By Ryan Van Velzer | December 15, 2017 | Sun Sentinel
The serenity of Delray’s sandy beaches lends itself to paintings of conch shells, palm trees, waves and sunrises over the Atlantic Ocean. The iconic South Florida imagery has inspired countless artists showcasing their works in galleries along Atlantic Avenue, but a new Delray arts space is challenging that notion: less sea shells, more Art Basel.
The Art Warehouse is a first-of-its-kind arts incubator in Delray Beach, a place where emerging and mid-level artists can hone their craft while developing their careers and learning the skills to survive as entrepreneurs and business professionals, said Jill Brown, the warehouse’s manager. It featured the works of artist Todd Lim during its soft opening in December. His mixed-media work portrays everyday imagery of tires, mailboxes, dress shoes and street signs — layered with wordplay, irony and wit to produce works that challenge the viewer to consider issues of race, power, gun violence and sexual discrimination.
The warehouse accommodates four artists-in-residence and offers 15 studio spaces at $2 a square foot for emerging artists. There are shared spaces for classes, lectures, exhibitions and events.
“I don’t think there is any reason that we can’t have as exciting of work here as they do anywhere else,” Brown said. “We want to work with people that have the same excitement and the same drive that we do.”
Beyond helping local artists, there is another reason the city’s community redevelopment agency converted the 15,000-square-foot warehouse into an incubator for the arts: economic development. The redevelopment agency spent more than $2 million renovating the Arts Warehouse to promote growth within the Pineapple Grove Arts District as well as the rest of the city. And there is some precedent for that belief. It was the redevelopment of Old School Square as a cultural arts center that helped to spark the renaissance of Atlantic Avenue three decades ago.
An economic impact study found Delray’s nonprofit arts and culture organizations added more than $21 million to the city’s local economy between 2015 and 2016, according to Americans for the Arts, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that advocates for the arts and arts education. Twelve of 26 local nonprofits participated in the study, which included 1,064 surveys collected from people attending events and performances last year, according to the study. The study found the average attendee spent nearly $40 in the local economy, excluding the price of admission, on transportation, meals, souvenirs and hotel stays.
“The data shows conclusively that arts in Delray Beach mean big business and a stronger local economy,” said Mayor Cary Glickstein. “There is no other industry that leverages the amount of event-related spending by its audiences than arts and culture.”
Brown hopes the warehouse helps to integrate Delray’s arts community and raise the level of exposure for fine art in the city. Old School Square President and CEO Rob Steele said he’s hopeful the Arts Warehouse will restore the “roar” in the Artists Alley area around Pineapple Grove. “The Arts Warehouse mission dovetails perfectly with the Arts Garage, Old School Square, over 30 local arts galleries and the balance of our vibrant nonprofit community,” Steele said. Local artists, too, are hopeful for the future of art in Delray Beach.
When Kim Fay was in college in the ’80s, she’d steal away to her grandmother’s Delray Beach storage warehouse to paint murals across canvases 6 feet wide. Fay’s grandma, Winnie Hayden, built the warehouse in 1963 as part of her growing business empire, Hayden Moving & Storage, Fay said. Hayden was a pragmatist with keen business sense, but she was also happy to offer her granddaughter a key to the warehouse to pursue her artwork, Fay said. Imagine Fay’s surprise when she walked into the Arts Warehouse during the soft opening to see her grandmother’s warehouse converted into a space for artists to learn the skills needed to make a living pursuing their passions.
“It was really kind of amazing to me to see what they’ve done,” Fay said. “You would not have believed the contrast to what it is now.”
The Arts Warehouse, at 313 NE Third St., is open now, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The warehouse plans to hold a grand opening some time after the first of the year. The Arts Warehouse is separate from the Arts Garage, a Delray Beach-sponsored nonprofit arts space that hosts performances, offers education and outreach a promotes local emerging artists.