by Sandra Hale Schulman
Tackling the idea of cultivating outdoor murals in Palm Beach County, gallerist Nicole Henry took a curator’s approach, traveling to New York and Los Angeles and hand picking painters and photographers who are known for working in extremely large scale.
The result is CANVAS, which has transformed the downtown West Palm Beach area into what Henry bills as an “outdoor museum show.” The project differs from Miami’s Wynwood Walls, as those murals are all contained in one large, privately owned block with multiple courtyards. In West Palm Beach, the CANVAS murals are more far-flung, created on select public and private buildings and different infrastructure in various locations around downtown.
Murals and public art are now making waves in Palm Beach County, with paintings stretching up to 10 stories high on buildings in and around town. CANVAS is more of an “art movement,” according to founder Henry, the owner and director of Nicole Henry Fine Art on Fern Street. The gallery features photography, sculpture, and paintings.
Taking inspiration from the many murals in Miami and Jeffrey Deitch’s Coney Art Walls on the revitalized boardwalk in New York’s Coney Island last summer, Henry got CANVAS started by commissioning 20 dramatic murals. After that, she added a calendar of mural unveiling receptions on yachts and early launch parties, plus a stylish New York City-style fashion show in the “Graffiti Garden” behind her Fern Street gallery. So far, CANVAS has already drawn more than 50,000 visitors since its inception. A map for guided walking tours is available on the project’s website, www.canvaswpb.org.
Meanwhile, murals have been in the news in West Palm Beach lately, with a furor erupting after the beloved rock and roll mural of Joey Ramone and Lou Reed was painted over on Clematis Street. At the same time, the county’s Art in Public Places has been changing the rules of the game to keep up with the demand for varied, quality public art.
“The idea behind CANVAS is to captivate the imagination and ignite both ideas and inspiration by bringing public art to the forefront of our collective consciousness here in West Palm Beach,” Henry stated in a press release. “This amazing city has not yet fully realized its tremendous potential to become an arts and cultural hub. Our CANVAS team is very excited to advance that destiny and see the eye-opening effects of our installations.”
West Palm is filled with industrial spaces, new high rises, bridges and warehouses, all with blank wall canvases. Well-known artists participating in CANVAS include 2Alas; Bik-Ismo; Cheryl Maeder; David Walker; Eduardo Kobra; Faith47; Jean-Luc Moerman; Jeremy Penn; José Bedia; Kai; Katja Loher; Lonac; Michael Dweck; Registered Artist; ROA; Ron English; Sean Yoro (aka Hula); and Zeus. While the names may not all be familiar, the size and dramatic impact of the images makes them stand out for both art lovers and passersby.
Building-size murals are on the sides of condominium towers, a hotel, a city-owned garage, and underneath the architecturally unique Royal Park Bridge between Palm Beach and West Palm.
“CANVAS is exactly the kind of event that will help our Arts & Entertainment District truly blossom,” West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio was quoted as saying in a press release. “We’re expanding our museums, theaters, galleries, free musical performances, and more because we are a city that wants to showcase its love and support of arts and culture. CANVAS is an experience that no one one will miss by virtue of the scale and scope. It’s fresh, exciting and very much anticipated.”