Articles by

Neil de la Flor

  • Article

    Published by

    After nine years of bringing true stories from the Miami community to life, Lip Service creator Andrea Askowitz is stepping down as head of the organization. Her final Lip Service show is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 24, at the Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables. Lip Service started as a free event at Books & Books. In 2012, the organization won a three-year Knight Arts Challenge grant, and it has grown into a highly anticipated quarterly literary showcase featuring eight South Florida-based storytellers. “The thing I love about Lip Service is how willing people are to tell their stories,” says Askowitz, who produced 40 shows, worked with close to 300 storytellers and saw audiences grow in size from 60 to 600 during her tenure. “I mean, to tell the parts of themselves that may not always look pretty. And our audience is the best in the world. When someone’s nervous on stage, when I’m nervous on stage, I feel emotionally buoyed by the love and support of our audience.” Lip Service tapped into our community’s need (and every community’s need) to share and connect with each other through personal narratives.  
  • Article

    Published by

    For 25 years, MDC Live Arts, formerly known as Cultura del Lobo, has brought the most eclectic and innovative contemporary choreographers, dance companies, performance artists and musicians from around the world to Miami. In 2003, MDC Live Arts brought American-Mexican singer Lila Downs to the Olympia Theater, and it was one of the most astonishing concert experiences of my life. The 2015-2016 season lives up to the spirit of past programming with debut performances from Combinado Argentino de Danza, Joan Soriano, Timbalive, Camille A. Brown, Teatro Cinema and more. Under the current leadership of Kathryn Garcia, the Knight Arts Challenge-winning organization has further expanded its reach beyond performances by connecting visiting artists with artists in the community. Through workshops, labs, lectures, conversations and residencies, along with pop-up and site-specific performances around Miami Dade College campuses and the city, MDC Live Arts is reaching more and more residents, and providing the community with cutting-edge contemporary culture that is accessible to almost everyone. I spoke to Garcia about what audiences can look forward to in the coming months.
  • Article

    Published by

    In 2014, Jai-Alai Books won a three-year Knight Arts Challenge grant to create a local publishing house and help shape the Miami’s literary identity. Executive Director P. Scott Cunningham wore a cesta (a basket used in the game of jai alai) on stage that night to receive the award. “It was a fun night,” Cunningham said. “And winning the award was a tremendous validation of our idea.” With the grant, Jai-Alai Books has steadily expanded its catalog, and the press recently introduced the Toi Derricotte & Cornelius Eady Chapbook Prize, which will be presented by the Cave Canem Foundation. The prize will fund the publication of a chapbook-length manuscript by a black poet, who will also receive a $500 award and a one-week residency at The Writer’s Room at The Betsy Hotel–a program that is also a Knight Arts Challenge winner. In this interview, Cunningham talks about fashioning Miami’s literary identity while maintaining his own mojo as a writer. He also wants would-be authors to submit book proposals during the 2015 Miami Book Fair International.
  • Article

    Published by

    Later this fall, thousands of authors, publishers, agents and book lovers will descend upon Miami Dade College’s Wolfson Campus for the Miami Book Fair International–an annual event during which Knight Foundation supports a variety of programming. Since its inception in 1984, this eight-day literary event has grown into one of the largest book fairs in the world. Scheduled this year for Nov. 15-22, the fair will culminate with the Festival of Authors on Nov. 20-22, when more than 450 writers will read and discuss their work with the public. This year, the Festival of Authors will feature an increasingly diverse and inclusive cross-section of authors from around the world, including Latin American and Spain. But that’s not all. The book fair has made a conscious effort to include traditionally marginalized voices whose work is often underrepresented, and sometimes outright dismissed, across the publishing world. Enter Vanessa Garcia, a Miami-based artist, playwright, author and teacher. Her first novel, “White Light,” was just published by Shade Mountain Press, one of the few presses committed to publishing women. Garcia, who will read her work at the Miami Book Fair during the Festival of Authors, discusses her first novel and what it took to get it published. Vanessa Garcia, a Miami-based author who will be participating in the Miami Book Fair International. Like many artists, you juggle (for lack of a better word) multiple careers–writer, artist, teacher and executive director of The Krane. Beyond the requisite “how do you do it all” question, I’d like to know how these interrelated careers inform your artistic center? I have never seen my career as “multiple” in the sense that I feel like my life and my work are one. They walk the same line. When I teach,  it comes from the same place that I write from, make art from. It comes from the same well source or engine–the thing that drives you to connect. Teaching, in other words, is an act of creation. For me, everything is like that…
  • Article

    Published by

    When it comes to horror films, I’m a hater. The flincher. The guy who screams, grabs the person next to him and closes his eyes when the blood starts to flow and all hell breaks loose. Yet despite my trepidation (or irrational fear), I’m going to go, eyes wide open, to O Cinema in Miami when Filmgate Interactive hosts the Horror Edition of NoLA on Oct. 7. And you should, too! NoLA–which stands for “I’m Not Gonna Move to L.A.” and is promoted under the hashtag #stayMIA–is a monthly short film competition that gives local filmmakers a platform to showcase their work, as well as an opportunity to network. I attended my first NoLA event earlier this month, and I had a cinematic blast. I even signed up, albeit accidentally, to pitch a film.
  • Article

    Published by

    President Obama’s recent trip to the Exit Glacier in the Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska wasn’t just a hike in the woods. For the President, this trip signaled the importance of global climate change and the forces of mother nature on human ecology. Their almost unknowable, yet certain, impact on the environment, the global economy and culture is both unsettling and exciting, because with every challenge, opportunities for real change emerge. Tigertail Productions–a Knight Arts grantee, as well as a 2011 and 2013 Knight Arts Challenge South Florida winner–reveals the power and beauty of Mother Nature in its 2015/16 season. The highlight of the season will be “Water,” a series of site-specific performances that will be held throughout Miami in April of 2016. That said, “Water” is just one event in a season packed with artists, performances and opportunities for community engagement devised and brought to us by Mary Luft, Tigertail’s founder and executive director. Here’s a brief look at what’s to come from Tigertail, per Luft.
  • Article

    Published by

    “MelanchoLalaland”—an opera conceived by composer and Florida Atlantic University professor Joey Bargsten—opens Sept. 13 at the Miami Beach Cinematheque. The transmedia work, which won a Knight Arts Challenge South Florida grant, presents a not-so-distant, dystopian future in which a drug giant called Melancuria Inc. peddles happiness. It’s a future where drive-through pleasure pods can simply pop up, providing users a reprieve from existential angst and anxiety. Combining traditional opera with animation, videography and electronic music, Bargsten is charting a risky new course for opera-making. It was at the 2015 FilmGate Interactive Festival that I first encountered a work-in-progress version of “MelanchoLalaland,” and at the time, it felt oversaturated with ideas and gimmicky. Even though what was presented was only Act I, it lacked the coherent narrative arc that a fleshed-out opera can communicate. However, Bargsten says he and collaborator (and wife) Thea Zimmer have spent the last seven months perfecting and refining “MelanchoLalaland” for its upcoming, full-length premiere.      
  • Article

    Published by

    “Adaptive Chassis:SFL” is a site-specific performance piece created by dancer and choreographer Marissa Alma Nick for Grass Stains, a project that was one of the winners of the 2014 Knight Arts Challenge South Florida. In the work, Nick addresses life in Miami after climate change. Can we stop it? And, if not, can we survive it? These are the questions Nick asks us to consider.   I ran into Nick at Kush (recently voted Most Green Restaurant in Florida by the Nature Conservancy), where she was meeting with her collaborator Sebastian Ruiz, a Miami-based visual artist. I was eating Key lime pie at the table next to them as they mapped out plans for “Adaptive Chassis:SFL.”
  • Article

    Published by

    In her role as executive director of Arts For Learning, Sheila Womble has led the organization through a period of tremendous growth that has had a lasting impact on the lives of 175 South Florida high school students. With a grant from the 2012 South Florida Knight Arts Challenge, Arts For Learning expanded ArtWorks, its summer internship program for high school students interested in artistic disciplines. ArtWorks, which has become one of the most important internship programs in South Florida, hires student interns to make and produce works of art in four areas: visual arts, creative writing, theater and dance. Throughout the six-week program, Master Teaching Artists Alejandro Bahia, Latrice Bruno, Yanira Collado, Jean-Paul Mallozzi and I facilitated the development of interns' creative, professional and, most importantly, critical thinking skills at satellite locations throughout Wynwood, including the Bakehouse Art Complex and Miami Light Project. The program culminated in two major events produced by ArtWorks interns—an art exhibition ("LEveLS") and a matinee and prime-time performance piece ("Influence")—where money was raised through ticket and art sales. When the program ended–well, it didn't really end. There's more ArtWorks to come this fall. This is what I learned when I  reached out to Womble to discuss the future of ArtWorks.
  • Article

    Published by

    The Pioneer Winter Collective won a 2014 South Florida Knight Arts Challenge grant with its proposal for a site-specific performance initiative called Grass Stains. The project aims to articulate an exchange between a work of art or performance, and the place in which that work of art is set. Taking performance out of theaters and into streets, parks and cultural sites throughout Miami-Dade County opens up the possibility of transforming the urban landscape into a stage. Dancer and choreographer Niurca Márquez, one of the Grass Stains artists, will use her funding to shape traditional elements of flamenco and embed them within the architecture of Miami. In this interview, Márquez documents her process and plans for developing her work-in-progress.  
  • Article

    Published by

    On opening night at Laundromat Art Space, a new artist-run collective on the corner of Northeast Second Avenue and 59th Street in Little Haiti, artist Andres Martinez unfurled a giant sign over the front of the building. “Sorry we're open,” it read. The words are an obvious nod to gentrification and its potential impact on a community, as both the sign and the opening of Laundromat herald a new phase of arts-fueled gentrification in Little Haiti–one that may have unintended consequences for the close-knit neighborhood.