If you frequent South Dixie Highway between Belvedere Road and downtown West Palm Beach, you’ve seen signs marking the emergence of West Palm’s newest arts hub. And we’re not talking traditional road signs: Oversized, fluorescent tulips; towering sculptural works of modern art; and a plea to “Use your imagination, that is what it is for” have heralded the arrival of a truly special space—EmKo (561-227-3511).
Nestled in the Flamingo Park neighborhood, EmKo is the brainchild of artist Leo Koel, who began renovating the historic 1920s building, the former location of Ragtops Antique Motorcar Museum, in 2012. The result is a bold yet welcoming home for two creative endeavors: a culinary art studio and an artist exhibition space.
The restaurant Jereve is the culinary art studio’s nucleus, where Executive Chef Nick Martinkovic creates modern American cuisine with an artistic twist. Local, seasonal and uncommon ingredients drive his menus—on a recent visit, he was excited about a shipment of edible barnacles. Jereve’s offerings are augmented by the adjacent Untitled Coffee & Juice Bar, which has to-go bites and drinks as well as afternoon tea service, and The Market, which sells artisan food and entertaining products. Step outside and discover the Back Alley Bakery, a café that serves fresh-baked goods and desserts from Jereve’s pastry chef, Arielle Curasi.
The Market includes curated artisanal items that honor the art of entertaining.
Once satiated, take a moment to look around. The space is decked out in Koel’s artistry, which embraces reinvention and upcycling. “I always turn nothing into something,” he says. From his tables made from reclaimed wood to his works in the sculpture garden, Koel has fed all of his artistic passions into EmKo. The Artist Independent Republic or AIR, as Koel calls it, was born out of a need to share these passions with others. Located on the third floor, this 6,000-square-foot space will highlight local, emerging artists in need of exposure. Creators of all breeds, including fashion designers, musicians and visual artists, will take part in in-house, strictly solo exhibitions.
Whether you visit EmKo for a show or a meal—or both—you’ll be inspired by Koel’s work and by words of wisdomscattered around, including this gem by Lemony Snicket: “If we wait until we’re ready, we’ll wait for the rest of our lives.”