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MIM Ineffable Miami: Homestead by Vivian Acosta

Biography

My name is Vivian Acosta, and I am currently a junior at Florida International University pursuing a degree in psychology. My goal is to one day help people recover from distressful stages in their lives. I was born and raised in a small city in Honduras, and I recently moved to Miami to attend college. I am still adapting to the city’s fast pace; however, I enjoy the diversity of Miami, and I delight in learning about the different cultures this city holds.

Geography

Homestead is a city in Miami-Dade County, Florida, United States. Homestead is a major agricultural area; therefore, it is common to come across acres of crops alongside the street. The city keeps the right balance in preserving its abundant flora and improving its infrastructure. This suburb is located about 35 miles southwest of Miami, and 25 miles northwest of Key Largo. Biscayne National Park is to the east of Homestead while Everglades National Park is to the west (“Homestead, Florida” 2019).

Homestead is a traditional city that counts with the amenities needed by the city’s residents; however, the city is not saturated with businesses. Unlike the bigger cities in Miami, Homestead does not have any tall buildings. The tallest buildings you will encounter here only go up to about seven floors. If you would like to see some tall buildings, then you will have to drive about 45 minutes to get to downtown Miami.

History

“Homestead Florida East Coast Railway Station” (Original photo on display at The Florida Pioneer Museum.)

It is believed that about 10,000 of years ago, the Tequesta and the Calusa visited the land, of what is now Homestead, to fish and hunt. They might have inhabited the land for a while; however, no fossil sites have been found in the area, so there is no evidence of habitation.

In 1897, the area was opened to homesteaders. This was a result of the Homestead Act, passed in 1862. The act allowed settlers, including formerly slaved people, farmers without their own land, Seminoles, and single women to claim 160 acres of land. However, they were required to live on the property, build a home, and farm for five years. To no one’s surprise, the fertile land attracted many homesteaders. At the time, the area resembled a pine forest, so people built their homes using pine wood. Eventually, they realized that using that material for their homes was dangerous because it was prone to fires. Yes, they learned the hard way.

The only way in and out of the land was through one trail called The Homesteaders’ Trail; however, this changed in 1904, when the Florida East Coast Railway reached Homestead. The railroad became crucial for the land’s agriculture business. Farmers exported fruits and vegetables through the railway. Homestead began to grow rapidly because of its agriculture. The area became an important trading center. Homestead started to gain population, and its economy was increasing. In 1913, the Town of Homestead was incorporated with a population of 121 people and 28 registered voters.

Homestead boomed in the 1920s. The city was growing rapidly, new businesses were opening, many people were moving in, and exporting was better than ever. Crops were exported from Homestead to different cities to the north. In 1923, Homestead officially became a city with 3,360 residents.

Airplane destroyed by Hurricane Andrew (Original photo displayed at Historic Homestead Town Hall Museum)

The development of the city appeared to be unstoppable. Unfortunately, the growth didn’t last for long. Homestead was struck by three hurricanes: in 1926, 1945, and 1992. The damage was so catastrophic that most of the city had to be rebuilt every time.
In 1992, the city of Homestead was in the eye of Category 5, hurricane Andrew. The hurricane destroyed more than 63,500 houses and caused $27.3 billion damage. Homestead was ground zero. It seemed unlikely for the city to recover from this hit.

Today, Homestead has bounced back. The city’s population has grown to 70,000 people. Homestead’s economy has increased over the years, and future job growth is predicted. Homestead is slowly growing and coming up with strategies to attract people to the city (“History of Our City: Homestead, FL – Official Website”).

Demographics

According to the United States Census Bureau:
Seventy thousand four hundred seventy-seven (70,477) people are residing in Homestead. The ethnic composition of Homestead’s population is composed of sixty-three percent (63%) of Hispanics, twenty-three percent (23%) blacks or African Americans, and thirteen percent Whites (13%). Forty-nine percent (49%) of the population are females, while fifty-one percent are males (51%). The annual per capita income is $17,405, and the median age of people in Homestead is 30.9 years old (“U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Homestead city, Florida”).

Biography of Guillermo (a Homestead resident)

Biography of Guillermo (a Homestead resident)

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Guillermo Rivera was born on October 25, 2000, in Honduras. He moved to Homestead when he turned 8. Since then, he has been living in Homestead with both of his parents. Currently, Guillermo is a junior at Miami Dade College Homestead Campus and works at Schnebly Redland’s Winery & Brewery– a local restaurant and winery.

Guillermo’s thoughts on Homestead:

Vivian: What is your favorite aspect about the city?

Guillermo: I enjoy the people I associate with. They are down to Earth, genuine, and fun.


Vivian:
What is your least favorite aspect about the city?

Guillermo: The city is shortly developed; I get bored of going to the same places. The city doesn’t have many things to do.

Vivian: Do you enjoy living here?

Guillermo: For the most part.

Vivian: If you could change anything about the Homestead, what would it be?

Guillermo: I would like the city to have at least one mall, a chick-fil-A, and more places to hang out. The closest chick-fil-A from here (Homestead) is in Kendall. I shouldn’t have to drive 25 miles to buy food I’m craving. 

-Guillermo enjoys the peaceful city, but sometimes he gets bored of it. He wishes there were more exciting things to do in Homestead. –

Landmarks

The Florida Pioneer Museum
The Florida Pioneer Museum (Photo by Vivian Acosta)

The Pioneer Museum’s building was once the Homestead Florida East Coast Railroad station agent’s home. The building was initially located in Homestead; however, it was moved in the mid-1960s to Homestead’s sister city Florida City (“Florida Pioneer Museum”).

The museum replicates the way a house would have been furnished and decorated in the 1900s. The museum counts with a parlor, a dining room, a kitchen, a laundry room, and an attic/guest room. Each room is filled with antiques appropriate for the place they’re in.

 They also count with a display of Native American artifacts. Mostly shell tools and pottery.

Visiting this museum is extremely interesting. It gives you an idea of what life was like a century ago. By observing the tools people used, you can also imagine the activities they engaged in, and we can see where the (improved) designs of many of our appliances come from!

The Florida Pioneer Museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Historic Homestead Town Hall Museum
Historic Homestead Town Hall Museum (Photo by Vivian Acosta)

The Historic Homestead Town Hall Museum is located in the building that once was Homestead’s town hall. The building was built in 1917. The original structure of the building was preserved; therefore, what you see today, is what was there about one hundred years ago!

On the first floor of the town hall, fire trucks were stored. On the rear of the building, there were jail cells for men. The municipal offices were located on the second floor of the building.

Today, the historic town hall has been transformed into a small museum. The museum has displays of historical artifacts of different periods. It also counts with a collection of photographs of Homestead over the years. The museum also has a 1924 American LaFrance fire truck! Seeing pieces of the past firsthand is invaluable!

The Historic Homestead Town Hall Museum is part of the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

Coral Castle Museum

The Coral Castle is a castle that was made from limestone around 1923. Inside, there is a sculpture garden, which includes furniture carved from stone and a castle tower.

The Coral Castle’s construction took 28 years. It was built by Edward Leedskalnin, a 5 feet tall man who weighed around 100 pounds. Ed worked on the development of the castle during the night, so no one would see him working. 

Whenever Ed was asked about the process of the construction of the castle, he would only mention that he knew the secret of the pyramids. Today, the methods Edward used to build the castle remains a mystery.

The Coral Castle is one of Homestead’s main tourist attractions.

Green

The city of Homestead counts with many parks in which residents can engage in recreational activities such as playing sports, exercising, picnicking, and even parting to distract themselves from their daily hassles.

I noticed that in Homestead, visiting parks is not as popular as it is in other cities. I visited two different parks in Homestead on a Thursday evening, and there were barely any people in the parks. 

Losner Park
J.D Redd Municipal Park

J.D Redd Municipal Park counts with several amenities. It has several tennis courts, pavilions, a baseball court, and a playground. This park is an excellent place to exercise, play sports, and bring the little ones out to play.

Transportation

According to Data USA, as of 2017, 67.3% of the population in Homestead drive alone, 18% carpool, and 6.71% public transit (“Homestead, FL”).   

Most people use their cars as their main mean of transportation. Many people in Homestead do not work in the city; therefore, they have to wake up extremely early to get to their jobs on time. The average car ride time for Homestead residents to get to their jobs is 35 minutes (with no traffic). However, it can take them a little bit more than twice their average time during rush hours.

To move within the city, some people like to walk; however, many streets do not have sidewalks; therefore, pedestrians end up walking on grass or on the edge of the road: neither of these options is safe.

Only about 7% of Homestead’s population uses public transportation (“Homestead, FL”). It might be because there aren’t many bus stops in the city, which means that people are required to walk long distances to get to the nearest bus stop. Perhaps, taking the bus is not as convenient as it should for Homestead residents.

If a Homestead resident wanted to take the metro, he/she would have to get to the nearest metro station first. The closest metro station to Homestead is Dadeland South Metrorail Station, which is about 30 miles away from Homestead. The lack of a convenient transportation system almost requires residents to own a car. Homestead is not a big city, and having every resident on the street in their car is problematic.

Food

Salvadoran Cuisine

Salvadoran Cuisine serves Central American dishes. Their specialty is pupusas, a Salvadoran meal. This restaurant started as a small family business in the backyard of the owners’ house. After a couple of years, they became so popular that they had to expand their business, so they opened Salvadoran Cuisine. Today, the restaurant remains popular; consequently, it tends to be busy during the whole day

As you walk into the restaurant, you will immediately notice its originality. A shelf filled with Hispanic goodies will great you. The walls are decorated with images of Central American landscapes, and their TVs are usually playing either novelas or soccer games. The owners do a fantastic job of expressing their culture through their food, decorations, and environment.

La Cruzada Restaurant

La Cruzada Restaurant is one of the most authentic restaurants I have ever visited. As you are walking to the front door, you will notice many Mexican themed adornments. As you step into the restaurant, festive, Hispanic music will welcome you along with the waitresses who are dressed in traditional Mexican clothing. The roof of the restaurant is decorated with piñatas, and the walls are covered with paintings and pictures of historic Mexican figures. Every little detail adds to the pleasant environment.

When I visited, I had tacos al pastor with a Mexican soda. The tacos were delicious. I had an excellent lunch this day. Did I mention that they have a menu for vegans? I walked out through the back door, and I discovered a garden section! Overall, La Cruzada Restaurant is a great option to grab a quick meal, have lunch, or even have a date in the romantic garden section. I recommend La Cruzada Restaurant, and I will definitely revisit the restaurant.

Businesses

Robert Is Here Fruit Stand

Robert Is Here Fruit Stand started as a fruit stand on the side of the road. Over the years, it gained so much popularity that today, tourists make sure to visit this unique spot when they come to Homestead. All kinds of vegetables and fruits are sold here, and most of them are from Robert’s own farm. Delicious milkshakes and smoothies are also part of this business’s menu.

Robert Is Here Fruit Stand is a nice place to visit with your family.  It has an animal farm, a play area for kids, and picnic tables where you can sit and enjoy one of their delicious smoothies or milkshakes. On your way out, you can purchase an exotic fruit or one of their souvenirs!

Mexico Market

Mexico Market is a small grocery market owned by a family of Mexican heritage. What separates this grocery store from other stores is that they sell imported products from Mexico. Mexican seasonings, tortillas, pan dulce, candy, cheese, sour cream, and piñatas are only some of the products sold in this grocery store. As a Hispanic, I can assure you that many of our recipes do not taste the same without specific homemade products! Therefore, I feel like this place is a gem. Sixty-three percent of Homestead’s population is Hispanic; consequently, I assume that they come here often to purchase goods that remind them of home. Selling Mexican products in a city where the majority of its residents are Hispanic, is a brilliant business.

Summary

Homestead definitely does not fit Miami’s stereotypes. In here, the nights are not alive, and tall buildings are non-existent; however, that is completely fine. Miamians are quite unique, so I would expect the cities to be diverse also. I believe that such differences between cities are convenient because we all enjoy different lifestyles. Seeing a landscape with lush green grass could be as enjoyable as seeing skylines, it just depends on who you are asking.

The city balances green area and infrastructure decently; however, a lot of the green space in the city is not well kept. Overgrown shrubs and tall grass affect the city’s appearance. There are many wastelands within the city: such places should be cleaned, the grass should be mowed, and the trees should be pruned. Another inconvenient aspect of Homestead is that most sidewalks are too narrow for two people to walk on, and many streets don’t even have sidewalks. I would expect a traditional small town like Homestead to be pedestrian-friendly; however, it isn’t.

Many areas are under construction, and many spaces are still untouched. The city is growing, and it will continue to grow over the years; however, I hope the city keeps its unique, tranquil style and that it doesn’t turn into another crowded city on the map.

Watch out for the cameras on the traffic lights! Many cities have taken down their traffic light cameras; however, Homestead (Homestead’s officials) refuses to do so. I was curious as to why there are so many working traffic light cameras in the city, so I had to ask! A worker from Homestead’s city hall explained to me that the city is “poor,” and that they need money to invest on the city; therefore, having traffic light cameras gives the city a decent amount of money.

Photo by Vivian Acosta

Agriculture is the basis of Homestead’s economy; therefore, a lot of the people who live in Homestead work on farms, plantations, landscaping, and fruit packing companies. Many of the people working on such jobs are immigrants, and some are undocumented. As I drove by many crops in Homestead, I noticed men and women bending down and picking fruit at 12 pm. I immediately questioned why they “choose” to work in such a fatiguing job; however, I realized that many of them don’t really have a choice. They come to this country to be freed from poverty, crime, or injustice; however, on the land of the free, they are enslaved by their identities. They are banned from doing necessary activities such as driving and working; nevertheless, immigrants must work to fulfill their American dream. Employers let undocumented immigrants operate for their companies, but they take advantage of their legal status. Undocumented workers get paid less than the minimum wage, they overwork, and sometimes they work under uncomfortable and even dangerous conditions; however, they don’t tend to speak up. People in Homestead are aware of this situation; therefore, there are several non-profit, organizations that help educate immigrants about their rights and encourage them to speak up and make their voices heard. WeCount! is a non-profit organization whose mission is “to build the power of the immigrant community in Homestead” (“We Count! – Sembrando Justicia”). I admire how the city identifies its issues and is active in finding a solution.

I enjoyed my time in Homestead. The city may be underdeveloped, but that’s what makes it different, consequently unique. Homestead is a small city with a peaceful atmosphere. If you want l to escape from your headaches and stay away from big-city chaos for a day, then, Homestead is the right city to visit!

Works cited

Florida Pioneer Museum, http://floridapioneermuseum.org/about/.

“History of Our City: Homestead, FL – Official Website.” History of Our City | Homestead, FL  Official Website, https://www.cityofhomestead.com/264/History-of-Our-City.

 “Homestead, FL.” Data USA, https://datausa.io/profile/geo/homestead-fl/#demographics.

 “Homestead, FL – Homestead, Florida Map & Directions.” MapQuest, https://www.mapquest.com/us/florida/homestead-fl-282040246.

“Homestead, Florida.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 9 Dec. 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homestead, Florida.

Interactive, Nia. We Count! – Sembrando Justicia, http://www.we-count.org/index.php?page=planting-justice.

MIM Ineffable Miami Fall 2019: Riverside by Jessica Horsham

Jessica Ann Horsham is a currently studying international relations at Florida International University, and is in her senior year as an FIU Honors student. She is heavily interested in pursuing a career in law, with current aims to focus on human rights and injustices within the justice system. Though her career will eventually divulge her in tons of paperwork, Jessica loves to explore the outdoors, exercise, and be near the beach; traveling is one of her favorite things to do as she loves to emerge herself in different cultures and truly learn about what makes each place special. Her current endeavor, the Miami in Miami class taught by John W. Bailly, will take her on a journey of emerging herself in her very own hometown to discover all of its unknown and secret places, one of which she has uncovered. These are her findings. *All images CC by 4.0*

Geography

The Riverside neighborhood in Miami is often known as East Little Havana and is located on the west side of the Miami River, across from Brickell.  As one can see based on the map above, it encompasses a large area consisting of Calle Ocho, the Marlins Park, about 3 green spaces, and the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and the Visually Impaired. As the neighborhood follows along the long, curvy, and natural Miami River, it makes it prime real estate for many developers. However, despite its increasing property value, these homes were not always priced as such and tend to be much older than the rising giant across the river. Almost none of the buildings were over 3 stories high, much smaller, and despite being close to one another, on certain properties there was some land space. There were also a ton of churches on about every other road; it was very similar to the Caribbean lifestyle in this aspect. There were all types of churches of all different, mostly similar religions, and many of the churches were spelled out in Spanish—an indicator of the demographic of people that it serves. However, one of the most obvious and transforming geographic features of this neighborhood is its quickly changing landscape. “Follow Detour” and “Detour Ahead” signs flood the narrow and winding streets as tall cranes lead the way to multiple construction zones. Almost down every street the foundations were being torn up and something surely newer and more expensive is going to take its place.

History

Riverside, otherwise known as East Little Havana, received its name from its promising location next to the Miami River and across from Brickell. It gained its name as Little Havana much later when Castro transformed Cuban into a communist state and the U.S., specifically in Miami, began to receive waves of refugees. Their overwhelming presence helped lead the City of Miami to create a recreational and cultural space for these diverse refugees to help reintegrate into society and to express themselves freely, this space is the neighborhood of “Little Havana.” The City of Miami began to purchase large plots of land near the river side to help develop it further into this cultural area. In 1980, when they had originally begun the designs for the Jose Martí park, it was temporarily delayed due to the government using this land to house the large number of Cuban refugees arriving in a so-called, “Tent City,” until they were properly processed. This same park is also the ancient remains site for the Tequestas, who were the Native people to Florida and who have been largely erased from history. Upon excavations, there were many things recovered such as pottery remains, shell tools, and even graves, yet the building of this area and its surround, continued. While strolling through Riverside, one may notice many buildings, schools, and portraits in honor Jose Julian Marti Perez. Jose Marti was a Cuban poet, writer, professor, translator, publisher, and important activist and political figure for Cubans who did not have the voice he had to scream their concerns and advocate for their liberties. He was a political activist from an extremely early age and was largely considered the man who united much of the Cuban community in Miami, he is often regarded as the “Apostle of Cuban Independence.” While Riverside has remained rather left alone and isolated within its own bubble, this has increasingly not become a reality for its residents. Today Riverside residents are undergoing ongoing pressures to sell their homes and properties to real estate developers who plan to “upgrade” the community. Most of the new buildings being built will be way out of budget for many of its current residents and these buildings are beginning to resemble the Brickell neighborhood that is increasingly encroaching onto Riverside. Riverside is now being dominated by cranes and many complete building knockdowns and renovations; rather than preserving these old buildings as part of Miami history, these developers aim to create another area of high-end apartments that would effectively displace and kick out many of Riverside’s original inhabitants. A perfect example of this is the massive “Riverside Miami” project currently underway a few miles down the Miami River. This development project will be a new place to “eat and drink and socialize in Brickell” (Ogle, 2019). As developers, along with the city fight to demolish and silence those who live in the Paradise Mobile Home Park, in order to turn this into another massive project, this will become the reality of many residents’ lives as Riverside continues to remain in the spotlight for prime real estate (Flechas, 2019)

Demographics

Stepping into East Little Havana or Riverside is like stepping into Cuba. This area is so mixed and infused with Latin, specifically Cuban, culture. In the language being spoke as people are walking along the street, the menus from the restaurants, and even the art screams Latin culture at you. It is as if you are in an entirely different country and it is beautiful. Besides the increasing number of tourists and big red busses passing through the neighborhood, many of the people who were local to the area were a mix of young people with the multiple generations of theirs living nearby or in the same house. Along the roads, there were many older people sitting outside playing chess, checkers, or dominoes. Especially on Calle Ocho, many older gentlemen could be seen playing intense rounds of dominoes or lounging at store corners, or under the verandas, smoking cigars. However, my favorite part was definitely the soul of these people that was simply radiating. There we no parades or any festivals (though Art Basel may have had some influence), and yet the people were alive and happy and interacting with one another. There were live bands playing latin and latin jazz combinations for all passing by to hear and maybe women and men would stop to spin and dance for a few minutes. The soul of this place was not in its buildings or landmarks but truly within its people. One of the artists, Olga, selling her items down a side street next to the home for Viernes Culturales, briefly spoke with me and stated that the bands and the people that were roaming around behind us is what attracted her to this area. Today, she was selling handmade dog collars, dog clothes, and donations for the Animal Cancer Care Clinic, where her own beloved animal fought cancer. Unfortunately, he passed away, however items such as these are extremely popular and unique to this area as many people around, whether visiting or residents, value handmade goods rather than expensive name brand or quick fashion. One of the main things she noted changing about the area was that the construction was truly making an impact by quite literally changing the landscape—so many new buildings are being put up fast and they stand out against the older buildings, creating another division between wealthier people moving into the neighborhood and those who had lived here for many years.

Landmarks

CubaOcho is a free mini museum and performing arts center that is home to the largest privately-owned Cuban art collection in the world. The pieces, which are all over the space are truly mind blowing and exceptional. On the outside of the building, it is decorated with pieces that represent some of the most influential and important Latin figures in history. It also depicts them all in an extremely unique style. Not too far from this, celebrating some of the most profound and influential Latin artists, hosts, authors, painters, etc. is the Calle Ocho Walk of Fame. At first thought, this may just seem a cute play off of the Hollywood Walk of Fame in California, but it is so much more than that. This acknowledges many people who have been forgotten or overlooked in history because of their race or nationality; many who have been overshadowed because of their beliefs or even those who had to work twice as hard to prove themselves in a position that would have just as easy for anyone else. This Walk of Fame acknowledges true fighters and those who had major impacts on an often-oppressed community. Nearby is the famous Domino Park, where older, typically Hispanic men, gather to play competitive dominos. The real noise in this park comes from the dominoes being slammed onto the tables while they lean over and whisper things under their breath. This historic park is so significant that there are multiple tourists standing around simply watching one game or as seen in one of the pictures, a man is recording the intense matches that are happening in the crowded park. This was easily one of my favorite stops. Nearby is also the Little Havana Veteran Statue which commemorates all war veterans, “including our Bay of Pigs veterans,” and above the plaque flew an American flag, high and proud. I greatly admired this as I truthfully do not think that as a society, we properly take care of our veterans or honor them, and here the people of East Little Havana are doing it more than most. Further, especially considering the current times and issues with ICE and the current administration, to see the flag still flying high was quite revealing about the people, who may or may not be documented but respected the U.S. nonetheless. Or even those who white nationalist groups disregard as American, but here they are, embracing the country and those who, too, are often left behind and forgotten. Similar in thought and theme, is the Bay of Pigs Monument located not too far away that was completed in 1971. The Eternal Torch of Brigade 2506, the soldiers who gave their lives in the 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba, is extremely powerful and moving. Even today, flowers and gifts lie outside the square by those who come to pay their respects to these soldiers whose names are engraved onto the monument. This powerful monument is reflective of the blended Miami culture as it reminds me of the many multiple eternal flame monuments across the world. The Bay of Pigs invasion was a huge turning point in U.S.-Cuba relations as well as with Cuba in itself, soon after this another major wave of immigrants began to make the journey to the U.S. in often unsafe conditions to obtain a future and a better life for themselves. Many Cubans also saw this as the U.S. attempting to protect them and even though they may not have been born here, they feel an extremely strong affinity for the country because of this event; it truly changed everything for many people.

Green Spaces

When one generally thinks about the true purpose of a greenspace, the general conclusion that they can reach is that it is used to escape from the noisiness and craziness of the nearby city. However, in the two main parks located in Riverside, Riverside Park and Jose Martí Park, this could not be farther from the truth. Of the two, Riverside Park was more intentionally for the kids. This park has a main playground area for kids to use, get outside, and simply have fun. According to its website (2019), the park also hosts free fitness classes, and helps to facilitate special giveaways and fundraising events. In addition to this park, there is also the Jose Martí Park which lies right on the banks of the Miami River. This park is rather large, hosts various paths for runners and bikers, has a shelter with chess tables, a pool, and there was even a small local band playing Latin music for a live Zumba class. However, while these areas do serve as important spaces for people to connect to and seemingly unwind, they are not your typical greenspace. One of the biggest issues with both parks is its proximity to major streets, as seen with Riverside Park, and the massive highway that almost runs right above Jose Martí Park. Not only this, but since this area is close to the airport, the Jose Martí Park will occasionally have loud planes flying overhead disrupting any peace of mind you have been out there to search for. Nonetheless, the residents of these areas have grown accustomed to these challenges and have flourished under it as they continue to use these parks to escape form their day to day lives and relax under a tree or the shelter. The last

Transportation

When driving further away from Calle Ocho and its craziness, it was not hard to miss the many bust stops all around the neighborhood—the streets were fluttered with bus stops, though I did not see as many people as I expected to be using the bus. Then again, each time I visited the area, it was earlier during the day. Now, with Marlins Park dominating its entire area and drawing a lot of attention to the area, it does make sense as to why the Miami Metro has a spot specifically for this area. Efficiently, it is aimed to reduce traffic in this area, however, if you are ever around near games, the residents living in the nearby houses would gladly park your car on their lawn for sometimes half the price that the park charges you. However, it would be much more cost and time efficient to jump on the metro and off at the Civic Center and take the bus over towards Riverside as it tends to get extremely busy later on in the afternoons. Also, another interesting feat about this neighborhood is its proximity to Brickell. One turn down a street automatically placed me right in the heart of Brickell City Center. As Brickell becomes more populated and popular, they must also invent new ways of managing traffic and time. Interestingly enough, in an effort to get people to truly experience Calle Ocho on every 3rd Friday of the month, where Viernes Culturales hosts an art and culture mini festival, there is a free trolley service to transport people to and from Mary Brickell Village and the Brickell Metrorail Station and Riverside. This does aim to help alleviate the traffic in the area however, upon driving through the various roads of houses, almost each home had a car parked outside of it or a scooter and often times a bike. However, it is important to note that not each person residing in a household will have a car specifically for themselves.

Food & Businesses

The food in this neighborhood is nothing short of authentic and truly amazing. The tastes of each country really shine through these dishes; many of them are reflective of our society and little “bubble” in Miami as they have truly become infusions of many different types. Some of the best homemade ice cream can be found at Azucar located on Calle Ocho, I highly recommend the guava and cheese flavor or the cuatro leches one. They also have a rotating seasonal menu, however, if you are looking for daily-freshly made ice cream to cool down in the Miami heat, this is the place to go—you cannot go wrong with any flavor. Another extremely popular spot, that is sure to have a wait time, is Old’s Havana Cuban Bar & Cocina. Located right next to Domino Park, this restaurant truly transports you to Havana Cuba. Its immaculately detailed restaurant truly serves its purpose to give tourists and visitors a truly authentic Cuban experience; they even have a live band to play on the weekends. The next two places are primarily known for their tacos and neither one of them disappointed, El Santo and Taquerias El Mexicano had the most authentic tacos and it was simply delicious. Both restaurants also significantly went above and beyond to ensure that their restaurants had its own unique atmosphere that was different from the culture on the streets. However, for the absolute best croquetas, in quite possibly the world, you must stop into El Cristo. For a restaurant and bakery that was nowhere near overpriced, this place beyond impressed me. The croquetas were fresh and warm and imply calling my name. It was fantastic and filling.

            Further, when observing the surrounding businesses, many of them seemed locally owned and not part of a larger chain. There were many laundromats, numerous restaurants, tailoring shops, and many, many guayaberas and “authentic Cuban wear” clothing stores. While these were all amazing to look at and did give some insight into another area of fashion, the most interesting thing to me was the amount of dollar stores that were located within the neighborhood. As already discussed, the residents who call Riverside home are not necessarily the wealthiest people. Now, as reported by CNN (Meyershon, 2019) and other researchers, many dollar stores are continuing to pop up around the U.S. in areas where poverty runs high and residents cannot afford to shop elsewhere or choose not to since these goods are so cheap. While these stores are bringing goods to many people, it is still important to note that much of the time, the food sold by these stores are packaged, preserved, or even frozen, food that it is not necessarily healthy nor nutritious enough for one’s body. Nonetheless, these stores’ popularity continues to rise and they have become one of the fastest and largest growing corporations in the U.S. This seems to correspond with data that as poverty and low-income neighborhoods rise in size, these stores take advantage and are able to move in; this is the case for Riverside and it is happening right before our eyes.

Summary

Overall, this vibrant neighborhood is absolutely beautiful and full of life and culture and true soul. I was beyond surprised upon my discoveries in this neighborhood and I truly do admire it for all of its quality and vibrancy. However, the issue of an expanding population but not enough places to hold them is an issue that is sure to plague the community, especially as developers are moving forward from Brickell straight into this historic neighborhood. If residents and their neighboring communities do not rally around one another for support and truly come together, major areas of this neighborhood will be lost, and as part of that so too will part of what makes it extremely special. Another major issue for this neighborhood is the lack of parking and small, narrow, winding streets. Once again, city planning has completely failed these people who struggle to find parking even by their own homes; there are empty lots, however, these all are great spots for residents to be towed. Moreover, this issue is exacerbated by the fact that this population is growing and as such, more people are buying cars and other means of transportation. Better public transportation needs to not just be to add more bus stops, but also to reintroduce faster and more efficient trolleys to the metro so that it may be easier for residents from all areas to access. Now, while I greatly wish their greenspaces could truly live up to the true purpose of a greenspace, I believe the fact that they do have such massive areas is a good thing and should be preserved. These spaces include additional areas for the community to come together and get to know one another, one of the most important things needed to truly battle the intervening corporate power in this area. This neighborhood is such a hidden gem to many and it is finally increasingly rising in popularity and visitation by tourists, if this increased traffic will continue, they may be able to halt some of these projects and preserve their own unique and  natural culture as that is what people travel to see, to experience. This neighborhood is undergoing many transformations but must be saved at all costs—its soul is unmatched and speaks to the essence of Miami and must be preserved for future generations.

Sources

Flechas, J. (2019, September 30). Miami wants to demolish a riverside mobile home park. Residents want a chance to stay. Retrieved from https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article235385247.html.

Home. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://viernesculturales.org/mainvc/.

Meyersohn, N. (2019, July 19). Dollar stores are facing backlash across America. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/19/business/dollar-general-opposition/index.html.

Ogle, C. (2019, May 9). Brickell’s new hot spot opens this summer on the Miami River. Retrieved from https://www.miamiherald.com/miami-com/article230227359.html.

Riverside Park. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.miamigov.com/Residents/Parks-Directory/Riverside-Park.

MIM Fall 2019 Service Project by Jessica Horsham

Feeding South Florida 

Serving our communities and helping one another is not a feat that many people take the time to do, especially in bustling cities such as Miami. However, to really get to know a city and its diverse people, one must understand their needs and most pressing issues. One of South Florida’s largest issues is food insecurity, with about 11.8% of all South Floridian, 9.1% of Miami-Dade County, not knowing where their next meals will be coming from (Millon, 2018). In light of the meaning of this class and to further explore the people and needs of my community, I decided to volunteer at Feeding South Florida, a four-star charity, to help sort food and package meals for different groups across South Florida. As a food bank, the Feeding South Florida warehouse receives donations, in monetary funds as well as actual food, sorts through it, pack it up in separate boxes, and then distributes it to various organizations. Feeding South Florida is actually responsible for supplying over 258 nonprofits and last year alone supplied enough food for about 51.5 million meals via these organizations and their own organized distributions. 

For my first ever shift, I was informed that rather than simply sorting the food we would actually be packing about 30 pounds of food in boxes to deliver to an organization that focused on distributing the food to the elderly. Despite it being 8:00 AM in the morning and the hour of traffic, I was immediately excited and ready to go. We all got stationed on either side of a conveyor belt, responsible for a section of food to pack the box and it began to move fast once we all got into the groove of things. More interesting to me was the fact that the people volunteering alongside me, including some FIU alumni, an older gentleman whose weekly visits to the site help him feel complete in helping his community, a group from DHL, and a local up and coming singer wanting to figure out a way to give back. Each person, all from different neighborhoods throughout South Florida and Miami, are here to give back to their community—something that this class has taught me that not everyone feels drawn to or identifies with. Yet here, all of the people who showed up were here FOR their community, their neighbors and friends who they were drawn to help; this in itself is a unique and more meaningful identity than any superficial one. 

For the other shifts, we primarily focused on packing the general boxes of types of food, separating based on the items, and going through the donations to make sure they were still in good conditions. I was able to see the entire chain of command—from when the food initially arrives to when they are organized in specific boxes to be sent out to the community. My time here was an extremely humbling experience as it put into perspective all of the hard work and intentional planning needed to create these amazing projects. A simple donation to a food bank, while great, is simply not enough. The job is not done. If it is not sorted and packed properly, the donation almost means nothing because there is no means to guarantee where these donations will end up. Each shift, while there was a nice group of people, it simply was not enough. The warehouse is huge and has many time-sensitive jobs that need to be done each day. While it is amazing to donate food or money, it is equally as important to donate your time and effort to help create these boxes and make it happen. This type of service project is one that I believe all people should take a part in, it really brings into focus just how affected our very own backyards are affected with food insecurity—an issue that many people believe is solved simply because we live in the United States—as well as making a significant impact with a team in such a short time: 706 boxes packed, over 21,000 pounds, 12, 125 meals, and an even bigger community impact. 

Sources:

Millon, J. (2018, May 16). South Florida Continues to Face Hunger Challenges. Retrieved from https://feedingsouthflorida.org/south-florida-continues-to-face-hunger-challenges/.

MIM Fall 2019 Service Project: Gabriela Lastra

LnS GALLERY

This semester in Professor Bailly’s Miami in Miami class has been a journey and an adventure. I have learned so much, about my city as well myself. As part of the community, in this class we are encouraged to give back. We go to Chicken Key in Biscayne Bay and do a beach cleanup and we are also asked to do an independent service project. My project ended up being in the one area I was mostly uninterested in coming in: contemporary art. Professor John Bailly is himself a painter at a local gallery, LnS GALLERY run by Sergio Cernuda and Luisa Lignarolo, which focuses on showcasing contemporary art by local Miami artists. On November 16th I volunteered at the opening night of Professor Bailly’s first solo exhibition, THE ROSES OF FIBONACCI. I arrived early and was instructed by Sofia Guerra, the curator of the Project Room, on what my duties for the night would be. After walking around and getting to enjoy the works on display for a while, the people started arriving. I put on my gloves and spent the night showing those who came into the room the works stored in the drawers and answering questions as best I could or directing them to Sofia when I could not. It was honestly an incredible night. Everyone who came in was so fundamentally different and the way they viewed the works was shaped by their differences. Seeing the works through their eyes and listening to all the different questions I could be asked about the same piece made me see them differently myself. So captivated I was by this brand new world I was beginning to appreciate that for the second part of my service project I chose to venture in once more, this time at a much larger venue.

UNTITLED, Art.

Works by Joana Choumali, Faig Ahmed, and Godfried Donkor at UNTITLED, Art. ( Photo by Gabriela Lastra CC By 4.0)

UNTITLED, Art. is one of the fairs that comes once a year for Miami’s Art week. It hosts exhibitions of dozens of galleries from all around the world and gets over 20,000 visitors a day over the week. Though Miami Art Week is a place for both the old and the new, UNTITLED, Art. focuses on contemporary works. I had already decided to volunteer at the fair before I had seen it. When we did visit as a class, I was fascinated by the entire experience. I could not wait to go back. On December 7th I arrived in the morning to find the place already buzzing with activity. My role for the day was meant to be assisting at the Press Desk, where journalists and writers checked in. At fist I helped to make the press passes and translated when a few Spanish speaking journalists came up and the two Press Desk employees had communication problems. After a while I was asked to help by going to the back offices and getting packets out of storage. Later in the afternoon when another volunteer at the fair failed to show up on time, I was asked to cover her spot. I was placed in front of the door where the art works were stored and told the code for the door. I was to make sure that only authorized personnel came in and took art works from the room and that they signed each work out. It was an enormous responsibility and while I was at first quite nervous, I enjoyed it a lot. I got to see many of the works that were not being displayed and I had the privilege of speaking with the artists and gallery directors who came in and out of the storage room. It was without a doubt the most interesting responsibility I’ve ever had. I can say with total honesty that the course of my life has been irrevocably changed. I am applying to law school this winter and after these experiences, I am no longer sure of exactly which area of law I want to practice. What I do know is that I am not ready to leave the incredible world of art. Art is a way for people to reach out to each other, to express themselves and take in the world around us.

MIM Fall 2019 Service Project: Alexis Rivera

            As Mahatma Gandhi once stated, “ The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Volunteering and giving back to the community has always been an incredibly rewarding feeling. It makes you self-reflect, grow and gives you a sense of purpose.

BSU gives back at Publix, Photo by Alexis Rivera

            I was able to serve by packaging meal boxes at both Publix and Feeding South Florida for families around the South Florida area. The FIU Black Student Union in partnership with 100 Black Men of America hosted “BSU Gives Back” on November 23 at Publix a few days before Thanksgiving. We packaged 1600 turkeys into boxes with various cans of produce to provide to families in need. When we first arrived I was assigned to help build the boxes that the groceries would be placed in. As time continued, I began assisting with placing turkey’s into boxes and passing the boxes to the table to have the cans of food added to each one. Once each box was done being prepped and sealed, they were loaded onto UPS trucks to be sent out around the area. This experience was extremely rewarding knowing that we were contributing to helping families enjoy their Thanksgiving holiday. We were joined by many people such as high school students and other community members during this day of service.

Volunteering at Feeding South Florida, Photo by Alexis Rivera

Feeding South Florida is a food bank that serves the Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, and Monroe Counties. With fellow Miami in Miami classmate, Jessica Horsham, we went to the Pembroke Park Feeding South Florida location to package boxes of food for senior citizens. Every year Feeding South Florida distributes over 61,000,000 million pounds of food. This was an eye-opening experience considering that we were volunteering with people from around various parts of the area for different purposes, allowing us to converse and get to know others while we volunteered to pack meals. At the end of our wrap up, we learned that our group packaged 701 boxes in total which was also about 21,000 pounds worth of food.

            If we want to see change, we have to be the change. It is inspiring and humbling to learn what various organizations and nonprofits are doing to support those in need. I look forward to continue volunteering in the near future and encouraging those around me to do so as well.

MIM Service Project – Camillus House by Blanca J Alcaraz

Camillus House is a non-profit organization located in downtown Miami and it provides humanitarian aid to poor and indigent people in all of Miami-Dade County in south Florida. Founded more than 50 years ago, in 1960 this organization has grown to become more than an overnight shelter, it now is a safe place that allows people to revindicate themselves and grow past the situations in life that were holding them back. Being able to volunteer with such a wonderful organization opened my eyes to so many things I was oblivious to. This non-profit does not only feed and clothe those who are facing financial hardships, this organization has rehabilitation programs in place that actively work to reintegrate these people back into the society. Driving by this organization almost every week and being oblivious to the work they preform is a disservice to the city as a whole and after this project I will actively work towards raising awareness for such organizations because a little help can go a long way and if others knew just how much was being done, they would not hesitate to lend a helping hand. 

Our service projected started early in the morning and lasted all day long, our activities ranged from loading trucks to setting up a display of art work for their greatest fundraiser of the year and throughout every moment I was humbled by the people who like us were devoted to helping those in need. The community relations manager at Camillus House, Alessandra Laricchia, walked us through the entire process and was in charge of directing us to our position as well as giving us instructions throughout the day. Alessandra and brother Ben were in charge of overseeing our first task which was to help create a hospitable environment for the clients that were coming in during the holiday season. We helped decorate and set up a 12-foot Christmas tree, which I can say started our day off with a kick! 

This was in the main dining hall where clients begin to line up at 5am for doors to open from 6am to 11am, here clients are welcomed to come for breakfast and hang out in the plaza until 11:30 am where they are then sent to go about their day with a bagged lunch. 

The organization has two main campuses and a clinic and the one we were at houses about 400 people alone each night. There are three programs run by case managers at the organization, there is the day program, a housing program for rehabilitation and a program for sex trafficking victims in Miami. 

The day program goes on from 6am – 11:30 am and during this time the clients can have access to warm meals, showers and a change of clothes. The rehabilitation program is managed by case managers who evaluate the current condition of the person and their willingness to rehabilitate, then depending on the county that is funding their stay, they are kept for 30 – 60 day periods. During these time periods the clients undergo rehabilitation activities, such as getting involved with helping out throughout the organization whether that be in the mailroom or cafeteria. The clients also receive vouchers for a change of clothe every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and on Tuesdays and Thursdays they receive t-shirt if the client is a women and vice versa if the client is a man. We were able to walk into the rooms where all the clothes is kept and the ideology behind the experience they provide is heartwarming, they set up the clothes like a store and for 15 minutes the clients can forget about the outside world and simply “shop” for their clothes. Men’s clothing is a lot more scarce than women’s clothing but nonetheless they always welcome donations of anything you may have. 

They like to arrange the clothes by style and size, most of the things needed are of personal hygiene and shoes that are comfortable. Some of the dressier clothing is used for when the clients have job interviews or an important event. 

During this time they also actively help the client find a job and get them affordable housing. Something I found really interesting was that they also have residential buildings for people who are fully rehabilitated but working a job that does not allow them to pay rent in the outside world. What happens with them is they then stay in their residential buildings, which are very independent and they charge them 30% of their earnings for staying there, this way the person if off the streets and making a contribution to society. The programs for the sex trafficking victims also provides housing and it is very similar to the other programs in that they participate in activities and sessions that help them regain their self-worth and the identity of who they once were. 

Now our second task was helping set up their greatest fundraiser of the year which usually takes places in the Hilton hotel across the street. The founders of Camillus House are big on wines and they donate truckloads of wine bottles to be auctioned off at this fundraiser every year. As we unloaded and unpacked the wine bottles we were pleasantly surprised with the prices, which ranged from $250 to $3500 a bottle and this is great because all of this money is going towards a great cause. 

Here we are loading the trucks at Camillus House and unloading them in the Hilton, we got to ride in a service elevator that fit truckloads of stuff. This was definitely a fun experience.

Another item that was being auctioned off was art, art pieces that had been donated and art pieces painted by many of the clients themselves were being auctioned off in this fundraiser and I thought this was amazing. In Camillus House there is an art program where clients can explore their creative side and many of them tap into a gift they didn’t know they had, these pieces are then selected and auctioned at the fundraiser and could go for as much as $500 each, the organization than takes 50% of the earnings of this piece and gives the other 50% to the rightful artist. During this fundraiser Camillus House usually raises around $1.4-1.7 million and the money is much needed and put to a good use. When unpacking the pieces I fell in love with most of them and I actually was shocked by the price of many of them, I held a $15,000 art piece in my hand and I honestly think it’s one of the most expensive things I’ve ever held. The art pieces were beautiful and the experience we had was even better, we got to see the behind the scenes of an event of this magnitude and to be able to say that we were a part of it was even better. When asking the staff members that are volunteers and are not paid, why they keep coming back to help, they said that one of the most rewarding things is to see a person grow from nothing and excel, prosper and succeed and then have them come back and donate and give to the organization that believed in them when society had given up on them. 

This experience was amazing and I thank all those who allowed us to embark on it, thank you to the group to students that went with me and to the staff that was ever so kind. Alessandra’s contact information is below, this is definitely not the last Camillus House will see of FIU Honors students. 

Thank you for letting us be a part of such a wonderful event!

Blanca J Alcaraz

ALESSANDRA LARICCHIA | COMMUNITY RELATIONS MANAGER

1603 NW 7th Avenue, Miami, FL 33136 | camillus.org

Cell 786.775.8192 | Tel 305.374.1065, ext 438 | alessandral@camillus.org

Ineffable Miami: Key Biscayne by Alexandra Rodriguez

Welcome to Key Biscayne!

Video by Alexandra Rodriguez

Student Biography

Photo by Audri Rodriguez

Alexandra is a current junior in the Honors College at Florida International University. She plans to pursue a degree in Accounting and earn her certifications and licenses to become a CPA. She is an active member of Beta Alpha Psi, a national honor society for Accounting and Finance majors. She enjoys traveling, sports and fashion. Alexandra has explored over twelve different countries and appreciates the culture and lifestyle in each; she believes each country has something special to offer. With plans to study abroad in Paris next summer, she is excited to embark on a whole new journey. 

Geography

As a small island just off the coast of Florida, Key Biscayne encompasses everything you would expect of a typical Miami town. To get into the island, you must first cross the Rickenbacker Causeway, which connects Miami to Virginia Key and Key Biscayne. When looking at a map, you will notice that the island is sandwiched between two large parks: Crandon Park and Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. From start to finish, the island is about five miles in length and one and a half miles wide.

The island is made up of sand that eroded from the Appalachian Mountains, which was carried by rivers and coastal currents. The elevation of Key Biscayne varies, but it typically averages less than five feet above sea level (Wikipedia). It’s sandy beaches and parks completely cover the north and south areas of the island.

Although greenery makes up the majority of Key Biscayne, the middle of the island offers a significant urban feeling. With countless hotels, homes and buildings, the residents often associate the area with a “city like” feeling. With the causeway just a short couple of miles away, the island of Key Biscayne always feels like an extremely functional and commercial area.

History

About 1,000-2,000 years ago, the first group of inhabitants living in Key Biscayne were the Tequestas. When shells, bones, and several different artifacts were found on the grounds, researchers were certain these indigenous peoples occupied the land. The Tequesta Indians of the Calusa Nation were able to hunt and fish on the island, as they were surrounded by green land and the ocean.

In 1513, when Juan Ponce de Leon found the island, he called it Santa Marta and planned to claim is for the King of Spain. After the King sold is to the Fornelis family, it was purchased by Mary Ann Davis of St. Augustine in the mid 1800s for a total cost of $100 (Village of Key Biscayne). The lighthouse, which Key Biscayne is most known for, was first lit in 1825, and it was used to help ships navigate along Florida’s coast. However, after Indians attacked the lighthouse during the Seminole Wars, the island’s monument was burned and destroyed. It was soon rebuilt in 1847 and remains the same tall and bright lighthouse in Bill Baggs Park today.

In 1908, William John Matheson purchased property in Key Biscayne and grew a coconut plantation and fruit grove. Soon enough, the Matheson family created a community on the island; schools, zoos and transportation were added to the land. In the mid 1900s, William John Matheson’s children decided they wanted to donate the northern half of the island to the public (Village of Key Biscayne). Following this, the Rickenbacker Causeway was built, allowing visitors to reach the mainland.

Key Biscayne soon became an island consisting of hotels and villas, which celebrities and politicians typically visited. As of today, Key Biscayne is still very much known for its luxury and prestigious hotels, as well as its vacation style homes. The island was officially incorporated in 1991.

Demographics

Key Biscayne sits at a moderate population of just over 13,000 residents. With the median age being around 44 years old, it is just 6% higher than the average Floridian. The island is known for housing some of the wealthiest families in the south Florida region. The median household income for the area sits at a hefty $130,000, which is $73,000 more than the average US income. The top employment industries of these residents consist of finance, professional services, healthcare and real estate. Moreover, the race and ethnic diversity in Key Biscayne is extremely poor. There are only two dominant races: White and Hispanic. While whites make up 31% of the island, Hispanics make up another 68% (AreaVibes). The remaining 1% consists of individuals with Asian background. 

interview with resident, ana perez-blanco:

Photo by Isabella Miranda

How long have you lived in Key Biscayne?

I’ve lived here for my whole life. I’m nineteen years old now, and my parents first moved here right before I was born.

Did you attend school on the island when you were younger?

I attended elementary and middle school at St. Agnes. It would only take me about 10 minutes to get to school every day. However, for high school, it would take me about an hour to get to school, as I went to Our Lady of Lourdes Academy in the South Miami area.

What do you enjoy most about living in Key Biscayne?

I enjoy living so close to the beach and being able to walk everywhere. My brother and I love to go on morning walks along the beach on the weekends. I also like that all the residents are extremely friendly; we’re always doing activities with our neighbors and friends.

Do you think you will live in Key Biscayne in the future, or do you plan to move?

I plan on moving outside of the island. Most of my friends live almost an hour away from me, and I drive long distances to go to work every day. I feel like I might come back and live on the island when I reach retirement age, but as I approach my twenties, I plan on moving to the South Miami region.

Landmarks/Place to Visit

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park: Bill Baggs Park is one of the most popular places in Key Biscayne. It is home to the famous lighthouse, or as we call it in Miami, “El Farito.” The Cape Florida Light is actually the oldest standing structure in the Greater Miami area. Most visitors enjoy planting their feet in the sand and enjoying a beach day here. Keep in mind that to enter this park, it costs $8 per vehicle!

Crandon Park: Once you pass through Key Biscayne’s entrance, you are left in Crandon Park, and it’s the perfect welcome into the island. This park is a great place to swim at the beach, barbecue on the weekends or even just walk along its trail. Fun fact: this park used to be the coconut plantation the Matheson family built in the early 1900s!

Neptune Memorial Reef: This memorial reef is the largest man-made reef ever created. For those who chose cremation, their remains can be placed in the Neptune Memorial Reef. It was made to represent the Lost City of Atlantis and has brought the marine life up significantly around the area (Neptune Memorial Reef).

Bear Cut Preserve: Just along the shore at Crandon Park, there is a hiking trail across the water and under the numerous trees. Whether you just want to take in the scenery or explore the park’s sandy dunes, the walk is sure to be a memorable one. At the end of the trail, you are left at a 6,000-year-old fossilized forest reef (Florida Hikes).

Green Space

Key Biscayne is home to many green areas and state parks. The most popular are the two previously mentioned: Bill Baggs State Park and Crandon Park. With such an immense amount of greenery, both of these areas are typically enjoyed by tourists and even the residents. The parks are always occupied with people playing sports, having a picnic, or even just basking in the sun.

Green spaces like these are extremely important to any city. Greenery is actually proven to reduce stress and offer better quality of air. This is most likely why the area of Key Biscayne is extremely laid-back and carefree.

Along most of the island’s green areas, there are numerous amounts of garbage and recycling bins. At every entrance of the park, a Miami-Dade County trash bin stands proud. I think this is an extremely great effort by the island of Key Biscayne and the county, as trash in our parks and oceans continues to hurt our environment and animals.

Transportation

Metrobus: The Metrobus makes numerous stops in Key Biscayne including the Rickenbacker Causeway, Crandon Park, City of Key Biscayne and Cape Florida State Park. Although walking in Key Biscayne is preferred by most, it is also convenient to take the bus, especially if you’re in Bill Baggs Park and need to get to Crandon Park. Having busses pass through the island is helpful, as it aids in the reduction of the amount of traffic.

Bicycle: Many residents travel on bicycle to get to their destinations. The entire five-mile length of the island has designated bike lanes for those choosing this form of transportation. Having these bike lanes are extremely efficient and add an extra form of safety. Bicycling is a great way to exercise and save the environment, as well. Who wouldn’t want to peddle down the beach to get to work every day?  

Golf carts: Surprisingly, besides driving a car, cruising around the island in a golf cart is extremely common. In the morning and afternoon, you typically see children being picked up and dropped off at school in golf carts. On the weekends, families will drive to a restaurant down the street in the golf cart, and even park it in a designated parking spot for golf carts only (yes, they have that in Key Biscayne!).

Boat: If all other modes of transportation fail, do not fret! You can always come to the island on a private yacht or speedboat. With the number of marinas on the island, there is always a place to dock a boat.

Food

Costa Med: This “chic bistro” is owned by Venezuelan, Antonio Braschi and is inspired by European, Mediterranean and South American style. Common foods to order from this bistro are escargots, lobster ravioli, steak tartare and any catch of the day! It is also very highly recommended to pair their entrées with a glass of rosé or champagne. $$

Milanezza Restaurant and Bar: As soon as you enter this laid-back atmosphere, you are instantly greeted by the friendliest waiters. Whether you are in the mood for a classic Italian pasta dish or an Argentine churrasco, this amazing little spot has your back! After bringing the check, the waiter brings a stand of lollipops to finish off your meal. *My personal recommendation: Churrasco steak sandwich (and a strawberry lemonade flavored lollipop!) $$

Donut Gallery Diner: This family-run diner delivers an American classic. The restaurant has been passed down since 1971. They are most famous for their comforting breakfast options like pancakes, grits, hash browns and eggs (Miami and Beaches). They are also open for lunch with all your favorite, staple dishes. $

Businesses

Clothing Boutiques: Small, independently-owned clothing boutiques are a common business on the island. One particular boutique, Moda Boheme, offers unique pieces from around the world. The owner enjoys mixing chic, bohemian, and sophisticated styles of clothing. Ten years ago, Moda Boheme was able to open Mercedes Benz Swim Week with a few of pieces from their collection (Boheme Boutique).

Watersport Rentals: In Key Biscayne, there are countless places to rent kayaks, canoes, and jet skis. What makes each of these places special is the fact that most of these businesses are ran by residents. This business is definitely geared towards Key Biscayne, as they are surrounded by beaches. One specific company that offers rentals is Miami Watersports: Hobie Cat and Windsurf. Staying active while visiting the Key is a must! This company offers everything from kayaks to paddle boards to flyboards.

Real Estate: An extremely common business in Key Biscayne is real estate. There are dozens of realtors across the island, especially since property there is so expensive. Most realtors in Key Biscayne sell properties ranging anywhere from $150,000 to $3,000,000 (US News). Whether they own a company or sell homes independently, real estate agents in Key Biscayne are always busy, year-round.

Summary

As you pass over the Rickenbacker causeway and begin to see the white, sandy beaches of Key Biscayne, you already know what’s ahead. The island successfully encompasses everything from greenery, to urban lifestyle, to toes in the sand. As far as what works well in the town, transportation seems to be doing great. With most residents walking or bicycling everywhere, the traffic on the island is light and the air pollution is low. In addition to a good transportation system, the island knocks it out of the park when it comes to authentic restaurants. If someone is in the mood for Argentinian food or even Mediterranean, the restaurants in Key Biscayne have got all the bases covered. It’s comforting to know that the restaurant owners on the island come from around the world; this helps spread the culture and ideas to a new set of people. Another important aspect of Key Biscayne to note is their environmental awareness. Recycling bins and trash cans appear everywhere on the island; this is probably why the streets are so clean. The residents seem to be reducing their carbon footprint, as well, as many homes on the island were powered by solar energy.

Although the island has its many perks, there are a few drawbacks and unfortunate cases to note. The first, and probably very obvious, is the income gap between Key Biscayne residents and those living in other parts of Miami, Florida. The average Miami resident makes about $30,000 a year. Compared to Key Biscayne’s $130,000, the average Miamian cannot afford to live on the luxurious island. Another disappointing statistic about the island is its extremely poor ethnic diversity. Although its restaurants offer a cultural experience, the population of Key Biscayne has little to no variety. There’s not a single African American living on the entire island. This is shocking, as African Americans make up almost 20% of the entire Miami area. Staying on the same topic of culture, Key Biscayne’s places of worship only include Christian and Catholic churches and only one Jewish center. With there being over thousands of religions in the world, it’s sad to see an area only focusing on three common faiths. Again, this just proves Key Biscayne’s poor diversity.

*All photos are by Alexandra Rodriguez, unless stated otherwise.

works cited

AreaVibes. “Key Biscayne, FL Demographics.” Key Biscayne, FL Population & Demographics, www.areavibes.com/key+biscayne-fl/demographics/.

Boheme Boutique. “Boheme Boutique- Key Biscayne.” Boheme Boutique, 2010, bohemeboutique.blogspot.com/.

DeFrancisci, Leonard. Coconut Plantation Memorial. 2009.

Florida Hikes. “Bear Cut Preserve.” Florida Hikes!, 3 June 2019, floridahikes.com/bearcut.

Miami and Beaches. “Your Official Miami and Miami Beach Guide.” Your Official Miami and Miami Beach Guide, www.miamiandbeaches.com/.

Neptune Memorial Reef. “The Neptune Memorial Reef ™.” Neptune Memorial Reef, www.nmreef.com/index.html.

US News. “Top Key Biscayne Real Estate.” U.S. News & World Report, U.S. News & World Report, realestate.usnews.com/agents/florida/key-biscayne/.

Village of Key Biscayne. “History of the Island of Key Biscayne.” History of the Island of Key Biscayne – Village of Key Biscayne, 2013, keybiscayne.fl.gov/index.php?submenu=_island_history&src=gendocs&ref=IslandHistory&category=About.

Wikipedia. “Key Biscayne.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 12 Nov. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Key_Biscayne.

ASC Art Service Project: The Deering Estate

by Nicholas Pastrana 10/22/19 – 11/12/19

This semester for my Service Project I chose to volunteer at the Deering Estate. What I find interesting about the Deering Estate is that while there are a few artworks inside of the Stone House the main “art” attraction is the Deering Estate itself. The Deering Estate’s value lies in its architecture, wildlife, and history with the Tequesta and Paleo-Indians. After being mesmerized by the Deering Estate from a class visit, I was quick to reach out for volunteering opportunities to the lady who took us on the tour; Vanessa Trujillo. Ms. Trujillo is a conservation and research specialist for the Deering Estate, she put me in contact with Mr. David Lotker, the Recreation Leader to begin volunteering.

Two Miami Dade College Volunteers and I in front of the Stone House.
Atala butterfly.

A few weeks later, I went to the Deering Estate to volunteer. I worked with a couple of other volunteers from Miami Dade College pulling vines to maintain the landscape. Usually my father must fight with me tooth and nail to do this at home. At the Deering Estate this work was easy for me to comprehend because essentially, I was preserving the art of the Deering Estate. Specifically, I worked on maintaining an area of the landscape home to Coontie and Lantanas plants. Where the Atala butterflies lay their eggs and their caterpillars eat in preparation for their upcoming season. The first day I volunteered there were maybe a couple of caterpillars on the plants, but I felt rewarded when I came back about ten days later and was greeted by dozens of the little guys.

Atala caterpillars on Coontie.

Additionally, at the Deering Estate I volunteered helping my professor Mr. Bailly move art pieces at his residency there for a photo-shoot in preparation for an exhibition. I also pulled vines out of and cleaned pockets of dirt in the limestone of the exterior of the Stone House. Maintaining the Stone House was also fascinating because it’s crazy to imagine the Spanish Villa being here at the time where the land was still inhabited mostly by bohemian tribes. I see huge historical value for it as well as the Richmond Cottage it’s connected to. In part for being the last place a person could stop from Miami to Key West and in part for the architectural marvels they were for their time.

I’m very appreciative of the work Deering Estate does to educate youth by offering summer camps and hosting school field trips. They also preserve the “real” Miami, the mangroves, plants, and wildlife that otherwise commercial businesses would’ve eaten up as they’ve done to the rest of Miami. I’m glad I got the opportunity to help preserve the natural Miami. It really made me reflect on human’s disregard for nature for our own satisfaction. Comparing Miami now to how it was during the 1800’s makes me feel gross. The Deering Estate really opened my eyes to how destructive humans can be.

Contact:

The Deering Estate – 16701 SW 72 Ave, Miami, FL, 33157

Vanessa Trujillo – Conservation and Research Specialist

Vanessa.Trujillo@miamidade.gov

ASC See Miami: Locust Projects

“A Cartoon World” by Nicholas D. Pastrana of FIU at Locust Projects, Miami Design District, 12/2/19

Miami Design District.

Biography

Nicholas Pastrana is a sophomore an Accounting major pursuing a double major in Computer Information Systems and a certificate in Pre-Law at Florida International University. He serves as the Vice President of Membership Development and Scholarship on the Interfraternity Council’s Executive Board and on the Finance Committee of Relay for Life. His hobbies include weight-lifting, running, fishing, diving, and playing the piano. Nicholas has toured most of Europe including the Louvre and La Sagrada Familia with an interest in Realist, Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and Architectural artworks.

Geography

Exterior of Locust Projects.

Locust Projects is located a couple blocks west of the center of Miami’s Design District. A few blocks to the East, the streets are lined with luxury stores including Versace, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton. Additionally, the architecture, sculptures, and interesting street art add to the aesthetic appeal of the geography. High-ticket stores and artsy ambiance make this place a hotspot for tourists in Miami.

History

Locust Projects was founded in 1998 by a group of Miami-based artists including Elizabeth Withstandly, Westen Charles, and COOPER. Originally, Locust Projects opened in Wynwood and was one of the first warehouse-turned-art exhibit/collection. In 2001, Locust Projects was incorporated and designated its Board of Directors. In 2002, it was recognized as a 501 (c) (3) not for profit. After receiving a grant from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts in 2006, they were able to hire their first full-time Executive Director and later relocate to Miami’s Design District in 2009. Locust Projects has been able to sustain itself through large grants from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, as well as the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs.

Mission

Reproduction– “Create opportunities for visual artists at all career stages, invite risk taking and experimentation, activate conversations around new art and ideas, and advocate for artists and creative practices.”

Explanation– Locust Projects is utterly committed to providing artists the opportunity to exhibit their works. They pride themselves on promoting artists of all ages, ethnicities, religions, qualifications, and career stages. Locust Projects holds no fear when showcasing relatively inexperienced artists and/or artists who show controversial works. When reading about the Locust Projects online, they claim to “emphasize boundary-pushing creative endeavors”. They do so to encourage thought provoking conversations about art and it’s influences on and from society. Furthermore, as a non-profit Locust Projects finds satisfaction in providing artists grants and free legal services.

Access

Locust Projects hour of operations, phone number, website, and pricing.
City View Garage.

Locust Projects is highly accessible as it is free to the public. It has limited parking in the back and there are a few parking spots on the nearby streets but if it were to be a busy night parking would go quick. The hourly fee for street parking is a dollar and fifty cents per hour. There are four parking garages in the area all about a couple blocks away. The nearest parking garage is City View Garage (entrance on Northeast thirty-eighth street). City View Garage is only three dollars for the first four hours, which if you know anything about Miami parking prices that’s practically a Black Friday sale.  Locust Projects’ hours of operation are Tuesday through Saturday from 11am to 5pm.

Collection

Locust Projects is not an art gallery nor a collection. As mentioned before, they are a non-profit art space. Locust Projects opens it space to one artist at a time to give the artist an opportunity to exhibit their work with the intentions of educating the community.

Exhibitions

Currently on display at Locust Projects is an artist named Trenton Doyle Hancock. Hancock’s exhibition is titled I Made Mound City in Miami Dade County. Hancock was born in Oklahoma City, OK and raised in Paris, Texas. He graduated from Texas A&M University with a BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts), then later from Tyler School of Art at Temple University with a MFA (Master of Fine Arts).

Mound in I Made a Mound City in Miami-Dade County.

Interestingly, Hancock’s art comes in the form of cartoons. His exhibition I Made a Mound City in Miami Dade County tells tales of his character Torpedo Boy and his adventures in the Moundverse. In the Moundverse are fictional creatures called Mounds, Mounds art plant like creatures that feed off pollution and negative human emotions to “[transform] this dark malignant sediment into positive colorful energy” and cleanse the earth and air. These stories are told through a variety of medias including paintings, drawings, videos, and sculptures. In these stories Hancock explores ideas of good, evil, authority, race, class, moral relativism, politics, and religion.

Hancock’s main medium of presentation – cartoons – makes his art appealing to younger audiences which could easily understand the narratives but may not pick up on the underlying social ideas meant for older audiences. Hancock’s cartoon drawings are all in black and white but outside of them he commonly uses bright colors, often in a “psychedelic” manner.

In a dark room towards the back left, a video named What the Bringback Brought is playing. This video was very dark in nature and Hancock describes it as a commercial where he’s “…selling [would] not only [be the] toys but sensibilities from another time, a time when toys were better, when horror films and children’s fantasy entertainment was better”. (Ref. 1)

I enjoyed the way Hancock presented the topics and ideas he was conveying to his audience. In comparison to a politician, for example, who might lecture his ideas to an audience in attempt to force it down their throats. Hancock is much more clam in the suggestion of his ideas, allowing the audience to keep an open mind and entertain his ideas without feeling attacked. In the works showcased, Hancock never explicitly says: “Humans are destroying the earth via pollution, and we’re all going to suffer because of it!”. Instead, he uses an alternative reality where Mounds eat pollution to cleanse the rotting Earth to introduce the depressing results of pollution. I don’t lack respect for the Earth, but Hancock encouraged me to re-evaluate my contentment with only not harming the Earth. I was left questioning myself; if there was more, I should be doing to protect the Earth since in this reality I don’t have any mounds to cleanup after me. One page of Hancock’s story he discusses how humans have always used Mounds as a way of storing stuff and providing shelter. When reflecting on this it made me think of the flaw in the continuity of human design and ideas. For example, we all know that pollution is wrong but generation after generation we fall back on it because we assume that the little bit of trash, we leave behind isn’t a big deal. When we feed into this desire for immediate gratification through simplicity, we consistently hurt ourselves. Then when the human race as whole comes together to do this, we do serious damage to the Earth. Similarly, many races look down upon other ones, a phenomenon that has occurred since the beginning of time. Until we can learn to break this continuity, we will still wage war on one another because the opposition is different than us. In my mind I blew this up a lot from just humans consistently building mounds, but until humans can accept the lessons taught to us in our history and innovate from them, we will never evolve to what we’re capable of. Fortunately, I had the opportunity of further discussing these ideas with a visitor of the institution.

Special Programs

Locust Projects has several from summer programs for students to grants for artists.

Practice + Process: In this program artists discuss their “behind-the-scenes” creative processes.

Talks: This program is in conjunction with ArtCenter South Florida, together Locust Projects and ArtCenter South Florida bring in top art curators to Miami six times a year to discuss their vision practice, and the art and artists that shaped their careers.

Locust Art Builders (LAB): A Summer Art Intensive for Teens: Every summer Locust Projects turns its space over to twenty-five teens from across the country to learn how to build an exhibition from scratch.

WaveMaker: Part of a national network of Andy Warhol Foundation re-granting programs providing up to $60,000 in funding a year, awarded directly to artists for non-commercial, non-institutional projects that are accessible to the public.

LegalLink: Program providing free and low-cost legal services, pro bono attorney referrals, and professional development to artists in Florida.

R+D Mobile Studio: A new initiative launched in 2017, R=D / Mobile Studio offers artists space and time to develop ideas for new projects and convene conversations and collaborations that inform new directions.

(Ref. 2)

Visitor

Interview with a visitor of the institution – Neil

Q1 “Is this your first time visiting Locust Projects?”

A1 “No, actually I live nearby, and my girlfriend and I like to come visit.”

Q2 “What made you want to come today to see Trenton Doyle Hancock?”

A2 “I’m really into comics and sequential art and I know Trenton’s work is highly influenced by comics and it’s always fun to see how and when comics and find art intersect and how they influence each other. The final project of the two is always interesting.”

Q3 “So it sounds like you have an interest in art, do you have any formal background?”

A3 “Actually I do, I got my BFA in visual arts.”

Q4 “If you had to pick a piece of this exhibit that peaks your interest, what would it be?”

A4 “The giant Mound in the middle of the room, the cut-away or cross section of the Mound (cartoon drawing explaining what a Mound is made of and its structural composition), and the animation inside of the physical Mound.

Q5 “Did you pick up on any of the ideas Hancock expresses about pollution, emotions, or moral relativism?”

Q5 “Yes, especially the pollution and the whole creation myths he’s working with, I think it speaks a lot towards human design. In fact, if you look at page seven of the Moundverse, Trenton talks about how humans have always used mounds, Egyptians making pyramids, Eskimos making igloos, graves are mounds too. It a metaphor for us being stuck in our ways.”

Portrait

Interview of an employee of the institution – Jordyn Newsome, Gallery and Exhibitions Manager

Q1 “What demographic does Locust Projects tend to target?”

A1 “Locust Projects demographic is very diverse, since we’re located in Miami it’s international.”

Q2 “What age rage does Locust Projects tend to target?”

A2 “Well, geared towards eighteen to probably sixty-five, adults, we get people of all ages, but there is no children programming.”

Q3 “What is Locust Projects to you, as in what does it mean to you”

A3 “Well, Locust Projects is an alternative art space, not a museum, artists can use the ceilings, the floors, the walls. Artists are free to use the space however they want as long as they don’t affect the building structurally. Daniel Arsham jackhammered a hole in the floor. I think it means a lot because it gives artists full control over the presentation of their art, it’s very expressive.”

Q4 “What do you think of the location, would you say it’s convenient for artists and Locust Project’s guests”

A4 “We don’t bring in a lot of foot traffic, but it’s good for driving because we’re right off of I-95. Mostly people who come, come because they set out to do so.”

Q5 “How influential do you believe Locust Projects’ programs are?”

A5 “Programming is important. Locust Projects gives free grants for artists to do projects. Locust Projects provides workshops for artists on how to budget projects, workshops on protecting their work legally, Locust Projects sets out to give artists opportunities to invest in their careers.”

Q6 “Are most of the artists who come here ‘Big name’ artists or ‘investments’?”

A6 “We do both. We try to give all artists a chance regardless of what stage of their career they are at. Every summer we give a Master of Fine Arts student an exhibit.”

Q7 “Is the comic book shop in the back part of Locust Projects?”

A7 “No, since Trenton Doyle Hancock uses comics as a medium, we had a comic book pop up shop. It’s part of a local shop called Radiator Comics. When this exhibition is over the space of the pop-up shop will switch to the next exhibition.

Summary

Locust Projects works. It’s highly accessible to the public, the parking situation is amazing by Miami standards, and to top it off the staff is incredible. From the outside Locust Projects doesn’t look like much, its outside appearance is not reflective of the value inside. When you walk inside, you’re greeted by friendly staff and a large open room which is essential a work of art itself since it’s completely designed by the exhibited artist. This struck me as brilliant when showcasing just one artist because it leaves all of the guest’s focus on that artist and their work.

Unfortunately, there was only one staff member available for me to speak to. Nonetheless, from that one conversation, Locust Projects’ value in their philanthropic initiatives was undeniable. Locust Projects is proud to promote art and provide education through a plethora of programs and open public access. I had no idea ventures such as Locust Projects existed, I’m thankful for their incredible service to the community and the amazing experience.

References

  1. https://www.ringling.org/events/trenton-doyle-hancock-emit-what-bringback-brought
  2. http://www.locustprojects.org/programs/

ASC See Miami: Wynwood Walls

By Ruth Shmueli on 12.10.2019

Entrance to Wynwood Walls

Student Bio

My name is Ruth Shmueli and I am a Junior studying International Business and Management at Florida International University. My goal is to help companies expand and grow in international markets. I love exploring different cultures through food, art and interacting with people. I am passionate about traveling, photography, and culinary arts. Photography is one of the main ways that I express myself creatively and I want to make it possible for other people to view the world from a new perspective through my photography. I believe that the world is not black and white and being able to expose the grey areas in my photography is my mission.

Geography

Wynwood Walls is located in 2520 NW 2nd Ave, Miami, FL 33127 in the vibrant Wynwood neighborhood. Wynwood Walls is comprised of several buildings which makes up the prominent mural and sculpture park in Miami. The property also contains two restaurants, Joey’s and Wynwood Kitchen and Bar. It also houses two galleries, The Peter Tunney Experience near the entrance of the walls and GGA Gallery placed at the end of the walls. Originally the Wynwood area was not the art hub that it is today, but with the inception of Wynwood Walls, the area has grown exponentially. There has been an increase in tourism which resulted in an increase in development of this Miami neighborhood.

History

Wynwood wasn’t always the art hub that it is today, it once was a district riddled with windowless warehouse. However, the late Tony Goldman saw this as an opportunity to revitalize the neighborhood. In 2009 Tony Goldman created Wynwood Walls which currently features six different buildings between 25th and 26th street. Back in NYC, Goldman was a real estate developer who revitalized SoHo and the NY Financial District. He then moved his efforts over to Miami where he revamped South Beach and then focused his efforts on reinventing a desolate warehouse neighborhood that no one knew about and turned it into the Wynwood that we know and love today. However, modern critics bring up the issue of the role of gentrification in the creation of Wynwood.

Tony Goldman was known for his eye for art and his appreciation of graffiti artists. Goldman felt that graffiti and street artists were underappreciated for their craft and he decided to give them a platform where they could express themselves. He created Goldman properties who own Wynwood Walls and   continue to develop the neighborhood. After interviewing the Goldman Global Arts Project Manager of Curation, Troy Kelly, I discovered that the reason why Mr. Goldman took such a liking to Wynwood was because it reminded him of NYC’s SoHo neighborhood. His vision was to make Wynwood into the SoHo of Miami. Miami is prominently known for its “upper-eastside”, South Beach, However, Goldman saw that Miami was lacking a “lower-eastside”  which would be hip and attractive to younger crowds and thus, Wynwood was created.

Over the years Tony Goldman worked with prominent street artists from around the globe in the curation of the walls. A notable artist, Jeffery Deitch, Co-Curated the first walls in 2009 which turned out to be a wild success! He is now the Director of the MOCA Museum in Los Angeles, but his mark was forever made in Miami’s culture. As Wynwood walls became more successful many business owners and restaurateurs saw the vison and opportunity and moved their business to Wynwood. This expanded the neighborhood further and has attracted millions of tourists over the years. In 2012, however, Tony Goldman sadly passed and the operations and development of Wynwood Walls was left to his daughter, Jessica Goldman. In 2015, Jessica Goldman founded Goldman Global Arts whose purpose is the curation of the murals. Wynwood walls is now known as the heart of Wynwood and the inspiration for future visionaries like Tony Goldman.

Interview Conducted by Ruth Shmueli with Goldman Global Arts Project Manger of Curation, Troy Kelly.

Flashback Miami

Wynwood Walls

New York Times

Mission

Wynwood walls does not explicitly have a mission statement. However, Goldman Global Art, the company that oversees the curation and maintenance of the walls, has a mission statement that perfectly encompasses Wynwood Walls purpose. “We use art to become a leading creative force offering the best products, services and experiences. We inspire human interaction and start conversations by providing platforms for messages that align with our core values.” This is exactly what the walls has started, conversations that were otherwise not had about street art as an art form. Historically street art and graffiti was always seen as something deviant that was punishable with jail time. However, by instigating these conversation, Wynwood walls has created a platform for street artists to express themselves without the repercussions that are normally linked with street art. However, there is a big distinction that needs to be made. Graffiti tags are not the same as street art.
They also fulfilled their mission by creating an environment that inspire social interactions with one another. With the creation of the restaurants and the mural and sculpture park at Wynwood Walls there is now a place where people can congregate and socialize.

Goldman Global Arts

Accessibility

Wynwood walls was created with accessibility in mind. It has an open-air concept which means that the gate is open, and anyone can enter within their hours of operation. On Monday- Thursday they are open from 10:30am- 11:30pm, while on Friday and Saturday they are open from 10:30am-12:00am and on Sunday they are open from 10:30am-8:00pm. Their hours of operation give ample time for visitors to make their way through Wynwood Walls.

The best part about Wynwood Walls is that it is free to the public. The galleries on the property, the Peter Tunney Experience and GGA Gallery, are also open and free to the public. Additionally, it was designed in a way that would make it easy for the elderly and for families to walk through without any problems. This is very important since it makes the art accessible to people from every age group.

However, a prominent struggle in Wynwood is parking. To address this, Goldman Properties has developed a parking garage for visitors to feel safe and comfortable and to address the shortage of parking. Additionally, there is metered street parking throughout Wynwood, were you can use Pay-by-phone to pay for parking. The issue with both of these though, is the cost. The street parking is $3.25 an hour while the parking garage is free for the first hour then, $3.00 for every 30 minutes. The cost of parking can limit the accessibility to many people.

Collection

The concept behind Wynwood Walls is that every year during Miami Art Week, street artists from around the world are commissioned to paint/spray-paint murals on the walls. Therefore, there is no permanent collection. There are however, works of art that are more established than others. Some include the work of Martin Whatson and Felipe Pantone. Additionally, because the work is always changing, it can take time for management to update the current artists on the website. At the moment, many of the artists that were seen during Miami Art Week 2019 are not currently present on the website.

The walls that stood out the most were ones painted by Filipe Pantone and Martin Watson. The image to the right depicts the wall painted by Filipe Pantone. He utilized the contrast between black and white to complement the colors of the rainbow. Felipe is an Argentinian- Spanish artists who started his career in graffiti at the age of 12. He started doing graffiti in its traditional form, but he then changed his style when he gained inspiration from kinetic and op art. He now exhibits his work all around the world.

The second mural that really appealed to me was Martin Whatson’s, “Behind the Wall”. He created this piece of work during the Art Basel 2015 and it has stayed there ever since.  The Norwegian artists is known for his abstract illusions that features graffiti art and black and white stencil work. Another amazing thing about Martin Whatson’s work, is that his artwork is easily identifiable through his distinct style. His work has also been featured around the globe.

Martin Whatson

Felipe Pantone

Exhibitions

Wynwood walls does not necessarily have the conventional museum format with collections and exhibitions, however every year they replace the walls with new art done by artists from around the world. The image above shows the art of graffiti artist Tats Cru. Wilfred “Bio” Feliciano was born in NYC in 1966 and first emerged as a graffiti artist during the early eighties when there was a large movement of graffiti art. He is well known for the way he portrays characters through graffiti and the depth he creates.

Tats Cru

Special Programs

This year Wynwood walls celebrated their 10 year anniversary and as expected there were many events. However, every year Wynwood walls hosts a series of events throughout Miami Art Week that are free and open to the public. This week is always during the first week of December, however the dates vary every year. This year it took place from Dec 3rd through December 9th. In Anticipation of Art Basel and Miami Art Week, November 24th through December 2nd were designated days that hosted a live, public viewing of artists painting/spray-painting the walls. This is a great experience because it allows people to see the creative process to make the artwork they experience.

Wynwood Walls Miami Art Week Events

Throughout the year there are no public events available, however there are tours that you can book. The Official Tour is one hour long and is $20.00, while there is also a University and Education Tour available for students that costs $10. The tours are a quintessential part of going to Wynwood Walls because they provide you with the history of the walls and information about the artists currently displayed.

Wynwood Walls Official Tours

There are also many events that take place in the surrounding area. Every year, there is a very large Halloween party in Wynwood called Hallowyn that is free and open to the public. The streets of Wynwood are completely closed off and people roam the streets with wild and creative costumes. This is very reflective of Wynwood’s overall environment. Wild and Free. Additionally, about two blocks away there is an area called Wynwood marketplace which features food trucks, street vendors, a bar and a venue. This area is very well known for its laid-back environment during the day and night life during the evening. There are also many events hosted there every week, so it is advised to always stay up to date with the venue since most of the events are free.

Visitor

During my time at Wynwood Walls I conducted an interview with a visitor from Austin. She was a curator for the fine art consulting firm, Eaton Fine Arts. She was specifically in Miami for Art Basel and came to visit Wynwood to scout for muralists and local artists to commission their work for hotels. She had a background in art history and photography from the University of Texas where she gained all of her knowledge about the art world. When asked what her thoughts were about the sustainability of Wynwood she responded “ My main concern is that with further development, Wynwood Walls will start to become forgotten and will eventually be demolished. This exact scenario happened in Austin, were graffiti parks were demolished when the areas around it started to get overdeveloped.” Hearing her perspective made me realize that Wynwood may not be as sustainable as we may think.

Portrait

I spoke with the Project Manager of the Curation of Wynwood Walls, Troy Kelly. Through his position he provides all of the material and sets up all of the logistics for the artists to create their work on Wynwood Walls. The curation process involves creating a theme or “brand” for the upcoming renewal of the walls. Then once this has been done, Jessica Goldman gives her final approval of artists that will feature their work in the upcoming Miami Art Week. I asked him about the sustainability of Wynwood as a whole and he explained that Goldman Properties works with small business and entrepreneurs to open their business in the area surrounding the walls to further develop the neighborhood. Additionally, there are private contractors and developers building office building and apartment buildings, making Wynwood a place to live, work and play. Additionally Troy expanded that social media has had a huge influence on the growth and publicity of Wynwood Walls.

Summary

As a whole, I think Wynwood is an incredible place to take friends and family of all ages. It is very accessible to the public and affordable. Additionally, most events that happen within the Wynwood area are free and accessible to the public. A major problem for the youth of Miami is that there is not much to do in if you are under the age of 21. Wynwood addresses the age group of 18-20 year old through their events and public areas within Wynwood that are open to people who are underage. However, what I see as the major deterrents of Wynwood are the issues with parking and the pricing of restaurants. Wynwood’s theme is to be a “lower-eastside” sort of neighborhood that is more affordable than its “upper-eastside” counterpart. However, as Wynwood has grown, restaurateurs have taken advantage of the immense number of tourists visiting Wynwood and have inflated their prices. Additionally, more events within Wynwood Walls would be beneficial to bringing in the locals who have already seen the art. This would create a higher turnover of visitors and retain more local involvement into Wynwood Walls. Furthermore, it would be advantageous if the website was updated every year after the walls have been repainted by artists for Art Basel. The website currently shows only half of current artists, while others were the original artists and no longer have any work on display. Overall as an institution, I think that Wynwood walls is a must see to truly understand the street art scene and the culture of Miami.


*All images were taken by Ruth Shmueli. All information was either opinion based or based on facts that were cited accordingly. Any images used for historical purposes were cited accordingly.