To families, block parties are a way to commune with neighbors, to fight suburban isolation with lawn chairs and potluck picnics, basketballs and bicycles. To college students, parties are a way to commune with the opposite sex, to fight social ineptitude with couches and kegs, bongs and bongos. And to the City of West Palm Beach, Clematis by Night is a way to commune with citizens, to fight downtown deterioration with restaurant tastings and refreshments, live bands and local artisans. The crowd comes in waves, first children bopping around their parents' ankles as a musical group warms up on Centennial Square, then teenagers trying on twisted silver rings and embroidered backpacks, and finally seniors waltzing in the street outside the Clematis Street Theater. The fashionable set arrives still later, swarming around Sforza's sidewalk tables and air-kissing acquaintances, ears abuzz, at My Martini. They stay later, too, sealing Clematis by Night's status as the weekly social event and showcase for the city. Not only has the program spurred redevelopment of downtown since it began in 1995, but proceeds from alcohol sales help support local museums, civic organizations, homeless shelters, and perhaps most appropriately, neighborhood associations.
You could spend days scouting the dozens of commercial galleries in Broward and Palm Beach counties for that perfect piece of art, or you could do one-stop shopping at Gallery Center. This 30,000-square-foot complex is more like a museum than an art mart, with a small outdoor sculpture garden that draws you into the building, a sprawling, airy complex where you can wander among eight galleries under one roof. The art, all for sale, is mostly contemporary, although the works of such art-world trendoids as Mark Kostabi, Julian Schnabel, and David Salle are conspicuous only by their welcome absence. Instead there's a far-ranging selection of photography, sculpture, glassware, and oil, acrylic, and watercolor painting, including works by major artists. You might stumble across a Pousette-Dart or a Botero canvas, for instance, and the breathtaking glasswork of Dale Chihuly is a staple. There's first-class art for as little as a couple hundred dollars or as much as a quarter of a million. In other words, don't go there looking for something to match the sofa.
You could spend days scouting the dozens of commercial galleries in Broward and Palm Beach counties for that perfect piece of art, or you could do one-stop shopping at Gallery Center. This 30,000-square-foot complex is more like a museum than an art mart, with a small outdoor sculpture garden that draws you into the building, a sprawling, airy complex where you can wander among eight galleries under one roof. The art, all for sale, is mostly contemporary, although the works of such art-world trendoids as Mark Kostabi, Julian Schnabel, and David Salle are conspicuous only by their welcome absence. Instead there's a far-ranging selection of photography, sculpture, glassware, and oil, acrylic, and watercolor painting, including works by major artists. You might stumble across a Pousette-Dart or a Botero canvas, for instance, and the breathtaking glasswork of Dale Chihuly is a staple. There's first-class art for as little as a couple hundred dollars or as much as a quarter of a million. In other words, don't go there looking for something to match the sofa.
If we're talking exhibition space only, the best area museum would have to be Lake Worth's Museum of Contemporary Art, a small but aesthetically appealing and tremendously versatile facility that's intimate without being claustrophobic. But if we're talking museum in the larger sense of the word -- as a cultural entity -- the winner is Fort Lauderdale's Museum of Art, which has begun to shake off some of its stodginess. From last year's landmark Cuban exiles show to a refreshingly quirky Hortt Competition, the museum is opting for more and more adventurous programming. It also makes its auditorium available to other worthy arts organizations, including theater groups and the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival.
Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale
If we're talking exhibition space only, the best area museum would have to be Lake Worth's Museum of Contemporary Art, a small but aesthetically appealing and tremendously versatile facility that's intimate without being claustrophobic. But if we're talking museum in the larger sense of the word -- as a cultural entity -- the winner is Fort Lauderdale's Museum of Art, which has begun to shake off some of its stodginess. From last year's landmark Cuban exiles show to a refreshingly quirky Hortt Competition, the museum is opting for more and more adventurous programming. It also makes its auditorium available to other worthy arts organizations, including theater groups and the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival.
Boys shove girly magazines under the bed when parents come home, and adults lock up the porn videos when kids are underfoot. Galerie Macabre is a warehouse-size "under the bed," where you can gaze at morbid and erotic art without fear of judgment. Lady Vanessa runs the place, displaying the work of half a dozen artists, including herself, during each show. Last spring's "Eroticabre" -- featuring Vargas-like nudes, homoerotic images, and bas-relief phalluses -- drew a curious mix of suits and middle-aged motorcycle boys. The next show, "Gothik," packed the gallery with goth kids, who ambled among the morbid photos and paintings as a thunderstorm raged outside. But the place is best when it's quiet, when the shock of seeing genitalia on the walls gives way to closer inspection of the more complicated artwork, like Shannon English's dolls encased in glass jars sealed with beeswax (Nobody Likes a Crybaby); Hortt winner Tony Campagna's bloody, anatomically detailed canvases (Convict); and the politically charged erotic photos of Wes Carson (Patriotic Lovers). Lady V's motives? "I exhibit art that has no limitations, no boundaries," she says, "because I want to provide that freedom for the artist." While inside her gallery, the viewer is also free.
Boys shove girly magazines under the bed when parents come home, and adults lock up the porn videos when kids are underfoot. Galerie Macabre is a warehouse-size "under the bed," where you can gaze at morbid and erotic art without fear of judgment. Lady Vanessa runs the place, displaying the work of half a dozen artists, including herself, during each show. Last spring's "Eroticabre" -- featuring Vargas-like nudes, homoerotic images, and bas-relief phalluses -- drew a curious mix of suits and middle-aged motorcycle boys. The next show, "Gothik," packed the gallery with goth kids, who ambled among the morbid photos and paintings as a thunderstorm raged outside. But the place is best when it's quiet, when the shock of seeing genitalia on the walls gives way to closer inspection of the more complicated artwork, like Shannon English's dolls encased in glass jars sealed with beeswax (Nobody Likes a Crybaby); Hortt winner Tony Campagna's bloody, anatomically detailed canvases (Convict); and the politically charged erotic photos of Wes Carson (Patriotic Lovers). Lady V's motives? "I exhibit art that has no limitations, no boundaries," she says, "because I want to provide that freedom for the artist." While inside her gallery, the viewer is also free.
Multicolored beads under a blazing sky, 25,000 pounds of crawdads boiled alive, a whole lot of cayenne chased down by a whole lot more beer -- is it any wonder that we're finding it difficult to dredge up distinct memories of the Cajun/Zydeco Fest? Who or what was that Zydecajun playing the Louisiana Swamp Stage we were boogying to in the midst of the sweaty mob? Or had we somehow drifted over to the Crazee Crawfish Stage where the Jean-Pierre Zydeco Angels were sending up a Cajun yowl to the sun-drenched sky? Who knew, or even cared? It was the best of fests.
Multicolored beads under a blazing sky, 25,000 pounds of crawdads boiled alive, a whole lot of cayenne chased down by a whole lot more beer -- is it any wonder that we're finding it difficult to dredge up distinct memories of the Cajun/Zydeco Fest? Who or what was that Zydecajun playing the Louisiana Swamp Stage we were boogying to in the midst of the sweaty mob? Or had we somehow drifted over to the Crazee Crawfish Stage where the Jean-Pierre Zydeco Angels were sending up a Cajun yowl to the sun-drenched sky? Who knew, or even cared? It was the best of fests.
It could be debated what thrill at Butterfly World is the best for kids. Is it simply the thousands of butterflies -- including blue cyrbias, black and red piano keys, traditional orange monarchs, and more than 100 other species -- that flutter about? Or is it the hummingbird section? That's where a purple honeycreeper, its beauty made invisible by its mad rush, whirs by with a hectic flutter that fills the ear. Or would it be the insectarium? There, encased Papua New Guinean grasshoppers the size of mice, huge black beetles with menacing horns, and walking stick insects from Malaysia have the power to captivate any child's imagination. Don't even mention the swinging bridge, which is a smaller replica of one crossing the Toachi River in Ecuador; or the simulated rain forest, complete with rain showers and mist; or the Secret Garden of vines; or the butterfly emerging area, where, under glass, butterfly pupae in all phases of development can be seen. Butterfly World boasts that it's the only place of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. It's certainly one of the unique delights of South Florida -- and kids aren't the only ones who find thrills there.

Best Of Broward-Palm Beach®

Best Of