ASC Spring 2020 Art Service: Vanessa Lopez

Photo taken by Vanessa Lopez. CC BY 4.0

STUDENT BIO

Vanessa Lopez is a sophomore majoring in English Education at Florida International University. Having a passion for literature and academia, she hopes to be an English professor. She is currently a Desk Assistant for FIU Housing. As a part of Art Society Conflict, she is looking forward to being exposed to unfamiliar areas of history and art.

WHO

The Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum is a museum on Florida International University’s (FIU) Modesto A. Maidique campus. Its current building has been open since 2008. The museum has gained international recognition as one of South Florida’s major cultural institutions, as it is known to display Latin American art and innovative, contemporary pieces.

Through my volunteering experience, I worked closely with the museum’s Chief Curator, Amy Galpin, PhD. Before, she was a Curator at Rollins College’s Cornell Fine Arts Museum, and an Associate Curator of Art of the Americas at the San Diego Museum of Art. As a Chief Curator, Galpin places an emphasis on placing research and writing into the exhibitions and collections at the museum.

WHY

One of the reasons I picked this volunteering opportunity is that it was one of the few opportunities available during the current situation of the spread of COVID-19. More importantly, I was mostly drawn to this opportunity due to not knowing enough about the Frost Art Museum. Being a part of Art Society Conflict has taught me so much about the art world in Miami already, and I thought it wouldn’t hurt to learn more through this opportunity.

Despite the subject of my research not necessarily being related to my major, the research aspect is still something I have to do in most of my classes. Still, what I ended up researching was the Pattern and Decoration (P&D) movement, and a lot of its messages and themes coincided with my own interests and beliefs. Therefore, I became more ecstatic to be a part of this project. 

HOW

My classmate, Ruth Shmueli, was the first to accept this opportunity to volunteer at the Frost Art Museum. I asked her if there was a way that I could contribute to the research, and she was generous enough to put me in contact with Amy Galpin, the museum’s chief curator. Galpin was immediately willing to have me contribute to research for the museum, and we began exchanging emails.

WHERE & WHAT

Photo by Vanessa Lopez/CC BY 4.0.

On April 9th, Galpin had given me the task to look into the Pattern and Decoration movement. With a quick google search, I learned that it was an American art movement that took place between the 1970’s and 1980’s. Of course, since the subject involves art, I looked over the images that popped up. The pieces that fell under this movement were colorful, bright, and a mish-mash of different pieces. I saw some pieces that were clearly inspired by other cultures, and as I delved deeper into the movement, I learned that that appropriation is one of its major elements. 

On April 11, Galpin and I had a phone call, where we discussed more about the movement and what specific research is needed. Galpin gave me a few tasks, which included gathering quotes on the significance of the movement, research on important figures in the movement, and finding pictures of these important figures.

On April 15, I started gathering quotes. The P&D movement was short-lived and didn’t gather enough attention in its own time. However, there seems to be a revival and new interest in the movement right now, and museums have set up exhibitions revolving around it. Therefore, I began looking through articles and reviews of these shows. A majority of these reviews were positive, with many claiming that the P&D movement is something that is parallel to today’s discussion of feminism and celebration of all cultures. One thing that stuck out to me is that some even argue that the P&D movement is the last art movement of the 20th century. I gathered all of the quotes into a document, ensuring that there are proper links and credit.

On April 16, I began doing research on notable figures in the P&D movement. I first looked up information on Anne Swartz, an art historian and professor. I found that she is heavily involved in discussions regarding the movement, and has created a multitude of essays and articles. In addition, I was asked to create biographies for two P&D artists: Betty Woodman and Jane Kaufman. Woodman was an American artist, specializing in ceramics. Kaufman was one of the original figures in the movement, and she was known for her collages and quilts. Whereas I had many success with finding information on Woodman, I had difficulty finding a piece of biographical information in terms of Kaufman. I decided to continue researching the next day.

On April 17, I began searching for pictures of fifteen P&D artists. My aim was to find dynamic shots, such as working in the studio. In some cases, I managed to find awesome shots. Some artists were found giving speeches, inviting people to their studio, and visiting schools. One thing that I found amazing were pictures of Robert Kushner in his performance act days. I gathered all these pictures with links in a document and a shared folder. Afterwards, I began my search for more information on Kaufman once again. In the end, I could only find two links containing 3-4 lines on Kaufman’s involvement in the movement. Whereas I am excited that the movement as a whole is gathering attention once again, it is a bit disappointing to find that one of its important figures isn’t receiving as much recognition. Especially since the movement revolves around female artists, it’s a bit frustrating to find that male artists within the movement seem to be exhibited more.

On April 18, I gathered all of my research and sent it to Galpin. We had a phone call later in the day. We talked about my findings and future events at the museum. I discussed some of my difficulties, as well as things I found interesting and fun. I also learned more about Galpin and her role at the museum, and I could tell that she was very passionate about her job.  I ended the call with excitement, looking forward to visiting the museum once everything gets back to normal.

WHEN

SUMMARY

Overall, my experience of being a remote volunteer for the Frost Art Museum was amazing. Through this opportunity, I found that researching is what I enjoy the most. It’s extremely satisfying to finally find a piece of information you have been looking for this whole time. More importantly, the information I found about this movement was intriguing and fascinating, and I am now on the lookout for any P&D exhibitions that could pop up near me.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find everything in my research. When I was searching for quotes, Kaufman and her elaborate quilts were usually mentioned. It was a surprise to find that there isn’t a lot of information on the artist. I hope that, with the increasing interest in P&D, I will get to learn more about her.

Despite the serious situation we’re all in, Chief Curator Amy Galpin and I still managed to maintain communication through emails and our phone calls. Throughout the process, she was very patient and understanding. Not only was she interested in research that could help the museum, but she wanted to make sure I was conducting research that I was also interested in. I am very grateful that I was able to have the opportunity to work with such a passionate person. Thanks to Galpin, I learned more about the Frost Art Museum and an important art movement.

CITATIONS

Adamson, Glenn, and Glenn Adamson. “Reassessing Pattern & Decoration, the Last Art Movement of the Twentieth Century.” ARTnews.Com, 3 Sept. 2019, http://www.artnews.com/art-in-america/features/pattern-decoration-legacy-reassessed-la-moca-ica-boston-63654/.

Kushner, Robert. “ROBERT KUSHNER.” ROBERT KUSHNER, 2014, http://www.robertkushnerstudio.com/robert-kushner-and-friends-eat-their-clothes-nyc-1972.

The Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum FIU Appoints Amy Galpin as New Chief Curator, 2018, https://frost.fiu.edu/_assets/docs/press-room/new-chief-curator-pr-jan-2018.pdf

ASC Spring 2020 Who Art Miami: Vanessa Lopez

“I believe the artwork of contemporary artists should be a mirror through which society can see its reality re-interpreted and, in the best case, by which it can right itself.”

Rhea Leonard
“The Herald (2019)” by Rhea Leonard. Photo courtesy of Rhea Leonard.

STUDENT BIO

Photo by Vanessa Lopez/CC BY 4.0.

Vanessa Lopez is a sophomore majoring in English Education at Florida International University. Having a passion for literature and academia, she hopes to be an English professor. She is currently a Desk Assistant for FIU Housing. As a part of Art Society Conflict, she is looking forward to being exposed to unfamiliar areas of history and art.

BIOGRAPHY

Portrait of Rhea Leonard. Photo by Melanie Metz.

Rhea Leonard (b. 1991) is an African American artist born and raised in Miami, Florida. While she specializes in drawing, Leonard also utilizes sculpture and printmaking in her work. Through her work, she places an emphasis on the black body and addressing social injustices.

Leonard went to Design and Architecture Senior High (D.A.S.H.), a magnet high school located in Miami’s Design District. In 2010, she studied a semester at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Here, she learned intaglio printmaking. In 2014, she finished her BFA at New World of School of Arts in Downtown Miami. Afterwards, she went on to earn her MFA at Florida International University (FIU) in 2018.

Leonard’s pieces have been on display at Bridge Red Studios, The Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, Art Africa Miami, as well as RAW Popup. In 2018, she became a Betty Laird Perry Award recipient. In the same year, she began her residency at The Bakehouse Art Complex in Wynwood.

PERSONAL IDENTITY

“Skinfolk (2019)” by Rhea Leonard. Photo courtesy of Rhea Leonard.

When asked about any personal experiences that helped shape her work, Leonard talked about her experience transitioning from undergraduate to graduate school. “I had gone through a rather discouraging time during my undergraduate days in regard to my artwork,” she said. “I had just begun exploring my identity and what impact that had on me and it started showing up in my artwork.”Because of the lack of resources and experience, Leonard couldn’t challenge these opinions. 

Despite the discoragement towards exploring her identity, Leonard pursued her MFA at FIU. Here, she met her professor, William Burke, who she cited as one of the many key figures during her academic career. She had conversations with him regarding her undergraduate experience, to which he gave her encouragement. “From there, I created my drawing Tituba (2016), and it set me on the path I’m on today,” she wrote.

“Tituba (2016)” by Rhea Leonard. Photo courtesy of Rhea Leonard.

The critiques that Leonard received ended up shaping her current work, such as “lack of color” and “blatant representation of black features.” Leonard told me her experience made her more persistent in delivering her message. “I endured numerous, bad faith questioning about my artwork during my developmental phase,” she said. “This made me explicit, to a degree, about what my work is about so others would not be comfortable twisting, imposing or erasing the meaning behind my work due to it being on display in each and every one of my works in some way.”

CULTURAL IDENTITY

“The Machinations of Self Love in the Age of Racial Violence (2019)” by Rhea Leonard. Photo courtesy of Rhea Leonard.

As an African American, cultural identity is something important to Leonard as an artist. In fact, it’s the centerpiece of her artwork. “I keep my ancestors in my thoughts at all times as I make my artwork because without determination to survive despite the inhumane treatment and torture that visited upon them, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do today,” she says. There’s a clear influence of her culture weaved into her pieces. 

“Community (2018)” by Rhea Leonard. Photo courtesy of Rhea Leonard.

For instance, there’s her sculpture, “Community (2018),” which is a way of honoring her ancestral ties. Through this piece, Leonard addresses the African Diaspora, a term to describe the separation of African people during the Transatlantic Slave Trades. In this piece, everything is connected and unbroken, and each jaw represents a life lost to cruelty. Such a work is meant to honor all those lives. 

Furthermore, all of the subjects in her work are black bodies. Some appear gruesome, depicting scars and injuries, telling stories of the trauma that African Americans experience. However, Leonard has directed some of her artwork towards upliftment and celebration instead. “…I’ve made a few artworks that celebrate the large chain that I am a part of because without them I really don’t think I’d have the strength to face some of the situations I have found myself in throughout my life.”

“In Morbid Fashion (2018)” by Rhea Leonard. Photo courtesy of Rhea Leonard.

In addition, Leonard explains her emphasis on respecting the black body. “While there are dozens of reasons for this in my practice, respecting my own image, and theirs, is how I honor them. So I am careful about how I present the black body to a wider audience.”

SUBJECT OF ARTWORK

“Never Asunder (2019)” by Rhea Leonard. Photo courtesy of Rhea Leonard.

Through drawing, printmaking, and sculpture, Leonard explores the psychological experience of being black in current society. Through her gruesome imagery, Leonard presents stories of the effects of dealing with racism and anti-blackness. She explained to me that her art is her way of speaking up over these injustices, which led to me asking this question: what role do you think an artist has in a society?

“I believe an artist has the duty to be a vector of their time. To observe, document, discuss and critique the time in which they live,” she says. “I believe the artwork of contemporary artists should be a mirror through which society can see it’s reality re-interpreted and in the best case, by which it can right itself.” Leonard’s art is relevant and fitting in today’s conversations regarding the Black Lives Matter movement and growing up as an African American. Therefore, her pieces are extremely contemporary  and needed in the art world. 

Her artwork is gruesome and gritty for a reason. In social media and in the news, it’s becoming increasingly clear that we need to speak out and grab people’s attention. Some of these bodies have missing body parts, lack facial features, or just seem to be floating and fading. When asked about this in an interview with Rocking Chair Sessions, Leonard explained that she wanted to emphasize the loss of identity and sense of self that you can experience as a black person.

“It’s the Forces You Don’t See (Sisters) (2016)” by Rhea Leonard. Photo courtesy of Rhea Leonard.

At the same time, the “missing pieces” in her work allow for multiple people to put themselves within that figure. The missing features clears away the idea that these people aren’t modeled after any specific person, making it easier for people to see themselves within her work. 

Leonard’s passion and desire to bring this discussion of race in America extends to the point she wants to teach someday. While she is greatly focused on her art right now, she hopes to do it someday. “Making and showing work is also a concern but I would also like to teach eventually,” she says.

FORMAL ELEMENTS OF ARTWORK

Detail of “Their Eyes Watch (2019)” by Rhea Leonard. Photo courtesy of Rhea Leonard.

Back when I visited her studio in January, I noticed that some of her pieces had similar copies and sketches plastered all over her wall. Leonard explained that she likes to have a clear idea of what she’s doing before making the final piece. When I asked more about her creative process during our interview, she further expanded on this. “I work with my images for 1 to 3 weeks before they are even thought of in terms of becoming a drawing, sculpture or print,” she says. To avoid confusion, Leonard likes to create test sheets and small sketches to guide her throughout the process.

“The Three States of Becoming (2018)” by Rhea Leonard. Photo courtesy of Rhea Leonard.

Especially in her drawing pieces, I could clearly see an emphasis on line and value. The bodies in her pieces are well-defined and enhanced by the shadows. The result is beautiful, floating figures. “I’m a drawing artist first and foremost so line, value and shape are most important to me,” she says. “I get to know the images as a whole, the lines and shadows that will make them up before I commit to working on them in their destined forms.” Leonard also places an emphasis on time. “Things don’t happen overnight,” Leonard explains in her interview with Rocking Chair Sessions. She explained that you can’t rush through your pieces or skip steps, or else you will end up with a product you won’t be satisfied with.

“A Personal Question (2017)” by Rhea Leonard. Photo courtesy of Rhea Leonard.

Despite specializing in drawing, Leonard has begun venturing into other forms of art. Through printmaking is where Leonard experiments the most. She sees printmaking as a challenge and a way for her to push herself and learn new techniques. In terms of her sculptures, she utilizes different materials, such as random gathered materials and metal castings. 

In addition, Leonard has recently begun to show her process on Instagram. Her posts consist of glimpses of her studio and various works in progress. Leonard also utilizes the “Story” feature to show current projects and bring a closer look at her daily life. 

EXHIBITION AND PROJECT HISTORY

Leonard’s pieces have been a part of a variety of shows. In 2017, her art has been on display at Bridge Red Studios in North Miami, and she was a participating artist in “CAPS Lab: Overload” at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. In 2018, she was a part of RAW Popup X Art Basel, as well as the Art Africa Miami Art Fair. In the same year, her art became a part of The Betty Laird Perry Emerging Artist Collection at FIU’s Patricia & Philip Frost Art Museum. In 2019, she was a part of “Restructuring Identity,” presented by The Miami Museum of Contemporary Art of the African Diaspora. She was also a part of Miami Urban Contemporary Experience’s (M.U.C.E.) “Who Owns Black Art: Questions of Cultural Ownership” show in Little Haiti. Most recently, it has been announced that Leonard is leading Local Views at Perez Art Museum Miami in April.

However, when asked which of these experiences were most important to her, Leonard brought up the show she did at the African Heritage Cultural Center while she was in graduate school. According to her, it was the first time a curator contacted her directly and offered a spot in the show. “That show was also special because I got to show alongside an artist friend of mine and we’d wanted to show together for a while before then,” she wrote in her email to me. 

With each show, Leonard has gained more confidence through going outside of her comfort zone. “Since graduating with my Masters I’ve done a few talks and each one is nerve-racking,” she says, “but I find I’m getting better with each one I do.”

STUDENT PERSPECTIVE

Overall, I had a pleasant experience talking to Rhea Leonard. Ever since I had the chance to visit her studio back in January through the Art Society Conflict class, I was captured by her work. I could also relate to her on her struggles with public speaking, as I’m more comfortable expressing my feelings through my writing. It is a bit unfortunate that I did not have the chance to visit her in her studio at the Bakehouse, but we still made things work through email. Leonard was generous enough to take time out of her day to answer all of my questions. It was also fun to see her creative process on her Instagram page (@rhea.leonard_art). I also admire Leonard’s persistence in getting her message across, ensuring it reaches the viewer successfully. 

Through Leonard’s art and her words, I learned more about the contemporary art world. Her pieces are extremely detailed and gritty, its memory glued onto my brain. What’s more unforgettable is the messages and themes that drive her work. I still think about what she said back in January, where she expressed her recent desires to “celebrate the black body.” It was my first instance of an open conversation of the black experience, and now I feel that there should be more such conversations in the art world.

RHEA LEONARD’S CONTACT INFORMATION

Website: cargocollective.com/rlart

Email: rhealeonardart@gmail.com

Instagram: @rhea.leonard_art

CITATIONS

“African Diaspora Cultures | Oldways.” Oldways, 2020, oldwayspt.org/traditional-diets/african-heritage-diet/african-diaspora-cultures.

“Art & Life with Rhea Leonard – Voyage MIA Magazine | Miami City Guide.” Voyagemia.Com, 23 Aug. 2018, voyagemia.com/interview/art-life-rhea-leonard/.

Eligon, John. “‘Who Owns Black Art?’: A Question Resounds at Art Basel Miami.” The New York Times, 3 Dec. 2019, http://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/03/arts/design/art-basel-miami-black-art.html.

“RCS Vol. 143 | Rhea Leonard.” SoundCloud, SoundCloud, 2020, soundcloud.com/rockingchairsessions/rcs-vol-143-rhea-leonard.

“Rhea Leonard.” Cargocollective.Com, 2020, cargocollective.com/rlart.

“Rhea Leonard – Oolite Arts.” Oolite Arts, 2018, oolitearts.org/resident/rhea-leonard/.

Vanessa Lopez: See Miami Project Fall 2019

Biography

Vanessa Lopez is a sophomore majoring in English Education at Florida International University. Having a passion for literature and academia, she hopes to be an English professor one day. She is currently a Desk Assistant for FIU Housing. As a part of Art Society Conflict, she is looking forward to being exposed to unfamiliar areas of history and art.


Geography

Photos of the front of PAMM, a sculpture in the Museum Park, and the Frost Science Museum.

Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) is located on Biscayne Boulevard. In front of PAMM is Maurice A. Ferréz Park, a 30-acre public park. Right across from the art museum is the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum, a museum dedicated to science and innovation. About ten minutes away on foot, there are a multitude of notable locations within Downtown Miami: American Airlines Arena, The Freedom Tower at Miami Dade College, and the Bayside Marketplace. In general, PAMM is one of the main art institutions in this area.

History

The Pérez Art Museum Miami was originally the Center for the Fine Arts (CFA), which opened in 1984 on Flagler Street. The CFA eventually became known as the Miami Art Museum in 1996. However, in 2013, it was relocated to Downtown Miami, and was renamed to Pérez Art Museum Miami. Construction began in 2010, and architects Herxog and de Meuron were hired to design the new building. 

Mission

According to their website, PAMM describes itself as a “modern and contemporary art museum dedicated to collecting and exhibiting international art of the 20th and 21st centuries.” Here, they also describe their mission: “to be a leader in the presentation, study, interpretation, and care of international modern and contemporary art, while representing Miami-Dade and cherishing the unique viewpoints of its people.” 

Essentially, PAMM aims to display mostly modern and contemporary art. In doing this, they also aim to represent artists and cultures from all over the globe. They hope to bring more conversation and interaction between these seemingly different cultures. This can be especially seen in their temporary exhibitions, “Zhao Gang: History Painting,” and “The Other Side of Now: Foresight in Contemporary Caribbean Art.” 

Access

Transportation and Parking

The museum can be accessed in a variety of ways. In terms of public transit, it is located by the Museum Park station with the Metromover. Furthermore, it can be accessed through the Metrorail via the Metromover transfer at the Government Center station. PAMM can also be accessed through either the Ft. Lauderdale or West Palm Beach Brightline stations as well. Within Miami, it can be accessed through the MiamiCentral Brightline station.

There is a museum garage adjacent to the museum that is available to visitors. The rates are $8 for the first hour and $4 for each additional hour. Visitors would have to pay at the stations before leaving the garage. However, there is side-street parking and parking lots available within the area.

Hours

Monday-Tuesday: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM

Wednesday: Closed

Thursday: 10:00 AM- 9:00 PM

Friday-Sunday: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM

Admission

According to their website, there are no discounts available to Miami residents. However, I was able to pay for my ticket for only $5 by paying for my ticket through the Culture Shock Miami website. The conditions include showing ID at the ticket booth, and being a Miami resident between the ages of 13 and 22. The admission costs are as follows:

Members: Free

Children (6 and under): Free

Active U.S. Military (with ID): Free

Adults: $16

Seniors (62+ with ID): $12

Students (with ID): $12

Youth (ages 7-18): $12

In addition, there are certain days and exceptions where admission is free. The PAMM Student Pass gives free admission to the museum for all students (pre-K to 12th grade) attending Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Admission is free every second Saturday of the month, as well as every first Thursday, from 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM. 

General Membership

PAMM also offers a paid membership that provides free admission to the museum and various other benefits. There are multiple tiers within the membership. For example, an individual membership is $65 for one year for one adult, and includes: free museum admission, invitations to members-only events, weekly e-newsletter, 10% discount at the gift shop and cafe, discounted parking, personalized membership card, and eligibility to join volunteer docents.

Collection

Notes for a Poem on the Third World (chapter one), 2018. – Glenn Ligon

This piece is the first of a series in which Ligon creates five figurative neons. He creates the outline of the artist’s hands, serving as a self-portrait and a representation of an identity. Another work in the series is on display at the de La Cruz Collection in the Design District.

Penetrable BBL Blue 2/8. – Jesús Rafael Soto

A photo of one of Soto’s “Penetrables” outside of PAMM. Photo taken and edited by Vanessa Lopez.

One of PAMM’s iconic pieces. It is a part of Soto’s series of “Penetrables,” which explores movement, space, and matter. Visitors are free to walk through and be surrounded by these vibrant, blue PVC tubes.

Untitled (parade), 2016. – Kevin Beasley

Photo of Beasley’s sculpture. Photo taken and edited by Vanessa Lopez.

Beasley combines a variety of scrap materials, such as clothing and synthetic mixtures to create this sculpture. The result is a group of floating, ghost-like figures.

Exhibitions

Zhao Gang: History Painting

Photos of Zhou Gang’s pieces. Photos taken and edited by Vanessa Lopez.

This exhibition runs from May 24, 2019 to January 5, 2020. “Zhao Gang: History Painting” consists of 14 paintings by Zhao Gang, a key figure in Chinese contemporary art. These paintings represent different aspects of Gang’s art and identity.

The Other Side of Now: Foresight in Contemporary Caribbean Art

Various photos of “The Other Side of Now” exhibition. Photos taken and edited by Vanessa Lopez.

This exhibition runs from July 18, 2019 to June 7, 2020. According to PAMM’s website, the exhibition is a “thematic group exhibition,” and it revolves around the question: “what might a Caribbean future look like?” This exhibition features 14 artists, and the type of pieces include videos, paintings, sculptures, and installations.

Teresita Fernández: Elemental

Photos of the “Elemental” exhibition. Photos taken and edited by Vanessa Lopez.

This exhibition runs from October 18, 2019 to February 9, 2020. Currently, this is the biggest exhibition at PAMM. Essentially, this exhibition displays Cuban-American artist Teresita Fernández’s career, with pieces ranging from mid-90’s to the present. The materials used ranged from charcoal to glass, and the pieces challenged the viewer to be aware of their role within this space.

Bárbara Wagner & Benjamin de Burca: Estás vendo coisas

This exhibition runs from April 26, 2019 to March 29, 2020. Brazilian artists Bárbara Wagner and Benjamin de Burca created this 2016 video Estás vendo coisas (You Are Seeing Things). The film explores self-image within the “subculture of Brega music,” which is a combination of American Hip Hop and reggaeton. 

George Segal: Abraham’s  Farewell to Ishmael

Photo of museum visitor John Haberkorn observing Segal’s sculpture. Photos taken and edited by Vanessa Lopez.

This exhibition runs from November 22, 2019 to July 6, 2020. Artist George Segal is known for making plaster casts from live models. This sculpture explores Old Testament’s Abraham. 

What Carries Us Over: Gifts from Gordon W. Bailey

Photos taken in “What Carried Us Over” exhibition. Photos taken and edited by Vanessa Lopez.

This exhibition runs from September 12, 2019 to April 19, 2020. It includes a variety of gifts made by Gordon W. Bailey, a collector from Los Angeles. Most of these pieces were made by uneducated artists, and most lived during the Jim Crow era. 

Special Programs

Daily Tours

PAMM provides daily tours led by museum guides, and are free with museum admission. The tours are also available in Spanish. These tours are first-come, first-serve, and typically last 45 minutes. 

Curate Your Own Exhibition

PAMM currently has an event in which visitors can create their own art exhibitions. In front of the amphitheater is a table with a variety of crafts and tools that any visitor can use. 

PAMM Studio Programs

There are studio programs available to people of all ages. Participants of the program explore the museum and art-making. These programs range from artist-led workshops, story readings, and arts and crafts.

Visitor

During my visit at PAMM, I interviewed John Haberkorn, a second-year student majoring in Computer Science at Florida International University.

Photo of museum visitor John Haberkorn. Photo taken and edited by Vanessa Lopez.

Q: What was the reason for your visit to Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM)?

A: “A friend invited me to meet one of their friends and I felt like hanging out. I also happened to like museums in general. I have been to [PAMM] twice this year and I got to see new exhibits.”

Q: Which exhibitions or pieces did you like the most?

A: “A concept video about the oversexualized and tacky Caribbean music. It was very nostalgic and somber. I also liked this sculpture framed like a canvas. It was a bunch of wooden pieces that felt like an entire log cabin was about to crash on top of me.”

Q: How was your visit to PAMM as a whole?

A: “[PAMM] usually makes me think about my own experience as an artist. Somehow I always feel empowered and trapped by its modern art.”

Q: Why does PAMM make you feel that way?

A: “I’m frustrated because I don’t completely understand it, and I feel like I should because it’s art. And I don’t like the way the industry is streamlining towards recreating the idea of art. It’s just so esoteric and uninviting even compared to other pretentious stuff I like.”

Summary

Photo taken in PAMM’s gift shop. Photo taken and edited by Vanessa Lopez.

In general, I believe the Perez Art Museum Miami is a special place in Miami. It was one of the first art institutions that I have visited, and it was my first exposure to the Downtown Miami community. 

For one, I think PAMM shines best in their temporary exhibitions. Seeing all these pieces in one room scream a cohesive message. I can tell that they have placed thought into where each piece is placed. These temporary exhibitions typically address a variety of issues within our society too. When I am standing in these rooms, I am constantly digesting information and feeling its impact on me.

In addition, PAMM is more innovative compared to other museums I have visited this semester. You can find QR codes here and there throughout the museum, and with the camera app on your phone, you are given links and other information quickly. Outside the museum, there are QR codes that utilize AR technology as well. PAMM also does not shy away from non-traditional art pieces. There are rooms that resemble mini movie theaters, where you can privately view films or looping videos. 

PAMM also has an emphasis on interaction and community. There was a table where you could create your own “art exhibitions” with cardboard, construction paper, and magazine cut-outs. I was pleasantly surprised to see this, as I never thought a museum would have such a thing. In addition, PAMM hosts various events throughout the week, such as workshops, book readings, arts and crafts, and more. 

One of PAMM’s downsides is their cost. I personally found that the parking ticket was expensive. Most of the things in their gift shop were also priced on the higher end. And if it weren’t for Culture Shock Miami, I would have paid $12 for one ticket. In addition, I was not impressed by their permanent collections, and I gravitate more towards their temporary exhibitions.

Overall, I enjoyed my visit to the museum, and I am looking forward to seeing their upcoming exhibitions. I think PAMM remains as one of the art institutions in Miami that deserves a visit.

Citations

Vanessa Lopez: Art Service Project Fall 2019

Photos taken and edited by Vanessa Lopez.

Gardening at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens:

On December 12, 2019, I visited Vizcaya Museum and Gardens to help out with gardening work. That morning, it rained without warning, and I was expecting the event to be cancelled.

However, upon my arrival, I was greeted by one of their horticulture staff and taken to a greenhouse. The greenhouse was brimming with various plants, potted or hanging. The bright greens and the colors of blooming orchids contrasted with the gloomy weather outside.

Photos taken and edited by Vanessa Lopez.

My task was to clean and organize over 50 potted plants. With gloves and scissors, I carefully peeled off the thorns attached to their stems. On top of that, I had to remove any yellow leaves and dead plants. While cleaning these pots, I was greeted by various friends, such as a tiny spider or a caterpillar. As I worked, I could hear the faint “pitter-patter” of the raindrops hitting the roof of the greenhouse.

After cleaning all the plants, I was then told to move and organize these labelled potted plants. Initially, they all looked the same, but upon closer inspection, some were different species or types, and it was essential for me to group them by number.

At Vizcaya, there are about 14,000 plants being grown and maintained. This was my first time doing any type of gardening work. At first, I was worried about the dirt underneath my nails and the bugs crawling about. But as time passed by, I touched the plants with more confidence. And more importantly, I started appreciating nature more.

Photo taken and edited by Vanessa Lopez.

Reference Contact Information:

David Hardy – Horticulture Manager

david.hardy@vizcaya.org – (305)-680-8444

Gardening Volunteer – 12/12/2019; 3 hours

Family Day at the Institute of Contemporary Art Miami:

Photos taken and edited by Vanessa Lopez.

At the Institute of Contemporary Art Miami (ICA Miami), every third Saturday of the month is “Family Day,” in which there are various activities and arts and crafts for visitors of all ages. I decided to volunteer on December 15th. Family Day occurs between 1:00 PM and 4:00 PM. I was asked to arrive at 10:00 AM to prepare for the event.

Upon my arrival, we were tasked with setting up all the tents and tables. We made designated areas for different activities, and made them look presentable. We also organized and prepared all the materials. When the event officially started, families began pouring in and gravitating towards the various activities.

I was helping out at the “Hands in Hands” table, in which visitors can trace their hands on construction paper, write a word in it, and paste it onto a board. The goal was to make poetry out of the various words pasted onto the board. Visitors of all ages enjoyed this activity, and we had fun helping them be creative.

Photos taken and edited by Vanessa Lopez.

Throughout the day, not only was I able to connect with visitors from all over the globe, I was also able to connect with the employees at ICA Miami. It was interesting to see people of different personalities and ages come together and organize this event. 

Furthermore, volunteering at the ICA Miami made me want to go to these types of events more. I feel like I know have the initiative to encourage my friends and family to participate in art-related events. 

Reference Contact Information:

Itzel Basualdo

volunteers@icamiami.org – 305-901-5272

Family Day Volunteer – 12/15/19; 7 hours

Vanessa Lopez: Miami as Text

Photo taken by Christian Rodriguez./CC BY 4.0

Vanessa Lopez is a sophomore majoring in English Education at Florida International University. Having a passion for literature and academia, she hopes to be an English professor. She is currently a Desk Assistant for FIU Housing. As a part of Art Society Conflict, she is looking forward to being exposed to unfamiliar areas of history and art.


Norton as Text

“Eleanor’s Gaze,” by Vanessa Lopez of FIU at Norton Museum of Art on September 22, 2019.

Photo taken by Javi Fernandez. Edited by Vanessa Lopez./CC BY 4.0

Hues of blue and yellow come together to create a soft whirlwind of Eleanor’s dress. I try to imagine Edmund Tarbell’s thought process in capturing her gentleness. Small splotches of blues, greens, and oranges here; and wisps of browns and yellows there. The more I look, the more I feel as if I have been whisked away to the spot in front of her.

I can hear the movement of the water, and I can feel the blades of grass brushing against my skin. I would look at Eleanor and be overwhelmed with jealousy. Her crown of baby hair dances with the breeze. She sits there calmly, a cloud of lace covering most of her milky body. I would wish to be as effortlessly dainty as her.

I’ve read that she was an aspiring singer from an established family. Would she just contemplate and hum a melody? Or would she be bothered by my presence?

Top left photo taken by Javi Fernandez. Top right and bottom photos taken by Vanessa Lopez. Edited by Vanessa Lopez./ CC BY 4.0

Despite moving onto the other pieces in the museum, my mind wanders back to that corner where she stays. She has imprisoned me in a cell of curiosity. I wanted to know more than the little, white sheet of paper on that wall.

I returned home and searched her name online, but there wasn’t anything new except the news of her death in 1975. She passed away at 94.

In the end, I accepted that all I would know of her is through Tarbell’s eyes. She is immortalized inside a golden frame, waiting to capture another with her gaze.


Deering as Text

“Nature’s Story,” by Vanessa Lopez of FIU at Deering Estate on October 2, 2019.

Photos taken and edited by Vanessa Lopez./CC BY 4.0

At the Cutler Fossil Site, I tower over the sinkhole that contained the bones of Ice Age animals and artifacts of Paleo-Indians. Even with a mammoth tooth weighing in my hand, I could not process what existed long before me.

The things our guide, Vanessa Trujillo, said were things imprisoned within a small section of a paragraph in a history book. Yet, I was seeing and touching its remnants right there.

I entered the sinkhole, and let nature consume me and convey its story. I stood where people hunted, drilled, dug, and struggled to survive. The dirt under my fingernails and the sweat running down the back of my neck quickly turned trivial.

Later in the day, we hiked in another area, on our way to see the Tequesta Burial Mound. In a pool of freshwater, we found pieces of pottery and marine shell that might have been left behind by the Tequestas.

Then we found ourselves in a solution hole, where there was much to look at. There were plants that resembled hanging moss running down, and a cactus extending out of a tree. On the ground, there were holes I was tempted to peer through.

Main photo taken by Ruth Shmueli. Background photo taken by Vanessa Lopez. Edited by Vanessa Lopez.

Eventually, we were at our destination. As much as I wanted to feel accomplished, there was not much to celebrate about. The Tequestas were negatively affected by European colonialism, and now, I can only see the pieces that were left behind them.

And yet, the “founders” and notable people of Miami covers these pieces well, and the result is many not knowing what we experienced that day. I am reminded of the strangler figs we found on the way there. These plants grow by “strangling” other trees, desperate for light.

But on the burial mound, a giant oak tree stood tall and proud. I looked up and admired the way the light falls upon its leaves. I left thinking that I wouldn’t allow anyone else to shroud it in darkness.                   


Wynwood as Text

“A Wall of Boxes,” by Vanessa Lopez of FIU at The Margulies Collection and de la Cruz Collection on October 16, 2019.

Photo taken and edited by Vanessa Lopez./ CC BY 4.o

Upon entering the room, Ibrahim Mahama’s “Non-Orientable Nkansa” immediately captured my attention. Observing it was like a game, where my eyes wander all over to find objects that stick out amongst the wall of shoemaker boxes. A rolled up rug, a backpack, a mismatched pair of flip flops…

When I step back a bit, it’s clear that it’s telling me a story of poverty. I think about Mahama’s process in collecting all of the materials to craft such a story, creating something more valuable and powerful. 

Such a phenomenon is also present in the art collector’s world. What I experienced at The Margulies Collection and the de la Cruz collection was something different than what I experienced at the art museums. 

On top of seeing what the artists are trying to tell me, I can also see what the collectors are saying. Just like how Mahama painstakingly collected hundreds of material to create something valuable, Mr. Margulies and de la Cruz’ collect these pieces to show what’s valuable to them. 

Left top photo and right middle photo taken by Javi Fernandez. Other photos taken by Vanessa Lopez. Edited by Vanessa Lopez./ CC BY 4.0

Learning the process of collecting and displaying art also brought me a greater appreciation of the art I was able to see. As technology advances, and as art pieces become more innovative, it makes the preservation and display much more difficult.

By the end of the day, I found that I was surrounded by people who were passionate about art and who wanted to share that. I knew that I had to come back and immerse myself into their world again. 

I want people to know more than what’s just a pile of boxes.


Vizcaya as Text

“Miami’s Secret Garden,” by Vanessa Lopez of FIU in Vizcaya Museum and Gardens and LnS Gallery on October 30, 2019.

Photos taken and edited by Vanessa Lopez./ CC BY 4.0

At fifteen, my first visit to Vizcaya was shrouded by some overwhelming feelings. I was there to have a photoshoot for my quinceañera, a tradition that celebrates a girl’s 15th birthday, marking her official transition to womanhood.

I remember sitting on a bench in the garden, getting my hair done, and attracting the gazes and cameras of tourists passing by. At first, the attention was overwhelming, but I realized how well I fit into the surrounding scenery: the perfectly trimmed bushes, gazebos, classical statues, fountains, etc… I thought Vizcaya was built for a princess.

It’s been about four years since then. I’m no longer the girl drowning in a poofy dress, with makeup cemented onto my face, and I’ve learned what was underneath the pretty aesthetics of Vizcaya.

Essentially, the sculpture of Dionysius standing at the entrance of the villa sums up what Vizcaya was built around. Or rather, what James Deering, its original owner, valued the most. Between two cherub-like figures, Dionysius stands, pouring out wine into the tub below him. As Professor Bailly explained, this represented the hedonistic nature of James Deering.

And this idea can be found throughout the property.

Photos taken and edited by Vanessa Lopez./ CC BY 4.0

One of the first things we encountered in the garden were the grottos entering the “Secret Garden.” These little caves were originally meant for religious reasons in Europe, but Deering had the intention of using them for the parties he throws. Right after, we found the “lover’s bench” in the Secret Garden, a supposed meeting place for couples.

Deering’s other abnormal ideas include a bookcases containing fake books in his study, a portrait of the Virgin Mary cut in half above the organ, a secret compartment for alcohol, the hanging of portraits of people he doesn’t know, and so on.

Furthermore, Deering blatantly romanticized the arrival of Columbus and other European figures involved in the colonization of the Americas.

It was clear that Deering utilized his money to borrow culture and to fabricate his own background or story, all within the backdrop of an extremely lavish lifestyle.

Photo taken and edited by Vanessa Lopez./ CC BY 4.0

None of this came as a surprise to me, but despite learning about the history, I couldn’t reject the feelings of nostalgia that lingered within me as we walked around. I wouldn’t describe what happened as a “loss of innocence.” Rather, I became more educated, and at the same time, began appreciating what I believe will be a hidden gem of Miami, and of my transition to adulthood.


Design District as Text

“Infinite Selfie,” by Vanessa Lopez of FIU in Institute of Contemporary Art Miami and Wynwood Walls on November 13, 2019.

Photo taken and edited by Vanessa Lopez./ CC BY 4.0

At Institute Contemporary of Art Miami (ICA Miami) in the Design District, Yayoi Kusama’s “All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins” is on display. It is the first time that her well-known “mirror infinity rooms” has been installed in Miami, and visitors can experience it for only one minute.

 For 60 seconds, I had an intimate moment with a piece of art and myself. 

Drowning in hues of yellow and black polka dots, I immersed myself into Kusama’s world. However, I could not help but be unsettled by the loneliness and quietness in that room. I am also constantly being confronted by the multiple images of myself, and it further emphasizes that I am the only one in that room.

I snap a picture, and then I realize I am a part of the art piece too.

My experience at the Design District forces me to think about how we consume and interact with art. The neighborhood looks as if an artist has thrown up all over it, with its funky architecture and colorful street art.

However, upon entering Wynwood Walls, the atmosphere feels more claustrophobic and unsettling. Wynwood Walls feels as if it’s what people want Miami to look like. On top of the neighborhood being littered with luxurious boutiques and expensive cafes, the street art seems to focus too much on aesthetics. 

Its culture is simultaneously foreign and familiar, but I can’t help but take a picture here too.

I think it’s important to point out how the consumption of art changes in today’s world, especially with its emphasis on social media. With just the camera on your phone, you can be a part of art too.

Photo taken by Javi Fernandez. Edited by Vanessa Lopez./ CC BY 4.0

Miami Art as Text

“Miami is Art,” by Vanessa Lopez of FIU in UNTITLED, ART and CONTEXT Art Miami on December 4, 2019.

Photos taken and edited by Vanessa Lopez./ CC BY 4.0

The forty of us huddled against each other in the small booth of Gallery 1957, as we listened to Victoria Cooke’s detailed explanation of each of the art pieces on display. On top of having the privilege to have her time and learn more about the pieces, I was amazed to hear of her process of going to international art fairs.

According to her, it takes months to a year to organize setting up a booth at an art fair. On top of submitting applications and designing the booth itself, Cooke goes through the difficult and expensive process of shipping art pieces from Ghana to other various countries. 

At that moment I realized how Art Week in Miami isn’t as glamorous as I thought, and I was grateful that I was able to see amazing pieces directly from Ghana.

Pieces on display by “El Apartamento”at UNTITLED, ART. Photos taken and edited by Vanessa Lopez./ CC BY 4.0

This made me think about the processes that other artists from different countries have to go through to have their pieces on display. One country that I did not expect to appear in Miami was Cuba. 

Despite the heavy influence Cuban culture has on Miami, I don’t feel like I get to see “Cuba” and “art” in one place together. Seeing Ariel Cabrera’s paintings felt oddly familiar and nostalgic. I sent the pictures of the pieces to my mom and she was even surprised too.

During Art Week in Miami, I felt really out of place. If it weren’t for Art Society Conflict, I think I would have avoided these areas entirely.

However, as time passed by, we bonded more as a group, constantly finding more interesting and bizarre things from the art fairs we’ve visited. At this point, it feels like I’m too deep in. I feel as if I can’t get enough of seeking for more art in Miami.

Photos taken and edited by Vanessa Lopez./ CC BY 4.0

Bakehouse as Text

“An Artist’s Process,” by Vanessa Lopez of FIU in Bakehouse Art Complex and Emerson Dorsch on January 15, 2020.

Mette Tommerup’s “Love, Ur” installation at Emerson Dorsch. Top photo taken by Vanessa Lopez. Bottom photo taken by Abigael Derlise. / CC BY 4.0

The room was dominated by swirls of flashing colors. I was immediately captured by the long cloths hung over the wooden rack. All of these works belonged to Mette Tommerup, a painter and installation artist based in Miami. She was generous enough to invite us to her “Love, Ur” installation at Emerson Dorsch and her very own studio. 

Mette explained some of her works that came before this installation. Her recent project, “Ocean Loop,” consisted of placing some of her paintings into the ocean. Mette explained that, at this point, she was unsatisfied with her work and saw this as a “rebirth.” 

At first, such information was difficult for me to process. I couldn’t understand what was the purpose and her reasoning behind it. However, I began to find it inspirational. On top of it being completely out of the box, Mette was here to explain her process and thinking behind her work.

Mette conveyed her feelings candidly, and if she hated her work, she would say so. She didn’t bother sugarcoating anything, and that was admirable.

Photos of Mette Tommerup’s studio. Photos taken by Vanessa Lopez. / CC BY 4.0

Afterwards, Mette invited us to be a part of her “Love, Ur” installation and swiftly took off the cloths from the racks. I immediately felt excited and satisfied. I had a feeling that they didn’t only belong there. 

The room quickly filled with giggles and various conversation, as everyone tried to figure out how to manipulate the piece of cloth they got their hands on. One moment I was wrapped in it, and in the next, it served as a tent for the three of us. 

Afterwards, Mette invited us to her studio at Fountainhead Studios. Earlier, we had visited the Bakehouse Art Complex, and was able to see the studios that artists worked in. It was interesting to see how every artist utilized their space, and were very telling of each artist’s personality and style of work. 

Mette’s studio was mostly organized, and I was captured by every little detail. The bucket filled with rolled up papers, small oil paintings sitting on a basket, a container filled with tubes of paint, and of course, her current work in progress that took up the entire wall. 

We were taking a peek into an artist’s daily life and their workspace. We were seeing a piece of Mette. Most importantly, we saw the real side of the artist and their process.


Rubell as Text

“A Father and His Son,” by Vanessa Lopez of FIU in Rubell Museum on January 29, 2020.

Formerly called the Rubell Family Collection, the Rubell Museum relocated and opened its doors back in December. During our visit, Laura Randall, the museum’s archivist and associate registrar, was gracious enough to give us a tour around some of the galleries at the museum. The museum is home to 36 galleries, holding a variety of contemporary pieces.

One piece that captured my attention was Paul McCarthy’s “Cultural Gothic.” It was impossible for it to go unnoticed. It was a considerably large piece, consisting of three animatronics resembling a father, a son, and a goat. The loud humming of the machine that operated the piece’s animatronics also dominated the room.

Paul McCarthy’s “Cultural Gothic (1992).” Photos taken by Vanessa Lopez./ CC BY 4.0

Suddenly, the goat moved. What I saw was the goat moving back and forth, in a seesaw-ing motion. What accompanied it was the sound of a hammer banging repeatedly. It wasn’t until Laura mentioned the word “thrust” that I realized what was going on. As I walked around the piece, I noticed the son’s pelvis moving back and forth. 

Oh. I finally understood the whole picture. 

Before, the appearance of the father and son seemed picture perfect. Both the father and son seemed well-groomed, in their crisp button-up shirts and clean pants. What I understood of the piece accumulated to “fatherhood” or “growing up.” What I imagined was a normal, father-son trip.

Then, the piece turned grim and…frankly, realistic in today’s society. The piece now can still convey “growing up.” For many, this was an accurate depiction of what was being taught by fathers and today’s society to young boys: that everything’s meant to be conquested by men.

The unsettling face of the father and his hands on his shoulders indicate that the sexual acts performed by the son are encouraged. The western appearance of the father and son and their clothes indicate that this can happen within “normal” families in countries that seem to have more equality between men and women.

I’ve seen many pieces that address similar topics or more taboo subjects, but none address them in such an “in-your-face” way. Many have become jaded in today’s repeating conversations of feminism and gender equality. This piece is meant to wake them up.

Photos taken by Vanessa Lopez./ CC BY 4.0

MDC Printmaking as Text

“The Art of Printmaking,” by Vanessa Lopez of FIU in Miami Dade College on February 12, 2020.

Photo taken by Vanessa Lopez. / CC BY 4.o

Artist Jennifer Basile invited us to her Studio Art class at Miami Dade College. She was generous enough to let us utilize her space and her tools to create monotypes, a type of printmaking where you paint on a smooth surface that yields one good impression. 

Adding to the fact that I am not “artistically skilled,” the idea that we were making a one-of-a-kind print made me nervous. However, since we were working with black ink and plexiglass, it was quite forgiving and easy to cover up mistakes. 

In addition, since we all had one chance to create a print, we put our all into experimenting with different movements of brushes, tools, and patterns. Through this experience, I learned that it was important to let things go and just follow where the brush (or roller) takes you. The less I worried about the final outcome, the more creative and experimental I became.

Of course, the most exciting part about this process is the final step. After finishing your piece on the plexiglass, we place it into the press machine and turn the wheel, unveiling the finished product. I was both proud of my work and surprised to see the negative image of the inking that I had worked on for so long.

Top photo by Vanessa Lopez. Bottom photo by Ruth Shmueli.

Eventually, I realized that the thought of not being “artistically skilled” is close-minded. Our entire class, which consists of different majors and fields, were able to create interesting and even intricate pieces.


Deering Estate as Text

“Between Tranquility and History,” by Vanessa Lopez of FIU in Deering Estate Walking Tour on April 26, 2020.

Top photo taken by Ruth Shmueli. Bottom photo taken by Vanessa Lopez./CC BY 4.0

The culture and complexity of the Deering Estate is indescribable. Located along the coast, the Deering Estate aims to preserve the estate of Charles Deering, an American businessman, art collector, and philanthropist. The history of the estate goes back to 10,000 years, as evidence of the Paleo-Indians and the Tequesta can be still found on the site.

Back in October of 2019, I had the privilege to go on a hike to the Cutler Fossil Site and the Tequesta Burial Mound, an unearthed burial site. Vanessa Trujillo, the estate’s Conservation & Research Specialist, was generous enough to guide my class on these hikes. 

On top of directly interacting with its history, I was able to find more about the hidden nature of Miami. Throughout our hike, we found different species of plants and insects. What’s more interesting, however, were the solution holes, which are created from limestone dissolving due to a mixture of rainfall and weak acid. It was the first time I’ve seen such a thing.

Photos of the inside of Stone House at Deering Estate. Taken by Vanessa Lopez./CC BY 4.0

After the hike, my classmates decided to sit by the Boat Basin, which is unique for having appearances of manatees and other marine life. As I looked for any manatees poking out of the water, the fresh breeze cooled me down. I admired the rows of palm trees, and watched its leaves swaying gracefully. At that moment, I realized that I may be in one of the most tranquil places in Miami. I immediately thought that I needed to come back soon.

However, I think it’s necessary to mention that the estate was built during a time of racial segregation. The laborers and builders behind the estate were primarily African-American or Afro-Bahamian. On top of the working conditions being terrible, in 1916 there was an accident that caused four deaths and five injuries. 

I hope to come back to the Deering Estate soon and learn more about the culture and history built within Miami. From nature to the architecture of the buildings, there is so much to admire. 


Miami Beach as Text

“A Pastel Wonder,” by Vanessa Lopez of FIU in South Beach Walking Tour on April 26, 2020.

Photo of Vanessa Lopez at one of the beaches in South Beach. Photo taken by Christian Rodriguez./CC BY 4.0

Running from South Pointe Park to Dade Boulevard and 24th Street sits South Beach, an island filled with tourist attractions and an icon of Miami. It’s known for its Art Deco buildings and beaches, as well as holding important history and culture that’s central to Miami.

Upon passing by the Art Deco buildings, I felt as if I was transported back in time with its pastel rainbow of colors and geometric design. This neighborhood is unique and an essential piece of South Beach’s aesthetic. Designers and architects of Art Deco aimed for the buildings to appear as if they’re machines, and I believe that they’ve definitely achieved that look.

Within this neighborhood, many historical events took place. In the late 70’s, Barbara Baer Capitman fought for protecting this neighborhood through chaining herself to hotels. If it weren’t for her efforts and activism, Art Deco wouldn’t have existed. A memorial dedicated to Capitman sits in Ocean Drive today.

Gianni Versace, an acclaimed Italian fashion designer, had a villa in Ocean Drive. However, in July of 1997, Versace was shot and killed right in front of his home. 

Furthermore, the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU (JMOF-FIU) in South Beach is the only museum that holds Florida Jewish history and culture. Despite Jewish people being a large part of the Miami Beach community, they were discriminated against in the past. 

The history behind Miami Beach runs deeper, however, as African-Americans, Afro-Bahamians, and Seminoles had lived in the region for centuries. It also used to be an island consumed by mangroves and populated by various marine life. However, this habitat was destroyed for development, and blacks were banned.

This entire time, I’ve always thought that South Beach was no more than a lousy tourist attraction and a hub for nightlife. However, I’ve learned more about its abundance of history and culture, and I am now more appreciative of having such a unique place nearby.