By Monique Jones
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Last Thursday, the Big Mango got shellacked with a savory dose of the surreal — and no, we're not talking about the Dali exhibit in the Design District. Instead, it was the Miami New Times Artopia bash that drew a crowd of hundreds for live music, quirky performances, avant-garde fashion, and the big announcement of our three MasterMind Award winners.
This year, we had the most submissions ever — a tough field of nearly 150 hopefuls from every artistic discipline that a panel of past MasterMinds winners and New Times staff winnowed down to just three $1,000 grant winners.
The MasterMinds recognize the creative mavericks who elevate the local scene with their work, and this year's pool of nine finalists included filmmakers, furniture designers, graffiti artists, and others who have made an impact on Miami's booming cultural life.
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The three winners are just as diverse a group, with top honors going to a surrealist filmmaker, a punk-rock label head who makes handcrafted records, and a hard-to-categorize performance-art collective. After the ceremony, the victors spoke with New Times about how the grants will boost Miami's arts scene and their own endeavors.
Jillian Mayer: To say Mayer's star is ascending is an understatement. This week, she's in Austin, Texas, for the South by Southwest Film Conference and Festival, where four of her short films will screen until March 17. Mayer has made her artistic mark in a 21st-century medium: viral video. Take "Jacuzzi Boys: Glazin'," a catchy music video with an unforgettable starring role by a certain piece of ladies' anatomy. In short, multiple vaginas are painted and gussied up to look like cultural icons including Homer Simpson and, using strings, made to lip-sync along with the Miami band's tune. Not shockingly, it has joined her other hits, such as "I Am Your Grandma," in getting tens of thousands of online views.
"The casting process was easy because I am blessed with beautiful, liberal, and open-minded friends," Mayer says of the video. "Most of my friends are in my work in one way or another. I am definitely way over my head in debt in the barter system."
As for what the MasterMind grant will do for the filmmaker, Mayer plays coy for now: "I will get a tattoo of the girl who got a tattoo of Drake on her forehead on my forehead."
The End/Spring Break: The Magic City's top purveyors of all things alt and edgy, Patti Hernandez, Domingo Castillo, and Kathryn Marks have staged more than 100 art happenings, lectures, poetry readings, marathon music concerts, pop-up shops, and a nearly inaccessible "Karaoke Speakeasy" this past Basel that turned VIP culture and status anxiety on its head. (If you didn't personally know Castillo, you were angrily turned away at the door.) Most impressive of all, they've accomplished the impressive feat without their own space, taking over spots around town for each show.
The mysterious cultural provocateurs won't say exactly what they'll do with their MasterMind grant, but they are bent on sharing their new-found wealth with the masses.
"We are maybe thinking of contacting 97.7 FM and hiring a DJ, getting a bounce house and a cotton candy machine, and organizing a lecture on local radio culture," Castillo says. "We are also considering maybe taking a three-day cruise with R. Kelly the R&B singer when he tours on Carnival as part of his new album release. I have the idea that it could make for a pretty epic brainstorming session."
Drugged Conscience Records: When he's not creating one-of-a-kind, hand-produced packages for his acts' records, Chris Donaldson, Miami's tireless punk goodwill ambassador, is booking talent for shows at Churchill's or performing with his band No Children.
Donaldson says he will use his MasterMind award to "revamp my website, set up a security fund for the bands I work with, and open a P.O. box for my label," before adding that, of course, he'll also put the cash toward his real passion: producing at least a few more of those artisanal records as soon as possible.