France Spring 2020 As Texts: Victoria Smith

Photo of Victoria Smith in 2020. Photo by Robert Smith/ CC BY 4.0

Student Bio

Victoria Smith is a student at FIU. She is currently in her junior year and a student of the FIU Honors College. She is a Psychology major with a focus in Behavior Analysis, and she is also pursuing a Dance minor. She loves Tap Dancing, Theatre, and Singing. Her dream is to perform on Broadway!

Vizcaya as Text, Victoria Smith

Vizcaya Theatre.Photo By Victoria Smith/ CC By 4.0

“Vizcaya: The Theatrical Production” by Victoria Smith at FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

            One of William Shakespeare’s most noted quotes from his play, As You Like It, begins with the phrase “All the world’s a stage”. This is perfectly exemplified at James Deering’s estate, Vizcaya; the perfect stage for James Deering’s production. Complete with props, set pieces, and storytelling, Vizcaya proves to be a theatrical show. Initially, when you enter the estate, you are greeted by the grand pathway to the villa complete with landscaping and an arc meant to imitate the Arc de Triomphe in France. Deering wanted the estate to be a place of grandeur and to capture the luxury of European villas in its architecture and landscaping. Inside the villa, one finds the highlight of the theatrics in the study. In this room, James Deering had a large painting of three children on the wall. Since he never had a family of his own, but wanted to fit the standard of a man’s study, complete with family pictures, he had the painting put in his study. The fictitious characters were a part of the storytelling Deering needed for his villa to make his own character complete. Another way Deering added to his image, was with the fake books in the study. Since a vast library suggests a person of intelligence, Deering made sure to have his bookshelves full. However, an entire wall of books are merely props. If one looks from the side of the shelves, one can see that the books are empty and it is just portions of fake book covers that line the shelves. Although the books were not filled, the appearance of a complete library brought a sense of stature, and importance to James Deering’s image.

Outside in the gardens at Vizcaya, one encounters an outdoor theatre. It is not known whether or not the theatre was actually used for productions. However, since it was common for European gardens to house an outdoor theatre in the 1500’s and 1600’s, Vizcaya required this artistic asset. Although the theatre may not have been used to put on shows, Deering was already putting on his on shows ironically outside of the theatre. Vizcaya itself was the theatrical production. However, the truth is that we all put on shows every day to live up to the characters and stories we create for ourselves. Turns out the world really is a stage.

Deering Estate as Text, Victoria Smith

Photo of Victoria Smith holding a fossil at the Deering Estate Cutler Fossil Site. Photo by Victoria Smith. CC BY 4.0

“Connected Through Stories” by Victoria Smith at FIU at Deering Estate

About a year ago from this time, I was fortunate enough to be able to go to the Deering Estate Cutler Fossil Site. This is not accessible to the public for protection purposes, so it really was a special and rare occasion. I was able to come in contact with fossils and shell tools held by the Tequesta people who lived there 10,000 years before me. We also visited the burial mound where it is believed Tequeasta people are buried in a circle formation there. I did not know these humans and we were separated by a vast amount of time and space, yet there is a connection. We are all humans and we all have a story. The Tequesta people had their own stories that they were living during their time, and years later we walk on the very same ground they lived on with our own individual stories to tell.

With everything going on in the world now with the Corona Virus separating humans physically from each other, we are living in very different times than we are used to living. However, this is all part of our narrative and the stories we are living. Years from now, who knows who will walk the same grounds we walk on now and what they will know about our stories. Just like we are separated from the Tequesta in time and space, we are spatially separated from our fellow neighbors in these times of quarantine. But just like our stories connect with the Tequesta through basic humanity, our stories are all connected now more than ever. We are all living under the same story while still dealing with our own unique narratives. I look forward to the time when I can walk on the grounds of the Deering Estate again and not have a need to be shielded by a mask or gloves from the remains of the history of those who came before us.

HistoryMiami Museum as Text, Victoria Smith

Photo by JW Bailly CC BY 4.0

“Miami: A Place for New Beginnings” by Victoria Smith at FIU at HistoryMiami Museum

            Miami is often regarded as the cultural and economic center of South Florida. With its diverse population, it is no surprise that Miami has much history surrounding its development. Reading about the HistoryMiami Museum allowed me to gain insight on the beginnings of the beautiful city I live in. The number of exhibits found at the museum each provided key details that allowed me to better understand the struggles and processes that allowed for the formation of Miami. Each exhibit had its own unique story; however, I felt a personal connection with “The Creek Migration,” “Pioneer Life,” and “Gateway to the Americas” exhibits.

            With “The Creek Migration” exhibit, Lower Creek Indians migrated to Florida to escape the control of Upper Creek Indians. I hold a personal connection with this exhibit because my family faced many struggles when arriving to Miami from Cuba. Much like the Lower Creek Indians, my family migrated to find peace and a better quality of life. The “Gateway to the Americas” exhibit further explains the struggle of the migration of Cuban individuals to Florida. Many arrived on makeshift boats, just as my mother and her family did. They hoped for better opportunities that would not otherwise be provided in Cuba. The “Pioneer Life” exhibit further explains that the first civilian settlers arrived by boat and were left make use of the limited resources available to them. The settlers had to create new relationships with the natives that already inhabited Miami. The personal connection I hold with this exhibit can be traced back to the life my mother and her family had to live when they first arrived in Miami. They had no previous knowledge of the new area, nor did they have any family inhabiting the new city. They were left to their own devices to sustain themselves. The struggles and obstacles my family has faced in their arrival to Miami is paralleled to those seen throughout the exhibits at the HistoryMiami Museum. Thus, I hold a great connection to the three exhibits mentioned above. Miami is a city filled with diverse culture and vast historical significance.

Miami Beach as Text, Victoria Smith

Ocean Drive at night. Photo by Rocio Sanchez. CC BY 4.0

“Art: It’s Everywhere…Even on Buildings,” by Victoria Smith at FIU at the South Beach Walking Tour

When people think about Miami, the first place that may come to mind is Miami Beach. Located on the bottom half of this island is South Beach– home to the nightlife, art deco buildings, and large tourist population. Reading through the “South Beach Walking Tour” allowed me to learn more about the city I live in.

Miami, as a whole, is a melting pot of different cultures and religions. However, I was surprised to find out that discrimination against Jewish individuals existed. They were prohibited to reside on certain streets and were denied access to hotels. Discrimination of any sort should not be tolerated; however, to hear that Jewish individuals were subjects of discriminatory acts is heartbreaking. Many of my closest friends follow the religion Judaism, and their parents/grandparents attended the synagogue that is now the Jewish Museum of Florida. They have recounted stories of when their families experienced discrimination from others.

Theatre and the arts, as a whole, play an important role in my life. Thus, reading about the architecture found through the Art Deco neighborhood captured my attention. I have visited Ocean Drive many times in the past, but I rarely stopped to think about the architectural elements found through the buildings. Learning about the incorporation of Mesopotamian and Mesoamerican features into the buildings allowed me to further appreciate beauty seen throughout the neighborhood. In addition, it was interesting to learn about the formation of Miami Design Preservation League, which aimed to preserve as much of the historic authenticity of the buildings as possible. Art of any kind holds great significance to me. Architectural design has the ability to bring multiple components of art together to form a fully functional piece– in this case a building. Seeing the consistency of the architectural design through the Ocean Drive strip offers a component of historical uniqueness to Miami, that is not seen in newly developed areas. This uniqueness represents the different communities that make up the city. The preservation of this distinct form relates to the importance of the preservation of original plays and dances. As a dancer and actress, maintaining an art work’s authenticity allows for a greater understanding of history, culture, and identity. Overall, reading through the “walking tour” has allowed me to further my appreciation for different art forms– in this case, architecture.

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