Inside the artists’ studio: Creativity, diversity thrive at Legacy Place

Many of the artists grew up in Palm Beach County, some recently moved here; some love landscapes, others portraits. Art binds them together. Open house Saturday night.

Zero Empty Spaces

There’s the Army sniper who offers a poem with every painting. A Cuban immigrant who paints English countrysides. A 23-year-old who quit her job at Whole Foods to commit full-time to art. A crime victim coordinator with the State Attorney’s Office who overcomes shyness to paint insightful portraits.

Tucked between Five Guys and Best Buy in a Palm Beach Gardens shopping center, 20 artists carve out creative niches in a onetime-luxury-spa-turned-artist collaborative. 

“We are a story, that’s for sure,” recent Georgia transplant Pamela Macatee said. “We’re like 20 different stories all together. Nobody’s styles are the same. But we have a common language.”

They came together through word of mouth and through the gentle prodding of Anthony Burks, the West Palm Beach-born colored-pencil artist who has been there the longest. They pay sharply discounted rent via the innovative Zero Empty Spaces (more on that later). They have no control over who comes and goes, just over the art that fills the four walls of their studios and spills out into the hallways.  

“Anytime you have a space that’s yours to create, that’s more than enough,” said Jamaal Clark, a 40-year-old artist who left a job at the Michaels crafts store to focus on his art and his apparel business. “You walk into these rooms, you walk into different worlds.”

Zero Empty Spaces
Zero Empty Spaces converted a vacant luxury spa at Legacy Place into studio space for 20 artists. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

The Gardens collaborative is far from the stereotype of artist lofts hidden away in a dank warehouse. It is in a storefront, the former Woodhouse Day Spa at Legacy Place off PGA Boulevard, facing a traffic circle just down from the recently departed Moe’s Southwest Grill. 

They leave the door open with a welcome sign but get few walk-ins. The studio’s interior rooms, designed for massages, get no natural light. Yet the studios rarely stay empty as artists young and old look for a place where they can work, learn from one another and, maybe, just maybe, sell a few pieces of art. 

Once a month they hold an open house, with featured artists, food and drink. The next one, from 6 to 8 p.m. April 23, benefits RAZOM, a Ukrainian relief fund, and features the work of Legacy Place artists Andrew Hollimon, a retired Human Resources executive, and Cuban-born Lupe Lawrence

“I love being around the other artists,” Burks said. “Since I’ve been here I’ve created more than I ever have in my life.” 

Zero Empty Spaces: Bringing artists to shopping centers

Zero Empty Spaces
The April lobby showcase at Zero Empty Spaces in Legacy Place. (Joel Engelhardt photo)
Zero Empty Spaces
Martineau

It’s a simple concept. As the shift to online retailing ravages shopping centers, landlords can bring life to unused space by leasing it at a discount to Zero Empty Spaces, run by Broward businessmen Evan Snow and Andrew Martineau. The pair of art-loving entrepreneurs pick the artists, charge minimal rent and cover the cost of utilities and marketing.

Zero Empty Spaces
Snow

Martineau and Snow run Art Fort Lauderdale, an annual event that features local art at luxury waterfront homes for sale. They got on a local real estate board and forged a bond with commercial property owners worried about vacancies. 

Since its creation in 2019, Zero Empty Spaces has opened 26 locations, almost all of them in South Florida. It has three Palm Beach County studios, Legacy Place, Lake Worth Beach and Boca Raton. Three others have closed.

They are expanding nationally, recently adding locations in Sarasota, St. Petersburg and the Boston suburb of Natick. 

It’s a win-win-win, Snow said.

Legacy Place
The door is usually open at the art studios of Zero Empty Spaces in Legacy Place. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

For the artist, it offers an affordable space to get away from the cramped confines of home and plugs them into a community of like-minded people with opportunities to be discovered.

Zero Empty Spaces
Sign points the way down a Zero Empty Spaces hallway at Legacy Place. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

“There are a lot of artists who didn’t really call themselves artists before because they painted at home for 20 or 30 years and then (their spouse) saw an article in the newspaper. ‘Honey, you should try this,’ more to get them out of the house,” Snow said. ”It’s been interesting to see some of those people flourish. They’re super talented, super deserving. They were busy making a family. Now they’ve been in this place with their peers and are really flourishing.”

It helps property owners keep tenants who don’t want dead spaces next door while giving customers a new attraction. “Closed doors obviously don’t do anybody any good,” Snow said. 

And it makes art accessible. “Most people aren’t going to stumble their way into an industrial warehouse district where art studios are traditionally housed,” Snow said. “It works to increase not only the visibility of the artist but to increase the appreciation for art.”

Kyle Lucks
Shica Hardy, right, and Kyle Lucks display their works at a March showcase at Zero Empty Spaces in Legacy Place. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

The result is an emerging artist like Hannah-Joy Sutherland can have a private studio in a professional environment for $117 a month.

“We do this altruistically because it is the right thing to do,” Snow said. “We don’t have a rich uncle. We don’t have grants. It’s our money if it doesn’t work out. If an artist leaves and we’re not able to cover expenses it’s on us. Maybe it’s not the best business move of all time. (But) We take a lot of pride in what we do.”

And in Palm Beach Gardens, diverse artists thrive. While some come and go, others have become staples, fortifying the studio against the vagaries of the marketplace while encouraging and inspiring artists to step up and be noticed.

Chief among them is Anthony Burks.

Anthony Burks: Layoffs ‘allowed me to be free’

Anthony Burks
Anthony Burks, a master of colored pencil, holds a cigar box featuring his work. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

Laid off from his job at a sign company as the 2008 recession struck, Burks tried for two years to find similar work.

He took his inability to find a job as a sign that he was meant to do art. And to make a living from it. 

And he has.

Burks, West Palm Beach-born and Riviera Beach-raised, not only has created a company that spreads his own name and artwork throughout the world, he has ushered in countless others to the business of making art.

“The best thing that happened to me was my getting laid off from my sign job,” he said. “It allowed me to be free.” 

Burks and his wife, Trina, who gave up her own artistic ambitions to manage Anthony’s career, have mentored many artists at Legacy Place since it opened in July 2020, when he became the first to move in.

“They call me ‘the mayor’ for a reason: ‘Cause I’ve been there since Day One,” he said.

There’s another reason. Almost all the artists at Legacy Place cite Anthony Burks as a reason why they’re there. If he didn’t recruit them, he’s critiqued their work. Or given them advice. Or compared notes on how to make money from art. And, perhaps most significantly, about whether it’s time to do art full time.

“I don’t say quit your job,” he said. “I say ‘What do you really want?’”

“I try to teach these artists that you can do this full time. You can make a living off this art,” he said. “It’s not easy. But you can do it.”

It started for Burks at Palm Beach Gardens High, class of 1986, where he picked up colored pencils for the first time.

Anthony Burks
The Charles Cookies tin that Anthony Burks has had since middle school. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

The tin canister he uses to this day to hold his pencils dates even further back, to his days at Watkins Middle School in Palm Beach Gardens. In high school, he started throwing pencils into the gold-and-brown Charles Chips Chocolate Chip Cookie tin. 

In the 14 years since he left Baron Signs after a 20-year career, Burks has sold thousands of dollars worth of art, including two pieces to the Norton Museum of Art; organized art shows highlighting black artists; and been named in 2021 to the first class of five innovation fellows by the Cultural Council for Palm Beach County.

Anthony Burks
Anthony Burks’ “Natural Beauty” is installed April 15 along a city parking garage wall off of Clematis Street in downtown West Palm Beach. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

The city of West Palm Beach agreed to pay $45,000 (for which he gets 20 percent) to install his work, “Natural Beauty,” in the soon-to-be-renovated passageway between Clematis Street and Banyan Boulevard on the western wall of a city parking garage near Subculture Coffee. He oversaw the installation April 15 of the giant panels depicting model Nicole Escalera facing in two directions, with one of his signature motifs, butterflies, on the wall around her.

Anthony Burks
An aluminum butterfly by Anthony Burks, before it is raised into place on a parking garage wall in downtown West Palm Beach. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

“My queens are usually in black and white,” he said of his models. “They don’t need any color to show their beauty. But butterflies do.” 

He is one of four artists whose work was selected for the “Soul Finger Project” on display now through June 22 at the Portsmouth (Va.) Art and Cultural Center.

His non-profit No More Starving Artists Foundation sponsors the Young Masters Summer Program with The Peach artist’s collective, in which “young budding creatives become more well-rounded and informed about art business.”

Burks’ for-profit company, ATB Fine Artists & Designers, sponsors Continuum Palm Beach Art Fair, a pop-up exhibition and performance space for 70 South Florida artists, last held in-person in 2020 at the Paul Fisher Gallery in West Palm Beach.

But most days you can find Burks at Legacy Place, working on his art.

He wanted to bring his art to more people so he started painting cigar boxes. He’s now done about 250 of them, priced from $100 to $200 or even more for signature versions. “I sell them as quickly as I make them,” he said.

Anthony Burks
Anthony Burks in his studio with “Cry Freedom,” drawn on a briefcase-like box he pulled from the trash. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

Pointing in his crowded studio at a wooden briefcase-like box that may have been someone’s art organizer, he said: “Someone threw this away. I took it. And I created art.” 

He calls the work on it “Cry Freedom.”

He spent his first nine years in West Palm Beach’s historically black Pleasant City neighborhood before moving to Riviera Beach, where he was bused to Palm Beach Gardens schools.

He dreamed of an art career in New York City but he and Trina decided to stay in West Palm Beach to raise their family.

“It was a tough road, especially for a black artist,” he said. “The culture in New York City is different. Here, we just work. Most of the black community was here to serve the rich. The audience to buy my work, like my mom and dad, they worked. They didn’t understand why they should spend whatever on a piece of art.”

And, he said, he encountered racism. He felt turned away from galleries and art jobs over the years because of his race. 

But, he said, he never felt compelled to do “the so-called black art.”

“I got backlash from the black community. I don’t do the revolution. I feel we need to be lifted up.” 

Anthony Burks
Anthony Burks’ “Juneteenth” sold last year to the Norton Museum of Art. (Courtesy of Anthony Burks)

But he does have what he called “a fist piece.” It was during the Black Lives Matter protests. “I was really angry because they dared not understand why we’re using Black Lives Matter. I did that piece to show my honor for those people before me.”

Called “Juneteenth,” it now belongs to the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, which bought it on June 19 last year. The museum also bought his piece “Mirror Black.”

Anthony Burks
“Mirror Black” by Anthony Burks. (Courtesy of Anthony Burks)

He and his wife helped organize the Cultural Council for Palm Beach County’s “Karibu” program, for the Swahili word for welcome, to recognize 25 black artists. 

Five of the 25 artists selected for the exhibition — Burks, Lupe Lawrence, Andrew Hollimon, Jamaal Clark and Shica Hardy — now have studios at Legacy Place.

In a 2021 interview with the Palm Beach Daily News, Trina recognized the historical significance of the council’s recognition of black artists, but added “We should be able to express ourselves through art and not worry about race.”

He’s seen turnover among those renting studios at Legacy Place in three waves over less than two years and so has helped fill openings by recruiting artists. But the ultimate control belongs to Zero Empty Spaces.

“It’s like a college dorm,” he said. “Artists have no control over who gets in.”

Anthony Burks
Andrew Hollimon, left, and Anthony Burks share a laugh at the Zero Empty Spaces March showcase in Legacy Place. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

Being there has opened doors and inspired him to work harder, he said. 

“It allows me to just loosen up. We’re competing but not competing. My inspiration is Kyle (Lucks, a recent transplant from St. Louis). I’m working on big. He’s working on big. It allows me to see what he’s doing and I’m like ‘man,’ and it inspires me to do it even harder. Since he came here I’ve even done more work.

“We all love it,” Burks said. “One thing about this place. Everyone here is different. I call it a family. We are a family gathering.” 

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For a visitor walking through the hallways and peering through the open doors into the work life of the artist, the Legacy Place studios present a raw expression of creativity seldom found in the more formal shops of Palm Beach Gardens. 

There’s something there for everybody. And for each artist, there’s a story. 

Lupe Lawrence: Fascinated by 19th century English artist

Lupe Lawrence
Lupe Lawrence works in her Legacy Place studio. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

In 1968, Lupe Lawrence and her family were allowed to leave Cuba, after trying for a decade. They moved in with an aunt in Riviera Beach.

Above the couch in her aunt’s home, hung a print by renowned 19th century British artist John Constable. The “Hay Wain” showed an empty wagon (called a wain) making its way through a pond near a watermill in an English countryside.

Five-year-old Lupe was captivated, writing years later that she sat for hours staring at the print, tears in her eyes. 

“In that instant, I knew I wanted to be an artist to create artwork that would stir up the emotions in others that ‘Hay Wain’ had stirred up in me,” she wrote.

But a high school art teacher told her she had no talent. Later, when she took art lessons while working as a code enforcement officer for the city of West Palm Beach, she noticed that teachers paid her no attention as the only black person in the room.

She quit two teachers but didn’t give up, eventually finding art teacher Robert Watler at a local church. 

He remains a mentor. “He taught me how to really become an artist,” she said.

But even as her work showed promise, she reached a lull and, turned off by a TV show about avant-garde painting with blood, which she found “disgusting,” she said a prayer that inspired her to carry on.  

“If art is supposed to be something beautiful, if you could use anyone, use me,” she prayed.

Lupe Lawrence
The work of Lupe Lawrence, on display in the lobby in April at Zero Empty Spaces in Legacy Place. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

She pursued her vision that included English countrysides modeled on the work of Constable. “I want people to walk into my paintings,” she said. She is producing a three-painting series featuring sunflowers for the April 23 showcase. 

She became a teacher at the Center for Creative Education in West Palm Beach and taught classes at the Norton Museum, the Boys and Girls Club, and other venues. She began to sell her work and at one show in Delray Beach, she met Anthony and Trina Burks. “The rest is history,” she said. “I started showing after that.”

Her artwork survived another lengthy lull, about 10 years ago, when she sold her paintings and her equipment and stopped painting, only for it to be ignited again after encouragement from Trina Burks. Lawrence, who never stopped teaching, returned to painting two years ago and took the space at Legacy Place in May 2021.

She found the quality of her colleagues intimidating. 

“I cannot say enough about my peers. Every one of them is amazing. I’m inspired by them. And I’m not just saying that.

“Creativity attracts creativity. That’s one of the wonderful things about being here. You’re surrounded by so much talent that you can’t help but spark so much creativity.”

Andrew Hollimon: ‘I paint what I enjoy’

Andrew Hollimon
Andrew Hollimon, 72, in his Legacy Place studio. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

For most of his life, Andrew Hollimon did not work as an artist.

He spent four years in the Air Force during the height of the Vietnam War, stationed in Anchorage, Alaska, breaking enemy codes.

He returned to his native St. Louis, worked in computers in the 1970s, got a master’s in business from Lindenwood University in 1981 and worked as a recruiter for McDonnell Douglas and stayed in the Human Relations arena for 38 years, retiring in 2014 at age 64. 

That’s when he and his wife, Beatrice, moved to a home west of Lake Worth and he devoted himself to art, a craft he had been dabbling in since childhood.

Andrew Hollimon
Inside the studio of Andrew Hollimon, who signs his name Ana Alu, which is Hawaiian for Andrew. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

He’s proud to say he’s never had an art lesson in his life. He started out using oil paint when he didn’t know the faster-drying acrylic paint existed. He defies conventional wisdom by refusing to specialize. 

“If I were a person that spent all of my art exercising-energy and interest on painting flowers I don’t think I’d even do art very long,” he said in a February 2021 interview with Leslie Sue of Art n’ Talk. “Bottom line for me is I paint for me first. I paint what I enjoy. I use one style to break away from another.” 

Andrew Hollimon
“Eternal Cabaret” by Andrew Hollimon. When the audience goes home, the ghost at the piano continues to play. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

Those styles are, in his own words, “A bit of realism, some landscapes, seascapes, animals, geometric art, figurative work and lunar surfaces.” He likes dark backgrounds and music and painting the moon. 

A common theme in his approach: “I do like to have fun with it all.”

Andrew Hollimon
Andrew Hollimon has fun with art, here in his Legacy Place studio. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

He came to Legacy Place in September, after Zero Empty Spaces closed its Boynton Beach studios. He pays about $200 a month. 

He signs his paintings Ana Alu, which is Andrew in Hawaiian.

While he is full of laughter and happy to talk about himself and his art, he described himself as a “closet introvert” in the Art n’ Talk interview, pointing out that he paints alone, late at night.

“I consider myself a bit of a loner. I’m happy to be alone. I work alone. I don’t mind being alone at all.” 

Still, he’s quick with a story to describe his work, which was honored by the Palm Beach County Cultural Council as part of its 2021 exhibition “Karibu: A Celebration of Black Artists in Palm Beach County.” 

The background colors in his 2021 geometric work “Capturing the Aurora” comes from his time in Alaska. 

“That is an observation of the aurora borealis, which is absolutely, phenomenally earth-shattering visually to your brain when you move from St. Louis, Missouri, and a school system that never once mentioned Northern Lights, to walking out of your apartment or your barracks, looking up and seeing that solar display,” he said on Art n’ Talk. “I just can’t tell a person how much it affected me as an 18-year-old with no idea what I was looking at walking out and seeing the sky doing that.”

Andrew Hollimon
Andrew Hollimon’s keyboard cello in the lobby at Zero Empty Spaces in Legacy Place. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

For his showcase on Saturday, he has displayed on a rotating stand a keyboard cello he painted of a dreamy scene of a man at a piano on one side and a closeup of piano keys on the other. 

For the event, he painted an upside-down peace symbol with the colors of the Ukrainian flag, also turned upside down. “To me,” he said, “it depicts things are in a world of strife there.”

Andrew Hollimon
Andrew Hollimon’s upside down peace sign with the upside down colors of the Ukrainian flag. (Courtesy Andrew Hollimon)

Hannah-Joy Sutherland: Red Raven of Fire

Hannah-Joy Sutherland
Hannah-Joy Sutherland at the March showcase of her work at the Legacy Place Zero Empty Spaces. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

On Dec. 31, Hannah-Joy Sutherland quit her job after two years as a cashier at Whole Foods in Palm Beach Gardens when she realized “I need to create.” On Jan. 1, the 23-year-old Palm Beach State College student considered herself a full-time artist, established in a studio at Legacy Place.

“This has been an adventure so far,” she said.

In March, her blue-tinged portrait of a thoughtful Malcolm X with searing blue eyes hung in the studio front lobby with a $500 price tag. “He’s a perfect muse,” she said of the 1960s icon, adding about the blue eyes, “I wanted to express it in a different way.”

Sutherland has been on her own since she graduated Forest Hill High School in 2017. She has a fondness for Bob Hope movies. On Instagram, she calls herself “Just an artist … trying to figure her art out.”

While she has two brothers in West Palm Beach, her father is deceased and her mother is in a Colorado state prison completing the first year of a 96-year sentence. They’ve recently reconnected by phone.

Hannah-Joy Sutherland
Hannah-Joy Sutherland’s “Eye See You.” (Joel Engelhardt photo)

Her mother’s spiritual name for her, Red Raven of Fire, is captured in the artist’s stunning red-emblazoned portrait “Eye See You,” acrylic on canvas for $1,200.

She credits the collaborative aspect of the studio for her growth as an artist, far removed from her days drawing anime as a child and doodling on cash-register receipts at Whole Foods.

“If I wasn’t here I wouldn’t be at this stage in my art,” she said. “They don’t sugar coat, which is good. I don’t like sugar coating.”

Faith Schwack: Bringing mosaics to life

Faith Schwack
Faith Schwack works on one of her signature lighted turtle shells. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

Faith Schwack breaks porcelain plates and turns the shards into art.

With tweezers, she places the odd shapes onto fiberglass turtle shells or mirror frames or just about any shape imaginable. She mixes the porcelain shards with glass tiles or stained glass or sea shells to create intricate mosaics. The turtle wall-hanging, lit from within, is her signature piece. It sells for $2,800.

She’s proud of her mastery of an ancient art form.

Faith Schwack
Faith Schwack at work in her Legacy Place studio. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

While she’s normally incapable of sitting still, she finds she can focus on the task of cutting, placing and gluing the tiny tiles and shards for hours. It’s a labor of love.

Faith Schwack
Faith Schwack turns porcelain plate shards into mosaics. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

“Yesterday, my desk looked like a crime scene, I had cut my finger so much,” she said.

She was born in West Palm Beach, graduated from the old North Shore High School and took her first art classes at the Norton Museum in the 1960s. After eight years in New York City as a textile designer, she returned to help run her family business, Palm Beach Chemical, before it closed about 20 years ago. The Singer Island resident retired from the workforce in 2020 and devoted herself to art, not because she had to but because she could.

Faith Schwack
Shica Hardy’s “Free and Fierce” is reflected in a mosaic-framed mirror by Faith Schwack. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

With a year at Legacy Place, she’s one of the veterans. Her studio, Smashing Pieces Mosaic Artwork, faces the entrance, where she can keep track of those coming and going, and she serves on committees that decide events and marketing strategies.

One day, she welcomed a mother and her 6-year-old child, a cancer patient who had wandered by from the nearby Nicklaus Children’s Outpatient Center, and offered to let him come back and do art. He’s been a regular visitor since, working on art pieces with Schwack and artist Andrew Hollimon. 

Faith Schwack
The work of Faith Schwack in her Legacy Place studio. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

She found the Legacy Place studios by seeking out Anthony Burks for art lessons. She’s one of the many artists who credit Burks for suggesting she give up her home studio and move in.

“I am much more productive here,” she said. “When you have a space at home unless you’re super disciplined there are distractions. Part of it for me was being in a place with like minded people — artists. And I was tired of being home alone.”

Cocoa Bowden: Army sniper for peace

Cocoa Bowden
Cocoa Bowden with a poem she wrote to go with one of her works of art. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

To hear her recite her poetry beneath her colorful, dramatic work, it’s hard to think of Cassondra “Cocoa” Bowden as an Army sniper who served two tours in Iraq. 

You would have no idea of her difficult upbringing in Philadelphia and South Jersey. Perhaps you’d catch a glimpse of the Cocoa who worked with gangs and veterans and helped them heal through art. 

Or the woman who dedicated her book, “Reflections of a Female Sniper,” to “anyone and everyone on a journey to find wholeness and peace within.”

Cocoa, 40, who doesn’t use her last name as a way to simplify her identity so people remember, gave up all her past careers two years ago to devote herself to art. 

Cocoa Bowden
The book by Cocoa Bowden.

She doesn’t talk much about her Army experience. It’s in her book, which Amazon describes as “four riveting short stories starting from early childhood, and following her through her school years, military life, and the birth of her child.”

She served six years, leaving the Army at 24. She got an anthropology degree from Temple University in 2011.

Now, she is selling her “Brobdingnagian Witness Painting,” a haunting, close-up self-portrait for $1,430. And 16 other works, each accompanied by a poem, on her Saatchi Art page.

She self-publishes books, most recently “The Fool’s Journey: Modern Bohemian Tarot Interpretation” to go with a deck of Tarot cards she created.  

“I get inspired by everything from people like (philosopher) Immanuel Kant and (boxer) Mike Tyson, to hip-hop music and antiquity. When people see my paintings, I hope they experience a sense of freedom and personal power,” she told WVON-1690 Chicago radio. “My favorite artist is Jean Michel Bosquiat. Not the man, but the artist. I find his work to be Informative and vibrant. His work executes concepts that interest me in a bold, simple and elegant way.”

She is leaving Legacy Place in April to move into an Oakland Park storefront gallery with space for a music studio and to do sculpture but she’ll continue to live in West Palm Beach.

The move excites her but makes her nervous.

“You’ve got to live the dream. You’ve got to be fearless. I heard that from Will Smith,” she said, referring to comments he made after parachuting from an airplane. “They also taught me that when I was jumping out of planes.” 

Then she corrected herself. She was air assault. That’s helicopters.

“You slide down a mile-long rope,” she said, “and land on a rooftop.”

Kyle Lucks: From sports to Jackie O

Kyle Lucks
Kyle Lucks works on his portrait of St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, a work he donated to charity. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

Under the heading “It all began with a pair of shoes,”  St. Louis native Kyle Lucks explained on his website how he came to Palm Beach County a year ago.

His fascination with a pair of olive green dress shoes he saw on a trip to Florence, Italy, led him to track down their designer, Jennifer Tattanelli, at her Florence store.  

“Jennifer greeted me with such excitement and generosity that I felt like an old friend,” he wrote. “She took an interest in my art and said one day she would display it in her store.”

That store was on Worth Avenue. 

Jennifer Tattenelli
One work in Kyle Lucks’ Florence series in the Jennifer Tattenelli store, 226 Worth Ave., Palm Beach. (Joel Engelhardt photo)
Jennifer Tattenelli
A display showing Kyle Lucks’ 12-painting Florence series in the Jennifer Tattenelli store on Worth Avenue. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

They kept in touch and five years later, in March 2021, she invited the artist who specializes in St. Louis sports figures to her shop. The four-day trip turned into two weeks, and in subsequent visits he not only agreed to do a 12 painting-series depicting Florence, Italy, tailored to the colors of her new store, but the nearby Danieli Fine Art gallery agreed to take three of his works.

At age 35, that was enough for Lucks. 

“After 10 weeks and meetings and conversations I was on my way down here in my car full of art supplies and paintings and canvas,” he said. 

Lucks quickly found a studio in a Zero Empty Spaces location near the Grand Market in West Palm Beach. When that spot closed, he moved to Legacy Place. 

He compares the collaborative studio to a shopping mall, where people may come for one artist but find other works they like. “When you work from home,” he said, “exposure is drastically reduced.” 

Kyle Lucks
Kyle Lucks’ Jackie O series in the hallway outside his studio at Legacy Place. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

The Legacy Place studios entry hallway is dominated by the first two pieces in Lucks’ Jackie Onassis series,  “Jackie at The Colony Hotel,” and “Jackie in Palm Beach,” lifelike portraits of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, in which her sunglasses reflect Palm Beach scenes. 

Lucks grew up in a family of arts and sports. His mother had a fine arts degree. A great aunt was an artist and teacher. Through them, he learned to pay attention to detail.

And his father, an amateur golfer, instilled in him a love of sports. 

That upbringing combined so that a drawing of Boston Bruins hockey star Ray Bourque that he sent to Sports Illustrated for Kids ended up in the December 1998 magazine. 

Lucks, at age 12, was a published artist.

Still, he didn’t pursue an art education but rather graduated in 2008 from Arizona State University with a marketing degree. 

Even as he traveled as a corporate events coordinator, he continued painting. At 26, he left his job to devote himself to art.

Before leaving St. Louis, he spent a year producing a 12-painting series of ASU golf greats. His 30-by-45-inch murals fill a wall at the Thunderbirds Golf Complex in Phoenix, featuring pros Phil Mickelson, Jon Rahm and Anna Nordqvist.

He has sold four Tom Brady paintings because of the football player’s popularity and several Donald Trumps but he prefers painting St. Louis baseball and hockey stars. 

“The reason I do sports is people have that emotional connection,” he said.

Kyle Lucks
Kyle Lucks in his Legacy Place studio in March. (Joel Engelhardt photo)
Kyle Lucks
The Legacy Place studio of Kyle Lucks. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

In March, he drew Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina in full uniform, a red shell-like chest protector contrasting with the vivid background colors. He donated it to the Josh Seidel Memorial Foundation, which auctioned it April 9 for about $5,000, Lucks said.  

He posts time-lapse videos on Instagram showing his work, from applying background splashes of blues and reds to fine-tuning the subject’s expression. “People like seeing the process,” he said.

At the Wheels, Wings & Fashion fundraiser to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society April 2 in Fort Lauderdale, he completed a painting on aluminum in the shape of fighter jet wings of Tom Cruise as Maverick in “Top Gun.”

But, like the recently completed Molina, he makes more modestly priced versions available as poster-size prints for fans. 

It’s an approach he has fine-tuned in discussions with Burks.

“I love Anthony’s business mindset. No one teaches you how to do this as a professional, not even at art school,” Lucks said. “It’s my first time in an artist community. It’s really inspirational to have all these people around at different levels.”

Jamaal ‘Visualist’ Clark: Merging ancient Egypt and hip hop

Jamaal Visualist Clark
Jamaal “Visualist” Clark in his studio at Legacy Place. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

Philadelphia-born Jamaal Clark’s art combines ‘90s-era hip hop with the work of ancient Japanese, Egyptians and Native Americans and a touch of the streets of Philadelphia to create unique work on canvas and cloth. 

He calls himself Visualist, which stands for Vision Illuminating Supreme Understanding Art Life In Surreal Times.

Urged on by his family, he studied graphic design and illustration at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia before graduating from The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale.

Asked in an August 2019 interview with Voyage MIA, if the path has been easy he pointed out that it’s not supposed to be smooth. 

He zeroed in on a moment when a professor told him his ideas wouldn’t work. 

“A new sense of confidence emerged in me after that meeting. I became more determined to prove any doubters wrong,” he told Voyage MIA. “Also, not to let anyone or anybody try to get me off track of my dreams and stunt my creative spirit.”

Jamaal Clark
Jamaal Clark with a hoodie he designed among his paintings in his Legacy Place studio. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

He’s been at the Legacy Place studios for about a year and his work will be showcased in May.

At age 40, after leaving his job at the Michaels craft store this year, he’s all in on art. 

“It’s Plan A for me. The only plan,” he said.

Pamela Macatee: Mangrove love

Pamela Macatee
Pamela Macatee in her Legacy Place studio. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

Pamela Macatee and her husband, Van, moved from Georgia to North Palm Beach to sail.

In February, their boat took them to the atoll of Marquesas, west of Key West, where, she wrote on her Instagram page, there is no cell coverage, no development, no people. 

“For us, anchored off this paradise and the only sailboat around, it was practically holy, the quiet was so quiet. Lapping water, birds calling to each other, maybe a fish jumps. We did not talk to each other, and even Tuck (our dog) was silent as we all three were experiencing an awe hard to describe.”

Accompanying the post is the painting that day inspired, “Marquesas Mangrove,” showing mangroves reflected in still water. It’s available as a canvas print on her Early Bird Studio website for $50. Or on a throw pillow for $19. Or on a T-shirt for $18. 

Pamela Macatee
“This white ibis really did pose for me, nestled in the gnarled and thickened places of this mangrove in the John MacArthur Park,” Pamela Macatee’s Instagram post. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

Macatee, who lived in Lake Oconee, Ga., graduated with a degree in fine arts and art education from Wesleyan College in Macon, Ga. She has been selling and teaching art for 25 years. She teaches a class on Saturdays at Easel Art Supply in Lake Park

She writes: “I think pencils and paintbrushes are as important as forks and spoons,” and
“Digging in the dirt and watching things grow is vital to happiness.”

Pamela Macatee
Pamela Macatee in her Legacy Place studio. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

After moving to a North Palm Beach condo during COVID, she tried working from home but found the Legacy Place studio a perfect antidote to isolation. 

“Nobody’s styles are the same. But we have a common language. It’s just a bunch of creatives together,” she said. “Part of our deal here is that we are working artists. If I am deep in something, I will close my door. If open, anybody is welcome to come in. I want to talk about my art.”

Raelle Joni: Infusing new identity with art

Raelle Joni
Raelle Joni in her studio at Legacy Place. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

She recently took a new name, Raelle. That’s Rachelle without the “ch.” She took the last name Joni. That’s “Jo” from her mother’s name, Joseph, and “ni” from her father’s name, Giordani.

She did so as she “transitioned from who I had been” to “the identity I’m creating” after graduating with a degree in psychology from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte in 2020 and moving to Lake Worth Beach. 

Her identity is artist. 

Her art is “unveiled” to her, often during meditation. 

She’s 24.

Raelle Joni
Raelle Joni with her work “Dissonance to Dancing” in her studio at Legacy Place. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

She transformed a palm frond that fell to the ground in front of her during one meditation into a piece of expressive art called “Dissonance to Dancing,” with bells and stones and intricate drawings on the frond’s inner, curving base. She wrote a poem to go with it, as she does all her work. 

She paints abstract portraits

Raelle Joni
Works by Raelle Joni. (Courtesy of Raelle Joni)

“I take the time to sit with people, to sit in meditative space and to give the silence time to let the body, the emotions and the spirit speak through art,” she said.

Raelle Joni
Nail art by Raelle Joni. (Courtesy of Raelle Joni)

To afford her studio, she has worked part-time jobs. And she does nail art at a salon in West Palm Beach’s Northwood Business District. 

But she can’t not do art.

She draws from her own life’s chaos, moving from North Miami to North Carolina with her mother, attending high school there and staying for college, even as her mother moved back. She’s leaving Legacy Place for a collaborative studio on Northwood Road, near her nail salon.

Raelle Joni
By Raelle Joni. (Courtesy Raelle Joni)

She’s not worried about making money, calling payment a “love donation.”

“I’m still working towards finding the balance between authenticity and integrity in this kind of work. Because it feels like service to me.

“I will never stop. No matter if I make a penny off it, if I make a million or if I make nothing. It’s something that I have to do. Something I want to do. For my own sake. For God’s. For love.”

Kathleen Ross: Where’s Charlie?

Kathleen Ross
Kathleen Ross, in her studio with her muse, Charlie. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

Kathleen Ross raised five children in Palm Beach County while her husband, an oil broker, was ill for 10 years before he passed at age 45. She lives in Tequesta and paints “the way I feel, not what I see,” in the studio with her mid-sized brown and white dog, Charlie, at her side. 

Kathleen Ross
Even a waterfront work by Kathleen Ross has room for Charlie. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

She has no website but sells her impressionistic work on Etsy. 

And she gets Charlie in almost every painting. 

“He’s my muse,” she said. “He’s in the back there. He’s in the woods there. Instead of Where’s Waldo? It’s Where’s Charlie?

Shica Hardy: ‘Painting is so personal’

Shica Hardy
Shica Hardy holding “Ascension” in her Legacy Place studio. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

For Shica Hardy, drawing came easily but putting forth her work publicly came hard.

“My main obstacles/challenges on this art journey has been working with/overcoming my shy introverted nature and having the courage to share my art and talent with the world,” she said in a January interview with Voyage MIA, an online magazine that promotes artists and small businesses.

Shica, as she goes by, began to share a few years ago, after returning to West Palm Beach in 2015 from Miami. She began taking weekly art lessons at the Center for Creative Education in West Palm’s Northwood neighborhood.

She had graduated in 1993 with a degree in fine arts from International Fine Arts College (now Miami International University of Arts & Design) but she began working in another field that interested her — the legal field. 

In West Palm Beach, by day, she works as a crime victim and witness coordinator for the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office. By night and weekends, she paints.

She tries to keep the two sides of her life separate.

“That’s work and this is play,” she said.

Shica Hardy
Shica Hardy said colleague Anthony Burks helped her refine the afro in her charcoal work, “Throwback.” (Joel Engelhardt photo)

In 2019, she entered the Continuum Palm Beach Art Fair, where she made her first sale, “SiStar: I’m Keeping My Eyes On You,” for $1,000.

The charcoal drawing of her twin nieces, face-to-face, represented “their special bond, being sisters and being twins,” she said in a February 2021 interview with Leslie Sue of Art n’ Talk.

The painting was among four of her works honored by the Palm Beach County Cultural Council as part of its 2021 “Karibu: A Celebration of Black Artists in Palm Beach County.” 

For a shy person, Shica puts a lot of herself into her art.

Shica Hardy
Shica Hardy’s “A Father’s Love,” is based on a photo of herself with her father in the 1970s. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

Most notably, there’s the drawing of the child in the arms of a father, based on a photograph of her father holding her in the 1970s.

“I made this piece to depict the love and protection we need from our fathers,” she wrote on Instagram. She called it “A Father’s Love.”

“Painting is so personal,” she said. “It’s not intentional. Every artist — their spirit, their essence — pretty much comes through their art.”

 © 2022 Joel Engelhardt. All rights reserved.

Author: Joel Engelhardt

Joel Engelhardt is an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor based in Palm Beach Gardens. He spent more than 40 years in the newspaper business, including 28 years at The Palm Beach Post. As a reporter, he covered countywide growth, the 2000 election and the birth of Cityplace in West Palm Beach. As an editor, he oversaw probes into the opioid scourge, private prisons, police-involved shootings and more. For seven years, he worked on the paper’s editorial board. Joel left The Post in December 2020. He and his wife, Donna, have lived together in Palm Beach Gardens since 1992.

7 thoughts on “Inside the artists’ studio: Creativity, diversity thrive at Legacy Place”

    1. BigUp Joel for the visits and your uniquely crafted written artistry. We have few visitors who warm our psyches as you have since your first visit. Kudos to our (featured) artist for being on site and interacting with Joel. Thank you to readers who will join us at the studios from soon and.or, over time. I am convinced there is a future masterpiece in our collective. I wonder who will take that piece home.

  1. Fantastic! So wonderful to see for artists. My son is an artist in Boca Raton and I sent him this article as I thought it would be great to share with him.

  2. Bravo, Joel! This excellent, well-rounded article is a reflection of the time and hard work you put in, and we are grateful for your help in sharing our stories and talents.

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