Articles by

Anne Tschida

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    ProjectArt is one of those ground-up initiatives that makes you wonder, why has this program not been in place forever? The model was pretty simple: re-energize public libraries by providing art classes to children in underprivileged neighborhoods, where cuts in school funding have decimated arts education. The artists who would lead these classes, in return, would also be offered studio space–a significant benefit for often-struggling artists–for the duration of the residency, which would be for one year. Founder Adarsh Alphons kicked off the project in New York in 2011–a man with a mission to put paint brushes into the hands of kids in underused space in his Harlem library.
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    The bright, cool afternoon boded well for the inauguration of The Underline public art program. Hired performers turned Nicolas Lobo’s steel sculpture into a jungle gym with their acrobatics, soon joined by kids passing the Brickell Metrorail stop where it was temporarily installed. Other spectators climbed aboard Agustina Woodgate’s mobile radio station, which required participants to pedal while they listened to issues about the environment and urban planning as the human-powered trolley rolled around the area. Joggers stopped to see New World School ballet dancers entwine themselves with a mirror and steel sculpture created by Naomi Fisher.These intentionally interactive art projects were a perfect introduction to an ambitious project that will integrate public art with an eco-friendly, 10-mile park running under the Metrorail from Brickell to Dadeland South stations–under eight stations in all. In an otherwise hyper-developing section of the city, these swathes of land under the cold concrete rail line are neglected. By incorporating bike and walking trails, native landscaping and public art, The Underline aims to get people out of their cars and to discover a new urban world, hopefully intermingling and fostering a civic environment as well.
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    Bright white spotlights and thumping music accosted the arrivals to "Portrait of Myself as My Father," Nora Chipaumire’s performance at the Miami Light Project, which Knight Foundation supports. During a performance run earlier this month, the stage was set as a boxing ring, and the atmosphere was intentionally disorienting as audience members took their seats. As the three performers appeared in costume, there was something "Mad Max"-like about the introduction, a theatrical, surreal concoction. We were metaphorically being punched around the ring.This would not be an easy ride, but the journey turned out to be extraordinary, a dance performance that pressed everyone to question histories and stereotypes, of race and gender, with a dose of humor and irony–and incredible craftsmanship. "Portrait" is the definition of fierce.For background: Chipaumire was born in Zimbabwe and now lives in Brooklyn–and for most of her life she lost her father (he left the family when she was 5 years old). Her search for her father spawned the concept of the piece, one that resonates throughout colonial societies, in particular in the fate of black males. From Africa to North America to the Caribbean, black men have suffered indignities and subjugation, and have also been “absentee” fathers. Chipaumire started to look for these roots.
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    When Wynwood Walls opened up in 2009, it announced the arrival of a burgeoning cultural district loud and clear. The magnificent colorful wall murals painted by internationally known street artists on a property on Northwest Second Avenue quickly became a focal point for the rejuvenating urban core of Miami, centered in the Wynwood neighborhood.The Walls are one of the myriad creative real-estate ventures of Goldman Properties, founded by Tony Goldman in 1968 in New York with an emphasis on revitalizing depressed inner city neighborhoods. In 2012, daughter Jessica Goldman Srebnick took the helm as CEO (her father died that same year). She and her father had spearheaded economic development from New York to Philadelphia, Miami Beach to Miami through developing a mix of restaurants, retail and residential properties–and art.In 2015, Goldman Srebnick founded Goldman Global Arts, which aims to expand the realm of public art, to bring art to people and places outside the usual confines of an arts district or museum. The first project: 18 artists from 10 countries have been commissioned to install monumental murals at the home of the Dolphins football team, in the refurbished Hard Rock Stadium. The initial works were unveiled at the first home game on Sept. 25.These are just some of the projects that have led to Goldman Srebnick being honored with the third Endeavor Miami award, which recognizes high-impact entrepreneurship, on Oct. 22. (Endeavor Miami is the first U.S. affiliate of Endeavor, an organization dedicated to promoting entrepreneurship and fueling worldwide economic growth by building communities of entrepreneurs and innovators; it is supported by Knight Foundation.)There are numerous developers and real-estate companies that are changing the landscape of Miami, but Goldman Properties stands out. “I think we have always looked at what a community could be,” said Goldman Srebnick. A community that is conducive to walking, to commingling, to enjoying the atmosphere.
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    Above: “The Inverse” by Laura Lima. Photo by Fredrik Nilsen Studio. For the latest entry into the pantheon of arts institutions in South Florida, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami has made quite a splash in its short, almost two-year existence. In its temporary home in the Design District–the permanent museum is scheduled to open in 2017–the ICA has delivered some firsts that have enhanced the art scene here. For instance, earlier in 2016 ICA presented the first solo survey in the United States of the influential conceptual artist John Miller. From the site-specific labyrinth Miller created in the atrium, to sculptures, photography and video with implicit social commentary from the 1980s onward, “I Stand, I Fall” was one of the most interesting exhibits of the year. Now, several more firsts are on display, all with funding from Knight Foundation. In June, Laura Lima entangled the ground-floor atrium, along with the support beams rising across three floors of the Moore Building, with black-and-blue nylon rope. The braided rope starts out thick, draped across the room, and becomes increasingly thinner as it snakes its way down the beams and onto the floor, eventually shrinking to a small string that ends up between the legs of a live performance artist who is positioned inside the wall, with only her legs revealed. This performance aspect of “The Inverse” is somewhat controversial, nothing new for the experimental Brazilian who works in interactive art, often using bodies–nude and otherwise–and animals to explore human relations and social norms. She follows in a vein of groundbreaking performative conceptual Brazilian art from the 1960s and ’70s that garnered worldwide attention. Lima is a also a co-founder, along with her more famous countryman, the sculptor Ernesto Neto, of a pioneering art and cultural space in Rio de Janeiro, A Gentil Carioca. While Lima has shown extensively internationally, this is the debut North American solo museum outing for her. Both Miller and Lima were long overdue to be introduced to Miami; kudos to chief curator Alex Gartenfeld for bringing them. Site-specific installation by Renaud Jerez. Photo by Fredrik Nilsen Studio. Upstairs, three other exhibits fill the galleries–making the ICA’s temporary home feel much bigger than it actually is.
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    Above: Singer Zachary James, director R.B Schlather, musician Michael Weinfield-Zell. All photos by Francisco Javier Moraga Escalona. The audience attending “the little match girl passion” sat on mats on the broad staircase or in the upper echelon seats in the elegant auditorium at the Perez Art Museum Miami. The two sections are divided by a stage in between, so where people chose to sit would determine how they watched–and experienced–this experimental opera. And what an experience it was: conceptually smart, emotionally powerful–and witty, too. It was a project from 2015 Knight Arts Challenge winner IlluminArts, which is a Miami-based group that aims to combine vocal chamber music with visual arts through a series of collaborative events in museums and galleries. For this program, IlluminArts was inspired by the superb Colombian artist Doris Salcedo, whose exhibit is currently showing at PAMM. Rooted in the ubiquitous violence, loss and trauma of her homeland, her works have a dark but poetic beauty. Not unlike the tragic but lyrical 19th-century tale from Hans Christian Andersen, “The Little Match Girl,” where a starving girl dies of cold on a street in Denmark, ignored by those walking by her. In both there is some suggestion of ultimate hope, but it’s a hope that that seems far from the literal suffering. IlluminArts Artistic Director Amanda Crider, also an opera singer, thought it would be fascinating to combine the 2008 Pulitzer Prize-winning composition “the little match girl passion” from David Lang with Salcedo’s exhibit. That’s the backdrop to this performance, which held rehearsals open to the museum-going public leading up to the final June 2 presentation.
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    Above: App-activated sound art “The Sounds,” a collaboration between Brad Laner and Ivan Toth Depeña. All images courtesy Ivan Toth Depeña. Take a break from texting and “liking” as you walk down the street, and look up, with your phone. You may encounter some fascinating art that appears only on your screen, courtesy of artist Ivan Toth Depeña. In an elaborate and widespread project, funded by Knight and Miami-Dade Art in Public Places, Depeña has created a virtual reality tour of Miami, titled “Lapse,” accompanied by a site-specific installation commissioned by Locust Projects gallery. Using a specially created app for this project, you take your mobile device and point it at certain walls or public spaces, and visual and aural experiences emerge. “Lapse” is truly on the cusp of the new frontier of art viewing. This is how Depeña describes the process, which is called augmented reality, or AR: “[It] is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment that contains elements augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated media such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.” So, how does this all really work? First, download the “Lapse” mobile app onto a device via the project website (it includes instructions and guides; note the app is supposed to be available after May 30). Let’s start in Museum Park in front of the Perez Art Museum of Art, with a piece titled “The Writing.” A collaboration with local artist Jillian Mayer, the project reveals itself as you move through the park with your device, with text popping up among the trees: excerpts from a fictional notebook, scribblings about love and memories. Put the phone down, and the imagery disappears.
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    Above: The Cuban artists visit the studio of Miami-based José Bedia. Photos courtesy of Ana Clara Silva. It was a perfect evening up on the third floor of the Pérez Art Museum Miami on April 29, where the closing reception was held for the artists and curators participating in the second part of the ground-breaking Dialogues in Cuban Art, funded by Knight and The Related Group. A gentle breeze kept the outdoor patio cool, and the panoramic views of the bay and the city under a cloudless sky were spectacular. It was something many of the visiting artists from Cuba commented upon, when talking about their experiences here in Miami during an interactive week that clearly profoundly moved those from both sides of the Florida Straits. It all started a year ago, when founder and director Elizabeth Cerejido took a group of Cuban-American artists–who had never visited Cuba before–to the island. That week-long trip during the Havana Biennial, when they toured studios and museums, turned out to be more emotional than many of them expected, according to the artists. Local artist Cesar Trasobares leads a tour of the Carlos Alfonzo exhibit at PAMM; director Elizabeth Cerejido is in the forefront.  This year, it was the Cuban artists’ turn. They too embarked on a whirlwind tour of studios, collectors, galleries and museums, culminating in a big, two-day symposium at PAMM. Unlike the American contingent, some of these artists had previously visited both the United States and Miami, and many had worked in other countries. And yet, they too seemed unexpectedly touched by the intimate week. Although relations between the two countries have relaxed remarkably since President Obama announced a change in policy in December 2014, there remains a real tension between people who have been so dramatically divided over decades. This is what Cerejido wanted to directly address, and from the beginning, it’s been one big experiment–and surprise, she said.
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    The precisely lit gallery highlighting the work of Michele Oka Doner. All photos courtesy of the Perez Art Museum Miami. The gallery at the Pérez Art Museum Miami is darkened, and the lighting is very dim. Spotlights highlight the two-toned prints made from organic material on the walls, while overhead lighting makes the dual platforms supporting dozens of artworks sparkle, due to the minerals in the iron used to make them. The installation of Michele Oka Doner’s small but mesmerizing survey reflects beautifully the work of this internationally acclaimed artist, whose roots run deep in Miami. That the exhibit, titled “Michele Oka Doner: How I Caught a Swallow in Midair,” resembles an archaeological site is also fitting. For five decades Oka Doner has collected natural objects from the seas and woods, and researched ancient myths and societies, in order to create her art. The former director of PAMM who organized the show, Thom Collins, aptly likened the body of her work to “Wunderkammer,” those cabinets of curiosity from the Age of Discovery, where artists and explorers displayed artifacts, relics and fossils gathered from their travels. As we see when slowly taking in this exhibit, Oka Doner’s artifacts as artworks play with perception–is that a real seashell, or a ceramic imitation? Those blurred portraits on the wall appear like charcoal drawings, but are in fact made up of leaves and tiny twigs. Her unique combination of incorporating materials from the natural and man-made worlds, with whispers of mythologies, is what has propelled her to the global art stage.
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    National Water Dance at the Deering Estate at Cutler in south Miami-Dade County. Photos by Juan Cabrera for National Water Dance. Around a fountain in downtown Los Angeles, students from the second-largest school district in the nation will be dancing, starting at 4 p.m. EST on Saturday, April 16. Simultaneously, University of Alabama students will be performing their own movements along the Black Warrior River, while the Horace Mann School in New York will gather to dance at Indian Pond in Riverdale. In fact, water dances will be taking place at the same time all across the country, in 32 states spanning from Hawaii to Massachusetts. It is all part of the second National Water Dance, which was founded here in Miami by choreographer, teacher and activist Dale Andree and is a Knight Arts Challenge winner. The massive project is meant to raise awareness of the importance of water to every aspect of life, said Andree, “and to connect us all through our waterways and our art.” Harnessing the power of art to highlight environmental issues has become somewhat of a global movement. But Florida, and Miami in particular as a ground zero for climate change, is an ideal place for a water dance. The urgency for art action hit Andree back in 2011, when she organized the Florida Waterways Dance Project, and then made it national in 2014. This year’s project, partially funded by Knight Foundation, surpasses them all, including the main Miami event.