Visual Art

Artist’s green vision is paradise at MOCA, North Miami

Written By Sergy Odiduro
March 19, 2023 at 4:09 PM

Emmett Moore’s installation “Victory Garden,” a sculptural community garden, is on exhibit at Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami’s Paradise Courtyard. (Photo courtesy of Daniel Bock)

Emmett Moore isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. “My wife and I built a garden from scratch,” he says.

The two cultivated an array of bushes, fruits and trees. Indigo berries, bay rum, Gumbo Limbo, coconut, grapefruit and lemon. But while tending to his crops, Moore also planted an idea.  That seed has since taken root and is spilling over into the  Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami’s Paradise Courtyard.

Emmett Moore, the creator of Victory Garden at MOCA, North Miami, is a Miami-based artist and designer known for work that explores the relationships between functionality, art, and design. (Photo courtesy of Ian Patrick O’Connor)

Gardening enthusiasts, those with barely green thumbs,  artists and art lovers are invited to drop in and see Moore’s vision while exploring MOCA North Miami’s new  “Victory Garden,”  a sculptural community garden on view through Sunday, June 25.

The exhibit is part of the museum’s “Welcome to Paradise,” program which showcases temporary public art projects by local artists.

The first season’s theme will examine the relationship between technology and ecology. Next up is an interactive sculpture by Beatriz Chachamovits, which offers a window into how humanity has impacted coral reef ecosystems.  “Into The Great Dying: Roles We Play”  will be on view during their second season from Wednesday, July 5 through Tuesday, Nov. 21.

“We want to make sure that MOCA is featuring a larger number of artists but also that we’re activating our spaces in meaningful ways,” says Adeze Wilford, the curator of the museum. “And one of the things that we have been thinking about is really continuing this long legacy of championing South Florida artists.”

Moore, a Miami-based artist, has turned out to be a perfect fit.

Arasay Vazquez, MOCA North Miami registrar, takes a break in Emmett Moore’s Victory Garden. (Photo by Daniel Bock)

“He submitted a proposal to us, and to me specifically, about a Victory Garden,” says Wilford. “It started off as a response to food insecurity during the height of the pandemic and it really was a throwback to the wartime effort (when)  a lot of rationing was happening in the United States. And one of the things that people were doing was turning to their own homes to create resources.”

The exhibit, she says, is particularly relevant due to the current economic climate.

“Emmett was thinking about how that is playing out in current times and just thinking about how empowering it would have been at the height of the pandemic for people to not have to worry about food scarcity or supply chain issues and really being able to turn to their own homes and produce healthy food for their families to enjoy.”

Wilford pointed out that being self-sufficient is especially helpful given what she has noticed are astronomical prices for food at the local supermarket.

Emmett Moore uses repurposed steel drums as receptacles for native plants in Victory Garden. (Photo courtesy of Daniel Bock)

“Every time I go into a grocery store, I’m shocked by how much everything is,” she says. “It’s really the simple things that ordinarily you wouldn’t bat your eyes at . . .I can only imagine for people who have teenagers who are growing, who probably want to snack all day long; it’s probably a really daunting thing to walk into Publix right now. So we have been talking about empowering communities to make these smaller changes that can help in the long run.”

According to Moore, all you need is some resolve, a ready supply of elbow grease, and the right kind of information.

Moore’s first step was to identify what plants he would be harvesting.

“I contacted a friend who was a landscape architect and I said, ‘I want to do a native garden.’ I showed her the list of plants and she said, ‘Oh, none of those are native….’ ”

Moore confides that in determining which plants were actually native to the area, he also discovered how important native plants were to the local ecosystem, even if they weren’t necessarily edible.

From there Moore says he identified the materials he wanted to use and decided on something that is recognizable to most people.

“I like repurposing materials, recycling materials or using modular objects that are produced for industries,” explains Moore. “I’ve always been drawn to the steel drum. Just a standard steel drum that is used for shipping liquids like oils. After they’re used, they wind up getting repurposed for other things like steel drum instruments and almost any country you go, you’ll see recycled steel drums being used as planters.”

Transforming them artistically was a way to bring his vision to fruition.

Miami-based artist Emmett Moore. (Photo courtesy of Ian Patrick O’Connor)

“I wanted to create this system that connected it to humans so I created this aluminum armature that holds a series of drums together,”  says Moore. “That armature also has seating and solar panels to collect power. So by connecting the drums physically, to me it creates connections between the plants and the built environment like the human-made elements.”

Wilford hopes that visitors who stop by will enjoy the garden, perhaps use the solar-powered USB outlets, and come away after learning something new. There is also programming the museum is doing that will is directed to educating students.

“The intention is really for people to feel welcome to come into our space and learn about how they can do this on their own, but also to share the harvest that we have,” she said. “We’ll be partnering with various groups. We’re actually planning a  partnership with Ready to Grow and we’ll be doing workshops throughout the run of the show.”

“Kids will be engaged and I hope that they’ll go home to their families really excited with seeds and information,” says Wilford.

Moore is also looking forward to the results.

Plans for the Victory Garden include starfruit, collard greens, bee balm, Cuban oregano, and Everglades cherry tomatoes.

“The courtyard’s a little bit isolated, so it’ll be interesting to see what creatures come to the garden. And then it’ll also be interesting to see what we can grow in this period of time,” says Moore.

WHAT: Emmett Moore: “Victory Garden”

WHEN: Through Sunday, June 25: noon to 7 p.m. Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday through Sunday. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

WHERE: Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, 770 NE 125th St., North Miami 

COST: Free to view the garden. Museum admission is $10 for adults; $5 for seniors, students and visitors with disabilities. Free for MOCA members, City of North Miami residents and children under 12.

INFORMATION: 305-893-6211 or is a nonprofit source of dance, visual arts, music and performing arts news. Sign up for our newsletter and never miss a story.

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