ARTSail to launch a water-based residency in Miami

Above: ARTSail will be an art residency program reflecting Miami’s unique relationship to water. Photo by Michael Bolden via Flickr.

In many ways, the future of Miami is inherently linked to water. As a recent New Yorker magazine article pointed out, we are encompassed by no less than six sources of water: the Atlantic Ocean, Biscayne Bay, the Intracoastal Waterway, numerous canals, the River of Grass known as the Everglades, and the very high water table beneath our feet.

So it’s about time that the arts community started working with our relationship to water–with its beauty and majesty, and its potential for destruction as well. The AIRIE (Artists in Residence in Everglades) project is one such program, and now a new one has emerged: ArtCenter/South Florida’s ARTSail, funded by a 2015 Knight Arts Challenge grant, in a collaboration with the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science.

This is one cool program, an art residency set to launch next fall. Local and international artists will be encouraged to apply for a month-long residency emphasizing art projects that involve issues related to water, and more broadly to the ecological environment of South Florida. An open call to artists will go out in March.

“We had this conversation about how one of the features of Miami is that it is surrounded by water, and that this is one of the reasons why many of us chose to live here,” explained ArtCenter Executive Director Maria del Valle about the origins of this aquatic program. “Issues like sea-level rise have an impact on our economy, on international relations. Water has been connected with human development forever. We thought that it was a very interesting thing for the artists to research, and to spark collaborations with other artists and other fields like science, sociology and anthropology.”

Although boats will be part of the residency, the artists will be working on land as well, according to project coordinator and independent curator Ombretta Agró Andruff. While artists may live for part of the time on a specific boat, “they may use them more as a mode of transportation and exploration,” she said, to create work inspired by Miami’s relationship to water.

That relationship, she said, could range from sea-level rise to the effects of coral bleaching. “But this isn’t supposed to be a doomsday mission. We’re not asking anybody to come up with all the solutions,” Agró Andruff said with a laugh. ARTSail is about raising awareness about preservation and protection of the watery environment.

The first iteration of Mark Lee Koven’s interactive dome, which will come to Miami in October.

The first resident will arrive in October. Mark Lee Koven, a former Miamian now based in Utah, will bring his nomadic, interactive dome installation as part of his series, “Taking One’s Temperature.” The first iteration took place in New Mexico, he said, where participants entered the dome to explore issues particular to the arid climate there.

Here in Miami, “I imagine this version will likely cover topics that include potable water, the health of the oceans and sea-level rise,” he explained from his home in Utah. “That said, my goal is to allow the time spent during the residency to steer the content rather than be anchored on a predetermined specific topic within the framework of climate change and our beliefs and perceptions.”

Mark Lee Koven’s dome projects asks participants to perform communal tasks related to the environment.

The 32-foot dome includes projections and a surround-sound system. Participants are asked to fill out a survey and have their temperature taken before entering. Then, according to the description of this innovative installation, “upon completing this they are given a task. This activity and the questions in the surveys are also linked to the specific locale of the installation. In some cases, this may involve filling sand bags, while in other locales it may be moving water. Participants are then asked to take these items inside the dome environment to perform a communal task, such as build a communal sand bag. Once inside, they are surrounded by sound and video related to changing environmental conditions.”

Initially, the dome and future works were to be based in the plaza between the Perez Art Museum Miami and the new Frost science museum, said Agró Andruff. But since there is a chance that the science museum won’t be completed by next fall, the locations, like the ARTSail boats, will likely be nomadic. After the Miami residency, Lee Koven’s dome will move on to another eight or so cities by 2018, he said.

ARTSail is one of the projects that will expand ArtCenter’s reach throughout the community, according to director Del Valle. “As we go through the planning process to rethink and further develop our programs, we’ll probably find other specific issues that artists are tackling and offering answers to in a different manner,” she said. “ArtCenter is committed to providing the artists with resources–time, space, funding and so on–to approach these issues.”