For the past two years, we've supported the city's quickly evolving art scene with the MasterMind Awards, modest grants that honor the people and projects in the community that are making the biggest impact on visual arts, music, film, and beyond. This week, the submission period for the 2012 MasterMind Awards begins, with $3,000 to be doled out to three of the area's best and brightest.
Each year, the task of selecting a handful of artists from Miami's huge and ever-changing cadre of creatives becomes more difficult. But the recognition -- along with the cash -- has made a lasting impact on the winners' work, their careers in the arts, and by extension, the city itself.
Take, for example, Lucas Leyva, a mid-20s Miami native who won a
MasterMind in 2010 for the Borscht Film Festival. The showcase had
existed in some form since 2005, growing from an exhibition by a small
group of filmmakers into a diverse collection of voices reflecting the
Miami experience. With the award money, Leyva says, Borscht went global.
"We used it to submit the films [from the 2009 Borscht Film Festival]
to other festivals. They got into Cannes, Sundance, some really cool
film festivals," he says. "We wouldn't have been able to afford to
submit them without the grant, so it was cool."
The 2009 films earned the respect of the communities at Cannes and
Sundance, which served to legitimize Borscht among a wider audience.
Now, the festival has a grant from the Knight Foundation and
sponsorships from the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts
and from Miami-Dade County. But, he points out, "MasterMind was one of
the first awards we'd ever gotten. It was nice -- New Times had paid
attention to us before, so it was a great way of putting their money
where their mouth is, so to speak."
Borscht contributed to the success of another MasterMind winner, Jorge
Rubiera, a 28-year-old from Miami who earned the prize in 2011 with
short films such as Chicken Fingers and There Are Trap Doors. The award
funding helped Rubiera make Birdwatchers, a tale of ill-prepared,
ill-fated Spanish conquistadors, for the festival. It also gave him the
confidence to finish Meniscus, a feature-length film four years in the
making. "Everyone involved is working for free, and we're making this
film chunk by chunk as we raise the money... I'm excited for it to be
finished. But it's an awful way to make a film," Rubiera explains. The
fully funded Birdwatchers, on the other hand, was shot in three days,
edited in five, and screened about a week after its completion.
For Rubiera, the quick completion of the project was an affirmation of
his skills as a filmmaker. "When you have a budget for a film -- when you
can pay for costumes and transportation and food and all these things,
and you can do the hard stuff, the pre-production and planning, and you
have people you can depend on as far as your actors and your crew are
concerned -- you can make a movie." Birdwatchers is making its way
through the festival circuit, courtesy of Borscht, and Meniscus is due
out in spring 2012.
The MasterMind awarded to Roofless Records in 2011 had a similar effect,
allowing the label to produce higher-quality records. For example, the
company recently released its first record with full-color art, a
seven-inch by the Miami metal band Slashpine. "It's this great shot of
one of the guys in the band wearing a cloak and it's covering his face.
He's in the Everglades, and it's a really rich photo... a really
intense, cool original on the cover."
These days, Roofless is part record label, part show booker and
promoter. Company founder (and freelance New Times writer) Matt Preira
is at work putting together the third annual Anti-Art Becomes Art, a
show at Churchill's Pub during Art Basel week. He is also using the
remainder of the funds to turn Roofless into a "more thorough operation.
We're really ironing out the five-year-old kinks," particularly in
terms of operational costs such as show flyers.
The 2011 MasterMind Awards transported Ohio-born artist Christy Gast to a
whole new place -- literally. With her funds, she was able to begin a
residency in Tierra del Fuego, Chile. "I spent ten days in the world's
largest tract of Subantarctic forest," Gast says. "The first meeting, in
February of 2011, brought artists and scientists together with the goal
of creating a new model of artist-in-residence program." She took part
in "immersive expeditions," including an overnight bushwhacking trip
through trail-free forests to Admiralty Sound.
It was a perfect fit for Gast, an artist who has explored the cultural
histories of landscapes from the Dust Bowl to the Hoover Dam. You'll be
able to see the products of the experience at Wynwood's Gallery Diet in
March. "Through my involvement in the Ensayos residency, I have been
reading a lot of texts on environmental ethics," she says. "My upcoming
show regards the artist's studio as a site. I have been making,
remaking, and performing with some rather rascally sculptures."
And the award helped bring to fruition one of Korea-born, Chicago-bred
Susan Lee-Chun's most wide-reaching projects. "Everybody Suz-ercise!" is
a faux-fitness craze that swept the nation -- or at least the East Coast
-- with public performances in Miami and Baltimore. Funding was a
crucial part of the process, the 35-year-old says, "because of the scale
of them. The money was directly put into the production of editing
videos and paying the people who were part of the project itself" --
dancers and other fitness types who interacted with the public as
"Suz-ercisers." Says Lee-Chun: "Without receiving the funds, that
project wouldn't have happened at all."
Lee-Chun is focused on sculpture these days, with Head in the Clouds,
atop Grand Central in downtown Miami, and a new piece at David Castillo
Gallery, both on display during Art Basel. She has moved away from
temporary installations and performances, she says, because after
they're done, they're nothing but "a pure memory. Now, the way I'm
working sculpturally, I see things develop and look at it for awhile and
then move on to the next work."
The work of paper artist Jen Stark, another winner, was included in a
group show in London. Her intricate, colorful, and nature-inspired
sculptures made from hand-cut paper have continued to evolve and
inspire. You'll also find her work during Art Basel week at Pulse Art
Fair, including trippy, optical illusions such as Cosmological Constant,
a shiny, spiky rabbit hole in rainbow colors. Since winning the
MasterMind Award, Stark has shown her work in Los Angeles and New York,
and she was selected as the spotlight artist for Harvard Business
Review's September 2011 issue.
New Times is now accepting submissions for the 2012 MasterMind Awards.
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To apply, send your name; contact info, including phone number, email,
and home address; a short bio; a description of your work; and a sample
in the form of emailed images or a link to a website. Email all of the
above to firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline to submit is January 20, 2012. Finalists will be announced February 10, and winners will be announced March 8.