An Idea That Launched A Rebirth Still Resonates

Old School Square was the catalyst.

Leave it to the wonderful Frances Bourque for coming up with a novel way to stimulate conversation among old and new friends.
She’s really good at that kind of thing and whole lot of other important stuff too.
The founder of Old School Square is a personal hero of mine and I’m not alone in that assessment.
If she didn’t end up in Delray Beach, this would have been a far different and far less interesting town.
Last week, we took a fairly large group to La Cigale restaurant as part of a national search for a new CEO for the cultural arts center that Frances created thirty plus years ago.
It was a solid group of civic, business and cultural leaders—people who truly care and have given their time, passion, energy and dollars to not only Old School Square but to a slew of positive efforts that have made Delray Beach the special place that it is.
Readers of this space know that I’m a firm believer that the fate of a community depends on who decides or is encouraged to show up and contribute.
Communities succeed when talented and generous people are given opportunities to participate. They fail when talented and generous people are told to stay away or if they feel the atmosphere in town is too negative to bother.
Nobody wants to jump into a toxic pool, everyone wants to dive in when the pool is safe and inviting.
Delray has been blessed by so many special people. It really has been.
Old School Square has been blessed by dozens of special people over the years inspired by Frances’ vision and the idea that the arts can be used to build community.
Many of those special people were at La Cigale last week and at the Cornell Museum too to help find a special leader to take Old School Square into the future.
Three decades ago, the project helped to catalyze the rebirth of downtown Delray.
Today, it hosts weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, art exhibits (don’t miss Seven Solos and the 6×6 exhibit at the Cornell Art Museum), outdoor concerts, art classes, festivals and some pretty cool performances in the Crest Theatre.
What’s at stake is the future—but I have faith it will end up in good hands because of the special people dedicated to ensuring its future.
I think the community itself also appreciates the role Old School Square plays—although those of us involved realize we have a lot more outreach to do to reach a rapidly changing population and society.
So back to the conversation starter launched by Frances. She asked those of us willing to share what our best year was. It was interesting to hear that quite a few of the answers referenced Old School Square.
Whether it was a hard charging professional in a cut throat business who found solace in the arts or someone like me who married the love of his life at Old School Square and took his children to exhibits and festivals the memories were impactful and important.
Cities are so much more than bricks and mortar. So much more than budgets, taxes or fights over issues which will soon be forgotten. They are about relationships, ideas, service and dedication to making  sure that where we live is a good place for everyone.
Frances’ idea was brilliant because Old School Square addresses our past (through historic preservation),  our present (through programming) and our future through what we decide to create on its campus.
I know these things in my bones. I think we all do. But it sure is good to be reminded and Frances’ conversation starter ignited that feeling in me again. Just like it did 30 years ago.


  1. Jane Glatz says

    Jeff, a very timely article on Old School Square and it’s contribution to the Delray Beach Community! It’s amazing, however, the number of residents that still do not know of the Cornell Art Museum and all the programming offered on the Old School Square 5-venue campus. A STRONG VISIONARY LEADER, like Frances Bourque, is definitely needed and the community is awaiting that news!

    Thank you for your loyal support of Delray Beach in every facet of its daily life to inform and educate all that a great future requires strong, visionary LEADERSHIP, the essence of building a cohesive community.

    • Jeff Perlman says

      Jane, thanks so much for your kind words.
      We are working on it! I am so thrilled that Frances remains a force and a presence in our lives. Along with so many others I feel we are truly blessed.

  2. Susan Ruby says

    Frances Borque is a truly inspirational leader. We were and are so lucky to have had her commitment to Delray Beach…

    Thanks for this article, it’s nice to be reminded of what a community can achieve, when the community gets together on an idea…

  3. Frances Bourque says

    I continue to be humbled by your most generous and kind words. We were all so lucky to be part of the beginning. Let’s not give up on the possibilities that remain. We still have wonderful dedicated folks in our community! We need to encourage them to come out of hiding! It has never been more important. Love you all!❤️

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.