History is not etched in stone. The events of the past are subject to interpretation by the minds of the present, and museums often create and designate historical artifacts and truths. New York City-based Titus Kaphar is an artist interested in exploring the relationship among truth, history, and art objects in "The Vesper Project," his latest show at the University of Miami's Lowe Art Museum (1301 Stanford Dr., Coral Gables). The exhibit features remnants of the Connecticut home of a fictitious, biracial 19th-century New England family, who were able to "pass" as Caucasian despite their mixed heritage. The artist tells the story through the character Benjamin Vesper, a mentally troubled man who reaches out to the artist for help in reconstructing his family's history. One of Kaphar's most ambitious projects to date, the exhibit features period architecture, gilt frames, old wardrobes, photographs, and other objects and is meant to disrupt the viewer's sense of reality — compressing time and eliding personal histories. The project delves into issues of identity to expose the often-pernicious whitewashing that Western institutions employ in the process of curating artifacts, and thus shaping perceptions of established historical facts. "The Vespers Project" is on view this Thursday through December 23. Admission costs $12.50 for adults and $8 for seniors and students; children under 12, museum members, U.S. military personnel, and UM students, faculty, and staff get in free. Call 305-284-3535 or visit lowemuseum.org.
Now in its fifth year, DWNTWN Art Days — the Miami Downtown Development Authority's three-day festival celebrating all things creative — marks the official kickoff of the city's cultural season. The coming months will be packed with gallery openings, theatrical performances, book readings, and dance shows, and to get you ready, the DDA has filled this weekend with more than 70 events at 20-plus venues across downtown Miami. The Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation will open its latest exhibit, "Liquid Sensibilities," to coincide with the fest. MindWareHouse's Recycled Art Fair, taking place Friday, offers a sampling of masterpieces crafted from cast-off materials. Miami Dade College will launch its new venue, the Live Arts Lab (300 NE Second Ave., Miami), with a Friday-night reception. And that's just the first day. Saturday promises ArtsLaunch at the Adrienne Arsht Center (1400 Biscayne Blvd., Miami), a minifestival with workshops led by Miami City Ballet and Florida Grand Opera, behind-the-scenes tours of the venue, and a cosplay contest. And Sunday's Drift Card Project will use the Miami Science Barge to disperse participants' handcrafted works of art into the ocean, helping scientists track how ocean currents move other debris around the bay. Visit dwntwnartdays.com.
It was an inevitability that America's obsession with pumpkin beverages would soon intersect with the craft beer world; thus, the pumpkin beer was born. Though ridicule for such brews now appears in the form of memes, you consider yourself an elite drinker who has an appreciation for exquisite flavors. Screw the naysayers! They don't have the gourds to be like you. Whether the taste aims to resemble pumpkin or pumpkin pie, there are hundreds of these drinks to choose from nowadays. One of them is Pumpkinhead, a seasonal wheat ale that's brewed by Maine's Shipyard Brewing Company and described by one Beeradvocate.com user as "potent as hell" thanks to the nutmeg and cinnamon. This beer, and others like it, will be featured at the Shipyard Pumpkin Party at the Riverside Market (608 SW 12th Ave., Fort Lauderdale) this Friday from 6 to 10 p.m. Besides offering a vast collection of bottled pumpkin beers, the party will serve three Shipyard beers on tap — including Pumpkinhead, Smashed Pumpkin ale, and Blood Orange Belgian-style ale — for $3 to $5 each. Call 954-358-8333.
Improv U doesn't offer a four-year degree, but it indubitably provides more laughs during its classes and performances than a course at any university. The nonprofit improv collective is composed of some of the tri-county area's best enactors of the fine art of making shit up on the spot and making it sound as shapely as (or better than) an SNL script fine-tuned over a week of rehearsals. Improv fans can matriculate at one of the group's drop-in classes in Delray or spectate at its frequent performances in Boca, but Improv U is doing one better this weekend, launching the inaugural Palm Beach Improv Festival this Thursday through Sunday. It's like a convention, class, and comedy show rolled into one, featuring more than 100 actors from across the nation participating in 16 performances and 12 workshops. Shows will be conceptualized as a mix of theater challenges and one-act improv scenes, relying as always on creative input from the audience. And — who knows? — when all is said, done, and acted, you might even feel you learned more than you would have after four years at DeVry. It all goes down at Actors' Rep Theater (1009 N. Dixie Hwy., West Palm Beach). Tickets cost $10 for the Thursday and Friday shows and $15 for Saturday's show, all of which begin at 7 p.m. Prices and times vary for the workshops. Visit improvu.org.
Spoiler alert: If your heart broke into a million pieces when Han Solo went tumbling from that tall bridge, you might consider channeling that rage into some savage lightsaber skills. At Magic City Jedi's lightsaber training classes, you'll get all the expertise you need to be the next Luke Skywalker. But don't assume these talents are just for LARPing — this is your chance to hone real-world fitness, meditation, and staged combat skills. The two-hour saber school incorporates dance, mindfulness, choreography, and film-like sequences, all designed to turn you into a Jedi all-star. The class kicks off with a quick workout, meditation, and yoga routine. Then attendees dive into 90 minutes of staged combat training using superawesome LED sabers. With the lights dimmed, you can let your imagination run wild. Watch your back, Kylo Ren — Miamians are coming for you. Class begins at 11 a.m. this Saturday at the Scottish Rite Temple (471 NW Third St., Miami). Tickets cost $15. Visit magiccityjedi.com or call 786-315-9133.
It's that time of year again, when the motor junkies of the 305 gather under one roof to celebrate man's greatest invention: the car. Going on its 46th year, the Miami International Auto Show will take over the Magic City this Saturday through September 18, bringing close to 1,000 vehicles to the Miami Beach Convention Center (1901 Convention Center Dr., Miami Beach). Though you'll certainly find the Audis and BMWs you'd expect to see at a car expo, there's also a labyrinth of other vehicles to discover. Take a walk down Memory Lane and marvel at the workmanship of more than 15 classic cars. Dream big in Million Dollar Alley, where you can fantasize about driving a Rolls-Royce on Ocean Drive, or go Topless in Miami and check out the convertible cars on display. If nothing revs your engine like a four-by-four, Camp Jeep is where it's at. One of the more interactive displays at the show — aside from the Ride & Drive events — Camp Jeep has trained instructors who "drive participants over a variety of surfaces such as steep grades, rocky trails, and log crossings." For something a little artsier, head to the Car Meets Art exhibit. Using a blank automobile as a canvas, the display will showcase the work of urban artists who created artistic masterpieces out of cars, and give you a chance to create your own car design using touch-screen displays. Tickets to the auto show cost $15 for adults and $6 for children 12 and under; kids under 5 get in free. Call 305-981-1448 or visit miamiautoshow.net.
Another edition of Wynwood's Second Saturday Art Walk: See Saturday.
Photo by Karli Evans
Despite the pandemonium over Zika, Wynwood's Second Saturday Art Walk will go on unperturbed. As fall slowly rolls in across South Florida, gallery owners and artists are gearing up for another Art Basel season. Crowds of locals wearing mosquito-repellent bracelets will swell in the streets to gaze at the offerings of some of the city's best art havens. Be sure to check out Greg Shienbaum Fine Art (2239 NW Second Ave., Miami), which features an eclectic mix of staples from the modern and contemporary American canon, including Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, and John Baldessari. Last year, Shienbaum mounted a retrospective of Haring's work that highlighted some of the artist's better-known canvasses, along with often-overlooked pieces. It became one of the most buzzed-about local gallery shows during Basel. Second Saturday will take place in the Wynwood Arts District this Saturday from 6 to 10 p.m. Visit wynwoodmiami.com.
When it comes to priorities, dog owners tend to share one thing in common: Fido always comes first. Because what's more important than making man's best friend happy? And at Woof Republic's Woof Social, your best buddy will be blissed-out. The second-annual edition of this human-canine gathering will feature a live DJ, food trucks, freebies, live painting, treats, pet services, and plenty of intellectual stimulation for the four-legged set. It's like the dog park, but way more civilized. For humans, think of it as pet-facilitated networking. Plus, it's an amazing opportunity to scope the singles scene — your bae needs to appreciate dog breath as much as you do. Besides, your pup does so much for you. Doesn't he deserve a day out? The event runs from 3 to 7 p.m. this Saturday at the Wynwood Yard (56 NW 29th St., Miami) Admission is free. Visit eventbrite.com.
Brazil declared its independence from Portugal September 7, 1822. Brazilian Beat, now in its fifth year, is an official celebration that brings together the art of music and dance in one cultural event. Visitors will be treated to a capoeira circle, zumba, street dancing, and a Rio-style parade with costumed dancers and samba drummers from Southern California's SambaLa Samba School. Singer-songwriter and multiple Grammy nominee Bebel Gilberto will headline the event. One of the top-selling artists in Brazil since the 1960s, Gilberto is known for her bossa nova style of music — a style derived from samba that places less emphasis on percussion and more on melody. Batuke Samba Funk Unplugged will open for Gilberto. Brazilian cuisine and cocktails will be served. Presented by Downtown Boca and the City of Boca Raton with the Rhythm Foundation, Brazilian Beat will be held from 6 to 11 p.m. Saturday at the Mizner Park Amphitheater (590 Plaza Real, Boca Raton). Admission is free. Call 561-367-7070 or visit myboca.us.
Nobody could ever hope to fill Johnny Cash's shoes. The man walked tall and told it straight. He spoke to the inner demon in us while his music gave us hope. The world of country music and beyond hasn't been the same since his soul was freed in 2003. More than a decade later, we remember the legacy of a man who meant so much to so many. It's best to come together in celebration of the music, and such is the mission Tuesday when Churchill's (5501 NE Second Ave., Miami) opens its stage and bar to Cash, a tribute to the legendary Johnny Cash. From 9 p.m. till 3 the next morning, bands will do their very best to bring the magic of Johnny to life. Scheduled performances include W.D. Miller & the Revolvers, Unión, Unity Rise, and Rich Pierce. Entrance is free for those 21 or older. Anyone too young to drink beer is welcome with a $5 ticket. Sit by the bar and swish your liquor, stand in the back and play some pool, or get really close to the musicians and try to feel Cash's soul in the air. Call 305-757-1807 or visit churchillspub.com.
Tackling climate change at Vizcaya: See Wednesday.
Photo by Bill Sumner
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To say Vizcaya is one of the most spectacular destinations in the world, let alone in Miami, is like saying the 2016 presidential election has been a bit tense. So it's fitting that the grand manse by the bay will be the setting for a discussion about the subject of climate change. A group of Miami's leading arts advocates, eco-artists, scholars, and horticulturists will convene for "An Emotional Lexicon for Climate Change," a series of roundtable conversations about the role that arts and culture can play in dealing with a broader issue that potentially affects our lives and the world in which we live. Assembled under the auspices of Vizcaya Museum & Gardens and the FIU Ecohumanities for Cities in Crisis Project, this public forum will attempt to define what it means to live in the midst of an unfolding environmental crisis. It's heady stuff, and though it often evolves into a political tug-of-war, anyone who's unaware owes it to themselves to find out what the banter is all about. An Emotional Lexicon for Climate Change takes place Wednesday at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens (3251 S. Miami Ave., Miami). A reception with light refreshments begins at 6:30 p.m., followed by lightning-round lectures and discussions at 7. The event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Visit eventbrite.com.
In the vast spectrum of life and its daily challenges, there's probably nothing more difficult than the need to make choices, despite the fact that we're often unaware of the consequences. Yet, as parents, neighbors, and citizens of the planet, the choices we make often affect others. That's the core concern that author Jonathan Safran Foer addresses in his new novel, Here I Am, a spellbinder that centers on a dysfunctional family forced to confront their problems as events in the Middle East spiral out of control. How the two scenarios connect is a question best left for the reader to uncover, but the book's title, based on the response Abraham gave God before being called upon to sacrifice his own son, suggests some sort of biblical revelation. It's all about identity and how we see ourselves in a world where, indeed, no man is an island. Foer — a best-selling, critically acclaimed author of two earlier novels, Everything Is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, as well as the popular nonfiction work Eating Animals — is well equipped to share his thoughts on that deeper divide, although anyone who has dealt with ornery in-laws and exasperating siblings already knows firsthand how tenuous those family bonds can be. Foer will speak at Temple Judea (5500 Granada Blvd., Coral Gables) at 7:30 p.m. this Wednesday. Purchase of the book Here I Am ($28 plus tax) is required in exchange for a voucher that provides admission for two. Visit booksandbooks.com.