Brewing Ideas and Creativity
Updated: Apr 17, 2018
A looking into the growing revitalization and art movement of downtown Lake Park.
Back in the 80’s, I spent a lot of time on Park Avenue where my father owned a VCR repair shop. Then, the street was home to a myriad of small businesses, including restaurants, retail shops, an art store (that remains after 30 years) and even a magic store where my father got most of our Christmas gifts. The community holds fond memories, but unfortunately went through a rapid decline, forcing many businesses to close shop or move as my father did.
In 1996, the city of Lake Park enacted the Lake Park CRA (Community Redevelopment Agency) in order to spearhead a revitalization project to “reverse the Town's declining fortunes, and restore a sense of place and community through revitalization of the physical and economic environment in the designated areas.” To see it today, compared to so many years ago, it’s impressive at how far they’ve come.
But despite their initial progress, real change took shape when AJ Brockman and Jo Brockman opened the Brewhouse Gallery. “In 2014 we opened Brewhouse,” explains AJ Brockman. “We were busy from day one. We’re an art gallery but we’re also a craft beer bar. Everyone thinks ‘brew’ stands for beer, but really it’s about brewing creativity.” This is the type of thinking that gave birth to the Lake Park Art District.
In 2016, the Brockmans took over the 700 city block of Park Avenue, giving rise to the newly renovated Kelsey Theater. It took a lot of work, but with tremendous support from the community and the CRA, they collected $50,000 in donations and were able to transform the Kelsey into a major music venue hosting hundreds of shows including The Dead Kennedys, Henry Rollins, Sister Hazel, Afroman, The Devil Wears Prada, Michael Winslow, DOPE, Local H and many more along with tons of local musicians and performing artists. The plaza continues to attract many new retailers, restaurants and other businesses, all centered around bringing the community together through art.
In 2017, the Brockman family launched Kelsey Cares, a 501(3)(c) dedicated to funding cultural development through community outreach. “Our mission is to help underwrite artists in all aspects, whether performing artists, visual artists or artists with disabilities,” said AJ. “We’ve done a lot to underwrite programs for them so they can get involved without any financial barriers.” A large part of the Kelsey Cares donations have gone towards the Back Alley Mural project that spans 900 feet of wall space, one of the largest murals in South Florida. As a yearly project, they are planning to keep the space “fresh” and create new murals for everyone to enjoy. Funding for the project is underway and the unveiling is scheduled for Saturday, May 12, 2018 during The 4yr Anniversary Block Party.
To learn more on how to become a part of the project, visit KelseyCares.org. And don’t forget to check out all of the upcoming events at the Brewhouse and The Kelsey Theater. There’s something for everyone!