Visual Art

MOCA North Miami Outdoor Art Series Returns with Focus on Spirituality, Heritage

Written By Jonel Juste
March 21, 2024 at 12:31 PM

Yanira Collado’s “For those who transcend in the wind/ Ritmos para Oya” is the first art installation for the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami’s Art on the Plaza series, which began in 2021. Collado’s work features wind-driven pinwheels in MOCA’s fountain. (Photo by Daniel Bock, courtesy of MOCA)

What started during the pandemic as a way to support artists is now a mainstay at the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami.

Art On The Plaza (AOP), a series of public art installations that have been displayed on MOCA Plaza since 2021, continues this year with three exhibits exploring themes of spirituality, heritage, and transformation.

For three months, from March to September, the work of artists Yaniro Collado, Christopher Mitchell and Nicole Salcedo will be highlighted.

A photo by Christopher Mitchell whose portfolio serves as a tapestry of Haitian culture. His art installation will be revealed on June 26 on MOCA Plaza as the second in the Art on the Plaza series. (Photo courtesy of the artist)

Art on the Plaza was also a means for the museum to present work during the pandemic when being indoors wasn’t possible, according to Adeze Wilford, MOCA curator.

“We’ve seen an increase in the ambition of the projects and artists really pushing their ideas of what a public art installation can be,” says Wilford.

The North Miami public art series has become a platform for artists to experiment, challenge norms, and engage with the public in unconventional ways. Its success lies in its ability to adapt and respond to the changing dynamics of the world.

Reflecting on the selection process for this year’s artists, Wilford elaborates on the program’s commitment to diversity and creativity. “Every year, Art on the Plaza is selected via an open call with a jury. This year, we invited a past AOP artist to help with the selection process,” says Wilford. “We wanted to share a range of ideas as well as activating the sites of the plaza in creative ways.”

Wilford emphasizes the thematic threads that weave through this year’s artists’ work. The Art on the Plaza curator notes, “They each have considerations along lines of history and spirituality that engage with social and emotional change.”

Yanira Collado’s “For those who transcend in the wind/ Ritmos para Oya” marks the first art installation on the Plaza for this year. Unveiled on March 13, the public artwork features a collection of wind-driven pinwheels positioned within MOCA’s fountain. The pinwheels have patterns referencing symbols in historical African-American quilts, indicates Wilford.

Yanira Collado’s pinwheels have patterns that reference symbols in historical African-American quilts, according to curator Adeze Wilford. (Photo by Daniel Bock, courtesy of MOCA)

A multimedia artist with roots in both New York and Santo Domingo, Collado shares the inspiration behind her installation. “My practice considers concepts that allude to the restoration of histories once muted due to natural and human interventions,” explains Collado. “In this work, I want to evoke a sense of wonder and felicity for all that experience it and curiosity about the color choices and patterns.”

As Collado discusses the symbolism embedded in her installation, she emphasizes the importance of reclaiming ancestral narratives. “The patterns embedded within some of the pinwheels are markers of ancestral identities for many of us in the African Diaspora. I believe fostering culture comes from an internal starting point and it must be cultivated in order for it to contribute to any type of social development.”

“For those who transcend in the wind/ Ritmos para Oya” will close Sunday, June 16.

Christopher Mitchell’s “Haitian Mermaids” opens on Wednesday, June 26 and is on display through Sunday, Sept. 8. The photographic series presents portraits of community members transformed into life-sized mermaids, adorned in vibrant Kanaval-style costumes.

With a dedication to documenting stories of Haiti, the Haitian-American photographer and director shares his perspective on his photographic series. “The museum (MOCA) is nestled within a vibrant Haitian community, which lends a unique cultural backdrop,” says Mitchell. “Had it been situated in Jacmel, Haiti, local lore might have spun tales of mermaids seen in the central fountain, infusing the place with an air of mystery and enchantment.”

The Haitian-American photographer and director Christopher Mitchell has dedicated his practice to documenting Haiti in all its dimensions since the mid-1990s (Photo courtesy of the artist)

Mitchell navigates the complex emotions surrounding mermaids in Haitian folklore, blending admiration with cautionary tales. “The allure of mermaids lies not just in their breathtaking beauty and enigmatic mystique but also in the peril that accompanies their legend,” he elaborates. “While their enchanting narratives and mystical aura captivate many, they also serve as a reminder of the treacherous, cautionary tales woven into their lore.”

In discussing the technical process behind his life-sized mermaid portraits, the photographer emphasizes the fusion of reality with artisan craftsmanship. “Each portrait features a human subject captured in the upper portion with meticulous attention to detail, while the lower half is intricately crafted using artisan materials to evoke a distinct aquatic aesthetic,” says Mitchell. “The fusion of real-life and imaginative elements brings forth a captivating and surreal experience in each portrait.”

On Wednesday, Sept. 18, the third and final installment of Art on the Plaza will be displayed. Crafted by Nicole Salcedo and titled “Earth Gate,” this installation invites visitors to pass through “a threshold between the mundane and the sacred.”

Nicole Salcedo, a multidisciplinary artist known for her immersive experiences, will be displaying her work on MOCA Plaza starting Sept. 18. (Photo courtesy of the artist)

Salcedo, a multidisciplinary artist known for her immersive experiences, offers insights into her artwork. “This installation emerged from a deep reverence for our planet and a desire to create a space where visitors could experience a connection with the Earth through the imagination,” explains Salcedo. “I wanted to translate that feeling into a structure that is familiar, a gate, a threshold where people could symbolically pass from one state of being to another, acknowledging our role as stewards of the Earth.”

The artist integrates diverse elements, including botany, fractals, electromagnetic physics, and animistic spirituality, to convey her artistic message. “Botany represents the physical manifestation of life, while fractals symbolize the underlying patterns and interconnectedness found in nature,” says Salcedo. “Electromagnetic physics speaks to the invisible forces that bind us to the Earth, while animistic spirituality acknowledges the inherent consciousness and spirit within all living things.”

The final Art on the Plaza of the season closes on Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2025.

Through the diverse perspectives of Collado, Mitchell, and Salcedo, Art On The Plaza invites viewers to “explore unfamiliar narratives and spark meaningful conversations,” says Wilford.

“These installations contribute to the dialogue surrounding cultural identity and heritage within the South Florida arts community. Our goal is to create projects that will continue to have life long after the AOP season ends.”

WHAT: Art on the Plaza

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

WHEN: Through Jan. 1, 2025.

COST:  Free

INFORMATION:  305-893-6211 or is a nonprofit media source for the arts featuring fresh and original stories by writers dedicated to theater, dance, visual arts, film, music, and more. Don’t miss a story at

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