Industrious Resolutions

Miami artists share their wry hopes, sly hopes, and high hopes for the coming year

Reeling from overexposure, hyped up, played out, intoxicated by its own richness, reeking of humanity, Miami stumbles into the new year.

Although this town perpetually seems to be nursing last year's hangover, the calendar switch provides an invitation to reinvigorated inspiration. So we asked area painters and sculptors, actors and directors, writers, architects, dancers, and musicians to lay bare their immediate goals, their works in progress, and their general thoughts about the approaching year. We found they'd left little time to ponder the passing days, clean house, or even lift a glass to toast what's to come. With guarded optimism and blind faith in the power of production, they were already at work on their projects for 1994.

The ongoing economic blight causes the most visible crack in the industrious veneer that currently covers the local arts scene, a fault that assumed cavernous proportions as artists and arts professionals discussed their struggle for funding and affordable rents. A common wish was that this year more government officials and landlords would look up at midnight and finally see what time it is: the arts civilize cities, have bankable benefits, and generate good PR.

Violence, AIDS, poverty, censorship -- the familiar specters of our contemporary urban culture can be counted on to rise again with the dawn. Politically correct lip service is easy, and charitable holiday salutations are about as fresh as an after-Christmas fruitcake. But artists from all disciplines went further in describing their endeavors as a celebration of their community and as a means of finding real solutions for social strife. With personal high hopes for their own projects, many also voiced their belief in the cultural strength of our city. As evidence, they place a full plate of upcoming exhibitions, concerts, books, and film and CD releases before us.

Cheers!
Carlos Alves
Cuban-American artist known for his sculpted ceramic works and mosaic tile murals incorporating recycled pottery and Florida souvenirs.

I've been trying to buy a building in the Design District, but nothing's worked out yet, so I'm just trusting that as a sign that I should stay on Lincoln Road for another six or eight months. I think everybody that's here, all the old local people, are ready to take the Beach back. We're not giving it up. A lot of local people are like, "Wait a minute, this is our place."

I'm working on a major project now. I've been awarded a commission through Art in Public Places to do a work for the Calle Ocho station on the new Metromover Extension South. I'm going to do a big tile mural on the station building. On the south side will be a palm tree that dissects the whole building and protrudes from the top of it. It's a royal palm, the one that grows everywhere in Cuba and is a symbol of freedom. Lines from Jose Marti's poetry will be encrusted in the bark of the trunk. On the north side I'm doing a solar window, those round windows that Spanish people have in their houses. I'm going to be collecting chachkas from the merchants on Calle Ocho and make a mosaic from those within the window. There's also a gate that's 22 feet long -- I call it el port centsn de sentimiento, the gate of sentiment. It's an interesting play with the whole building. I've done private and corporate commissions, but I've never had to deal with the government before. It's such a bureaucratic process. You have to be so detailed and explain how everything is going to work.

I'm all for 1994. Last year was a great year, why not this one?
Arthur Barron
Jazz saxophone player and percussionist, owner of Rose's Bar and Lounge on South Beach

I'm looking forward to two different things. One is my life as a professional musician and one is my life as a nightclub and restaurant owner. The one that takes precedence is the professional-musician side, and I hope I'll be able to go on tour again and that I'll get signed to a major record label. That's my wish list. I've been working in the studio and playing live all over the place.

As a businessman, I hope that the season of 1994 will be better than the '93 season. It's not just the tourist killings. German film companies are also not coming and that's because Germany's in a recession and they're shooting in Morocco and other places. A combination of factors has made this season really bad, but I hope '94 will bring a little boom to South Beach. We're getting a little older crowd at Rose's, the 27-to-36 crowd. We're definitely a hangout, and we want to keep it that way. We pride ourselves in that we get discriminating listeners, and a crossover crowd of locals and hipsters.

I wish for 1994 that I could have one year without money worries. It's a sure loser, but that's my wish for the year.

Luther Campbell
Luke Records owner and 2 Live Crew member
Every year I come up with things I need to do for the next year, so I guess it would be trying to sign up some new gospel singers. I'm going to do one more solo album next year. It'll be my last album. It's going to be nasty. I'm going to let it all hang out. I've got this weird picture of a penis I'm going to put on the cover. I'm going to get butt-ass naked.

This year I would hope the government would stop bullshitting and give these people the cure for AIDS. They've got the cure already. And I hope the community here in South Florida can live more closely together than they've been living in the past year.

Juan Cejas
Director and actor, ACME Acting Company
I'm a potential lottery winner, so I've got that going for me. I think that's my strongest asset at this point.

ACME is once again looking for a space, but we're not frantically looking. The next definite production we have will be in July at the Colony Theater (we're still negotiating for the rights, so I can't say what it is). If we find a space, we'll be producing another work; if we don't, we won't. I think the best thing that's happened this year is that people have become more aware that there is a lack of venues. The number of arts organizations has grown a lot faster than the number of facilities -- so hopefully this year it will encourage various municipalities to cough up some dough to convert their dead spaces into useful spaces. Although I've become more certain that there is an audience for what we're doing, it is a limited audience. But it isn't limited to a degree that we can't survive. There is enough of an audience to consistently work a 100- or 150-seat theater.

I'm going to run with the bulls in Pamplona in July, the day before my 30th birthday. I've already got my ticket. I've been waiting 30 years to do that.

David Frankel
Screenwriter/director/producer whose first movie, Miami, is scheduled for release in spring 1994

I'm going to be editing this film, Miami, and writing my next movie for Sarah Jessica Parker.

Gerri Houlihan
Dancer/choreographer, artistic director of Houlihan & Dancers, teacher at the New World School of the Arts

I'm doing a lot of international teaching for the American Dance Festival, in conjunction with the U.S. Information Agency and the Rockefeller Foundation. In January I'm going to be teaching in Manila, in April I'm teaching in Poland, and in May I'm teaching in Estonia, which is my second trip to Estonia. International teaching is something I've been doing more and more of, and I'm really enjoying it a lot. These countries have their own traditions in terms of folk dance and ethnic dance, and they're more familiar with ballet, but they really don't know what modern dance is about. And they're very curious. We're trying to encourage them not to make dance like what the Americans are doing, but to use that information to make their own modern dance and do dance connected to their own music, traditions, and history.

Locally, I'm continuing to work with my company. We'll be at the Colony May 13 and 14. We'll be doing some old works and a brand-new piece. I'm working a lot in a collaborative way with the dancers. I have a classical background; I was trained at Juilliard, so I'm trying to go a little more into something not quite as familiar to me.

Roberto Juarez
New York/Miami-based painter affiliated with the Robert Miller Gallery in Manhattan

I've been awarded a grant from the Tamarind Institute to go to India and make prints in a print shop in New Delhi. That's the most exciting news of the year. This is also the year I'm finishing the ceiling and a terrazzo floor of a new junior high school in Brooklyn. I'm painting on aluminum for the ceiling, and the subject is a celestial calendar. The floor will be laid in April. The planning and building of the school have taken a long time. It's a big thing. There's plans for me to go to Mexico and make some glass sculpture in Monterrey. It's still up in the air, but I've done some really beautiful designs. It's not mass-produced glass. It will be art glass, handblown.

I just finished doing a painting show at Jaffe Baker Blau in Boca. I showed a series of large paintings that were about the best I've ever done. They wouldn't have been possible if I wasn't in Miami. The ocean's a big influence on me. Miami's enlightened me in a different way than New York. I like the community and the mix of people. It's very colorful.

I'm looking for a new studio in Miami. I'm on Washington Avenue now, but my lease is going up from $640 to $3000. So I can't afford that. They're trying to price the artists out of South Beach. It's becoming less artist-friendly because the bottom lines are financial and not artistic. In New York I live in a building that we bought from the city and developed. The city felt it was important to keep artists there. Miami Beach isn't interested in that. There is no real art support. Mickey Rourke is not going to support artists.

I'm cautiously optimistic about this year. Nobody is really sick that's close to me. I lost one of my best friends over the summer, and I'm sort of in aftershock. The art's in a good place, so I'm putting a lot of my emotions there.

Steve Kronen
Poet whose latest book is titled Empirical Evidence
I'm always working on new poetry, which will be a new book as soon as there are enough poems. It's tentatively called The Wide World. I've got poems coming out soon in the Paris Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, and Quarterly West. My wife and I will go to England for a trip this year if our finances work out. I've applied for an NEA and a Guggenheim.

I'm trying to be a better writer. I never make resolutions. You should just be doing it every day. My New Year's wish is that I'd like to see George Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Fidel Castro in prison. I'd like to see them pay for their crimes.

Mary Luft
Performance artist and director of Tigertail Productions
In 1994 Tigertail will be presenting a continuation of "The Brazil Series," and that means that on February 9th we're bringing a filmmaker or film critic from Brazil, and we'll be showing Brazilian pre-Cinema Novo films, and selections from the International Short Film Festival. There's a real interest in Brazil here, and in looking at a wide range of culture. Not just the pop figures, but a true example of art from Brazil.

Most of the work that I'm interested in is work that's forming the edge, and expanding a vision of culture. That's not for an audience of 1000 people. I'd like to see more things taking place here that have a depth to them and it's not just the hype.

Bernard Lynch
Photographer whose latest subjects include mummies in Guanajuato, Mexico, and Sunday tea dances on South Beach

I want to do more work with the blind. Photography is the art of the eye; it celebrates vision. I'd like to do tapes for the blind, read about a photographer, like Weegee or Ansel Adams, so a blind person knows what you're talking about when you talk about photography. Who better to talk to a blind person about seeing than someone who does it better than anyone? I think that photography and the blind is a perfect marriage. I just went to Lighthouse for the Blind -- they're involved in a new expansion program -- and I said to them, "Why not make this a vision center?" They could have a little gallery, show photography, play the tapes. I'd like to do photography and help people.

Maria Martinez Canas
Artist who works with photography
I'm in the process of working on a commission for the Miami airport. I've decided to do a piece on a glass atrium on Concourse C of American Airlines. I wanted to work with the idea of time and the element of travel, because of course that's what people go to do at the airport. They're also ideas that I've dealt with in my own work, relating to the idea of belonging and separation.

The year will bring exhibitions A there's a one-person show at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in North Carolina; I'll be part of a group show of photographers exhibiting at the Photofest in Houston; and I'm exploring the possibility of exhibiting at the art fair for new talents in Paris, Decouverte, in February. And I'm in a show at the Southeast Museum of Photography in Daytona.

I describe myself as an artist whose medium is photography because I utilize photography in a very nontraditional way. Right now I'm very interested in language. I want to work a little bit more with defining a structure of visual language in my work.

I think there's been a lot of attention given Miami in regards to the arts, and I think that's going to increase. Finally, people have started looking to Miami as a place with a lot of good art.

Rose McVeigh
Actress and artistic director of the Florida Shakespeare Festival
We're working on the most incredible project -- free Shakespeare in Bayfront Park. There's 2600 seats and we're going to be having performances every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in February. It's a first-of-its-kind event in South Florida. Every other large city in the country has a Shakespeare festival. We believe it's timely. With all the crime, and the national press focusing on the bad aspects of the city, it's time we started focusing on the good stuff - let's talk about the arts. This is a chance to give kids something to do that's drug-free. Shakespeare sounds so pretentious, but we're doing a cowboy Comedy of Errors, Tex-Mex style. It's action-packed, it's fast-moving, it's accessible to all kinds of people. I think that for us here in Coral Gables, to excite young people to come back to the theater is important. We've got to make theater more accessible so people don't have to go to New York to see it.

We're still looking for sponsors for the event. We have about half the budget, but we need more funding. My personal goal for the year is to stay alive and keep floating. We're struggling, and fundraising is going to be harder than ever this year, with all the state dollars going to crime and cutting back on the arts. So I'm worried about simply surviving. Without donations and corporate sponsorship, we're not going to make it. So I just want to hang in there.

Susan Mitchell
Poet and essayist, whose latest book of poems, Rapture, was nominated for a National Book Award; winner of a Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in 1993

HarperCollins is bringing my first book back into print. It's called The Water Inside the Water. I've got a three-book contract. Since the deadline for a book of essays is coming up, that's my project for the new year. I'll be reading at the Library of Congress and at the Academy of American Poets.

My New Year's resolutions are to resist censorship wherever it comes up, and that's often, and to practice compassion in any way that I can. These are two things that have been on my mind because of experiences I've had lately.

I was recently asked to do a reading in another state, and I was told beforehand that I couldn't read any poems with any kind of sexual content. I refused to do the reading. They asked me if I felt that would limit me as an artist. I said no, it would limit me as a human being.

Last year I was in the hospital, and there were a lot of AIDS patients on the floor. There was a young woman in the room next to mine who was dying. She was about 30. The atmosphere of not wanting to touch the patients -- it was like encountering stainless steel. Though I'm sure that wasn't the intention of the hospital staff. It made me so aware of the importance of compassion as a value that I decided that in spite of whatever fear I felt, I would make it a priority.

Gary Moore
Multimedia artist
I'm really excited about a one-man show coming up called "Hog-Tied to a Star-Spangled Ass Kickin'." It's going to be kind of autobiographical. It's the first time I'm doing work that shows where my head is at politically, spiritually, and culturally. I'm also going to be in a show at the Polk Museum in Lakeland. I'm doing an installation based on Sun Ra's music. I want it to look like a spaceship's just taken off. It's a floor piece with sunglasses, sneakers, a beer can -- that kind of thing.

I'm working on a major project -- I've been commissioned with another artist to do a sculptural installation at the Miami Arena. My contribution will be a gateway to the future, directly inspired by the Overtown community. I want to develop the idea of the future of the community; for me, the whole idea of dealing with the past is an old idea. What I'm thinking about doing is having a part of the installation that people can bring personal objects for and they'll be planted in the sculpture, in the same way that African sculpture has traditionally used power objects. They can see these things every day when they pass by, and hopefully their sons will, too. It has to do with remembering the past and preparing for the future.

I think as a cultural producer, which is often the role of the artist these days, we have to try to dilute the intention and whole flavor of this community in our work. Miami is just so hot right now, it's the city of the future. If we can get our identities together, the Cubans, the blacks, and the Anglos, and realize we're all going to be together for the next 100 years or so, it's going to be a really happening thing.

Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk
Architect and urban planner, professor at the University of Miami School of Architecture

I have lots of local projects under way through my office and through the School of Architecture. The Center for Urban and Community Design is something that kind of institutionalizes efforts we've made over the years with different municipalities. Two of those will be important to my work early in the year: a North Beach study for the City of Miami Beach and the North Beach Corporation; and a study of the east-west corridor implemented by Commissioner Ferre for the county. Those are exciting to me because my part in this and my local agenda for the year is to keep the planning and designing of our cities and regions on the public agenda.

We firmly believe that the time has come, that we are at a critical time to take a regional future in hand and really make an agenda in a planning process which envisions a wonderful future for South Florida, which certainly involves attention to good design. We see that those cities that seem to be in the best shape are cities addressing in the regional picture issues like the design of public spaces and downtown public housing within the design of the future economy. We need to do that a lot more here in South Florida than we have been. That happens through our office, as well as through the university in partnership with a lot of people. We feel this is one of the most important goals we could bring to the region, or else we're going to be left behind in the regional economy from a larger perspective.

I'm also involved on a national level with the Congress for New Urbanism, which is a group of people from many disciplines who wish to bring urban issues and the design for urban excellence in the future to both an academic agenda and a federal policy agenda. Two congresses will occur in the next year, and we'll be working to continue meeting and bringing ideas of healthy social and economic structure to our cities and regions through our design and policy.

Haydee Scull
Legendary Miami Beach figure who, with her twin sister Sahara and son Michael, are locally renowned for their dioramas of scenes from pre-Castro Cuba and South Beach

In 1994 we hope to travel to places as far off as Japan. First we have some specific commitments. In January we're going to be in an exhibition at the Art Museum at FIU. It's about folklore in different countries and we're the artists who represent the folklore of Miami. We also represent Cuban folklore of the 1950s. Our three-dimensional works show a scene from Cuba in the Fifties (a plaza, a bus, a young girl of that era, which was our first childhood), or from South Beach, which also has its own very interesting folklore A the Rollerbladers, people carrying surfboards, and celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger, who we love and who we include in one of our artworks. South Beach is like a carnival.

The other important thing is that, like always, we're going to participate in Art Deco Weekend. We're going to have an exhibition and we're going to be in the antique car parade. We've been here for 24 years, so we consider ourselves true local artists. We've also just finished a mural at Joe's Stone Crab -- all of the waiters and the regular customers appear in the mural -- and we're there, too, eating crabs.

Our dream is to have a show that would include all of the outfits that we've worn in the past. We have a huge collection of dresses and accessories that we don't wear any more, but they signify very dear moments for us. We'd like to show these along with our most popular works and offer the public typical Cuban things like guarapo, and a drink that we've been dreaming about called tutti-frutti that mixes many colors and flavors -- just like us.

Jan Sebon!
Singer and percussionist, leader of the ten-member Haitian music and dance group Koleksyon Kazak

Right now we don't have any dates set in town, but we're working in the studio to have an album next year. We're looking for shows. In Miami I think it is difficult. We play mostly festivals; there aren't so many places to play. It's not like New York. The clubs don't have a lot of money to pay.

We're going to stay in Miami, but we'd really like to travel. Last year we went to festivals in Atlanta and New Orleans and that was a great experience, so we're trying to get more festivals in the U.S. and elsewhere. I used to have a drumming group in Haiti; we'd do theater and tell poetry. We've done that several times for the Haitian community. We're working on a video project of a play we did in Creole, written by a well-known Haitian poet named Georges Castera, but right now we don't have the money to finish it.

The dream is to find a record deal with a company. I'd like to help my family with my music.

Rosita Segovia
Internationally celebrated Spanish dancer and choreographer, director of the Miami-based Ballet Espanol Rosita Segovia

There's something very important that I'm working full-speed on - that's the opera in February. I'm choreographing two pieces for the Miami Opera. One is Manuel de Falla's El amor brujo. It's the original version from 1914 that's only been performed once before. The other is de Falla's La vida breve. It's really going to be our night and I'm very concerned now because some of the dancers are coming over from Spain to begin rehearsals and we have to arrange their visas and everything.

And then I'm doing my own dance concert at the Gusman at the end of February. We'll be performing a contemporary work with Spanish dancing, called Mediterraneo, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. So we're moving ahead with the times. I'm of the opinion that one should move ahead.

Cesar Trasobares
Cuban artist and lecturer who formerly taught at Miami-Dade and was director of the Dade County Art in Public Places Program from 1985-90

My plans are to stay away from the art systems as they are right now. No galleries, no museums, no bourgeois collectors -- dedicate some time to my own head. I want time to read and work on various things.

I've already busted my behind all these years teaching and doing the public art thing and all that. I owe it to myself to spend some time in the spirit of rethinking exactly what it is that art does for society and for individuals. I'm really exploring the subject very judiciously, reading philosophy and sociology and some books that explore what an artist is. It's much too easy to go to Pearl and buy art supplies and face the blank canvas. I refuse to go to the art-supply store.

Patato Valdez
Legendary percussionist known as the "Cuban Leprechaun", featured in the "Latin Meets Jazz" series at Stephen Talkhouse

My Masterpiece album is coming out in January. That's the last thing I did, with Michel Camilo, Joe Santiago, Andy Gonzalez, Jorge Dalto, Artie Webb, Jerry Gonzalez, Steve Dario, Orlando Castillo, Moreno, Sabu.... I'll be here for a couple more weeks, then I've got to get moving. I'm going to France and Germany, some other places.

Diane Ward
Lead singer of the rock group Voidville
The band's immediate plans are that we'll be doing a CD, and that's our goal for next year. And we'll be traveling outside of South Florida. We were doing that last year but we'll be doing it even more so.

Peace on Earth, and all that.
Betty Wright
Internationally acclaimed soul singer

I've already got a new single out called "For Love Alone" and the album is titled B-Attitudes. It's on my label, Miss B, distributed by Solar Hines.

I describe this album as "songs with feeling for your heart healing." I felt there was a lot of music now that's not addressing common human emotions. I've always been known as a storyteller, and we tell stories about our lives. There's so much violence in young people's music and I understand that because violence is so prevalent in our society today. So young people are telling their state of mind and I'm telling my state of mind.

I remember when I was in the tenth grade and I read a book by Victor Frankl called Man's Search for Meaning. Ever since reading how he survived Auschwitz, I've learned to survive using Logo therapy. By picturing myself away, at a nice lake or whatever, I almost believe I'm somewhere else. I'm telling you, it works. That's the source of my survival A God and that give me strength of mind. Kids today need to read more and read stories about people who've accomplished things. No matter if it's about a plumber, it should be an accomplished plumber. Read about someone who did something good.

I think whatever you do, just be great at it and don't worry about failure. Maybe God has something better planned for you than you think.

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