Image courtesy of Boynton Arts
Glenn Weiss’s work in art, activism, and public art has allowed him to crisscross the country multiple times over four decades, with stops in New York City, Seattle, and Florida. It’s fitting, then, that he’s now the public art manager in Boynton Beach, Fla., a city whose biggest art event, the Kinetic Biennial, celebrates artwork in motion.
His journey with public art began in the 1980s in New York City with an organization called the Storefront for Art and Architecture. They created (sometimes) “illegal public art” highlighting issues of housing and homelessness, like organizing a hundred people in one night to paint the streets and sidewalks with graffiti about homelessness.
A hallmark of Weiss’s career has been an effort to champion diversity. While running the public art program for Washington state’s King County (home to Seattle), he recalled thinking, “No people of color have gotten any commissions, and very few women… What kind of project can we do to increase this?” One answer, he realized, was that more diverse artists come forward when they’re offered money.
Once he arrived in Florida, one of his first projects was the Delray Beach Cultural Loop with the MacArthur “Genius” grant-winning artist Rick Lowe in the early 2000s. They aimed to create a cultural link between the white, African-American, and Haitian communities in Delray Beach, Fla., through art commissioned by local artists, as well as a book, celebrations at churches, and a talk on local architecture.
“When I got there, the heart of the white community and the Black community were only seven blocks apart, and they never walked between each other. It was like the 1950s,” Weiss said.
Since 2021, Weiss has led Boynton Beach’s Art in Public Places program, funded by a city ordinance that requires developers to put public art on new properties or pay a fee of 1% of the construction value. The city uses the money collected to fund public art elsewhere. Florida is one of only three states, along with California and Arizona, that allows municipalities to make laws requiring public art in new developments, Weiss said.
Image courtesy of Michael Wilson
“I work with the private developers on the art they’re bringing to the properties,” he said. “This year, we did a mural [on the exterior of] a large inpatient mental health facility. That was fun, because one of the things that’s very interesting about doing this with private developers is that they have no experience whatsoever, so you can kind of guide them if you do it the right way.”
Boynton’s flagship public art program is the International Kinetic Biennial, which was founded in 2013 by Debby Coles Dobay, Weiss’s predecessor. He said it’s the only art event that draws visitors from outside the city, helping Boynton Beach build a reputation beyond its working-class and middle-class roots as “a place where the art takes place” within the Palm Beach County region.
“We don’t know for sure, but we think we could be the only group in the world doing this…” Weiss said. “We’re trying to build a reputation as a place that does this free outdoor kinetic sculpture that moves.”
The Sixth Kinetic Biennial, which will be held in mid-March, will include 34 sculptures and murals within a half-mile stretch downtown. About half of them are kinetic, including 12 new temporary works. Six of those are fiberglass sailfish – the city’s symbol – that will be painted by local artists and displayed on spinning poles.
“Glenn Weiss has done an outstanding job since he became our public art manager,” Boynton Beach Commissioner Woodrow L. Hay wrote in an email. “Boynton Beach is ‘America’s Gateway to the Gulfstream.’ With that being said, Glenn has been instrumental in the selection process of public art in our city to support that theme. I’m looking for even greater things from him and his department in the future.”