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100 Creatives: Artist Cara Despain Explores the American West

In honor of our "People" issue, which will hit newsstands November 17, New Times proudly presents "100 Creatives," where we feature Miami's cultural superheroes. Have suggestions for future profiles? Let us know in the comments.

#92: Cara Despain

A few years ago, artist and writer Cara Despain made the fairly dramatic move from her hometown of Salt Lake City to Miami. She didn’t just spin a globe and point; her childhood best friend had already dropped anchor here in a sea of artist friends. Though Despain always knew she would be an artist one day, she wasn’t making as much work in Salt Lake as she would have liked. Instead, she spent time writing about the arts for a variety of publications and doing what she could within the city’s modest scene. But after many visits to the Magic City, where she built an artsy network, she took the plunge and moved to Miami with her filmmaker boyfriend Kenny Riches.

It was here that Despain began to spread her artistic wings. Since leaving her longtime job at the Rubell Family Collection last year, she’s devoted herself full-time to creativity. Despain works in video and sound and sculpture installation. Her cinematic work brings a taste of one of the nation’s most beautiful states, Utah, to life, oftentimes borrowing from American Western tropes. She founded and operated GARFO Art Center in Salt Lake City and was selected for the Salt Lake City Mayor's Award in visual art in 2012. Impressively, Despain was also selected for the 2016 South Florida Consortium Fellowship. She’s appeared in a documentary about her work on PBS and served as art director in Riches' film The Strongest Man, which premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. Her creative mind may still be contemplating the West, but Despain’s work has truly flourished under the South Florida sun.
List five things that inspire you.
The desert, rocks, cinema, the tradition of landscape with all its problems, existential dread.

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What was your last big project?
Most recently, I worked on Sea Unseen, an abstracted narrative sound piece currently playing inside storm drains in downtown Miami. Wrangling that was a feat, but the sound came out great, and I like to imagine it confusing and weirding-out passersby at all hours.

What's your next big project?
I'm hoping to get back out into the wilds and do some research and collect sounds and casts. There are a couple of big video projects I'd like to make, so I'm testing out some things for that now too.

What do you want Miami to know about you? What don't you want Miami to know about you?
The answer is the same for both: I'm a nice Utahn.

What's one thing you want people to know about Miami?
It's everything you think it is, and it's not at all what you think it is. Listen closely.

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