Start spreading the news: Palm Beach County is becoming the destination for cultural tourism. In an effort to attract visitors to the Palm Beaches, the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County has introduced the Cultural Concierge program. The first of its kind in the global tourism industry, the free service is being helmed by area arts guru and West Palm Beach native Bama Lutes Deal.
|Bama Lutes Deal. Courtesy of the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County|
“I love the diversity that we have in terms of artistic articulation,” Lutes Deal says. “I always craved seeing more, doing more, having richer experiences, so when I learned of this position it resonated with me as a consumer and as a traveler.”
Lutes Deal, who holds masters and doctoral degrees in musicology from Florida State University, spent a large portion of her early career as an orchestral and chamber music player in Southeast Florida and performed at the groundbreaking of the Kravis Center. Her experience, combined with her passion for the Palm Beaches, makes her the ideal person to help outsiders navigate the cultural landscape.
Here’s how it works: Visitors contact Lutes Deal ahead of their trip, and she makes itinerary recommendations that suit their interests. She’s also at the ready to coordinate customized experiences (like backstage tours or artist meet and greets) and curates a weekly Hot Tickets selection that highlights what’s going on in Palm Beach County right now. “There’s always been a need for a point person who can help guide visitors to the cultural resources that we have here in the Palm Beaches,” she says. “I’m like the equal sign in the equation. Visitors are on one end of the equation, and what we have is on the other. I do the matching for them.”
While the Cultural Concierge program is tailored to tourists, locals can also consult Lutes Deal and her website for insider information to reap the benefits of the economic and creative stimulation the initiative provides. “Ultimately, it benefits our entire community,” she says. “Our arts organizations will benefit from the new audiences, our residences will benefit from a healthier arts landscape, and our visitors will come to our community and have these wonderful experiences.”
Want a taste of Lutes Deal’s expertise? Here she shares some of her top picks for April arts in the Palm Beaches.
For kids: Head to the Palm Beach Zoo and Conservation Society in West Palm Beach for Picnic With the Animals. This special program is just for the little ones: 2-year-olds on April 6 and 3- and 4-year-olds on April 9. Presenters offer age-appropriate activities and crafts centered on learning what animals eat. The rest of the family will enjoy the big cats, the primates, the fountain, or—by appointment—one of the special encounters, like the Koala-T experience. It’s the only opportunity of its kind in the country where visitors can spend up-close and behind-the-scenes time with a koala.
|Courtesy of the Palm Beach Zoo|
For those not “into the arts”: One need not be an arts enthusiast to enjoy the Benzaiten Center for Creative Arts’ friendly happy hour, which takes place from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the second Wednesday of each month (April 13). Attendees mingle, sip wine, sample light bites, and enjoy live music and entertainment in the open-air studio by the railroad tracks. Hang out and talk to a variety of artists and witness informational glass-blowing demonstrations. Is that so hard?
|Courtesy of the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County|
For a special evening: Dinner and a show is my idea of a winning combination, but start with the show, then have dinner afterward. Outside Mullingar, at Palm Beach Dramaworks through April 24, is a heart-stirring, powerful story by Irish playwright John Patrick Shanley that includes occasional comic relief. You and your special person can reflect on the story afterward at a nearby Clematis Street restaurant—special evening accomplished.
|Artwork by Fraver. Courtesy of Palm Beach Dramaworks|
Lutes Deal’s pick of the month: I’ve always loved Bernadette Peters, who will grace the stage in Dreyfoos Hall at the Kravis Center on April 7. Her material is always fresh and polished. There’s also the Bluegrass in the Pavilion concert on April 9 at the Flagler Museum with the Lonesome River Band.
|Courtesy of the Kravis Center|