VIBRANT GROWTH Where Pineapple Grove meets with Artist’s Alley

by Tara Monks The Pineapple Staff Writer As Delray residents and visitors should already know, Pineapple Grove is the perfect space for Sunday brunches, intimate dinners and a mystery novel. The Grove reaches along NE 2nd and NE 3rd Avenues, as far north as Lake Ida Road and east toward the train tracks, giving shade to bird lovers, skater kids, arts enthusiasts and fans of a great pizza place. Welcome to the top fronds of Pineapple Grove: where the tranquil murmur of shops meets the ascending applause of Artist’s Alley. The northeast side of Pineapple Grove and the recently rooted Artist’s Alley are sowing the seeds for a successful future as a thriving district of Delray. It is cultivating, growing and on the brink of burgeoning into a melting pot of arts, entertainment and delicacies. It is within this district you will find some of the most interesting, enthusiastic and genuine people in Delray. Some have been here for years and are staples to the lives of many (Brenda’s Birds, Camilucci Signs, and Coffee District), while others have just found the area and are adding to its eclecticism. Meet Vladimir, for example, a new addition to Artist’s Alley. Vladimir Prodanovich works and lives amid the paint-peppered cement floors of his studio. Ten-foot easels support figure sketches and paintings, color references and a kitten’s play space. Buckets of paint, plaster and books are throughout. Vladimir is an industrial artist. His creations range from simple mixed-media model studies to massive murals and sculptures. While seemingly brazen in attitude, and known to buck at bureaucracy and authority, he is inherently kind, thoughtful and interested in others. You can find him next door to Camilucci’s sign shop, working on his paintings and pieces and wanting to talk, even more than he lets on.

Then there’s the man with the vision, Vincent Cacace. Once a staple to Atlantic Avenue, Vincent has moved Cacace Fine Art to a custom-built industrial-chic space within Artist’s Alley. The transition between outside and interior is dramatic, as Artist’s Alley is still a work in progress. But once inside, visitors are immersed in an elegant world of fresh white walls, oil landscapes and other works by James P. Kerr, Valerie Veskovie and Steve Blackwood. He is excited to be part of the Alley and looks forward to its future. Enjoying every minute of the journey, he explains, “The noises you hear here (the construction of new studios, the voices of visitors and the train) are creation and energy.” When asked about his vision of the Alley and the area, he replies, “I see beautification projects, evening festivals, open galleries and working artists.” He also sees the importance of Artist’s Alley as a community, as he is already hosting Saturday night open galleries and inviting his fellow Alley residents to join. And they are. Neighboring studio Cloud House Pottery is regularly open and active on Saturday evenings as well. Ceramist Ian Levinson, the first artist to move onto the Alley, always welcomes visitors to stop in, say hello and stay for a while. As he explains, “The beauty of a working artist studio is that people can come in anytime and talk, learn, see and do.” He is extremely hospitable to all who peek in his studio and happy to sit visitors down at a potter’s wheel. Having started in Laguna Beach and spent time in Sedona, he is now settling in Delray Beach and hopes to see the northeast end of Pineapple Grove and Artist’s Alley turn into the next Atlantic Avenue.

Artist’s Alley is growing by the day, and has recently welcomed Lazlo Janoska, Master Decorative Artist and regular Rembrandt lookalike. Having recently moved to Delray after spending 17 years at his San Francisco studio, his collection of hand-painted wall finishes adds yet another unique touch of elegance to the industrial edge of Artist’s Alley. Salvatore Principe will soon join the Alley, and feature his works as well as a few wines. The Linda White Gallery of Boca Raton will soon be claiming a space as well.

Nearby ceramist Jeff Wyman is also a part of the renaissance around Pineapple Grove and Artist’s Alley. His work studio is next to Brenda’s Birds, and features a wall lined with work, a few resident artists and a dog named Haily. Jeff is a true arts-for-arts-sake believer, describing any artist’s work as the “search for inspiration.” Having developed arts centers across the country, he is a firm believer in incorporating the whole community into an arts movement. He has been in Delray for four years and looks forward to an alliance of artists and enthusiasts who can “listen and collaborate to create” the environment so many want to make out of this end of Pineapple Grove. He also knows that it will take time, but as Vincent Cacace explains, “the energy is fostering itself.” The men and women who own space, work within and frequent this area know that time grows the greatest vines, and that overnight popularity often fades as quickly. Transforming the top end of Pineapple Grove and Artist’s Alley is going to take some effort, but many hands make light work. To support the area, walk the extra few blocks and have a sandwich or slice of pizza at Pazzo Italiano. Owner and friendliest-guy-ever Izzy Lena makes an excellent eggplant parm and takes time to not only get to know you and your family, but will also introduce you to his. Three generations can be found within the shop, as well as decades of photographs along the south wall. And stop in and say hello to Steen Stoner, the man behind some of the best skateboard designs of all time. Don’t let the name fool you; he is an avid community supporter, as well as great motivator and youth mentor. If he’s around, you’ll see his tricked- out ’68 VW Beetle in the back of Stoner’s Skateboard Shop.

The area is coming together, and is working through the gears quite smoothly. Almost at full speed, all it needs now is for you to visit, show interest and enjoy your time in the Grove and around the Alley.