By Ron Hayes
The pineapples are back in Pineapple Grove.
Welcome them, please, as they welcome you.
In 2008, mural artist Anita Lovitt adorned the east wall of the Chloe Building — now called the Deb — at 135 E. Atlantic Avenue with “Dancing Pineapples,” a quintet of tumbling pineapples.
For the next 13 years, visitors approaching the archway to the Pineapple Grove Arts District on Northeast Second Avenue were welcomed by the dancing pineapples.
Today, Pineapple Grove is a neighborhood of boutiques, bistros, galleries and salons. A century ago, it was a genuine pineapple grove.
And two centuries before that, 17th-century traders carrying the exotic fruit from the Caribbean to New England sailed perilous seas. Some sea captains were said to display a pineapple outside their homes to announce their safe return, and to serve pineapples was a symbol of hospitality.
Pineapples symbolize a warm welcome.
But alas, a professional dancer’s life is short, and in the summer of 2021, water damage required repairs to the wall, new stucco and new windows.
The repairs left gray patches. The dancers could dance no more and were retired.
Now those “Dancing Pineapples” have been replaced by “Pineapple Paradise,” a new mural by a new artist that’s 30% bigger, filling the entire 88-by-25-foot wall with pineapples, palm trees and swooping seabirds against backgrounds of a variety of colors.
These pineapples grew in the mind of the Grabster, the artist commissioned to bring them back by Lee Cohen — who manages and owns the building along with his family — working with Glayson LeRoy of the Galera Collective, who curated the project.
The proposal was approved by the city’s Public Art Advisory Board on March 27, but no public money was involved. The Cohen family paid for the mural.
And the Grabster went to work.
“Altogether, it took about a week and a half, with some breaks for rain,” the Grabster said one Wednesday morning as he put a few finishing touches on the north end. “The large areas were done with Home Depot latex paints applied with a roller, but all the rest is freehand with spray paint. The closer I hold the can, the finer the line.”
He smiled. “I didn’t want it to look like artificial intelligence.”
Now before you ask, no, his parents did not name him the Grabster.
When not creating art, he is Marcus Borges, 40, from Mineola, Long Island, now of Fort Lauderdale.
“In high school, I was into the whole hip-hop scene in New York,” he explained. “Graffiti, rap battles and break dancing. So, I took the G from graffiti, the ra from rap, and the b from “break dancing” and got Grab. The Grabster.”
He’s been painting graffiti since he was 17, first in New York, “legally and illegally,” and since he moved to Boca Raton for high school and studying painting at FAU, professionally — and legally.
As he worked, passersby paused to admire the work.
Roger Caine and his wife, Linda Hubbard, were impressed.
“I love it,” Caine enthused. “The colors, the brightness.” He searched for a word. “The boldness!”
The Grabster did admit to having heard one discouraging word, however.
“Those colors are very Miami,” a passing naysayer said. “They’re not Delray.”