Best Alternative Art Space 2014 | Unit 1 | Arts & Entertainment | South Florida

If you have your eyes open on a semiregular basis, you probably know that Lake Worth has become a mecca for local shows and music festivals. One man behind one venue is doing his due diligence to maintain the esoteric identity of Lake Worth while creating his own scene within it. That man is Jacques de Beaufort, and his gift to the world is Unit 1. The mission of the space is "to showcase artists in all media working in challenging forms that exist somewhere near the edge or beyond." De Beaufort's immensely interesting and themed events feature local art on the walls and local musicians in your face. One included a clothing-optional room and naked karaoke. ("All art, no pants," the invite teased.) The place is small, the people who go are weird, and the live music is fierce. Go with an open mind, because Jacques likes it strange.

It wasn't the biggest or the glitziest art exhibit last year — and "big" or "glitzy" would have been completely out of place in the industrial Boynton Beach Arts District anyway — but "(Un)Common Traces," featuring the work of four members of art collective Dwelling Projects, was far and away the scrappiest and most spirited. Spread throughout three bays of the BBAD compound, the photography, video, pen-and-ink, watercolor, charcoal, and fiber assemblage drew inspiration from the artists' recent visit to Ecuador, where they spent a month immersed in the Andean nation's artistry and culture. Their work plays on themes of spirituality, nature, landscape, travel, work, and the commodity economy, overrunning boundaries and commenting one on the other. For building bridges among cultures and among South Florida arts communities, "(Un)Common Traces" was unmatched.

Every few months, curator Jane Hart presents a new show, and every time, she hits the mark in quality. This past year, we saw "Rugs," a series of large tapestries hand-sewn from pieces of teddy bears by Miami artist Agustina Woodgate. Francesco Lo Castro showed his genius with "Advent," a cutting-edge geometric painting collection. And we got our comic fix when 70 original strips by the legendary Charles M. Schulz went on display in "Pop Culture in Peanuts." Visual arts aside, quality also marks the center’s arts programming, from education for kids and adults to live stage shows to artist talks like the recent Hot Topics series.

In that series, four contemporary movers and shakers in the art world gave talks. Among them, Wayne White spoke about his installation work on television and in music videos. He's had stints at Pee-Wee's Playhouse, did art direction for Peter Gabriel's 1986 hit "Big Time," and designed the set for Smashing Pumpkins' "Tonight, Tonight." Much respect to this little contemporary gallery that makes big waves.

Thank the queer deities for South Florida! There are few spots on this Earth where two dudes or two ladies starting a life together is about as everyday as a man and a woman getting hitched and subsequently divorced — and southeastern Florida, friends, is one of them. That's why Fort Lauderdale is the fieriest place in the world to preserve and share knowledge on LGBT culture and its place in American society. That's exactly what Stonewall National Museum and Archive does with thoughtfulness and pizzazz. It all started in the '70s with then-FAU student Mark Silber hoarding books at his family home in Hollywood. And today, it has two locations filled to the brim with gay info — the Fort Lauderdale Branch Library/ArtServe building and a new gallery in Wilton Manors. It hosts unusual exhibitions like "Dear Abby: Letters and Advice on Homosexuality" and photographer Jeff Larson's "Men in Living Rooms," who were scantily clad in their homes. The collection includes more than 25,000 books, a thousand DVDs, and 5,000 archival objects, such as the gavel Nancy Pelosi pounded when ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." But there's a lot more to do than gaze at stuff: The lively schedule included a gala with Megan Mullally of Will and Grace this year, and the community is welcome for movie nights, author series, discussion groups, and more.

When Maker's Square opened its doors late last year, Fort Lauderdale got its coolest tool shop. The venue doubles as a social club for would-be "makers," a movement of DIY artisans who adore tools. Memberships follow a gym business model: Sign up and use any tool from the $100,000 collection. Make arduino robots here! Or sew up a cosplay outfit! Weld car parts together, whatever — make amazing things with your hands. Also, the facility boasts sweet-ass events with a bohemian, educational, and welcoming atmosphere. Tuesday nights, come for tacos and TedX talks projected on a huge outdoor screen. Workshops occur weekly, and circus music is often blared from the speakers. But arguably the greatest event that Makers Square has hosted to date — when attendees could really let their freak flags fly — was "The Love Burn," a Burning Man-inspired event that took place over Valentine's Day weekend on Virginia Key.

Just a few short years ago, the area now known as FAT Village — short for Flagler Arts and Technology — was a no-man's-land just east of Maguire's Irish Pub. There wasn't much to see and even less to do. Sure, there were some artists toiling in little warehouse studios and a few graphic arts companies churning out their art in obscurity, but you had to be a real inside member of the hyperlocal art community to even know they were back there. Anyone living outside of downtown would say, "Art scene? You mean those chichi galleries on Las Olas?" Pause and appreciate how far the area has come in such a short time. The monthly art walk is largely responsible for that growth. Helium Creative, the World and Eye Arts Center, Cadence Landscape Architecture + Urban Design, the annual Day of the Dead Celebration, and C&I Studios are just a few of the well-known denizens of this scene. C&I Studios has even put in a coffee shop next door called Next Door. From 7 to 11 p.m. on the last Saturday of each month (except December), the galleries throw open their doors, the food trucks line up, and the crowds gather. About 1,000 people descend on the gritty, gravelly area by the railroad tracks. You bump into people you haven't seen in a while, admire some out there art, find some inspiration, pet some dogs, and visit the pop-up galleries, all within four square blocks.

Dive. Noun. [dahyv]. Origin: 1880-85; < Italian < Latin diva, feminine of divus. 1. A well-worn drinking establishment, popular among regulars and thirsty travelers alike. 2. Location along a busy thoroughfare, for example on North Federal Highway in Hollywood. 3. A dank and gloomy establishment, with the only natural light streaming in through picture windows up front. 4. The last place where you can find '70s rec room décor, circa 2014. 5. A place with attractive deals on cheap beer and liquor, specifically $2.75 draft beer (Bud Light) served by friendly bartenders. 6. Just to be clear, $2.75 draft beer. 7. Ideal viewing area for sports (especially on NFL Sundays) thanks to multiple flat-screen televisions. 8. Home base for any given arrangement of snowbirds, the semihomeless, strippers on break, broke college students, and alternative-press journalists. See: Lamp Post Lounge.

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