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Five Crazy Art Facts You Never Knew About Miami's History

Miami's got a lot of unique history. But in addition to the stuff everyone knows -- the Art Deco boom, Versace's murder, the causeway zombie -- there are lots of equally fascinating occurrences that almost no one is aware of.

The recently launched, Indiegogo-funded Mapping Arts Project is all about bringing awareness to this collective history by tracking where artists have lived and worked. Cultist spoke to artist, archaeologist, and project founder Lara Stein Pardo on some of the more obscure and offbeat facts about Miami's art antiquity. Top five after the jump.

See also: Coconut Grove Playhouse: The Politics Are in Place, But The Money's Still Missing

5. Dramatist, writer, and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston once lived on a boat near the MacArthur Causeway.

Hurston is more associated with Fort Pierce, Florida, where she lived out the last part of her life. But the Their Eyes Were Watching God author had a Miami connection, too. "She wrote a letter describing how she would watch the sunset every night and walk over to what is now South Pointe Park and get a coconut and talk to people. I thought that was kind of amazing," Stein Pardo says.

4. Playwright Tennessee Williams once staged A Streetcar Named Desire at the Coconut Grove Playhouse.

Kinda sad that it's sitting empty, right? The property is still in limbo, awaiting funding for renovation.

 

3. Poet Robert Frost owned a home in South Dade dubbed Pencil Pines.

According to Stein Pardo, he wrote a poem by the same name, inspired by the tall pines that stood on his property. How poetic.

Five Crazy Art Facts You Never Knew About Miami's History
MappingArtsProject.com

2. Vaudeville star Sophie Tucker celebrated her 50th jubilee at the Beachcomber Hotel.

Fifty years on stage is pretty impressive, and Tucker even wrote a love letter for the occasion. It was printed on the programs, and it read, "Friends, Believe me when I say in my 50 years in show business I've received far more pleasure from entertaining you than you could possibly have had from seeing and listening to me. Love, Sophie Tucker."

1. Langston Hughes once read his poetry at a funeral home in Overtown.

"I'm pretty sure that he performed at what was a funeral home -- Pharr's Funeral Home," Stein Pardo explains. "He was writing letters to friends about how he was in Miami doing readings. In his autobiography he says that he performed at a funeral parlor because there was nowhere else to read his work because of segregation." When Stein Pardo began researching the venue, a historian friend directed her to Pharr's.

The overall website, MappingArtsProject.org, highlights Miami's cultural arts history from the '20s through the '50s in a colorful, Google Maps-esque fashion.

The project originally came about when Stein Pardo was doing research as part of her graduate work, and began to discover some fascinating facts about Miami and its former residents.

"I thought more people should know these places that I was finding -- and wouldn't it be great to share that information?"

And the 305 is just the beginning. Next up, the Mapping project will be moving on to other cities, she says. Look out, world -- art is on the way.

Follow Cultist on Facebook and Twitter @CultistMiami.


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