BY WILLIE HOWARD | THE PALM BEACH POST | SEPTEMBER 27, 2011
T racy Smith Coffey hopes to put Lake Worth on the map as a destination for artists and people who enjoy art in its many forms - from paintings, poetry and stained glass to live music and theatrical performances.
Coffey, former president of the South Dixie Antique Row Association in West Palm Beach, is the planner for the Lake Worth Community Redevelopment Agency's arts promotion program called LULA Lake Worth Arts.
LULA stands for Lucerne and Lake avenues, the walkable backbone of the city's downtown that harbors a mix of bars, restaurants, shops and galleries.
The arts campaign will be ramping up this fall with the launch of the website Lakewortharts.com, scheduled to go live in October, and the November move of the Palm Beach County Cultural Council's headquarters to the Robert M. Montgomery Jr. building at 601 Lake Ave.
The new Cultural Council offices will include exhibit space, a store that sells artwork and a cultural information center where visitors can find information about events throughout the county.
Plans for LULA Lake Worth Arts program include:
•Building 13 townhomes for artists north and south of Lucerne Avenue at F Street, an area west of Dixie Highway the CRA is trying to improve. Construction is scheduled to begin this year.
•Branding downtown as an arts district with the LULA logo and holding familiarization tours for hotel concierges.
•Creating a nonprofit corporation, the Cultural Renaissance Foundation, to raise money for arts promotion.
•Hosting an "Eco-Chic" fashion show, tentatively set for May, featuring clothing designed by Palm Beach County artists using recycled materials and modeled runway style at the Lake Worth Playhouse.
•Hiring artists to paint nine arches at 1000 Lake Ave., a 1927 building that the CRA is renovating near city hall.
Mayor Rachel Waterman, whose husband is a bronze sculptor, wrote a plan for using arts as a development tool in the city eight years ago. Waterman likes the LULA plan but would like to see it expanded to include industrial live-work space for artists in buildings along the Florida East Coast Railway tracks.
Having spaces available for more industrial-type artists, such as those who build large sculptures, could draw more artists into the city, Waterman said.
Shanon Materio, co-owner of McMow Art Glass, brings busloads of students and hotel visitors to her stained glass company on North Dixie Highway for tours. Some visitors, she said, live in Palm Beach County but have never been to Lake Worth.
"This is a great economic tool for the city," Materio said, referring to the LULA Lake Worth Arts program. "They've been saying there's so much potential here for the 20 years I've been here. It's time to flex our muscles."
Joyce Brown, manager of the Clay Glass Metal Stone Cooperative Gallery on Lake Avenue, agrees that the arts can draw people into Lake Worth and help it economically, but she said she believes the benefits of arts promotion extend beyond money.
"It elevates the quality of life for everybody in the community," Brown said. "When children are given art in their lives, they learn alternatives to behavior that might not be good behavior."