“From here – from The Palm Beaches – we can change the world and make it a better place,” Tony Award-winner Ben Vereen says, while sporting a pair of distinctive sunglasses. Vereen is one of more than a dozen celebrities – and hundreds of arts aficionados in our community – who are telling the world they “See the Arts through a Different Lens.”

That lens is framed in positively Palm Beach aqua and provided by the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County as part of the powerful new Shades of Culture campaign.

The pitch – heavy on creativity, technology and attitude – is designed to break through the clutter of destination travel ads. “At the root of the campaign is the idea that in The Palm Beaches you see the arts differently because you are in a singular place, unlike any place in Florida or in the rest of the world,” says Marilyn Bauer, director of marketing and government affairs at the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County. “Art and culture are at the heart of why people travel here; with undreamed of beauty surrounding every audience, the cultural experience is unique.”

The strategic Shades of Culture campaign is showcasing the area’s cultural attractions in print, digital and social media, as well as through virtual reality promotions and pop-up events. “The social media component of this campaign can unite arts supporters across the map,” Bauer says. “We are creating a new movement in promoting our arts and cultural offerings.”

The campaign has been conceived on two levels to reach a coveted audience of baby boomers with an appetite for the arts; what Bauer calls “cultural boomers” or “zoomers – baby boomers who behave like millenials.” The formal campaign plays out across three screens with celebrities, such as actor Tony Danza, saxophonist Kenny G and pop star Belinda Carlisle, populating the digital space – from iPads and laptops to smartphones. An organic social media push, deployed in tandem with the celebrity-laden messages, features locals in the aqua glasses proclaiming their support for the arts.

“It’s really amazing,” Bauer says. “More than 200 locals have been photographed already!” Among them are the Lake Worth mounted police; Raphael Clemente, executive director of the West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority; Avery Sommers, in the role of Bessie Smith in the Arts Garage production of The Devil’s Music; the Choral Society of the Palm Beaches; Maltz Jupiter Theatre’s Youth Touring Company; park rangers from John D. MacArthur Beach State Park; dancers with Ballet
Palm Beach; local celebrity chefs like Clay Conley; and – all the way from Poland – the Meccore String Quartet.

Locals who “See the Arts Through a Different Lens” are sharing their stories using the hashtag #ShadesOfCulture. Roger Amidon, general manager of Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa, was among the first to get on board. Images of the resort’s staff wearing the aqua sunglasses can be seen on the campaign’s dedicated webpage – ShadesofCulture.com. “We’re known here as Florida’s Cultural Capital®,” Amidon says. “[Cultural Council CEO and President] Rena Blades and her team have set the pace and many other counties are trying to follow our lead.”

Each photograph posted on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the campaign hashtag helps spread the story – and the excitement. “We are hoping the campaign #ShadesofCulture will go viral,” Bauer says. “It is a grassroots movement to get people all over the world to support the arts. And we have gone global,” she adds. “A college professor in Victoria, Australia, taught a class focused on our campaign. We will be skyping with him in the future to tell students more about how this works.”

The sunglass concept was generated by Push, a digitally focused creative agency based in Orlando, but it was a small team at the Cultural Council that has fueled the campaign, reaching out to arts organizations and celebrities, inviting them to participate. “The staff has been very enthusiastic,” Bauer says. “We all believe in the importance of the arts and working together to get the message out to cultural tourists from the northeast and beyond.”

The Palm Beach County Tourist Development Council funds the campaign under the oversight of TDC Executive Director Glenn Jergensen, who has been impressed with the breadth and reach of the campaign. “When I saw the diversity of individuals being interviewed with the sunglasses on, I thought it’s going to show how much we have to offer here in The Palm Beaches related to culture and how much talent comes to visit and perform here,” he says.

Among other notables donning the aqua shades to talk about the importance of the arts in digital ads and videos, as well as on social media – all of whom participated at no cost – are Israel Horovitz, John O’Hurley, Michael Feinstein, Nicole Henry, Charles McGill, Vanilla Ice, Emily Brooke, Daniel Ulbricht, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Cassandra Trenary and Anthony Laciura. More names will be announced in the coming months, Bauer says.

Festival of the Arts BOCA, held in March, was an early beneficiary of the campaign. Social media lit up when digital ads featured an image of violin superstar Joshua Bell, one of the festival’s headliners, playing his Stradivarius while wearing the aqua sunglasses. “We had a significant increase in attendance this year,” says Joanne Polin of Polin Public Relations, which handles public relations and marketing for the festival. “It presented an opportunity for us to reach out to hundreds of thousands of people that we would normally never be able to reach.”

During the spring and fall, campaigns in New York and Boston are targeted to reach potential visitors through digital platforms, which allow for a great deal of flexibility in terms of both the offers designed to entice cultural tourists and the data that can be collected. This summer, the campaign will target fellow Floridians, who might be tempted to hop in the car and drive to Palm Beach County for a weekend getaway packed with music, theater, comedy, dance, history and art.

There will even be a pop-up event in New York in September. “When guests arrive, they will walk into a gallery that appears to be hung with eight blank canvases,” Bauer explains with barely contained enthusiasm. “When they put on the aqua glasses, drop-dead gorgeous imagery of the cultural offerings in The Palm Beaches – from ballet and theater to music and museums – will be revealed! This idea is so BIG, it can translate to the Jumbotrons in Times Square, a bus shelter or even a magazine whose pages initially appear blank.”

Of course, it’s not just cultural tourists who dream of hopping on a plane bound for Palm Beach County. The stars shine brightly in our community all year long! “Performers want to spend time here,” says comedian Judy Gold, who slipped on a pair of the aqua shades when she appeared at the Crest Theatre at Old School Square in Delray Beach as part of the Catch a Rising Star series. “This is sort of the New York City of Florida, The Palm Beaches area,” she says. “This is where culture lives.”

Christina Wood contributed to this report.

Join the Movement

The arts are an expression of the creative spirit, a priceless gift we share with one another. When you support the arts you become part of an extraordinary exchange – one that sets The Palm Beaches apart. Contribute to the campaign by sharing stories, photos, art or favorite performances with the hashtag #ShadesOfCulture. Together, we can see the arts through a different lens, not just here but across the globe.

Help create the buzz!

  • Like the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County on Facebook and Instagram.
  • Take photos of yourself, your friends or members of your organization wearing aqua sunglasses and post them on Facebook. Share the post with your friends and contacts. The Cultural Council will send out a photographer to any location in the county and, in the coming months, will appear with glasses and backdrops to photograph arts supporters at local events.
  • Tell the world how the arts have touched your life. Share stories, photos or art with the hashtag #ShadesOfCulture.
  • At a cultural event? Check in on social media sites and let everyone know about the cultural experiences and performances you enjoy, again using #ShadesOfCulture.

For more information, visit ShadesOfCulture.com.