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The Norton is open and black art is on its walls

When the Norton Museum of Art formally reopened last month after a two-year-long, $100 million expansion, the work of Nina Chanel Abney was on display.

The months and months of closure probably seemed like eternity for art lovers, but it has reopened with a stunning new wing—the Kenneth C. Griffin Building, designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Lord Norman Foster. It is the most comprehensive renovation in the institution’s 78-year history.

The Museum’s expansion also includes lush new gardens, which feature 15 works of sculpture, and a reinterpretation of historic galleries original to the Norton when it opened in 1941. The Museum now includes more than 15 galleries of art, a beautiful community space in the Ruth and Carl Sharpio Great Hall, a restaurant with outdoor seating, the Stiller Family Foundation Auditorium and new classrooms and exhibition space for student art in the Education Center.

The new Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach.

One of the exhibits creating an exciting buzz is Ms. Abney’s work, titled Neon, which will be on display through June 25. The 37-year-old, New York-based contemporary artist and painter (shown at top) explores race, gender, pop culture, gun violence and politics in her work. It is the latest example of the Norton’s focus on both contemporary art and female artists in its exhibition series RAW: Recognition of Art by Women, launched in 2011. Ms. Abney’s work uses symbols and bold bright colors, see above, to present new ways of approaching loaded topics as she invites viewers to draw their own conclusions.

Like other revolutionary modernists of color, such as artist and author  Romare Bearden and artists David Hammons and Kara Walker, her work is relevant, timeless and demands attention.

And, like Ms. Abney, all of their work is currently on display at the Norton but in a different exhibit: Going Public: Florida Collectors Celebrate the Norton, which runs through June 4. Visit Ms. Albrey’s work and schedule of events here and the works of the other artists, here. And to learn more about the really interesting Norton Museum of Art, click here.

There are other remarkable artists at the Norton in some way, including Lenelle Moise, a young, award-winning poet, actress and playwright of Haitian descent who will perform, teach and interact at three events in April. Click here to learn more about those events; they are also listed on the coco calendar.

His work is also on display at the Norton: photographer Gordon Parks. This picture, from 1942, tells a federal worker’s story of ‘bigotry and despair.’
(Photo Credit: Ron Scott)

Ron Scott covers jazz music for The Amsterdam News in New York City in his weekly column, ‘Jazz Notes.’ Born in West Palm Beach, Mr. Scott was raised and lives in New York and is an award-winning writer, editor and publicity consultant. His byline has also appeared in the New York Times, Vogue magazine and the New York Daily News. To read his bio, click here and to contact him, send an email to rscott4f@aol.com.

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A Taste of Ethiopia

On a recent visit to my native home of West Palm Beach, I reconnected with a friend I  knew where I grew up, former New Yorker Stewart Bosley, who has since relocated here and is the owner/operator of Urban Growers Community Farm in West Palm Beach.

He introduced me to his favorite restaurant in town.

“The Queen of Sheeba,” Mr. Bosley said. “It’s Ethiopian and the food is great.” Afterwards he also introduced me to the chef, Lojo Washington, a native Ethiopian, and her co-owner-husband William Washington. He is a longtime area accountant and pastor of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in West Palm Beach.  

Queen of Sheeba is in the heart of the historic Northwest neighborhood, located at 716 North Sapodilla Avenue. 

Lojo Washington, native of Ethiopia and owner of Queen of Sheeba.
Shown: the outdoor eating area.

Mrs. Washington, above, originally opened in 2006 as a soul food takeout spot that served everything from neck bones to black-eyed peas, chicken and fried fish.

“The community watched me build the restaurant up and were very supportive,” she said. “Now we’re like a family.”

As part of the soul food takeout, Mrs. Washington started a young people’s book club in the neighborhood. “I would like to do that again in the future,” said the soft-spoken Mrs. Washington with a smile.

Her husband is from Louisiana, where his mother, Mildred Washington, still resides. Her cooking inspired her daughter-in-law to open a restaurant using her recipes.

In 2014, Washington transformed the takeout into a sit-down Ethiopian restaurant, Queen of Sheeba. “I changed,” she explained, “because I was more familiar with my native food.” 

Plant life hovers over the outdoor patio sheltering customers from the sun. The interior, lined with antique furniture, is a treasure trove of memorabilia.

Author Ron Scott stands in front of the ‘treasure trove of memorabilia’ at the restaurant.

The portions of food are more than enough—combinations of vegetables with fish, chicken or beef. The imported African tea and beer can’t be beat. And forget about the fork: Just use the injera bread to scoop everything up. Perfect.

Queen of Sheeba is open from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., then reopens from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays. It is closed on Sundays and Mondays. For more information, contact 561-514-0615, QueenofSheba1@gmail.com or click here to visit its website.

Ron Scott covers jazz music for The Amsterdam News in New York City in his weekly column, ‘Jazz Notes.’ Born in West Palm Beach, Mr. Scott was raised and lives in New York and is an award-winning writer, editor and publicity consultant. His byline has also appeared in the New York Times, Vogue magazine and the New York Daily News. To read his bio, click here and to contact him, send an email to rscott4f@aol.com. Oh. And why was he in town, anyway, you might ask? Taking a break after covering the International Havana Jazz Festival in Cuba.