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DWNTWN Art Days: Inspiring Exhibits, Disappointing Attendance

Artist Misael Soto's giant picnic blanket was part of DWNTWN Art Days last weekend.
Artist Misael Soto's giant picnic blanket was part of DWNTWN Art Days last weekend.
via @misaelsoto, Instagram

How does an annual arts festival define success? Clicks to a website? Seasonal subscriptions? The quality of the events produced? Attendance at these events?

If you were judging the first annual DWNTWN Art Days solely by the amount of people in attendance, particularly in relation to how hard the event was promoted, it's hard to call this inauguration anything less than under-performing. The coordination and execution of 50 events in two days, at several locations within a 20-block radius, was a commendable venture. But with so few Miamians taking part, we had to wonder whether the

Downtown Development Authority (DDA) had wasted its time and resources.


First, let us say this: The DDA, through its Cultural Advisory Group, is committed to the artistic renaissance of downtown Miami. DWNTWN Art Days should get respect for both its concept and effort. Bringing together every cultural institution to promote the area is indeed an achievement.

It's just a shame so few got to see it.

The main problem, it seemed, was scheduling. Most DWNTWN Art Days events took place between noon and 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, giving most nine-to-fivers just a few hours to take part in the festivities. And on Saturday, the event coincided with Wynwood's Second Saturday Art Walk, a long-standing, habitual gathering for the same artsy types DWNTWN Art Days hoped to lure to its events.

Besides a handful of stay-at-home parents, a few tourists, those who work at night, and the unemployed, who can realistically attend any event ending at 5 p.m. on a weekday? Furthermore, out of all the Saturdays in a month, why compete with Second Saturdays in neighboring Wynwood?

We asked the DDA about this, and received this statement:

"The dates were chosen because this is what worked best for the participating organizations. We also felt it was the perfect timing to kick off the season. We have no interest in competing with Art Walk, and in fact think it offers the perfect synergy. We hope people explore all there is to do this weekend by way of arts and culture. But since it's the first year in existence, we are certainly welcoming feedback to adapt and evolve."

 

Wynwood's streets were packed full Saturday night; by comparison, DWNTWN Art Days looked like a ghost town during what should have been its peak hours. There were a few well-attended events, particularly those held at night. The Friday night parties were crowded; the performance at The Corner, presented by the Southernmost Situations, and the McCormack Place Opening Party, hosted by Life Is Art, provided a packed and joyous balance of fine art, glitz, mingling and theater of the absurd. Still, we'd hoped for more of a scene -- a synergy surrounding the exhibits and events taking place -- but there was just not that much going on.

It probably didn't help that September, though it may be the appropriate month to celebrate the kick-off of a cultural season, is still a terribly hot time to bounce around downtown. Maybe DWNTWN Art Days would be better received in the winter. Maybe it's possible to keep the institutions open at night. Maybe, as Critical Miami pointed out, a more web-friendly listing of events would've inspired more people to take to the streets. Who knows.

Those who did make it out to DWNTWN Art Days did get to see some exciting displays. By commissioning local artists like Patti Hernandez, Misael Soto, Alan Gutierrez and Jillian Mayer, the DDA highlighted some of Miami's greatest artistic talents -- and illustrated a commitment to local artists, helping to keep them from migrating elsewhere. The Historic Olympia Theater Tour at the Gusman Center stood out as an interactive behind-the-scenes treat. And Beached Miami's DWNTWN Art Days bike tour looked fun.

We just wish more people had the chance to take it all in.

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