Best Visual Artist 2012 | Bonnie Shapiro | Arts & Entertainment | South Florida

Artists don't come much more quintessentially Floridian than Bonnie Shapiro. Born and raised in South Florida and educated at the University of Florida, Shapiro has lived here all her life. More to the point, her art is infused with a sense of what it's like to live in the Sunshine State. Her canvases often capture that dusky, indefinable moment when day transitions into evening, the twilit in-between time when hints of Old Florida creep into our consciousness. Her work leaves us with a vague yearning for something we can't quite pinpoint but we know is probably on the verge of disappearing. A trailer park at the edge of the Everglades, an old-fashioned diner nestled in a shopping center, a pull-off along some less-traveled back road — these are the things Shapiro typically trains her meticulous eye on. Yes, she regularly appears in all the right group shows around town (and frequently wins awards), and she's invariably there when a fellow artist needs a show of support or a word of encouragement. But it's her work itself that speaks so eloquently for her, and she's smart enough not to interrupt.

For Brooklyn artists Molly Crabapple and A.V. Phibes, life drawing classes had become snoozeworthy: Sure, there was a naked model in the room, but said room was cold, fluorescent-lit, and filled with strangers. The experience would be so much better with friends. And alcohol. Thus, the two wizards birthed Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School — a cure for the common, drab, drawing-class environment. The alternative art craze swept the nation, finally landing itself a home in South Florida at Stage 84. Once a month, creative folk gather at the cozy hangout and feast their eyes on busty burlesque babes waiting to be sketched. The alcoholic drinks flow, cheering and shouting ensues, and five-foot-long balloons get swallowed by amazonian beauties. This anything-goes artistic atmosphere certainly draws a unique crowd and has no room for snobby folk just looking to place a red dot on an expensive painting.

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a nude woman's body painted as Superman? For more than a decade, the whimsical Keegan Hitchcock has been beautifying the world, one brush stroke at a time. She's transformed humans into zombies, bare-breasted Mardi Gras-goers into ravenous tigers, and even a pregnant belly into an ocean-view sunset. However, it's not only birthday parties and nightlife events for Hitchcock: She's also part of a breast-cancer awareness project that's raising funds for the Kristy Lasch Miracle Foundation. Hand this girl a paintbrush and there is no telling what she will come up with.

The move had been anticipated for well over a year, with news that Palm Beach Dramaworks would be relocating from its sardine-can space off Banyan Boulevard to the former Cuillo Theater, the empty landmark at the end of Clematis Street. It was funded in part by a $2 million grant from Palm Beach Gardens philanthropists Don and Ann Brown, and the vestiges of the Cuillo are mostly absent in the completely refurbished theater space, with everything from the auditorium chamber to the administrative offices and the costume shop undergoing a face-lift. The 218-seat black-box theater is the most impressive revision of all. Somehow, the intimacy that defined the old space is fully retained, while the room to play and build onstage has been enhanced beyond belief.

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