Art often finds beauty in the ordinary. But the CANVAS Outdoor Museum Show goes a step further. Each November, artists from all over the world transform West Palm Beach’s public spaces into the extraordinary.
For nine days, the city itself becomes a canvas for more than 20 of the world’s most gifted painters, sculptors, photographers, and videographers. Everyone is welcome to watch as the artists create their alfresco wonders, which ultimately become part of CANVAS’ rotating outdoor show.
The exhibit is the brainchild of gallerist Nicole Henry. Inspired by the way Miami Beach has flourished since Art Basel arrived in 2002, Henry created CANVAS in 2015 “so people could enjoy art on a larger scale.” The scope of CANVAS continues to expand, with most installations scattered around the downtown waterfront between Banyan Boulevard and Okeechobee Boulevard, and to the
west at Quadrille Boulevard. This year, the old city hall site and former Helen Wilkes Hotel just north of Banyan has also been turned into a group of “art parks.”
Henry likes to curate by theme, like this year’s “connections.” On an underpass at the Royal Palm Bridge, Hawaiian- born artist Hula used oils to paint a beautiful mural of a woman appearing to be submerged in the Intracoastal; in the Kids Art Park, London-based artist Zeus created a Streetopoly game board, where street artists replace real estate; and a Quadrille Boulevard building displays a sweet mural about young love titled I Lost My Shoe When I Saw You by Croatian artist Lonac.
“I was the only child in a stroller staring at paintings,” recalls Miami native Henry. “Art was my destiny.” Her first personal purchase came in 2001: a triptych of a supermarket by a young Cuban artist who had migrated to Miami and been wowed by the food abundance the United States takes for granted. When friends visiting Henry’s home started complimenting the piece, she decided to turn collecting into a business.
Five years later, she opened Nicole Henry Fine Art, where she mixes work by greats like Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol with untapped Cuban artists. “I love discovering young talent and watching careers flourish,” she says.
Approaching its third year, the Outdoor Museum Show draws more than 50,000 residents and visitors—and Henry is always thinking up ways to grow. For 2017, she hopes to incorporate pop-up shops into some installations, like the “really cool art village” in Museum Park that Spanish duo PichiAvo created with painted shipping containers.
Ultimately, she says, the goal is to spread a passion for the arts beyond West Palm Beach: “We’re planning to take CANVAS to other cities.”