By Scott Simmons
Walk away from a meeting with Sandra and Bernard Meyer, and you remember the laughter.
But behind the laughter is a formidable advocacy for the arts.
“If I could clone them, and if other arts organizations could clone them, the world would be a much better place,” says Karen Davis, artistic director of the Palm Beach Jewish Film Festival, which runs through Dec. 12.
The Meyers’ passion comes from a real love of the arts, and film.
“We have first-run films that we otherwise might not see in our area,” says Sandra Meyer from the couple’s expansive Highland Beach penthouse.
But Davis says the Meyers are a part of a larger picture.
“Sandy and Bernie are responsible for the expansion of the festival into South County,” she says of the Meyers’ dozen years or so of involvement in the film festival.
“They’re knowledgeable about films,” Davis says. “It’s relatively easy to write a check. “But it’s not so easy to be emotionally supportive of something like the film festival.”
The Meyers, who are on the film festival’s executive board, were born in Chicago.
Sandra Meyer was a teacher and Bernard Meyer, who is CEO of Duray Fluorescent Manufacturing Co., jokes that he has had “one job for 50 years.” Lighting manufactured by his company has been used in such films as Pulp Fiction and Natural Born Killers. He is very proud that his son is part of the third generation in the company, with 25 years of involvement.
“Only 12 percent of family-owned companies last to a third generation,” Bernard Meyer says with a laugh. “That’s how I can enjoy the good life in Florida.”
Typically, says Davis, a wife is interested in the arts and her husband follows along. But with the Meyers, the passion is equal.
“What surprises so many people is that Bernie and I are a team when it comes to supporting the arts,” writes Sandra Meyer. “It is not just the woman who is ‘into’ it.”
And it’s not just the parents, either. The Meyers’ son and daughter are interested in the arts — their son is a docent for architectural tours of Chicago.
And the three grandchildren?
“Our granddaughter pretends to serve pop-art drinks,” says Sandra Meyer of the glass sculptures that adorn the bar of their Highland Beach home. “But all her friends are poor tippers,” Bernard Meyer adds.
The Meyers still have an apartment in the Windy City. And like their home in Highland Beach, it is packed with art, specifically glass sculptures.
Bernard Meyer helps lead private tours of the apartment through the International Expositions of Sculpture Objects & Functional Art, or SOFA. And the couple will lend works to the Krannert Art Museum at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for an exhibition in 2012 to mark the 50th anniversary of glass art.
It’s the newness of glass art that makes it all the more interesting for the Meyers.
“What could be more 21st century?” asks Sandra Meyer.
“You form all these relationships because all the glass artists are still alive,” says Bernard Meyer. “You form friendships with them.”
The Meyers have been collecting for 10 years now, and Bernard Meyer concedes, “it has become an addiction.”
When they designed their Highland Beach home, the Meyers made sure to include niches and coves into which they could place art — even the bathrooms contain glass sculptures. And they like the way the works evolve as the sunlight changes throughout the day.
That’s one of the best parts of living in South Florida, “where it’s 85 degrees in January,” Bernard Meyer says, and stress-free.
For Sandra Meyer, “the architecture in Florida is fascinating. I go on as many tours as I can. When you’re in Boca, you know you’re in Boca. It’s the same with Palm Beach — two distinct flavors.” She says she also loves Miami Beach and its Art Deco architecture.
Sandra Meyer says the couple loves South Florida, but “we would like to see more culture down here.”
It’s not quite the same as the Windy City.
“There are 20 theaters within 5 miles of our apartment in Chicago,” Bernard Meyer says. “You might see John Malkovich standing outside smoking a cigarette.”
While you may not see Malkovich enjoying a smoke outside a theater, there are more opportunities to see art down here, courtesy of the Meyers. They have been involved with the Boca Raton Museum of Art, and have led private tours of their collection.
And there is the Palm Beach Jewish Film Festival.
This year, the Meyers are sponsoring Saviors in the Night, based on the memoir of a German Holocaust survivor (it screens at 7:20 p.m. Dec. 11 at the Regal Delray 18). And you can bet the Meyers probably will be there.
“The Meyers are at almost every one of the Delray Beach films, says festival artistic director Davis. “They are passionate about films.”
Sandra Meyer is thrilled that the festival is gaining international acclaim.
“Our festival is so well-known that important film distributors seek us out, such as Disney/Miramax with The Debt, starring Helen Mirren, to assist them in launching new films,” she writes.
The film festival’s Davis is grateful for that enthusiasm.
“They have strong ideas, but don’t second-guess. They are the perfect sponsors,” she says. “They give money, talk up the film festival, are so supportive and don’t micromanage and are so incredibly generous.”
And the laughter doesn’t hurt, either.
“They’re just always so upbeat. And positive. And they’re so warm,” Davis says. “Sandy and Bernie are the best of that.”
The Palm Beach Jewish Film Festival runs through Dec. 12. In southern Palm Beach County, screenings are at the Regal Delray 18, 1660 S. Federal Highway, Delray Beach, and at the Movies of Delray, 7421 W. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach. Tickets are $10 (evenings) and $8 (matinees). For schedules, log on to www.pbjff.org.