Still time to catch Frost Art Museum FIU’s “Place and Purpose” exhibit

Written By Jonel Juste
September 17, 2021 at 4:24 PM

Roland Woods, Jr. Pitts and Lee. Screenprint, 1977 (Courtesy Frost Art Museum FIU)

 Since last May, Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum FIU has launched the “Place and Purpose: Art Transformation in Coconut Grove” exhibit. If you haven’t seen it yet, you have until September 19 to do so. Here’s why you should.   

If you are an art aficionado, and even if you’re not, you should go see this exhibition because this is a great opportunity to learn about Miami art history.

This exhibition, according to Museum Director Jordana Pomeroy, pays tribute to a Miami community whose history and present are rich in art and culture, including the founding of the Miami Black Arts Workshop (MBAW) and the Coconut Grove Arts Festival.

To Amy Galpin, Chief Curator at Frost Art Museum, “Place and Purpose: Art Transformation in Coconut Grove” offers a space to consider the Miami arts community pre-Art Basel.” “It’s also a way,” she adds, “to consider racial divisions of the past in relation to the present. It offers a mechanism to assess the role of a creative community in making space for artistic support.”

The exhibit is obviously about Miami’s oldest neighborhood, also known as The Grove. In the 1960’s, Coconut Grove established itself as a hub for a diverse group of artists, writers, musicians, and galleries. Explains curator Galpin, “Coconut Grove is well known for its Bohemian community of the 1960s and 1970s and its folk music scene. We wanted to dig deeper and see if there were other, different stories to tell”.

Annette Rawlings Spaces I. Oil on Linen, 1984 (Courtesy Frost Art Museum FIU)

Galpin goes on to say that Coconut Grove itself has a long history related to the founding of Miami. “Bahamians came to Miami, settling in Coconut Grove, and are responsible for building the community.”

The exhibition is about a particular place and how it serves as space for creative negotiation. It’s not necessarily about artists who’ve lived in Coconut Grove for decades and always lived in the Grove, indicates the curator, but about this particular community as a space for artistic transformation. “The Purpose in the exhibition can be political or community-driven, or it can be about freedom to experiment and create distinctive work.”

One of the goals of the exhibition, reveals Amy Galpin, was to amplify untold histories. “I wanted to increase knowledge of the Miami Black Arts Workshop and place their practice at the heart of this history.” Formerly located on Grand Avenue, MBAW offered a space for Black artists to make work but also to address community needs such as a free breakfast program, field trips, and business improvement opportunities through freshly painted facades.

Film poster by Steve Blanco,1987 (Courtesy Frost Art Museum FIU)

“There are many stories to tell in Miami and I want to be a small part of contributing to this history. There will be other exhibitions, and should be other exhibitions, that cover these topics. I hope our project inspires others,” concludes the curator.

Many artists have exhibited their work at Frost Art Museum FIU. Among others, Kabuya Pamela Bowens-Saffo, Elenora Chambers, Freda Coffing Tschumy, Klara Farkas, Martin Kreloff, Owen Lee, Donald McKnight, Roland Woods, Dinizulu Gene Tinnie, etc. Community activists, as well as artists, created a powerful space in Coconut Grove through the MBAW, a venue that welcomed young people to learn about art and activism.

“This exhibition was a beautiful homecoming for me, returning to my native Miami Florida to celebrate a history of community people and cultural experiences in Coconut Grove and Richmond Heights,” indicates Kabuya Pamela Bowens-Saffo.

“My artwork in the exhibition,” she explains, “is a focus about a place called the ‘Barnyard’ in Coconut Grove, where I once worked. My purpose at the Barnyard was teaching art. I created large scale art projects with community youth. I also designed the city of Miami official Goombay poster in 1986”.

The “Place and Purpose” exhibit ends September 19.

WHAT: “Place and Purpose: Art Transformation in Coconut Grove”

WHEN: Until September 19, Tues-Sun: 11:00am – 5:00pm

WHERE: Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum, 10975 SW 17th St, Miami, FL 33199


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