Miami Resolutions 2015: The Arts Community

We asked a bunch of interesting locals for their 2015 resolutions for Miami. Over the next week, we’ll share what they said in a few groups. Today we’re starting with a slice of the art community. How can we make Miami a creative, one-of-a-kind place for the arts this year?

Photo courtesy Beth Boone

Beth Boone – Miami Light Project

Since 1998, Beth Boone has been Artistic & Executive Director at Miami Light Project, a nonprofit focused on dance, music and theater, and widely recognized as one of the most innovative South Florida organizations commissioning and presenting local performing artists’ work. They’re in the midst of their 25th anniversary season.

What’s your resolution for Miami in 2015?
Mine mirrors my personal resolution. It’s for us to slow down and think things through better.

While it’s exciting to see things catch fire, you do think 10 years down the line, will this be like Manhattan and no one can afford to live here? I remember this push of development before the bottom fell out. That coupled with global warming makes a person think twice. That’s the reason I have this impulse to slow down. In October I celebrated my 20th anniversary as a human being in Miami. You have a longer view when you’ve been around for a while.

It seems like there’s an incredible amount of development that happens behind closed doors, for a Sunshine state. I have this sense that in our town big decisions get made, that impact the quality of life for all of us, by very few people who represent a small part of the community. And [the rest of us] can only react. Truthfully I should have a Miami PR job. I love this place and I give the best tours. I don’t intend to sound negative. It’s more like a parent: you worry about your kid and the future for your kid.

We’re in our 25th anniversary year. We decided years ago it was clear we needed to create programs with and for our longtime residents and nearby community. Who the hell are we if we’re not having a real, authentic relationship with people who’ve lived in and around Wynwood for decades? That’s been a conscious decision as an organization: programs in the schools, programs with community artists. I think that in those very direct, small and subtle ways that we can have a monumental impact on our city. It’s the little stuff, like raising a human being. The dinners at the family table. That’s what makes the difference.


Photo courtesy Christina Frigo
Photo courtesy Christina Frigo

P Scott Cunningham – O, Miami

In 2011, P Scott Cunningham and his team launched the first O, Miami Poetry Festival, a month-long event with the ambitious goal of having every person in greater Miami encounter a poem during April. The fifth festival starts this April. The team also launched a local book imprint, Jai-Alai Books, late last year.

What’s your 2015 resolution?
I feel like if you ask me every year I’ll say the same thing: I want a comprehensive transit plan.

The problem you run into when you don’t have public transit that works is you get increased segregation of people. A lot of the time that falls along cultural lines. And that’s bad for art. It’s bad for people. You’re not going to get real neighborhoods when everyone’s driving; you’re going to get developments. You can call them neighborhoods, but that’s not happening organically.

Specifically for writers, if you look at the history of literature, it’s hard to find a great writer who’s not part of a larger community. One of the thing that builds that is serendipitous interaction. That doesn’t happen if you don’t have pedestrian culture and public transit to facilitate that. It makes community building here in the arts a lot more difficult. It makes recruiting people who are interested in the arts to Miami more difficult. It’s a huge negative for people.

I think about this on an almost daily basis. Otherwise I really love Miami. There’s not a lot to complain about. This is the most glaring and systemic issue, and it would solve a lot of other problems. As much as we love to be cheerleaders for Miami and push this place forward, it feels like if we can’t get that done, there’s a cap on what we’re capable of. And that’s really frustrating.


Photo courtesy of Chris Oh

Chris Oh

Chris Oh is a curator and artist with a long history in art and placemaking. In 2007 he helped launch Primary Flight, the first curated street mural project that helped start Wynwood’s explosive growth. He cofounded Primary Projects, a multidisciplinary art space, which began in the Design District and now lives downtown.

What’s your 2015 resolution for Miami?
I ‘d like to see progression to a viable art community.

The gentrification of what was supposed to be an art district created a un-unified migration of artists.  I see a glimmer of hope in Little River, but cheap studio spaces aren’t the only thing that Miami needs to create a real market or platform for artists and creatives. We need artistic infrastructure, such as a credible MFA program. We need more philanthropy, which is hard to create in a city where leased exotic cars, rented luxury condos and popping overpriced bottles of champagne and vodka with adorned with sparklers brought out by scantily dressed bottle service waitresses are a measure of wealth and societal stature.

We need to stop using artists and public art as a tool to monetize these new “districts” du jour.  We need credible institutions that don’t whore themselves out for a couple of bucks and a mediocre-at-best Latin art collection. We need to create a real art market in Miami. One where the talent doesn’t leave for the greener pastures of NY and LA. What I’d like to see in 2015 is the creation of a solid foundation. A strong foundation that we can build on. A foundation built on the premise of nurturing the art community and not just using it as a real estate gimmick. Miami and art shouldn’t be synonymous with just another stop on jet-setters’ annual calendar for a few days in December.  But, first things first: we need to lay a solid foundation before we can build anything.


Photo courtesy Harvey Zipkin

Marte Siebenhar – Bakehouse Art Complex

In a city prone to fluctuating real estate, the Bakehouse Art Complex aims to provide a permanently affordable home for artists. They own their building, and host studios for dozens of local and international artists. Their latest project, a series of one-week gallery shows called Swenson Shots, opens tonight.

What’s your 2015 resolution for Miami?
I’d love to see people not just going to events but actually engaging in the practice of art, or with people who make art. Making art a habit—a weekly, monthly, regular practice. One of my resolutions is to put my money where my mouth is and do something artistic every week.

What I’m hoping is that people go out and check out arts and culture and not just for events but make it a part of their lives. Arts are the only way I know of, other than something religious or spiritual, where you’re really connecting with other people around the creation of something nonverbally or aesthetically. We in this sector haven’t done enough yet to welcome people and let them know they can attend our event, but also invite them to participate. It’s not always intuitive. You go to the ballet or you go to the museum, but it’s not always clear that there are other pathways to get involved.

When you do things every day, you assume everyone else gets it. We need to get better at talking to people who aren’t already bought in, finding people outside our immediate family and letting them know you exist and that they can be a part of making it. Funders and a lot of people look at numbers. That’s something to say there are more people participating, something is happening. But having studied music professionally and done artist training myself, I think it’s not only about a transaction. If you’re really successful people become your advocates and missionaries. They feel so compelled by it that they share it themselves, not because they’re trying to raise money or sell an event but because they love it. How do we make that an everyday thing?

kareemKareem Tabsch – O Cinema

In 2011, Kareem Tabsch and Vivian Marthell opened the first O Cinema theater in Wynwood, with the goal of bringing first-run independent films to Miami. Now they operate three theaters in Wynwood, Miami Shores and Miami Beach. The Imitation Game opens in Miami Beach this weekend.

What’s your 2015 resolution for Miami?
I’m excited for more collaboration between people who want to make Miami a better place to live, who want to make it better for locals while embracing our quirky, crazy characteristics.

Miami’s a very young city. As much as we hear people complain, nobody takes into account that Miami, as we know it, didn’t come into its own until after 1950. We’re in our teenage years, but we’re starting to bring more adult things. It still has this kind of reputation it has to carry around, as a party city, as a crazy, ridiculous place, but I’m excited that there seems to be an embracing of that, while also an elevation of the city. My biggest concern is that in people’s desire for it to be New York, or LA, or whatever the hell people want it to be, that it stops being Miami. I’m glad to see there’s so many local things still going on, while at the same time there are arts organizations on the same world stage as other cities.

People talk about millennials, but everyone wants to live in strong cities that have diversity and strong arts — particularly film which is such an affordable art form; you can go to the movies once a week. That makes Miami a more attractive and better place to live. Five years ago, Miami was only getting about 40 percent of the films that were coming out in other big cities. Now almost everything makes its way down here.