Published On: Thu, Dec 31st, 2020

Boca’s Mizner Park getting spiffed up – artistically and culturally – with two new projects

By Dale King

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The north end of Mizner Park should be the artistic and cultural gem of the city.

After all, the property houses the Boca Raton Museum of Art and the Count De Hoernle Amphitheater. 

The neighboring structures are in excellent shape. But adjacent to the amphitheater that is normally a year-round entertainment and activities hub were it not for the COVID pandemic is a vacant lot often used for overflow parking at amphitheater events. In original plans for the arts-oriented north end of the park, that lot was to house additional cultural offerings.

Two projects are in the offing that could bring color, renewed artistic interest and more potential for public utilization by cultural organizations to the top of the park.

One proposal is sponsored by the city and should be completed in a few months. The other has won the endorsement of the Boca Raton City Council, but it is in the process of being funded and constructed through an arts-oriented citizens group headed by Andrea Virgin, a Boca Raton native, president of Virgin Design and a professional ballerina.

In January 2018, she launched Virgin Design with a vision of creating a planning and engineering services firm centering on clients’ experience. At the same time, she joined the board of directors at the Boca Ballet Theatre, where the concept of envisioning and ultimately developing a performing arts center in Boca Raton was born.

She has spent much of the past three years forming a committee, raising money and taking plans for the proposed arts complex to the City Council and various civic groups looking for feedback and seeking support.

The project will be called the Performing Arts & Innovation Center.

In addition to her early education, she trained at Boca Ballet Theatre and Harid Conservatory to become a professional ballerina, ultimately dancing with both the Houston Ballet and Ballet Florida. 

At that point, she decided to enroll full-time at Florida Atlantic University to gain the chops for a second career as a civil engineer. Upon graduation from FAU and Cornell University, she swapped her dance shoes for a hard hat and began working for large design companies, she recently told the Rotary Club.

Since then, she has raised $1 million in both seed money and in-kind services for the proposal. 

In a power-point presentation that accompanies her talk, Virgin pointed out that Boca excels in many areas, but lacks a solid performing arts center. To fill this void, she has worked out a master plan with the following:• A main auditorium that can be configured in assembly/lecture mode with either raised or collapsed seating.• The walls can be moved to accommodate different sized groups, enabling more organizations to use the facility as it adjusts to their requirements.

The total project cost is estimated at $126 million and the facility is slated to open in 2025. “Even if it is delayed by a year or two due to the coronavirus, this would be a wonderful addition to the future of Boca Raton,” she said.

The other project – scheduled for completion this spring – ties in with the Art in Public Places (AIPP) Advisory Board headed up by Councilwoman and Deputy Mayor Andrea O’Rourke.

The City Council recently selected artist Eduardo Mendieta to paint a mural on the front stage doors of the Mizner Park Amphitheater. It is one of several public art projects commissioned around the city in the last few years. Council members said the large open “canvas” of the amphitheater stage doors will become a focal point of Mizner Park.

Mendieta’s “On Stage” mural design was chosen from among 29 artist submissions reviewed at the Dec. 8 City Council meeting. Work on the mural will begin January 4, and it is expected to be completed by March 31. 

Council members reviewed photos of all the proposed artwork at a council workshop meeting, then made their final decision at Tuesday’s regular council meeting.  Mayor Scott Singer and the other four council members all agreed on Artist Number 9, which was Mendieta.

“The intention is to select an artist or artists who can create an expressive, inspiring mural on the stage doors that is reflective of downtown Boca and the spirit of the city’s art, history and culture,” said Ruby Childers, the city’s downtown manager, who addressed council members at both meetings.

O’Rourke said she was “looking for professionalism” in the entries. “It can be iconic; it doesn’t have to be completely literal.”

The “canvas” area of the Mizner Park stage door is 60 feet wide by 30 feet high. The doors are divided into six 10-foot-wide panels. 

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