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Turning West Palm Beach into a Canvas

For West Palm Beach's Canvas, 20 street murals to debut on buildings, parking garages, bridges.

When Dean "Zeus" Coleman debuts his board game Streetopoly this weekend in a West Palm Beach warehouse, players will ditch the racecar, top hat and battleship and become the sharpest street-art provocateurs on the scene: Banksy, Mr. Brainwash and Shepard Fairey. You do not pass "Go" and collect $200, but instead pass "Ego" and collect nothing. Instead of jail, players wind up at an art auction. And forget the beauty contest: Count on winning second prize in an art competition.

Streetopoly's board measures 12 feet wide and is designed with playable 3D-printed tokens, fake paper money and "property" cards (players own street artists, not Park Place). After noticing the explosion of urban murals on London's scene, Zeus says he ginned up the board game to comment on the hype surging around the value of street art.

"It's the fastest-growing art form in the world right now," says Zeus, himself an urban artist based in London and Amsterdam. "Streetopoly is a reflection of what's happening, which has a lot of good and bad. A lot of young, talented graffiti artists are suddenly making a living from their art. Some are working minimum wage."

Starting Sunday, Nov. 8, Zeus will install Streetopoly inside an empty warehouse at 501 Fern St., which serves as the VIP hub of Canvas, a new art fair that will bring two weeks of vivid creativity, music, food, fashion and artwalks to downtown. Zeus' installation will be joined by 20 outdoor murals, sculptures and video projections, each dropping splashes of color on condo towers on Datura Street, a seafood restaurant on Clematis, a city-owned parking garage, and even the elegant Royal Park Bridge feeding into the town of Palm Beach.

Taking responsibility for the downtown street-art makeover is Nicole Henry, a West Palm gallery owner who tapped international street artists to make their mark in the city. She aims to model the Nov. 8-22 "outdoor museum show" after Art Basel week in December, when white-tented art fairs sprawl out in Miami but leave Palm Beach County out of the conversation.

"I looked at Soho and Brooklyn and Art Basel and Wynwood, and how Miami wasn't known as a cultural place until [late Wynwood developer] Tony Goldman came in," says Henry, whose Nicole Henry Fine Art gallery is next to the VIP warehouse. "We want West Palm to find its own cultural identity with a contemporary-art show where the entire city is the canvas."

Over the summer, Henry rallied the city's mayor, Jeri Muoio, and the Downtown Development Authority's Arts and Entertainment District to use local buildings as a canvas. Her nonprofit, Canvas Art Charities Inc., raised $200,000 for the project through private donors.

Between Sunday and Nov. 18, the public can witness West Palm Beach's facelift, download the Canvas smartphone app, then vote for the sharpest artwork by scanning a QR code mounted on a plaque next to the mural, Henry says.

Visitors can also vote on street artists facing off in a free Canvas Local Showdown from 7-10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13, at ArtHouse429 (429 25th St.), with the winner earning a slot in next year's Canvas.

At least seven murals will surround Henry's gallery and the VIP warehouse, with works by Miami's Registered Artist, Los Angeles' Wrdsmth and Brooklyn photographer Michael Dweck, who will mount massive photo prints of nude mermaids swimming into a black abyss.

More murals, including from Miami's 2Alas and Jose Bedia, can be found near the West Palm Beach waterfront and points south. The most unusual location may be underneath the Royal Park bridge, accessible via a Flagler Drive walkway, which is home to a mural by Sean "Hula" Yoro that depicts a woman's head floating above the water's surface.

On the bridge's opposite-facing side is Cheryl Maeder's aquatic-themed installation "Submerged," a two-minute video filled with ocean waves and still images of a woman in a bathing suit swimming underwater. Maeder's work, which can be seen from 6-10 p.m. between Nov. 13 and Nov. 22, is a nod to humanity's kinship with the ocean.

"The Earth is 70 percent water, and our bodies are 70 percent water. We are not separate from the environment," says Maeder, of West Palm Beach. "I like to think this video lets you take the leap, to submerge down into your soul."

Canvas begins Sunday, Nov. 8, and continues through Nov. 22 in downtown West Palm Beach. Mural-watching is free, but the Canvas VIP reception (6-11 p.m. Nov. 18), Bubbles and Bling party (6-11 p.m. Nov. 19) and runway show (5-11 p.m. Nov. 20) cost $125. A Canvas street party (noon-8 p.m. Nov. 21-22) is free. For the full schedule, call 561-906-6432, or go to CanvasWPB.org.

pvalys@sun-sentinel.com or Twitter @philvalys

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