By: Marisa Herman Associate Editor
Driving east on West Atlantic Avenue it’s hard to miss the colorful mural of psychedelic waves that greets drivers at 601 West Atlantic Avenue.
Created and painted by Delray-native Douglas “Hoxxoh” Hoekzema, a Wynwood-based artist, the mural brightens up the side of Leogane Market.
“That canvas is really special,” said co-founder of BH3 Daniel Lebensohn.“Every car driving east on Atlantic Ave. has to see it.”
Lebensohn and BH3, which recently won a contract to redevelop part of West Atlantic Avenue with a mixed used project called AtlaWest, is behind the Paint the City program.
Currently, two murals are completed with several more in the works.
“We have the making of a nice mural collection,” Lebensohn said.
The developers started the program in New York where they have completed several mural installations in Chinatown and Brooklyn.
“The concept is to help bring awareness to different neighborhoods and help them emerge through the arts,” he said. “In my mind, it is about raising awareness.”
His goal is to raise awareness of West Atlantic Avenue through art.
“It makes it more interesting so people start to pay attention,” he said of the murals.
The other completed Delray mural is located at 524 W. Atlantic Ave., a property recently acquired by investment/development firm BH3 and home to soon-to-open, cocktail bar, Pour and Famous.
The red and white mural was painted by New York City-based artist David Paul Kay, who is known for working in black and white only. It is one of two murals in the world that he has ever done in red and white, the other was done for Montblanc pen.
Lebensohn said he has had conversations with folks who have said they liked one mural, disliked another one or loved both. Overall, he said his goal of creating conversation has been achieved.
“We have raised awareness,” he said. “Art isn’t for everyone to like. It is about creating dialogue and creating conversations. Art can be unliked but thought provoking or it can be loved and thought provoking. It’s dynamic and interesting.”
In the pipeline is a mural in the historic West Settlers District on NW Fifth Avenue as well as on an 18-unit building BH3 is redeveloping for workforce housing on Sixth Avenue.
The mural on Fifth Avenue is going through the city’s approval process. He said he wants to keep the plans for the Sixth Avenue project a surprise, but each face of the four-sided building will have a different element of a specific genre.
“In West Atlantic, the goal is to do what we call a collective, a series of murals,” he said. “All of these just add more life to the neighborhood. Some touch upon history and some are just thought provoking.”
Ideally, he said they would like to see between eight and 12 murals throughout the West Atlantic neighborhood. So far, BH3 has funded the projects, but they are looking for companies and property owners that want to partake.
“Art brings awareness and if art stimulates conversation then we are doing something right,” he said.
Murals throughout downtown
Some city commissioners raised concerns over the timing of when certain murals were put up. Some say the final sign off was not given before the paint went up on a few works of art on private buildings.
Commissioners have asked city staff to look into preventing that from occurring in the future.
Most recently, Commissioner Shirley Johnson voiced concerns about a mural on the side of Proper Ice Cream, which is not part of BH3’s collection.
The mural was painted before commissioners had a chance to review the final design.
Commissioners agreed they like to see murals on private buildings, but they would like a process to be followed. They suggested having the art advisory board review proposals as they do for public art pitches.