Miami Beach native Michele Oka Doner leaves footprint on upcoming ‘Aspen Ideas: Climate’ Conference
Posted By Elisa Turner May 3, 2022 at 10:10 PM
Miami Beach native and artist Michele Oka Doner will visit the “Aspen Ideas: Climate.” Her artistic legacy has long been inspired by Florida’s fragile eco-system. (Photo courtesy of Don Freeman)
Whether or not she’s in sight of the sea, artist and designer Michele Oka Doner has the soul of a beachcomber, ever curious to comb her imagination for paths linking art and science. Those paths have taken this New York-based artist and Miami Beach native as far as China. In 2021 her “Velocity of Light,” inspired by clusters of stars, was installed at the Shanghai Astronomy Museum.
Growing up in Miami Beach, Oka Doner recalls how much she loved to play on the beach, obsessively sorting through sand to collect fragments of coral and shell. To her, they resembled an alphabet, a calligraphic record of natural history.
Those calligraphic fragments would one day find their way into her widely exhibited body of work melding art and natural history – work that now spans five decades. The upcoming conference, “Aspen Ideas: Climate,” from Monday May 9 through Thursday, in Miami Beach, recognizes that our coastal region is seriously threatened in this era of climate crisis. It will also pay homage Oka Doner’s various contributions to public awareness of the natural history of Miami Beach and South Florida, interlacing the history with her art.
Her artistic legacy, long inspired by Florida’s currently at-risk eco-system, now seems prescient.
For “Aspen Ideas: Climate,” the City of Miami Beach published a new edition of the book Oka Doner co-authored with fellow Miami Beach native, Mitchell “Micky” Wolfson, Jr. The book is “Miami Beach: Blueprint of an Eden.” Mining their families’ extensive archives, they detail the city’s cultural and political history, its distinctive plant life and geology.
“We’re going to give (the book) to sponsors and speakers because it tells such a beautiful story about Miami’s rich history,” says Michele Burger, the chief of staff for the City of Miami Beach.
Lauren Shapiro’s large sculptural intervention will be on display at the Royal Palm South Beach during the “Aspen Ideas: Climate.” The work, entitled Site-R16 Transect 1, refers to a now-extinct coral population. (Photo courtesy of Shireen Rahimi)
Conference attendees will also see subtle reminders of Oka Doner’s “A Walk on the Beach,” the stunning bronze and terrazzo concourse extending over a mile through Miami International Airport and commissioned by Miami Dade County Art in Public Places. The concourse is embedded with nearly 9,000 unique bronze forms, echoing the biodiversity of South Florida aquatic plants and creatures.
An image of one of those bronze forms adorns tote bags, water bottles, and staff and volunteer T-shirts at the conference. The image is inspired by a colony of star coral where each cell in the colony is a separate living creature but interconnected with the others in order to survive and thrive.
As Oka Doner explains, “Like star coral, our human species can join together and function as a colony in order to navigate a rapidly changing environment.”
The May conference is the first time the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Aspen Institute has addressed climate change, where it is bringing together local and international policy makers, scientific experts, corporate leaders, and other stakeholders.
According to Jon Purves, associate director, media relations and communications for “Aspen Ideas,” more than 70 to 80 educational programs at venues, both held in- and outdoors are in place to engage those attending with ideas about ways to address the dramatically altering climate. Attendance is expected to exceed 800, Purves says.
In synch with an ambitious event that promotes creative thinking about a momentous global challenge, there will be daily offerings of public art, film, and performances at Miami Beach Convention Center, Miami Beach Botanical Garden, and Soundscape Park, adjacent to New World Center. South Florida artists taking part include visual artist Morel Doucet, ceramic sculptor Lauren Shapiro, and performance works by artists Dale Andree, Brigid Baker, and Michelle Grant-Murray.
Morel Doucet’s “The Ocean Dances Over Sun Buttered Mountains,” Porcelain, Ceramics and Slip Cast (2019). Doucet will create a piece for “Aspen Ideas: Climate.” (Photography courtesy of the artist)
Burger says Oka Doner inspired her to include artists in the event. Deeply involved in the planning of “Aspen Ideas: Climate,” Burger notes that while individuals may have their own definition of climate resilience and sustainability, some may be inspired by art or design, food or fashion to ponder their own environmental footprint.
“We are suggesting using art as one of those vehicles to inspire people,” Burger says. “So, we’ve engaged about 15 artists to participate in some kind of visual art and performance art program.”
Oka Doner plans to attend the conference. She says she is curious to see how it will address the “monumental shifts” Miami Beach is facing, commenting that the area is threatened by both rising waters and winds from storms that are stronger than in previous generations.
And there’s the issue of South Florida’s incessant building on vulnerable land that is cause for concern, she says.
Performances at “Aspen Ideas: Climate” will include work by Michelle Grant Murray. Pictured is Rose Water Dance by Olujimi Dance choreographed by Grant Murray. (Photography courtesy of the artist.)
“It’s a cultural issue. We live in a culture that if you overeat too much you can take a pill. If you have too much sugar, you can go to the doctor for insulin. There’s been a pill for everything. And we have not taken personal responsibility. The planet is not here for our use and that’s how it’s been perceived.”
Oka Doner believes that developers are looking to big tech to solve the problem, or as she says, “deliver the pill.”
She continues: “They’ve sold that you can build up, and that things will evolve. Well, perhaps they could evolve but the problem is nobody knows when a Katrina-like moment will come.”
Pondering where we are today, Oka Doner says that the culture has shifted from where we were even a decade ago.
“I think the values of zero sum, winner take all, are much more apparent.” She expresses disappointment by “the inability of adults of grown adults to sit in a room and do what’s best for the community not for their constituency.”
How to move toward solutions?
She does not mince words.
“We need a council of elders. We need everyone working together.”
WHAT: “Aspen Ideas: Climate”
WHEN: May 9-12 with programming, receptions, field trips, performances, and art activations.
WHERE: New World Center, 500 17th St, Miami Beach; Miami Beach Convention Center, 1901 Convention Center Drive, Miami Beach; Miami Beach Botanical Garden, 2000Convention Center Drive, Miami Beach, and other venues across the city.
COST: Outdoor art activations and Wallcast evening programming is free. Full day tickets, $150-$250.
‘Forest: Ancestry and Dystopia’ is homage to the Amazon
Posted By Sergy Odiduro April 4, 2022 at 10:06 PM
Luciana Magno’s “Belterra” is featured in “Forest: Ancestry & Dystopia” at Miami’s Fundación Pablo Atchugarry. (Photo courtesy of the artist)
Now’s your chance to step into a hidden world filled with fragile ecosystems, breathtaking natural resources and ancestral communities.
An exhibit titled, “Forest: Ancestry and Dystopia” — a lens-based homage to the Amazon tropical rainforest — is running through July 16, 2022, at Miami’s Fundación Pablo Atchugarry, 5520 NE Fourth Ave. Presented by The55Project Art Foundation, it features the work of 16 Brazilian artists who are known for capturing the heartbeat of the Amazon, reflecting the essence of its people, and sounding the alarm so that others can work together to protect it.
“We want to create clarity and an awareness when it comes to this topic,” said Flavia Macuco, executive director of The55Project. “We want people to know that we have indigenous cultures. We have the forest that we need to preserve. We have deforestation, and we also have a mining problem. It’s very important that we bring this message to Miami.”
As part of this messaging, the exhibit includes a range of activities aimed at educating a new generation of informed citizens, including workshops, school field trips and a sensory-friendly exhibit tour for those with autism spectrum disorders.
“Falling Sky/The end of the world” is from Claudia Andujar’s Yanomami Dreams series. (Photo courtesy of the artist)
For Macuco, the exhibit and related activities perfectly align with the goals of her organization.
“The55Project has a mission to bring cultural history and cultural projects from Brazil to create an exchange with local American communities,” she said. “People enjoy it because sometimes they can only see the Amazon forest or indigenous people through the news, so when this exhibition started, we felt that we are doing our job in creating this opportunity to exchange ideas, and to create educational programs for the kids, and to open their minds to the problems that they will face in the future.”
Eder Chiodetto, former curator of photography at the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art in Brazil, carefully selected each piece for the show.
“I looked for artists like Claudia Andujar, who opens the exhibition showing the deep wisdom of the Yanomami indigenous people,” said Chiodetto in an email. “It is one of the most touching works I know, because Andujar is an artist who makes very original use of photography to show the dreamlike universe of a unique and complex culture that is not her own.”
Walda Marques’ “Comigo ninguem pode.” (Photo courtesy of the artist)
Another featured artist: documentary filmmaker Lalo de Almeida, who poignantly captured images of the arson fires that wiped out 30 percent of South America’s Pantanal wetlands.
“Curating this exhibition is a political and poetic gesture that aims to sensitize hearts and minds,” he said. “It shows the wisdom and the transcendental nature of the forest vis-à-vis excessive capitalist ambitions that exhaust resources and murder indigenous people …
“Even the illegal burning of forests and the pollution of rivers in Brazil are largely sponsored by the demands of First World countries, avid for wood and ore. This attitude goes back to the colonization process that seems to have changed its features, but follows the same logic of the expropriation of other people’s territories.”
Chiodetto believes the exhibit is one way to inform people today while also addressing the concerns of tomorrow, serving as a visual reminder that each person has an important role to play: “It is high time for everyone to use their full potential to create awareness of the world we will leave for future generations.”
WHAT: “Forest: Ancestry and Dystopia” exhibit
WHEN: Through July 16, 2022
WHERE: Fundación Pablo Atchugarry, 5520 NE Fourth Ave., Miami
‘Aerial Vision’ at Wolfsonian-FIU coming to a close
Posted By Michelle F. Solomon March 10, 2022 at 4:20 PM
The Eiffel Tower, created for the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle, was the tallest structure in the world at one point. This drawing study from 1937 is by Andre Grenet, who was married to the granddaughter of Gustave Eiffel. (Photo/Lynton Gardiner)
“Aerial Vision” at The Wolfsonian-FIU in Miami Beach is all about point of view.
Or, as curator Lea Nickless puts it, “how you look at things from different perspectives and how that has an impact…
“The idea of the exhibition is how the early 20th-century technologies of skyscrapers and airplanes provided a previously unavailable platform to see and interpret the world.”
On display through April 24, the exhibition utilizes paintings, prints, drawings, magazine covers, postcards, sheet music, collector plates and other objects to show how these inventions gave birth to a new era that was born practically overnight.
A chandelier (1937) by architect Kjell Westin for The Norma Restaurant in Stockholm, Sweden, has transportation images etched in glass. (Photo/Lynton Gardiner)
“This new view affected everyone … artists, architects, urban planners and designers,” Nickless says, adding that it sparked creativity and introduced novel approaches for living, working and traveling. “Everything in the exhibition is a result of an interpretation of this new view by a visual thinker.”
In effect, the exhibition is a result of Nickless’ ever-evolving views of the pieces in The Wolfsonian collection, which she says today numbers 200,000 items and counting. It’s not a stretch to say that Nickless has an encyclopedic knowledge of the collection. She began working as an assistant at Mitchell “Micky” Wolfson Jr.’s first gallery in 1984, at what was then known as Miami Dade Community College.
“It was called the Mitchell Wolfson Jr. Collection of Decorative and Propaganda Arts,” she says.
In 1997, Wolfson gifted his Mediterranean Revival-style Washington Storage Co. building on Washington Avenue to Florida International University. The gift included about 70,000 items, which Wolfson had amassed from his expeditions throughout the world. There’s also a library with about 50,000 rare books, periodicals and other reference materials.
Mitchell “Micky” Wolfson Jr. at The Wolfsonian-FIU. (Photo/Roldan Torres)
Many times through the years, Nickless says she kept encountering items from The Wolfsonian’s collection that reflected a point of view, such as classic airline posters that showed the view from above and other pieces with a perspective from below.
“Suddenly you are looking at the world in a different way,” Nickless says.
In tandem with how Wolfson himself views his objects – he’s interested in what he says is the “narration of the pieces” he collects, not just the individual items – Nickless kept returning to the concept of creating a perspectives exhibition.
Together with Richard Miltner, exhibition designer at The Wolfsonian, they arranged approximately 165 works from the collection into nine chapters: Aerial Art, The Sky’s the Limit, Urban Heights, Selling the View, Portraits of Power, Every Roof an Airport, Heightened Anxiety, A New Domain, and Free Falling.
This anti-war painting by Virginia Berresford, titled “Air Raid II” (1937-1938), depicts a woman’s outstretched hand gesturing skyward in defiance of incoming bombers. (Photo/Lynton Gardiner)
“Aerial Vision” pays close attention to detail including Miltner’s design of the space.
“For me, I like to say it’s not about my design, but looking at the objects and interpreting it that way,” Miltner says. “I did pick up on how there are specific shapes that are used [in the works], such as the architecture.”
The exhibition showcases some of The Wolfsonian’s one-of-a-kinds, including Art Deco bronze elevator doors from a Boston hotel circa 1929; a copper spire from the 29th floor of The Woolworth Building, which was the world’s tallest skyscraper from 1913 to 1930; an oversized beer glass with skyscraper imagery promoting Ohio’s tallest glass of beer; and two realty-scape paintings, one of which was commissioned by the Greater Miami Development Co. to promote land sales in South Florida.
One of the most important pieces, Nickless says, is a 14-foot-tall watercolor rendering, circa 1929, of The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel: “We have never shown it before because of its dimensionality.”
The exterior of The Wolfsonian-FIU, in the building that formerly housed the Washington Storage Co. (Photo/Lynton Gardiner)
Almost 100 percent of the pieces are from Wolfson’s collection. (At age 82, he says he continues to collect every day and has no intention of stopping.)
Three pieces are from Wolfsonian staff members who are also collectors: two vintage photographs of Miami by Richard B. Hoit from development director Michael Hughes; and an 1955 aerial map of Miami and Miami Beach from accounting coordinator Larry Wiggins.
Selecting the pieces for “Aerial Vision” was a difficult task, Nickless says, and the exhibit features just half of what was on her original checklist because of space constraints, among other issues.
“The material is rich and deep. There is so much,” she says.
With expansion plans underway at The Wolfsonian, there would eventually be triple the space to show off the massive and continually growing collection. The new space is expected to add 35,000 square feet by late 2026 or early 2027, according to Casey Steadman, director of The Wolfsonian-FIU.
More space means more opportunities to display what’s now kept in storage as well as any of Wolfson’s new finds – pieces that he says “each are a part of a great chapter in this book of objects.”
WHAT: “Aerial Vision” exhibit
WHEN: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesdays-Thursdays and Saturdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Fridays, through April 24, 2022
WHERE: The Wolfsonian-FIU, 1001 Washington Ave., Miami Beach
COST: $12 for general admission; $8 for seniors, students with ID, and children age 6-18; and free for Florida residents and students, faculty and staff of the State University System of Florida. Free Fridays weekly from 6-9 p.m.
Posted By Sergy Odiduro February 24, 2022 at 5:10 PM
The Purvis Young exhibit is on display in the Premium Lounge at the MiamiCentral Brightline Station in Overtown. (Photo courtesy of Brightline)
Purvis Young’s artwork was a running commentary on his surroundings, a window into the concerns of his soul.
Originally from Miami’s Liberty City, the late artist was a well-known neighborhood fixture in Overtown and chronicled life there.
Now, in time for Black History Month, some of his pieces are on view in his beloved Overtown — thanks to a partnership between the Brightline intercity rail system and The Black Archives History and Research Foundation of South Florida.
The free exhibit features 19 original pieces inside the Premium Lounge of the MiamiCentral Station, 600 NW First Ave., with a QR code video showing Young describing his artwork and his creative process. Both the art and videos were supplied by The Black Archives, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to preserve materials that reflect the African-American life, experience and culture in Miami-Dade County.
“Purvis Young was a modern-day griot in terms of how he documented the Black experience through his eyes and what he saw in his environment,” said Timothy A. Barber, executive director of The Black Archives. “All of his artwork was created from what many people would consider trash that was thrown out: carpet, metals, telephone books. He took that trash and made it into a treasure through his artwork.”
Young, who died in 2010 at age 67, was a prolific, self-taught artist. His interest in art reportedly was sparked while imprisoned as a teenager, during a three-year sentence for breaking and entering. After his release, he was readily found at the library, where he spent his time devouring art books and studying greats such as Cezanne, Rembrandt, El Greco and Van Gogh.
When he wasn’t at the library, he was most likely puttering around in Good Bread Alley, so-called because, at one time, residences and bakeries were said to sell bread there. But the construction of Interstate 95 in Overtown brought a downturn to the area.
Young refused to give up hope, most days hard at work, urgently attempting to transform the alley into an artistic oasis. Through his vision, Young ultimately took the art world by storm.
“Here is a man that was considered crazy and homeless. He painted on wood, metal, whatever he could find, and hung them outside of abandoned buildings,” Barber said. “Now this is the same artwork in museums across the world.”
Miami-Dade County Commissioner Keon Hardemon speaks at the launch of the Purvis Young exhibit. Brightline president Patrick Goddard is pictured at far right. (Photo courtesy of Brightline)
Nationally, Young’s pieces have been featured at institutions such as the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
Young’s passing did little to lessen his impact. One of the reasons Young’s artwork is so important, Barber said, is because he looked beyond blight and focused on aspects that most would readily overlook.
“He drew people with a halo above their heads because he saw the good in everything that was happening in the community,” Barber said. “Showcasing his work allows for people to dream big.”
Barber hopes those who view the exhibit will be inspired to explore the artist further by visiting The Black Archives, which is headquartered within Overtown’s The Historic Lyric Theater and is home to hundreds of the artist’s works.
“We want people to know that The Black Archives is a repository for Black history from 1896 to the present. We’ve been around since 1977, and we are certainly happy that we have been given the opportunity by Brightline to showcase what the Black Archives are,” Barber said.
Brightline has also made a $5,000 donation to the organization.
“This is the first time that we have done an art exhibition in conjunction with Black History Month,” said Patrick Goddard, president of Brightline. “We are always looking for an opportunity to shine a spotlight on our communities …
“Overtown is a destination that has a lot to offer, and there’s a lot for all of us to learn.”
For those who haven’t experienced the art of Young yet, Goddard said it’s something that must be done in person.
“I’m not an art curator, but I find that Purvis Young’s artwork is the type of art that you have to see in person,” he said. “It’s so much more impactful that way.”
WHAT: Purvis Young art exhibit
WHEN: February 2022
WHERE: Brightline MiamiCentral Station, 600 NW First Ave.; accessible to riding public as well as from outside the lounge
Hampton House portraits provide peek into the past
Posted By Sergy Odiduro February 11, 2022 at 7:17 PM
Raymond Elman’s series features portraits of Hampton House board chairperson Jacqui Colyer and former astronaut Winston Scott. (Photo/Lee Skye)
Martin Luther King Jr. Malcolm X. Muhammad Ali. Josephine Baker. Aretha Franklin.
A revolving door of civil rights activists and celebrities – a who’s who of the glitterati – made Miami’s Hampton House a hub of activity and attention during the 1950s and ’60s. Situated in the Brownsville neighborhood, the motel was in the “Green Book,” offering refuge for Black travelers who needed a place to stay in segregated South Florida.
Today, it’s known as the Historic Hampton House, a museum that’s a hidden gem to many in the community. But now, there’s an opportunity to peek into the motel’s past through those who knew it best, including figures such as Enid Pinkney, crucial for her Hampton House preservation efforts; former astronaut Winston Scott; and Khalilah Ali, ex-wife of Muhammad Ali.
They, among others, are featured in a series of 40×60-inch, mixed-media portraits on view throughout Black History Month. The interactive exhibit is the project of artist Raymond Elman, who is founding editor-in-chief of Inspicio Arts, an arts publication platform sponsored by Florida International University. (Inspicio Arts has a video-sharing partnership with Artburst Miami.)
The series of portraits includes QR codes that visitors may scan to view video recordings of each person featured. (Photo/Lee Skye)
“I realized that African-Americans who grew up in Miami didn’t know [Hampton House] existed,” Elman said. “I teach at FIU and I have African-American students. I would ask them if they were aware of the Hampton House. They never heard of it. So I wanted to do whatever I could to try and shine a spotlight on it and help give it the attention it deserves.”
The interactive part of the exhibit: QR codes for each portrait.
“You can come in with your phone or your iPad, and scan the QR code and it will take you to video clips where the people in the portraits are talking about their experiences at the Hampton House. It’s really interesting,” Elman said.
The portraits will remain on-site at the museum, but visitors are encouraged to call ahead to confirm details. Anyone interested may also view them during the Historic Hampton House event, “The Greatest Weekend,” a three-day inaugural festival that starts Feb. 25, 2022. Co-presented with FIU’s Wolfsonian Public Humanities Lab, the festival will commemorate the anniversary of the Muhammad Ali (then known as Cassius Clay) and Sonny Liston boxing match in Miami Beach. Clay earned the World Heavyweight Championship title and the events of later that night at the Hampton House were eventually fictionalized and turned into a play then movie titled, “One Night in Miami.”
Elman said the mixed-media portraits are a departure from his previous artistic focus. For the first 20 years of his career, he immersed himself in abstract art, then moved on to portraiture. After moving to Miami, Elman met Pinkney, who is known for resurrecting the Hampton House after it fell into disrepair.
“She’s the one who raised millions of dollars to restore it,” Elman said. “She was able to galvanize and pull together a team that did all the things that needed to be done to make this happen.”
Artist Raymond Elman was inspired by the Hampton House after meeting Enid Pinkney, who is known for her efforts to preserve it. (Photo/Lee Skye)
The roster of distinguished guests from the motel’s past inspired Elman to capture the memories through the portraits and video recordings. An Ellies Award in 2018 from Oolite Arts helped finance the project.
“I realized what an extraordinary place the Hampton House was and the tons of legendary people who would either stay there or perform there during segregation,” he said. “They all came back to the Hampton House after-hours. People like Frank Sinatra used to come there because it was the coolest place to be.”
Jacqui B. Colyer, chairwoman of the Hampton House board, seconds that: It was “the social center of the South. It was the place where everybody wanted to be and to be seen.”
The Hampton House was also known as a hub for those fighting racial injustice. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream Speech” was said to have its beginnings there.
“The manager at the time said that Dr. Martin Luther King practiced that speech in front of many of the guests because he was just testing it out to see what people thought,” said Colyer, who is among those featured in a portrait.
The exhibit, she said, offers a great opportunity to learn about the motel and highlights the determination and ingenuity of the African-American community.
“The Historic Hampton House is a treasure in this community,” Colyer said. “It’s a treasure because it speaks of a time when the African-American community was resilient, when the community figured out a way to make the best of a situation that it was stuck in.
“And that’s what I tell people all the time. ‘Green Book’ hotels were just basically making a way out of no way. And the community really worked hard to show that not only were they deserving, but they were equal, and that they should have what everyone else in America has, and that’s freedom.”
WHAT: “First Person Portraits: Hampton House Performers & Patrons”
WHEN: Exhibit is ongoing, but visitors are encouraged to call for details.
WHERE: The Historic Hampton House, 4240 NW 27th Ave., Miami
COST: Museum general admission is $25 for adults, $10 for children age 12 and younger; and $15 for students with ID and seniors age 65 and older. Tickets for The Greatest Weekend may be purchased by clicking here.
‘Matters of the Inner City’ exhibit examines the Black experience in Miami
Posted By Tracy Fields January 28, 2022 at 12:52 AM
Artist Charles Humes Jr. addressed a standing-room crowd of more than 50 during a reception at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center’s Amadlozi Gallery. (Photo/Gregory Reed)
From boyhood, Charles Humes Jr. wanted to be an artist.
“I thought that this was going to be my career. I was going to be famous, I was going to sell my works and that was all that I would do, that was all I wanted to do,” said the Miami native. “But then reality set in.”
There were bills to pay, a family to support. So for more than 30 years, Humes shared this passion as an art teacher with Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Now, the artist gets to enjoy his first solo exhibition in decades, on display at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center’s Amadlozi Gallery through Feb. 19, 2022.
“Matters of the Inner City” showcases work in a variety of media, examining “the psyche and state of the Black experience in Miami and its inner cities,” according to his artist statement.
Having retired, Humes found himself, as many did, with time on his hands and a lot on his mind in 2020, living through the COVID-19 lockdown and the unrest following the murder of George Floyd.
“I said to myself, ‘Well, you know, what about here in Liberty City? What can I do as a visual artist to make people aware of the situation and struggles that Black people, people of color, are dealing with?’”
“Matters of the Inner City” showcases works in a variety of media, examining “the psyche and state of the Black experience in Miami and its inner cities,” according to Charles Hume Jr.’s artist statement. (Photo/Gregory Reed)
The results include stunning pieces that make use of a technique Humes calls mosaic collage, featuring meticulously trimmed bits of paper taken from printed material. Humes adheres the scraps to create depth and shadows. They also make statements, if one reads the fine print.
Full-sized photographs of these works fail to convey their intricacy.
While the exhibition is a collection of beautiful artworks, some of the pieces have quite humble beginnings.
“A lot of the works I guess you could call the real found art,” said Humes, relating how he would go “foraging,” looking around for discarded materials he could put to use.
Once he found a bunch of rolled canvases behind a furniture store: “It was my lucky day, I said, ‘Bonanza!’”
The stuff was soaked and soiled, he said, but you’d never know that to see it adorned and displayed as it is now.
Other works on exhibit, notably drawings, are simpler. At this point in his career, Humes said he’s less concerned with producing beautiful work than with getting a point across.
“Matters of the Inner City” was produced with the support of Oolite Arts. (Photo/Gregory Reed)
“I’ve been criticized for that because sometimes it looks like a work is not finished, it’s a little bit hard or uneven, but that’s just the way it is,” he said.
“Matters of the Inner City” was produced with the support of Oolite Arts; Humes won one of its Creator Awards in 2020. He spoke before a standing-room crowd of more than 50 at a Jan. 22 reception at the gallery.
During Miami Art Week 2021, Amadlozi Gallery hosted “Le Art Noir, Diversity in Color,” in partnership with former Miami Dolphins player Louis Oliver. Its next exhibit, featuring mixed-media folk art, is expected to open in March.
Now back to doing his life’s work full time, Humes looks forward to a show in Miami Beach later this year. And he has an idea for a set of pieces inspired by Paul Cadmus’ “The Seven Deadly Sins” series.
“But it may take on a whole different meaning than just greed and avarice and all those things,” he said. “I’m going to connect it with what’s going on here in Miami.”
WHAT: “Matters of the Inner City,” a solo exhibition by Charles Humes Jr.
WHEN: Through Feb. 19, 2022. Gallery hours are 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday. Appointments available; call 305-638-6771 for details.
WHERE: Amadlozi Gallery at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center, 6161 NW 22nd Ave., Miami
‘Prelude to 2100’ at Deering Estate envisions Miami in the future
Posted By Jordan Levin January 27, 2022 at 11:34 PM
Actor Dito Sudito portrays the Indonesian-born Buana, a character in Susan Caraballo and Juan C. Sanchez’s play, which is part of “Prelude to 2100.” (Photo/Armando Rodriguez)
“Prelude to 2100” is artist Susan Caraballo’s vision of a future Miami besieged by climate change.
Set decades from now, this immersive arts experience allows us to see much of what we’ll need in order to live in a world that could change in ways we can’t — or don’t want to — imagine.
Collaboration. Community. Ingenuity. Adaptation.
And inspiration. “I’m trying to create ways to think about our future. What are things we could do now?” says Caraballo, the project’s curator and producer. “Part of the challenge is people feel they can’t do anything [about climate change]. How can you make people feel empowered? Because you have to have hope.”
“Prelude to 2100” is set for Feb. 3-4 and 6 at the historic Deering Estate in south Miami-Dade County, bringing together more than 30 Miami artists from the theater, dance, visual arts, music, performance, and harder-to-define creative arenas.
The central concept and theater performance imagines the Deering Estate in 2050 as a co-housing complex, where its residents — climate refugees from throughout the United States and the world, are hosting an open house to interview potential new members of their community. Actors play the residents in interlocking scenes written by Juan C. Sanchez, the playwright known for the popular “Miami Motel Stories” immersive theater project.
They are surrounded by other pieces and performances that present ingenious reactions to a Miami transformed by higher seas, hotter temperatures, more frequent hurricanes, and other possible consequences of a changing climate. Most pieces are interactive in ways that provoke visitors to think about how they contribute, negatively or positively, to that transformation.
Susan Caraballo, creator of “Prelude to 2100,” was one of the artists chosen for MDC’s Live Arts Lab Alliance (LALA) Artist-in-residence Program and its EcoCultura series. (Photo/Armando Rodriguez)
For example, artist Kerry Phillips, whose work straddles the worlds of installations and performance, has created a thrift store/library of things where people can borrow or buy things they need. The idea of a library of useful things is among the real-world strategies in the “degrowth movement,” which advocates moving away from consumption-driven, constant economic growth and toward a system that prioritizes environmental and social well-being. Proceeds from purchases at Phillips’ spot will go to climate-change nonprofit groups.
Ticket-buyers to “Prelude to 2100” will get $5 worth of artist Carrie Sieh’s special hyperlocal currency, which they can use to purchase from Phillips’ store, buy drinks or food from on-site vendors, or donate to a climate nonprofit organization. The idea is to get people thinking about the effects of their spending.
To get one of artist Laurencia Strauss’ bubble pops — ice cream popsicles in the shape of the Miami skyline — guests will need to write down an idea for dealing with climate change. Once the treat is consumed, the leftover wooden stick will reveal an inscription the advice of previous participants.
While the overall concept is Caraballo’s, bringing together different artists to contribute other ways to express that idea was equally crucial to “Prelude to 2100,” as artistic collaboration became a metaphor for how she believes people will need to work together to deal with the climate crisis. She and Phillips came up with the thrift store/library idea together. She and Sanchez worked on the story and characters for the central theater piece, also shaped by director Jennifer de Castroverde, sometimes adapting characters to fit the actors.
“Am I the curator or the collaborator?” Caraballo says. “I wanted to use people’s talents and art and integrate them into a story similar to the way you curate an exhibit. This is doing that, but on a multidisciplinary level.”
“Prelude to 2100” has a multipronged history and network of participants and supporters. It’s presented by the Deering Estate, Caraballo’s #ARTiculatingClimate initiative, and Miami Dade College’s Live Arts Miami performing arts series. Caraballo was one of the artists chosen for MDC’s Live Arts Lab Alliance (LALA) Artist-in-residence Program and its EcoCultura series, which gave six (mostly dance) Miami artists grants to create, market and produce works addressing climate change.
“Prelude to 2100” includes fellow EcoCultura artists, including choreographer Michelle Grant-Murray, whose “UnEarth” uses an ancient African diasporic legend to explore collective and ancestral memory through the Black female body. Choreographer Sandra Portal-Andreu’s dance solo, “Terra Firma,” is performed by Stephanie Bastos — and inspired both by collaborator Betty Osceola, a Miccosukee poet, Everglades educator and activist, and by Portal-Andreu’s investigation of her own identity as the daughter of immigrants.
“What is the native community’s relationship to the land that we aren’t taught?” says Portal-Andreu. “As an immigrant in this space, what am I missing in terms of history and culture and knowledge? It is about land acknowledgement, but also about honoring the memories created in this place.”
Grant-Murray and Portal-Andreu’s desire to look to an ancient human past resonated powerfully with Caraballo.
“We need to look to the past, to ancestors and indigenous knowledge, to look to the future,” she says.
EcoCultura was Live Arts Miami’s response to a crucial Miami problem: “We started EcoCultura because we were driven to do something about the ever-worsening climate crisis,” says Live Arts Miami executive director Kathryn Garcia. “We believe that artists are powerful agents of change and transformation, the social catalysts of social and environmental justice.”
Garcia believes Caraballo’s “Prelude to 2100” is a potent way to provoke that change.
“Susan is facing head-on all the anxiety we live with about what Miami will be like in the future by immersing us directly in it,” she says. “She is proposing alternative ways of living that are in better balance with the natural systems we depend on. So, it is at once realistic and full of imagination. That seems to me the perfect metaphor for how we should all proceed as we confront the climate crisis.”
“Prelude to 2100” is also inspired by Caraballo’s desire to change her own life. In 2016, she was feeling burnt out by the relentless professional hustle of working as an independent curator, while also driven to act on the social justice and climate issues she felt were upending the world. She received a 2019 Knight Arts Challenge grant for the project, #ARTiculatingClimate: Art Actions for Change.
But even as she got the grants and residencies, the pandemic forced her to slow down, as well as to manage the changing obstacles created by COVID-19. That process got her thinking about how she, and everyone else, will have to change along with the climate.
“We need to slow down,” Caraballo says. “We have to be sustainable; we’re working ourselves to death. It’s not what life is about.”
The latest adaptation came when the Omicron wave prompted Deering and Live Arts Miami to cut performances of “Prelude to 2100” from two weekends to one, and to move the painstakingly staged play outside. After two years of working toward the event, this could have been intensely frustrating. But Caraballo seems to be taking it in stride.
“If we want to survive,” she says, “we have to adapt.”
And isn’t that the whole point?
WHAT: “Prelude to 2100”
WHEN: 7-10 p.m. Feb. 3-4 and 6-9 p.m. Feb. 6
WHERE: Deering Estate, 16701 SW 72nd Ave., Miami
COST: $20 a person
SAFETY PROTOCOLS: Facial coverings will be required indoors, and all visitors and staff must maintain social distancing.
Known as godmother of Miami’s arts scene, Mira Lehr is on fire
Posted By Sergy Odiduro January 5, 2022 at 9:35 PM
Mira Lehr in her Miami Beach studio. (Photo by Michael E. Fryd)
To many, she is the godmother of Miami’s arts scene.
Trailblazing eco-feminist artist Mira Lehr has dramatically shaped the creative landscape, clearing a path for those who are up and coming. Her work has been showcased by notable art institutions and squirreled away by private collectors.
She’s now in her late 80s – and the honors don’t stop coming. Just last year, she was part of the Visiting Artist Residency program at the University of Central Florida’s Flying Horse Editions studio, and her resulting artwork debuted during Art Basel 2021. And this spring, Milan-based publisher Skira Editore is expected to release an homage to her life and career entitled “Mira Lehr: Arc of Nature — The Complete Monograph.”
Lehr is a firm believer that this is no time to slow down.
“I love being an artist. It gives me a great sense of creation,” she says. “I don’t know why, but it almost feels like you’re a little mini god.”
Originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., Lehr demonstrated an early propensity for artistically creating new galaxies. She recalls how her love affair began.
“I had those beautiful boxes of Crayola crayons and, when they were brand-new, they came with these wonderful points on them,” says Lehr. “I hated to mess up the points, but I loved working with my Crayola.”
She realized she was good, she says, because “in school the teachers always used to choose my drawings to hang on the board.”
She nurtured her craft and, by the 1950s, had her finger on the pulse of New York’s art scene. She studied with the likes of James Brooks, Robert Motherwell, Ludwig Sander, and married couple Nieves and James Billmyer (“She’s more abstract expressionist, he is more geometric,” she says).
Through the Billmyers, she was able to tap into a wealth of information, most notably from renowned modernist Hans Hofmann.
“The [Billmyers] worked a very long time with Hans Hofmann, so a lot of my knowledge came almost directly from him. I was lucky,” she says.
Then, in 1960, she moved to Miami, where she faced new opportunities but also encountered resistance.
“I experienced a lot of negative energy about being a woman. When I started out, women were not recognized. If you were married and had children and lived in Florida, you would definitely be considered a dilettante,” says Lehr, who raised four children in Miami. “To be taken seriously was very, very difficult.”
Installation image of Mira Lehr’s painting, “Pandora’s Blossoms,” at Miami’s Deering Estate. (Photo by Zachary Balber)
She also had to deal with the dearth of a Miami arts scene, but she fought back. In her first year, she created one of the first co-ops for women artists in the country and encouraged New York-based artists to come down to Miami to lead workshops.
“Used to be New York was it. If you didn’t make it in New York, forget it,” Lehr says. “But it’s changed now, Miami has a very big arts scene.”
Those who admire Lehr’s work know that she’s had a lot to do with that – and are thrilled that she has persevered.
“I am a huge fan of hers and have been for a long time now,” said Melissa Diaz, cultural arts curator at Miami’s Deering Estate, which hosted a nature-inspired solo exhibition highlighting Lehr’s work in October 2021. Titled “Regenerative Rhythms,” it included pieces created during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as “Pandora’s Blossoms” and “Emerging from the Field of Reeds.”
“I really want to underscore how important Mira is as an individual in creating the Miami arts community,” says Diaz. “We often get lost in the Art Basel of it all, and that, of course, has really helped us to build and to grow. But Mira is truly a pioneer and really an icon of the South Florida arts community.”
Not to mention Lehr’s impact on women artists.
“Mira has made space for other female artists by being persistent,” Diaz adds. “Seeing her name out there, especially in the world of abstraction, which was so male-dominated, and pushing her way in and leaning in and creating space for herself, also helps to make space for other female artists who then can get in through the door that she’s created for them.”
This door has also allowed Lehr a platform to discuss the issues and explore the techniques she holds near and dear to her heart.
“I’m always interested in the environment. I’ve always painted things from nature,” Lehr says. “As our environment became more and more compromised, I became more and more worried about it.”
Large-scale installations such as her “Mangrove Labyrinth” offer fierce commentary on issues affecting the planet. Diaz says pieces like this one demonstrate how Lehr’s work continuously offers a new perspective.
Installation image of Mira Lehr’s “Emerging from the Field of Reeds.” (Photo by Zachary Balber)
“Every time I view these works, I see something new,” Diaz says. “There’s a new texture. There’s a new layer. There’s something that emerges or comes through to the surface that speaks to me, and so there’s never, ever a feeling that I have mastered each work.”
Diaz has observed how Lehr’s novel approach also extends to her technique.
“Mira is very relevant because she opens herself up to new ideas, new practices and experimentation,” Diaz says. “I really love her embrace of fire and gunpowder and burning as contemporary art practices. That’s a technique that is very risky. It’s dangerous, and there is a good chance that the entire thing will just go up in flames.
“So the fact that she embraces this kind of chaos and this potential for violence or destruction in her work is really great,” she adds. “I think it keeps her in line with other younger contemporary artists, because she’s constantly pushing herself to try new things and she hasn’t stayed within the limitations of one specific style or practice.”
On her path, Lehr continues inspiring the next generation of artists. She mourns the shift of producing artwork for commercial purposes and ultimately hopes artists will remain faithful to their craft.
“Do your work with confidence, love, and integrity,” she says. “Work from your heart.”
For more information on artist Mira Lehr, visit miralehr.com.
Knight Arts Challenge winners have ‘bona fide connection’ to Miami
Posted By Michelle F. Solomon December 17, 2021 at 8:00 PM
Hued Songs’ presentation of “The Juneteenth Experience” started in Miami-Dade County and is expected to expand north to Broward and Palm Beach counties thanks to funds from the Knight Arts Challenge. (Photo courtesy of Hued Songs)
A multimedia rock-and-guaguancó opera that captures the sounds of Miami. An homage to the songs of Juneteenth, born during the pandemic. And a downtown-centric outdoor theater experience with audiences arriving to each segment riding a bicycle, scooter, or anything else on wheels.
These three projects are among the 24 winners of the 2021 Knight Arts Challenge, selected by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation for a combined $2 million in grants.
The aim of the grant program is to enable artists and arts groups to do their work. For some of the recipients, it helps propel projects that have already had their springboard but need a financial foundation to take them to the next level.
There are, however, some fundamental components, according to Adam Ganuza, chief of staff for the Knight Foundation’s President’s office. To win a grant, the projects must contribute to the greater good and have what he calls “a bona fide connection” to Miami.
“We aren’t interested in investing in projects or groups that parachute into a place, do their thing, and then leave as quickly as they came in,” says Ganuza, who helped review proposals along with a selected panel from throughout the arts community. “We look for an authenticity to place, i.e. Miami, then we consider the artistic rigor of the project itself.”
This year’s Knight Arts Challenge is part of a new yearlong initiative, titled “365 in the 305.”
“Especially just coming off of Art Basel and Miami Art Week, and having the eye of the international art world here … we launched ‘365 in the 305’ with the point being that the creative spirit is something that defines our community all year round, not just on Art Week,” Ganuza says. “For most of the projects that we are talking about, we are a starting line for them. We want to have a platform for them once they cross the finish line and that will be all within the framework of the ‘365 in the 305’ campaign.”
Deborah Di Capua, executive director, and her Fringe Projects received $150,000 for its public art initiative, Southern Histories. (Photo courtesy of Fringe Projects)
Since 2008, the Knight Arts Challenge has invested about $34 million on more than 400 projects ranging from large-scale public art to new theatrical performances, according to the foundation. Recipients are required to find matching funds.
“This is a grant program that scours our arts and cultural scene to find the best work that’s being done by people and groups that are an authentic reflection of South Florida,” Ganuza says, who added that about three-quarters of the projects are led by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) artists or groups, or those who explore BIPOC themes.
And it keeps paying forward. Opera singer and actor Kunya C. Rowley won a $20,000 award back in 2017 for his proposal “Hued Songs of Strength and Freedom,” and as a result today leads the nonprofit performing arts group, Hued Songs, which celebrates Black culture through experiences rooted in music. On June 19, 2021, Rowley produced and performed in “The Juneteenth Experience! Live from the North Beach Bandshell.”
This year, Hued Songs received $90,000 to broaden “The Juneteenth Experience” through performances in Broward and Palm Beach counties as well.
“The funding does a couple of things,” Rowley says. “It allows us to expand across multiple counties, but it also allows for us to keep the experience free to audiences. We really believe that the arts are a right and not just a privilege.”
The money also helps to pay the performers. “We want to be a platform where Black and Brown artists can be seen, heard and paid,” Rowley says.
To expand the experience, Hued Songs has found partners in Broward, with the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center in Fort Lauderdale, and in Palm Beach County, with the Theatre Lab at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.
Rowley hopes the expansion will create more exposure for the event to become an annual tradition for families.
“This award is such a big step for us to expand and to let people know that ‘The Juneteenth Experience’ is something the community can look forward to every year,” he says.
Miami-based multi-instrumentalist Sol Ruiz began her multimedia music opera with a commission from the Miami Light Project. Now with funds from the Knight Arts Challenge, she has a bigger vision for the project. (Photo courtesy of Miami Light Project)
Grammy Award-nominated singer-songwriter Sol Ruiz received $59,000 in this round of the Arts Challenge for her project, “Positive Vibration Nation.” The Miami-bred, Cuban-rooted performance artist released a concept album with her band, Sol and The Tribu, during the pandemic, which led to the larger vision of creating a multimedia rock opera.
Commissioned by the Miami Light Project, as part of its Here & Now program, “Positive Vibration nation” focuses on the unique sounds of Miami, fusing Caribbean music and modern technology. She presented excerpts during Miami Light Project’s Here & Now Festival earlier this year, and now has the chance to further the work.
“It consists of six characters, including myself, who embark on a journey to search their roots and, through their discovery and unification, they unlock their superhero powers,” Ruiz says. “This rock opera is a way to export what our identity is here in Miami, to take this project throughout the world and introduce the Miami sound and what creates its uniqueness, a melting pot of music.”
The other Knights Art Challenge 2021 winners are:
Olympia Center/Olympia Arts MIAMI: “Bicycle Theatre” — $150,000
Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), North Miami: Welcome to Paradise program — $150,000
Robert Colom: Cinemovil — $150,000
Fringe Projects: Southern Histories — $150,000
Miami Dade College’s Live Arts Miami: “Haint Blu” — $100,000
Downtown Doral Arts & Culture Foundation: Downtown Doral Holiday Festival — $100,000
The White Elephant Group: White Elephant Film Festival — $98,600
JurajKojš and Pioneer Winter: “Close Encounters” — $75,000
Lee Pivnik: “Habitat: Regenerative Shelters as Symbiotic Solutions” — $75,000
Gustavo Matamoros: “And Sometimes The Space is Full of a Previous Space” — $64,000
Delou Africa: “Tall Spirit: Stilt Artistry of Black Immigrants” — $60,825
Islandia Press: Islandia Journal — $60,000
Miami-Dade Public Library System: The Vasari Project: Miami’s Art Timeline — $60,000
LIZN’BOW (Liz Ferrer and Bow Ty Enterprises Venture Capital: [Cries in Spanish] — $60,000
[NAME] Publications: Migrant Archives — $60,000
Dimensions Variable: Archive, Digital, and Writer Commissions — $50,000
WAAM (Women Artists Archive Miami): Artist as Archivist Residency — $50,000
Antiheroes Project: “As Miamense as Possible” — $42,000
Adam Weinert & Institute for Contemporary Art Miami: “Dance of the Ages” — $39,500
Symone Titania Major: “Martin’s Footprints: Marches in Coconut Grove & Goulds” — $30,000
The Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum: “An Elegy to Rosewood”— $25,000
Alexandra Fields O’Neale: “Bound//Unbound” — $13,300
Posted By Sergy Odiduro December 10, 2021 at 5:56 PM
Among the works featured in “Betye Saar: Serious Moonlight” at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami is this piece titled “Gliding Into Midnight.” (Photo courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects)
Vibrant. Haunting. Memorable. Cosmology and spirituality intersect in “Betye Saar: Serious Moonlight” at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami (ICA Miami).
Fans of the pioneering feminist artist can enjoy free access to some of her rarely seen installations, through April 17, 2022, on the second floor of the Miami Design District museum.
“Betye Saar is a legend of American art,” said Alex Gartenfeld, ICA Miami’s artistic director. “She is a master sculpture of assemblage, and her work has made a pointed commentary on the depictions of Black individuals throughout the 20th century.”
The 95-year-old Saar is known for ushering in the medium of assemblage, which focuses on using older items to create something new. Saar’s iconic piece, titled “The Liberation of Aunt Jemima,” is particularly emblematic of this style.
Though she is celebrated for her assemblage work, the exhibit at ICA Miami highlights an alternative art form. The pieces on view are heavily influenced by her travels in the 1970s spurred by research trips to Nigeria, Haiti and Mexico.
“She’s worked also in the medium of installations,” said Stephanie Seidel, the exhibit’s curator. “Many of these have not been shown in over three decades.”
Among these are “House of Fortune” and “Circle of Fire,” as well as “Wings of Morning,” a participatory altarpiece encouraging notes and offerings for those who have passed.
“Celestial Universe” (Photo courtesy of Robert Wedemeyer)
“Her installations, in particular, refer to a lot of themes of spirituality and mysticism, and I think they’re interesting in the way that they combine different spiritual and religious traditions,” Seidel said.
Projecting the combined essence of Saar’s work and providing the proper atmosphere for individual pieces was of utmost importance.
“We constructed freestanding pavilions or rooms to house the work,” Gartenfeld said.
“We have an open floor plan at the museum, and so the curator and the artists worked on this challenge or intrigue of how to present a mysterious, productive work within an open floor plan. And the solution they came up with, I think, is really visually successful at creating these poetic interludes, which are these rooms.”
Saar was unable to attend the exhibit’s October 2021 opening due to COVID-19 concerns, but she had a big role in producing the show.
“Betty worked really, really closely on the exhibition and was incredibly involved with the presentation and vision interpretation of her work,” Gartenfeld said. “She has an incredible engagement and dynamism and life and joy she brings to her work in the studio.”
The production process included presenting various elements of her work, which goes beyond the exploration of spirituality. Race and identity also play a prominent role in the pieces.
Though some pieces were created decades ago, Seidel points to their relevance today. Works such as “Mojotech,” “Gliding Into Midnight” and “A Woman’s Boat: Voyages” — combined with fragments of the installation “In Troubled Waters” — all speak to this experience.
“Oasis” (Photo courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects)
“Her installations are from the ’80s and ’90s, however, I think they’re still extremely timely as they address questions of discrimination and racism, but also the experience of the African diaspora,” Seidel said. “A lot of her work also refers to the experience as an African-American woman in the United States.”
The exhibit provides the perfect opportunity for viewers to survey a cross-section of Saar’s messaging while examining meaningful aspects of her work.
“This exhibit is really about illustrating the range of Betty’s artistic work and activism,” Gartenfeld said. “The way that she relentlessly worked with materials and reinvented these installations that she made during the ’80s and ’90s. These were made during a time when she was moving around the world … I think that there weren’t a lot of the supports there, commercially and institutionally, to really give her the platform to create the work that she wanted to make. This work sees her traveling around the world, making work in places like embassies, using materials at hand, being incredibly adaptive and inventive.”
Which is why it’s so important to be showing her work at this time, Gartenfeld said.
“I think that she has an influence on most every sculptor working today,” he said. “I think that her inventiveness with found objects is really profound. I think that she is an artist who, again, as influential as she is, there hasn’t been an exhibition like this that brings together these installations.”
WHAT: “Betye Saar: Serious Moonlight”
WHEN: Wednesdays through Sundays, through April 17, 2022; hours are noon-6 p.m. for general admission and 11 a.m.-noon for seniors and at-risk visitors; closed on major federal holidays
WHERE: Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, 61 NE 41st St.
SAFETY PROTOCOLS: The museum requires social distancing and face coverings for all guests age 2 and older. For more details, visit icamiami.org/visit.
Miami Mural Festival: ‘Community access to art is very important’
Posted By Sergy Odiduro November 30, 2021 at 7:26 PM
Artist Maren Conrad’s “Legacy in Levity” mural, featured as part of the Miami Mural Festival, honors her late friend. (Photo courtesy of the artist)
At first, no one wanted to give them the time of day.
Maren Conrad, a Sacramento, Calif.-based artist, needed someone — anyone — to pose for her contribution to the Miami Mural Festival.
“We were honestly begging people to take a photo of them. It was so weird … We were chasing people down,” Conrad said, with a laugh. “And the more we tried to sell this, the creepier we sounded.
“‘Don’t you want a picture of your kid on this wall?’” she would say to skeptical pedestrians who passed her by. The approach, needless to say, was not working. Yet she persisted, and the hard work paid off.
Conrad’s sprawling 11,000-square-foot piece, at 261 NE First St., features a giant bubble bottle bearing the words, “Forget Me Not Jacquelyn,” next to the images of more than 1,000 people who finally said yes to the proposition. Titled “Legacy in Levity,” it is one of the works featured as part of the Miami Mural Festival, running through Sunday, Dec. 5, in the downtown and Wynwood areas.
Festivalgoers will have the opportunity to watch artists work live on their projects. A map detailing the locations of all pieces is available via the festival’s website.
Teddy Ward, chief of staff for Mana Group, said they launched the festival to bring much-needed attention to downtown Miami and surrounding areas. The Mana Group’s Mana Common, an urban renewal and community development platform, created Mana Public Arts, which in turn created the festival.
“About two years ago, we decided to take a more active approach in community involvement and creative placemaking,” Ward said. “We started looking at downtown Miami and the Flagler districts. There is really a very big absence of public art, and we decided that we wanted to use the impetus of Art Basel to help address that.”
The impact of art, said Ward, is substantial: “Community access to art is very important for just general happiness and the overall benefit of the city.”
Additionally, from an economic development standpoint, “mural street art and creative placemaking has become a huge tool in terms of generating foot traffic, which in turn generates dollars spent, which in turn generates tax revenue and benefits for the overall city … What we want to do, so that there are more economic opportunities at the end of the day, is to create public art for the general good, but it’s also [to think about] how we can find ways to improve the neighborhood so that more businesses come in.”
Miami artist Daniel Fila, who is also known as Krave, has seen for himself how art has the ability to completely transform neighborhoods.
“It’s a proven model that works,” he said. “It brings pride to communities and forms a unified identity.”
This is why he decided that it was important to help out, not only by producing the festival, but also by contributing his own piece.
“I’m doing one behind the old Macy’s building [on Flagler]. It’s going to be about 80 feet tall. It’s going to be a tribute to the ‘Mother of Miami,’ Julia Tuttle, and also Marjory Stoneman Douglas,” Fila said. “It’s a representational portrait in an abstracted way where I can note all these different contributors to the development of our city.”
Maren Conrad’s “Legacy in Levity” mural is made up of images from community residents. (Photo courtesy of the artist)
Ward said this year’s event is just the beginning.
“This is going to be something that grows annually … in subsequent years we hope to extend it to all parts of the county,” he said. “We’ve really done our best to give opportunities to local artists, to make sure that the artists that live in Miami year-round have that opportunity, which doesn’t always happen around Art Basel.”
Conrad said she was particularly sensitive to that issue. Her mural, inspired by the passing of her friend, a photographer named Jacquelyn Anderson, incorporates elements of Miami’s different neighborhoods and the people who live in them.
“We really wanted to capture the spirit of Miami and the identity of Miami, even though we’re a California-based crew,” Conrad said. “We went out to the community and we worked with the HistoryMiami museum and La Cantina Restaurant … and our artists hit the street.
“We showed up, we popped up, we invited anyone to take pictures with us … which gave us a true cross section. People who are homeless. People who are affluent. People who are out on a date. People who are out on a girls’ night with three generations of their family. Guys washing the dishes in the back of restaurants. It was just a wonderful slice of life. There was some guy who carried around his favorite WrestleMania character doll,” she continued.
“There was this funny group of Trumpsters, [as well as] people who hated Trump. People who were diehard Floridians, who have been here for four generations. People who just moved here yesterday. Our criteria was you had to live in Miami. Other than that, you could be anybody.”
But there was one person she remembers in particular.
“There was a gentleman who I think really captured what we were trying to say. It was a man in a wheelchair. He wasn’t homeless, He wasn’t asking for money or anything. He just had a little sign with him that said, ‘Even without legs life is beautiful.’
“Even when our loved ones are lost, we can breathe for them. We can create for them. We can honor them. We can carry on their work,” she said. “We’ve all been through hell, and all of us as a community are finding ways to find happiness and be together again. And this gentleman with that little message on his lap really is exactly the sentiment that we were trying to get to.
“As a community we can overcome anything.”
Though transportation between the murals will not be provided, HistoryMiami museum is hosting a walking tour centered on the murals in downtown Miami’s Flagler District. The free event is scheduled for 10 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 4. For more information, visit historymiami.org/city-tour/miami-mural-festival-walking-tour.
WHAT: Miami Mural Festival
WHEN: Through 6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021
WHERE: Throughout Miami’s downtown and Wynwood neighborhoods
Latinx writers unite for ‘Home in Florida’ anthology
Posted By Michelle F. Solomon November 17, 2021 at 7:29 PM
Miami author Anjanette Delgado is editor of the anthology, “Home In Florida,” which includes the works of Latinx writers who have called Florida home. (Photo courtesy of Javier Romero)
“Immigration is a political word or a legal word,” Miami-based author Anjanette Delgado says. “But uprootedness? That is a social word. That is a human word. That is a word that describes what happens to us when we pick up and start over.”
And that word, Delgado continues, is the thread that ties together the anthology book, “Home in Florida: Latinx Writers and the Literature of Uprootedness” (University Press of Florida, 2021).
As the book’s editor, Delgado gathered 33 writers of fiction, nonfiction and poetry, all Latinx and all having the Sunshine State in common. They’re first-, second- and third-generation immigrants from countries such as Cuba, Mexico, Honduras, Peru, Argentina and Chile — reflecting the diversity of Latinx experiences across Florida.
On Nov. 20, Delgado was joined by some of the contributors, including Richard Blanco, Ariel Francisco, Ana Menéndez, Caridad Moro-Gronlier, Frances Negrón-Muntaner, Achy Obejas and Isvett Verde, at the Miami Book Fair for “In Conversation: On Home in Florida.”
Delgado planned to discuss, among other topics, the gender-neutral, panethnic label, “Latinx” — a word she addresses in the book’s introduction, saying it “defines the collective immigrant experience of people who share a past.”
“It is a term some people say shouldn’t even exist,” she says during an interview. “But, to me, Latinx means that there are these people from all kinds of different countries with a similar background, and, in our case, what unites our countries is colonization.”
Colombian-American author Patrica Engel’s essay, “La Ciudad Mágica,” is included in the anthology, “Home in Florida.” (Photo courtesy of Elliot and Erick Jimenez)
Most of the book’s contributors shared stories about life in South Florida, she says, though there are also some from Tampa, Tallahassee and Orlando. “One wrote about Key West,” Delgado says.
They each bring with them perspectives about what it’s like to “uproot from somewhere else, to come here and make it home.” And even those who didn’t uproot themselves may still carry with them the history of their ancestors, she says.
In her short story, entitled “La Ciudad Mágica,” author Patricia Engel writes: “Your Miami begins in New York, where you moved to at eighteen … [and] tried on different lives for over a decade before deciding to leave …
“Your Miami begins in the Andean highlands … before Colombia was Colombia …,” continues Engel, an associate professor of creative writing at the University of Miami, who was born to Colombian parents. “Your Miami begins in Puerto Rico, where your older brother was born, and before that, it begins in the other America.”
New writer Nilsa Ada Rivera contributes “I write to Mami about Florida,” which consists of a series of letters beginning in 1990. They convey emotions about what it’s like to feel displaced in Miami. Each has a signoff at the end: Your homeless daughter. Your birthday girl. Your lost girl. Your caged girl. Your trailer park chick. Your diluted Puerto Rican. Your Florida resident.
“Her story is amazing. If you don’t cry after you read this essay, and if it doesn’t give you the flavor of all of Florida, I don’t know what will,” Delgado says.
Richard Blanco, selected as President Barack Obama’s inaugural poet in 2013, is also scheduled to appear with Anjanette Delgado at the Miami Book Fair’s “In Conversation.” (Photo courtesy of Alissa Morris)
For Delgado, the theme of uprootedness was inspired by a 1983 interview with Cuban novelist Reinaldo Arenas, published in The New Yorker in December 2013. Arenas tells the interviewer: “I want to create a new body of work now, a literature of uprootedness about someone who’s living in an environment that’s not his own.”
Delgado is ecstatic about the meaning that word has brought to the book.
“That word has everything, right? It envelops the heartbreak of leaving, the uncertainty of arriving. It tells a story of the tension. There is always tension when you get to a new place,” she says.
“I feel like uprootedness talks about the nostalgia of leaving one place. It’s a word that describes what happens to us when we pick up and start over. And that’s what the book is really about.”
Arenas, who spent years in a Cuban prison under Fidel Castro, died by suicide at age 47 in his N.Y. apartment in 1990. His work, “The Glass Tower,” is featured in the anthology.
“It’s a piece that has never before been anthologized after he published it,” Delgado says.
In creating the anthology, starting in April 2020, Delgado sought to put together what she called her “dream collection,” reaching out to writers she wasn’t even sure would be interested.
(Video courtesy of Florida International University’s Inspicio Arts e-magazine. Here, he discusses how his writing typically addresses the immigrant search for a mythic America. Find more videos for Richard Blanco by clicking here.)
“I’m not going to worry whether I know them or not, [or] if this person is too famous, or if they are going to say no,” she says. “I’m going to invite everyone.”
Delgado says she was able to include nine authors “who you probably would never read because they usually write in Spanish.”
She credits Stephanye Hunter, acquisitions editor at the University Press of Florida, as instrumental in getting those works translated, explaining to the powers-that-be at University Press that the book would not be complete without all voices to encompass an entire spectrum of experiences — “people for whom it was recent and painful and those who had processed it and come out the other side.
“Star writers are mixed in with people who are just emerging,” she says. “There is just a lot of talent in this book.”