Art + History: Boca Raton museums launch season

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Jody Harrison Grass, left, chair of the Boca Raton Museum of Art’s board of trustees, with her mother Edithe Harrison, and her husband Martin Grass, welcomed more than 350 donor members and guests to the world premiere of Machu Picchu and the Golden Empires of Peru exhibition that began its international tour on October 16 at the museum’s Mizner Park venue. [Photo Augustus Mayhew]

Growing up in Delray Beach, my elementary school field trips included educational jaunts to neighboring Boca Raton’s roadside attractions, Ancient America, believed to have been built around a Native American village and burial mound, and Africa USA, promoted as the nation’s “first cageless African wildlife habitat,” both long since transformed into residential subdivisions. Then there was the lingering question surrounding the town’s original name Boca de Ratones, whether it was associated with Spanish explorers, pirates in search of buried treasure, or the more likely, however mundane, an idiomatic translation describing the navigation of the inlet’s treacherous rocks.

Irvin Lippman, executive director of the Boca Raton Museum of Art.

Add to that legacy, Florida’s legendary Ponce de Leon whose hunt for a Fountain of Youth has become the state’s calling card. Then, 20th-century visionary Addison Mizner’s bid to turn Boca Raton into Shangri-La. Alas, resort life’s ultimate cloud nine face went bust, never fully materializing the architect’s master plan.

Thus, where better for Machu Picchu and the Golden Empires of Peru multi-media exhibition to launch its world tour than the Boca Raton Museum of Art. Jody Harrison Grass, the museum board’s chair, and Irvin Lippman, executive director, believe this extraordinary show’s promise to “captive, educate, and inspire viewers” will place the Museum of Art at the forefront of South Florida’s cultural landscape.

With art, jewelry, and artifacts from Peru’s Museo Larco and Museo de Sitio Manuel Chávez Ballón, the Boca Raton museum’s visitors will experience what makes this UNESCO World Heritage site unearthed in 1911 one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, while exploring the exhibition’s impressive collection of archaeological treasures, including a Chimú Emperor’s gold attire, c. 1300 AD. Lima’s authoritative Museo Larco collection houses 45,000 artifacts in an 18th-century mansion, founded by Rafael Larco Hoyle (1901-1966), a pioneer of Peruvian archaeology.

World Heritage Exhibitions (WHE) organized and produced the Machu Picchu exhibition. Based in Ft. Myers, WHE is “a worldwide leader in producing, promoting, and designing blockbuster exhibitions.” WHE worked with Cityneon- Singapore, creators of “large-scale immersive, multi-sensory, technology-embracing experiences.”

With the world still not as accessible as it was yesterday, here is a look at all things Peruvian and the latest at the Boca Raton Historical Society.

Machu Picchu & The Golden Empires of Peru
Boca Raton Museum 0f Art
Mizner Park – Boca Raton
October 16, 2021 – March 6, 2022


In 1983 UNESCO designated Machu Picchu was a natural and cultural World Heritage site. Until the pandemic, as many as one million visitors traveled each year to the mountaintop citadel.
The exhibition includes a variety of crafts and art forms, made from wood stone, silver, and gold … and more gold. As sunworshippers the Incans revered gold and the celestial world.
“The captured deer slung across his back, the hunter wears a band that signifies his elite status.”
Ai Apaec, a chimeric being, struggles with the crustacean, transforming into a crab with a protective shell. Now able to walk underwater, he can enter the Inner World of the ocean.
Virginia and Anthony Tann, WHE president and founder.
Valerie Sinescu and B. Michael Budd, museum trustee.
Asa Loof and Martha Norelid.
Circular sun-shaped portals provide openings between the exhibition’s rooms.
Atmospheric tableaux combine virtual and museum objet d’art. The Inca worshipped the sun, building temples on sacred mountains for use on ceremonial days.
Recent aerial, 3D-LIDAR, and penetrating ground radar has uncovered building terraces, stairways, and building that lead to undiscovered artifacts.
Pottery, Southern coast of Peru, Florescent Epoch, 1 AD – 800 AD. A shaman head can be seen on this drum. Shamans were able to contact other worlds after consuming hallucinogenic plants. The two seven-pointed stars on the shaman’s cheeks represent the San Pedro cactus, a plant consumed by shamans wishing to enter into a trance-like state.
The Andean dragon is linked to the Inner World through its association with the Moon as found in this ceramic stirrup-shaped bottle. Moche Culture, 100-800 CE. Northern Coast.
Silver and gold were of equal value.
Breastplate. The personal adornments of the elite were crafted from materials not readily accessible to the general populace.
Danny and Aylin Tito.
Sharice and Troy Collins, WHE executive vice-president.
“Machu Picchu remains an enduring symbol of the great Incan empire. It is one legacy of the dozens of advanced societies that flourished in ancient Peru for more than 3,000 years.”
“A pottery rattle vessel depicts travels through different worlds in order to ensure the continuation of nature’s cycles.”
Andean weavers integrated myths into their designs, as highly prized as gold and silver. Artisans dyed cotton and wool threads using pigments extracted from vegetables and insects, combining them with natural alpaca and vicuna fibers.
Suzanne Moss and Adam Veenhuis.
L. to r.: Andy Numhauser, WHE founder and international managing director; Roberta Kjelgaard, the Museum of Art’s development director.
Sarah and Jason Simmons, WHE executive vice-president.
Artisans crafted gold sun-shaped objects with spiritual significance.
Gold jewelry often displayed a mathematical sense of aesthetic design.
Many of the gold items display geometric precision.
Funerary ensemble comprised of a golden headdress, ear adornments, necklace, epaulets, and breastplate. During the Spanish conquest, many of these gold pieces were melted down.
Jody Harrison Grass, Margaret Blume, and Jennifer Kraatz.
Machu Picchu, the iconic abandoned city-in-the-sky, a once lost advanced civilization. Apart from the exhibition, the museum offers the first-ever VR expedition of Machu Picchu, recorded in 2020 during the pandemic. Filmed using state-of-the-art drone technology, it was the first time in recent history the site was empty.
Daniela, a visiting llama, the evening’s VIP.

Schmidt Boca Raton History Museum
71 North Federal Highway – Boca Raton
Boca Raton Historical Society

Directly across from the Museum of Art at Mizner Park is Boca Raton’s old Town Hall, home for many years to the city’s Historical Society that only last week announced a $1 million gift, changing Town Hall’s name to the Schmidt Boca Raton History Museum.

The Historical Society announced the Schmidt Family Foundation’s $1 million gift to sponsor public exhibitions, immersive exhibits, events in the historic Council Chamber, and aid the research library and archive. Established in 1986 by Dorothy and Charles Schmidt, the family’s foundation provides funding for local organizations in the community they were a part of for many years. Also, the Boca Raton City Council recently kicked-in $500,000 for infrastructure updates.

The Historical Society unveils its completed renovation on November 3. Exhibits highlight Boca Raton’s eclectic growth from a farm town to its 21st-century standing as an international community. The galleries showcase the 1920s Mizner plan, WW II Army Air Field, later converted to the Florida Atlantic University campus, and IBM’s development.


Boca Raton’s old Town Hall is now home to the Schmidt Boca Raton History Museum.


Schmidt Boca Raton History Museum. West elevation. Wrought-iron grille and tiled heraldry plaque; Central hall, east wall. Boca Raton Club grille, detail.
The IBM Florida gallery includes the company’s earliest word processors and laptops.


Mary Csar, standing between a farm packing house mural and a virtual train ride aboard an FEC train car.
Town Center Mall is built on what was once Butts Farm, originally 3,500 acres that was mostly sold to Arvida with acreage donated to the state for Florida Atlantic University. Clarence Butts was a family neighbor for many years. When I was slightly more than a toddler, Butts would take my brother and me out to the farm, making for wonderful childhood memories.

Photography Augustus Mayhew.

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