No Wham! No Bam! Thank You, MAM

”Maybe it's more news than the paper can digest"

No Wham! No Bam! Thank You, MAM
Filed under: Culture

Local politicos sighed with relief this past week as years of delays, cost overruns, and questionable judgment calls came to an end with the raising of the curtain at the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts, north of downtown.

While the $461 million center has stirred up all kinds of drama in recent years, another skyline-altering arts project has waited in the wings, quietly plotting its $208 million course. The Miami Art Museum's planned new home in Bicentennial Park will require $100 million in public funds and will likely redefine Miami's place in the cultural pantheon.

Oddly it has attracted little attention.

The recent selection of Swiss firm Herzog and de Meuron as the museum's architects garnered eleven sentences in the Herald's briefs section. MAM director Terence Riley admits he has been surprised by the minimal coverage. Perhaps it's the result of a recent glut in arts-related stories. "Maybe it's more news than the paper can digest," he said.

Although Miami's paper of record has poured lakes of ink over the performing arts center, its editorial page has mentioned plans for the new, 125,000-square-foot MAM a pathetic four times in the past five years, expressing an opinion — uniformly supportive — only twice.

Riley understands the disparity, given that MAM has yet to break ground. He, too, has been impressed by PAC's computer-controlled acoustics and its "wonderfully democratic feel."

Some have questioned whether that democratic feel will carry over to MAM's new building. Although the September 14 meeting at which MAM's board of trustees unanimously adopted Riley's architect recommendation was open to the public, little else about the process appeared so. Jean-François Lejeune, a University of Miami architecture professor, decried the lack of an open competition and a chance for public input along the way.

Riley responded by saying that such competitions have the potential to be "disastrous" and that there's plenty of time for citizens to comment before MAM is slated to open in late 2010.

Now Riley says he plans to exhibit some of the MAM architects' past work and to speak throughout the community about the plans. "Any group that is interested in this, I am more than willing to speak with them." However, Riley says, major issues such as site plans and size are set in the city's master plan. "This isn't going to be American Idol," he comments. Rob Jordan


High Over Miami
Filed under: Flotsam

The most nerve-racking aspect of learning the art of trapeze flying is not inching up a 23-rung ladder that wobbles at every juncture.

Nor is it perching precariously 25 feet above the green grass of Bayfront Park on a ledge the size of a bookshelf. Nope, that actually affords quite a vista, and knowing the newly opened school you're attending is a permanent and solid structure imparts a certain sense of safety. And though wriggling your toes over the edge of said shelf while leaning into thin air to connect with the trapeze bar is gut-wrenching, it is kind of cool.

Indeed the banter that wafts from Flying Trapeze School owner Marcus Gaffney's mouth as he guides you undoubtedly plays a large part in slowing your racing heart.

"I'm going to talk to you the whole time," he coos in a strong Irish accent, "so just listen to my voice." Even the leap of faith from the platform is more adrenaline-pumping than scary.

Fear sets in when your body is strung out like a Twizzler and you hear the soothing voice tell you to let go of the bar, grab your knees, and dismount via a twirly backflip. To most adults, the idea of cavorting in the manner of a lithe Russian gymnast is fine in theory, but actually doing it is, well, wow.

But like everything else about this sport, you'd be surprised at just how possible it really is. And for ten bucks (or forty for a two-hour lesson) it's well worth the moola. Joanne Green


C'mon, Ladies
Filed under: Culture

Take a neglected building in a dubious neighborhood, add 60 swanky designers, and sprinkle a bit of je ne sais quoi. And what was once a run-down meeting place for ladies who lunch becomes a spectacular show home. Or at least that's what the folks at Casa Décor hope to show.

Begun in Spain in 1992, Casa Décor unites interior designers, architects, and decorators who transform vacant commercial buildings into luxurious design houses. The founding duo — Javier Campos and Maria Ines Bervejillo — has produced dozens of shows in cities throughout Europe, and in 2005 their European creations were viewed by more than 140,000 visitors.

Now they are turning their savoir-faire on Miami.

The 82-year-old Miami Women's Club (1737 N. Bayshore Dr.) is the team's chosen site for the inaugural Casa Décor USA. More than 60 visionaries have agreed to help renovate and refurbish the 20,000-square-foot interior to replicate apartments, lofts, artists' studios, and lounges. The top two floors will feature a fully functioning hotel, and the 6000-square-foot exterior will house gardens, installations, and exhibits.

Scheduled to showcase its new look November 10, Casa Décor will open through December 17 to coincide with Art Basel. Organizers hope to make this an annual event, which will occupy a different venue each year.

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