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Life in Boca?

For years now, unsubstantiated reports indicate that cultural life exists in Boca Raton. Despite strong evidence to the contrary, in the form of a wide variety of tacky Florida kitsch, rumors of robust contributions to the arts continue to surface. And legend has it that, once a year, the truth is revealed for all to see. That time is nigh.

The 14th Annual Tommy Bahama Downtown Boca Festival of the Arts will be held this weekend along Mizner Boulevard in scenic downtown Boca. This year's fest is different from previous events in many ways.

Because of the carnage of September 11, many of the more than 200 artists participating in the festival have chosen to become involved in the Art from the Heart fundraising campaign. Every artist in this fundraiser has donated at least one work to be sold at the festival, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.

And that could be no small amount of disaster relief. While some items are reasonably inexpensive -- a $20 pair of earrings will be on the block, for example -- prices for metal sculpture range as high as $30,000. The exhibition of oil and watercolor paintings, sculpture, ceramics, photography, stained glass, mosaics, and jewelry has a combined price tag of more than $15 million.

The festival will also boast three live acts. Pat Surface has worked for the past 20 years as a musician, songwriter, singer, and storyteller. Jeffrey Michael, a Michigan-based songwriter and pianist, began composing at age 11 and has been playing professionally since he was 16. Finally, there will be Kayte Wolf, who has worked with more than 40 artists as a keyboardist and backup vocalist and has recorded three CDs of her own.

But the focus of the art festival, of course, will be art. Paul Vincenti is this year's featured artist. He moved to Florida with his family at age 11 in 1969, the same year he completed his first oil painting. Although he has traveled a great deal since, Vincenti has always returned to Florida. And while he has dabbled in a variety of media, oil painting has always been his mainstay. His works will likely be among the pricier pieces on display.

Stepping out onto Las Olas Boulevard, Lincoln Road, or Clematis Street, one can pick up a rock, close one's eyes, spin around a few times, and then let the stone fly and succeed in vandalizing an art gallery nine times out of ten. So it's no surprise that residents of the more urban locations of South Florida tend to cast aspersions on the artistry of smaller areas. But with events like the Downtown Boca Festival of the Arts, we have proof positive that life exists, and indeed thrives, in Boca Raton.

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Dan Sweeney
Contact: Dan Sweeney

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