After selling its landmark building for $88 million in 2015, ArtCenter/South Florida recently announced the appointment of a new president and CEO, Dennis Scholl, the former vice president of arts for the Knight Foundation. With an extensive background in the local art scene as an executive and entrepreneur, Scholl was brought in to help guide one of the last bastions of art in Miami Beach as it transitions to a new location and begins to invest in programming and infrastructure from the funds gained from the sale.
“We are fortunate to have significant resources from the sale of our building. We want to use those resources now to elevate and support the artistic practice in this community the best way we can,” he says.
When Scholl assumes the role September 1, he’ll be met with a series of challenges, chiefly finding a new home to house the artists’ studios, exhibition hall, and performance spaces. Since the sale of the old property, located on the corner of Lincoln Road and Meridian Avenue, the institution moved to a smaller space to keep its artists in the studio rather than fully shutter its operations. It's still unclear whether the new home will be in Miami Beach or on the mainland, but either way, recapturing the historical significance of the original building will be tough.
When ArtCenter first opened, the local art scene was virtually nonexistent. In 1984, ArtCenter took over the old Burdines building on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach as part of the city’s attempt to use artists to reinvigorate the area. As Lincoln Road slowly morphed into an outdoor shopping mall, ArtCenter’s mission was complete, and the need for arts-led gentrification ceased. Scholl is looking to exert the same influence on Miami-Dade County at large.
“It’s been exciting to see the role ArtCenter has played as a catalyst for Lincoln Road. But ArtCenter’s impact goes far beyond Miami Beach,” he explains. “We have a residency in downtown right now, and we have alums living and working and creating all over Miami and the country. In the future, we hope to expand that impact on our artists here, throughout our community.”
In the past several years, Miami Beach’s institutional culture has waned: The Bass shuttered for renovations that were delayed for more than a year, and ArtCenter moved to a temporary space. Despite the seasonal crowds that visit the barrier island for Art Basel, there remains a dearth of local culture on the Beach beyond the first week in December. But Scholl is quick to remind us that it was the local art scene — the one ArtCenter helped form in the '80s and '90s — that attracted the international art market in the first place.
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“Art Basel came here 15 years ago, but it wouldn’t have stayed if there wasn’t a community here on the ground producing great work every single day,” he says. “We want to make sure our artists have a place where they can create, come to learn from each other and from visual arts leaders, a place that is rooted in this community. We want to empower and support our working artists so they are in the mix for national and international recognition.”
That community is in desperate need of support, whether it's on the Beach or the mainland. ArtCenter’s new location might take it west of the bay, but what is certain is the special magic that made South Beach a destination city would not be as vibrant without ArtCenter and the artists it supports.
As a local veteran of the art world, Scholl witnessed the transformative power ArtCenter exerted over South Beach. Perhaps now it’s time for other Miami neighborhoods to experience the same jolt.
ArtCenter South Florida. 924 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach; 305-674-8278; artcentersf.org.