.”
In late February, Surfing Florida also will open a 12-month exhibit at the renovated Lantana Public Library.
Separately, the commission agreed to pay $1.2 million to finish the renovations of the Crest Theatre building. The city did not put the work out to bid but used a job-order process to speed construction and have a guaranteed price, Public Works Director Missie Barletto said at the commission’s Dec. 6 meeting. It selected Harbour Construction Inc. of Miami.
Vice Mayor Adam Frankel said the commission did not like the previous contractor hired by Old School Square Center for the Arts — the former longtime operator — because the renovation was not put out for bids. He voted against the contract because there still was no bidding process for the work. Commissioner Shirley Johnson, who pulled the item from the Consent Agenda for discussion, also voted against the contract.
The Crest building renovations were started without expressed city approval as required in the lease and — combined with long-standing concerns as to how OSSCA was spending taxpayer dollars — led to the City Commission terminating its lease with OSSCA. The lease termination came on a 3-2 vote in August 2021.
Then, in November 2021, OSSCA sued the city and its elected officials for wrongful termination of the lease. That lawsuit is still pending.
OSSCA also filed papers in November 2021 to trademark the Old School Square name. After the city found out about the trademark application almost a year later, it hired an outside law firm to contest the trademark in November.
OSSCA filed its response to the city’s challenge on Jan. 2. It claims the trademark is not tied to the Old School Square campus owned by the city.
The reply, done by attorney Allen Bennett, said the group is entitled to use the name, because it continues “to offer services in the vicinity of the historic, generally known geographic location referred to colloquially as the ‘Old School Square.’”
OSSCA also filed papers to amend its November 2021 application to eliminate museum services from the list of services it provides — since it no longer controls the Cornell Museum space — and focus on arts education classes and rental of performing arts theaters.
The response said OSSCA’s application didn’t misrepresent its address as Old School Square’s, because its lease was still in force when it applied for the trademark.