A New Arts Era

   Slowly but surely, thanks to prodigious planning and citywide support, West Palm Beach is becoming a hub for the arts and entertainment. The city’s commitment to culture became all the more evident on November 13 with the launch of the new Arts and Entertainment District. An alliance of more than 20 area arts institutions, this new district will be connected by a free trolley service that will travel to venues in both West Palm Beach and Palm Beach.

   “The Arts and Entertainment District is going to change the way people experience downtown,” Raphael Clemente, the executive director of the West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority, said at a celebratory performance.

   In addition to the trolley service, this initiative also includes a website dedicated to the myriad cultural experiences Palm Beach and West Palm Beach have to offer. Also launched on November 13, the website features calendar information, as well as special deals and local dining details.

   Furthermore, West Palm beach Mayor Jeri Muoio announced a new economic incentive program for arts-based businesses. “Cities are like people,” Mayor Muoio said. “Cities have a left brain and a right brain.” As the Mayor describes, this incentive will allow the right-brain portion of West Palm Beach to thrive and will highlight “what already makes us a great city.”

   All of these programs demonstrate that West Palm Beach is poised to become the next great cultural city—a quality further enforced by a spectacular kickoff performance. Following a stirring rendition of the overture from Leonard Bernstein’s Candide by the Craig Turley Orchestra, Steven Caras, the event producer and director for the Arts & Entertainment District, welcomed everyone to what he called a “very exciting day in the history of West Palm Beach.” He went on to outline two important qualities that put West Palm Beach at the precipice for arts innovation: The world-class performers and artists in the area, and the city’s global appeal in attracting additional world-class artists and entertainers.

   These aspects were on full display in the program, which featured emerging local talent as well as national superstars. Palm Beach Opera Young Artist Jason Duika performed “Votre Toast” from Bizet’s Carmen, the timbre of his strong baritone carrying with the soft Intracoastal breeze. South Florida native Gina Kreiezmar followed with two numbers from the hysterical musical Forbidden Broadway. In between, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre members Jacquelin Harris and Kirven Douthit-Boyd performed an excerpt from Pas de Duke, featuring music by Duke Ellington and choreography by Alvin Ailey. The presence of these two artists, who represent one of America’s greatest dance troupes, illustrates the national arts appeal our county presents to visiting talents—the gorgeous fall weather doesn’t hurt either.

   The afternoon concluded with some of Palm Beach County’s youngest artists singing and dancing to hits of yesteryear. Dreyfoos School of the Arts students joined with the Palm Beach Atlantic University Concert Choir and the Young Singers of the Palm Beaches for The Beatle’s “Because” as well as chart-toppers “Aquarius” and “Let the Sunshine In.” All in all, the amazing afternoon performance coupled with the city’s focus on the arts has ushered in a new era for the arts in Palm Beach County. The Arts and Entertainment District is here to stay, and the city is better for it.

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