BY ELIOT KLEINBERG, STAFF WRITER | THE PALM BEACH POST | MARCH 27, 2014
LAKE WORTH — The folks who brought you the Armory Art Center in West Palm Beach hope to be as successful down the road with the proposed Lake Worth Arts Center. Or, perhaps, the “Armory Annex.”
On March 18 the City Commission voted to bless the plan by the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency to sublease the former shuffleboard center to Armory Art Center.
The center would get the building rent-free for a one-year trial. That would allow it to offer, at a lower price than at its main campus, art workshops and classes, ranging from drawing for beginners to oil painting to photography.
Classes would include instruction for auditioning for the Bak Middle School of the Arts and Dreyfoos School of the Arts in West Palm Beach.
Armory Art Center CEO Sandra Coombs (left), and Emily Theodossakos, marketing and programs manager for the Lake Worth Community Redevelopment Agency, sign a lease between the center and the CRA on March 20, 2014. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)The city leased the 5,000-square-foot building at 1121 Lucerne Ave. to the CRA in October. The idea: to convert it into a community cultural facility for art classes, after-school programs and other events can occur.
The effort is part of the Lake Worth Arts Program, started in 2008 to revitalize the downtown area through both financial incentives and the arts.
“Lake Worth has a rich history in the arts and also a very current interest in local artists,” said Talya Lerman, the Armory Arts Center’s director of education. She noted that the center is just east of 12 recently completed town homes along Lucerne Avenue and North F Street that are intended to be used as live-work spaces for artists, with studios downstairs and living quarters upstairs.
“We look forward to working with local artists and increasing our student base and providing arts and enrichment,” Lerman said.
And CRA executive director Joan Oliva said the agency hopes the center “will really help revitalize this area and create an opportunity or us to do even more economic development on the west side (of downtown). It’s also a good opportunity for us to engage the artists we have here and also the youth of our community.”
The CRA also is in the running for a $150,000 state grant to raise the building’s ceiling and make it more usable for art-related activities.
Public shuffleboard courts in Lake Worth had dated to the mid-1920s. A photo from the 1930s shows dozens of people observing play at the city’s courts, including some seated in bleachers, at the auditorium that is now City Hall. In 1965, new shuffleboard courts were built at 1121 Lucerne Ave. More than 400 people packed the new auditorium and 250 more stood outside, admiring the modern building and 28 new courts.
The city shut down the courts at the end of 2010. The original plan was to demolish them to make way for a park that would include trees, playground equipment, shade structures and tables for playing dominoes or chess. Later, the site was a community help center for day laborers. At one point, it was considered as the site for a new City Hall complex. It has been used as office space for city recreation staff for at least two years.
The Armory Arts Center has operated for a quarter century at the former National Guard headquarters on Parker Avenue, south of Okeechobee Boulevard, serving students who’ve exhibited works in more than 400 shows. It currently offers more than 270 classes per session, with an average class size of about five students.
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