The ten-acre Society of the Four Arts midtown campus is situated at the eastern foot of the Middle Bridge between Seaview Avenue and Royal Palm Way, bordered to the east by Coconut Row and on the west by the Intracoastal Waterway. “It is one of the first things seen upon arriving on the island. It is Palm Beach’s picturesque centerpiece,” said Michel Witmer, chair of The Four Arts Fine Art committee.
“For the past four years, we’ve worked to upgrade and enhance the Philip Hulitar Sculpture Garden. Sculptures have been meticulously cleaned and restored. The artist Jim Dine restored our King Parrot sculpture,” Witmer added. “We re-positioned some sculptures to make them more accessible, and our members are enjoying it.”
The collection’s large-scale outdoor works were recently joined by new sculptures. “We added a great work by artist Beverly Pepper, who joins other fine sculptors like Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Gaston Lachaise, Auguste Rodin, and our most visible work, Isamu Noguchi’s Intetra, a monumental steel tetrahedron set on the Waterway,” Witmer stated.
Speaking of large scale, I’ve been reading The Golden Age of Newport Yachting: Between the Wars (History Press, 2021) by Robert B. MacKay. Thank you, Pauline Pitt. Her brother Anthony Baker was McKay’s co-author, along with Carol A. Traynor, of Long Island Country Houses and their Architects, 1860-1940.
Among the measurements and nautical innovations, MacKay details the “magnificent extravagance” while sticking to just the facts. The book’s 20 chapters cover the era’s notable owners and builders of “fast yachts and floating palaces,” ending with the Widener family’s April 1912 tragedy aboard the Titanic where George Dunton Widener and his son Harry Elkins Widener lost their lives.
Over at the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens, the waterfront botanical garden and sculpture park on South Flagler Drive, Saturday afternoon’s talk by noted sculptor Edwina Sandys was cancelled because of illness only hours before she was set to speak.
Saturday, March 5, was the 76th anniversary of Edwina’s grandfather Winston Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech. She had planned to speak on the Cold War, the East-West divide, her work War and Peace, 2019, created from a section of the Berlin Wall, and the ongoing cataclysmic events in Ukraine.
While all send best wishes for Edwina’s quick recovery, the Ann Norton’s indefatigable chair Frances Fisher went ahead with a luncheon in the recently restored landmark Ann Norton Art Studio, honoring Edwina’s family members and close friends.
Step into spring, the area’s sculpture gardens are simply sublime. Here is a look around at the gardens turned galleries.
Gioconda & Joseph King Library
Philip Hulitar Sculpture Gardens
Opened in 1980 and designated the Philip Hulitar Sculpture Garden in 1988, the 2 ½-acre walled sanctuary, was first reimagined in 2000 following several hurricanes. Today, the garden accommodates 20 large-scale sculptures, several fountains, a palm grove, terraced planters, pergolas with sitting and gathering areas, and the Pannill Pavilion, a community meeting place.
The historic Botanical Gardens
First planted by The Garden Club of Palm Beach in 1938, the project was intended as educational demonstration gardens divided into thematic sections. After devastating hurricanes wreaked havoc more than 20 years ago, the gardens and walkways were restored.
The Four Arts gardens are open Monday-Sunday, 10 am-5 pm. Admission is free.
Luncheon @ Ann Norton’s Art Studio
Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens
Saturday, March 5, 2022
Photography by Augustus Mayhew.