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Arte del Barrio: The Miami Artists' Guide to Happiness

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How do you get happy? That's the question a collection of artists asked themselves for Arte del Barrio's "Art and the Pursuit of Happiness" exhibit opening in Wynwood this weekend.

This Saturday, October 19, beginning at 7 p.m. at the Alberto Linero Gallery (2294 B NW 2 Ave., Miami) nine artists and performers exhibit their work with the ultimate goal of making you smile and adding a little extra happiness to your day. All the artwork and performances you see will have been inspired by the quality or state of being happy.

We spoke with eight of the artists and they told us what inspires their happiness, so naturally, we came up with their take on a guide to being happy.

Don't Worry, Be Happy

Artist Aimee Ortiz believes that too much worrying can cloud our happiness; she says that "feeling lucky, fortunate to be alive, and by getting rid of false egos and not worrying that much" will help people be happier. She also suggests mediation to clear and calm the mind.

Peace of mind was Ortiz's inspiration for the exhibit. She says, "For the person who has conquered the mind, then his mind is the best of friends; but for one who has failed to do so, his mind will be the greatest enemy." Happiness and peace are interwoven for Ortiz; "How can there be any happiness without peace?" she asks. Deep stuff, man.

For the exhibit, Ortiz will display five wooden boxes containing everyday objects that make people happy "in an attempt to reflect the senselessness of the human condition through material objects." Ortiz says she hopes her display will cause people to re-think what makes them happy, and although she knows some people might laugh at the objects inside the boxes, she knows it will still be food for thought.

Happiness is a Choice We Make

"I urge you to smile and laugh at the world and stay positive at all times; [happiness] is a choice," says Frank Christopher. The only thing that can hinder happiness, in Christopher's opinion, is "not breathing, and negative energy." (He's right; most doctors cannot recommend "not breathing" for a whole host of reasons.)

Christopher hopes people will see his artwork and understand his statement: that happiness is a decision. "Make the right choice," he says.

For the Arte del Barrio exhibit, he is focusing on the "beautiful day-to-day struggle we go through to pursue happiness." It's all about seeing what is in front of us and forgetting about wanting things we don't have, says Christopher. That means you too, Guy Still Waiting Outside the Apple Store for a Gold iPhone 5s.

Life is a Movie, so Cast Yourself as the Lead

Veronica Milchorena, AKA Milcho, believes that it's up to the individual to lead a happy life. So man up, would you? Those who do not forgive, don't let go, and don't have "the balls to be the protagonist in their lives and cast themselves as an extra is what I think handicaps people from doing the happy dance," she explains. Milchorena also adds, "I think health makes the old happy, skinny makes women happy, money makes men happy, iPhones make teenagers happy, warm milk makes babies happy, and the sperm? Winning the race!"

Milcho's work for the exhibit is titled The Return of La Musa, in which her muse returns in the form of a goat. "I'm reconnecting with her, not as a mother, but as each other's lifeline," she explains, adding that the inspiration for this piece came to her during a spinning class (they do say endorphins make you happy) as a series of thoughts she could not control. "It only meant one thing: my Musa was back, after the bitch was gone for 14 months and three days...so when she spoke, I listened." Milcho's artwork centers on making La Musa happy -- "When she's happy, I'm happy."

Get Back to Nature

"Nature, family, travel, connecting with other humans, and a place to hang my hammock make me happy," says Evelyn Posada. Posada says she knows happiness is different for everyone, but for her, "my inspiration is always life and love." Her suggestion for adding happiness to your life: "Doing service for others, getting back to nature, and exercise!"

Build Your Own Happiness

Daniel Fiorda is a sculptor, so it makes perfect sense that his happiness stems from building things. "Since I was a kid, I felt happiness when I was building my toys and playing with friends, and today, building my toys has transformed into building my sculptures or wall objects or paintings," he says. His best advice for reaching that extra dose of daily happiness is adding art to your life, such as music, reading, dancing, and so on, he says it will feed the "cosmic inner soul." Fiorda's artwork for el Barrio is from a series titled "The White Boxes & Typewriting Series."

Do Something You Love Everyday

"That's a start, right?" says Juan Rozas after suggesting the key to happiness is doing something you love for at least 30 minutes everyday. "Inspiration to be happy starts with an inner search toward one's soul and later sharing it with your loved ones," he says. For the exhibit, Rozas has prepared a "tourist brochure to happiness" that he says will certainly "plant the seed" for happiness if it doesn't instantly make you smile.

Life is Happiness

For Mariano Costa Peuser, "life itself inspires happiness," and achieving personal goals we set for ourselves also brings happiness. According to the artist, the only thing that can hinder happiness is not achieving our goals, or worse yet, not trying to. Costa Peuser will be exhibiting artwork from a series titled "Financial Bike." He says the works come from a Argentine saying, "no me hagas la bicicleta," ("don't make me the bicycle"), which pretty much means when someone expects to get paid, instead they get a response telling him to come back next week, and that person keeps getting that response every week. The series was created back in 2010 when the economical crisis was strongly felt, he says.

Appreciate What You Have, and Be Aware of the Moment

Deryn Cowdy sees happiness as "finding joy in solving problems and the ability to be aware of the moment... It can be satisfaction of accomplishment, of loving someone or being of service." She adds that finding creativity in mundane routines can also bring a smile to your face: "Whether it's making fine art or morning coffee, enjoying the process of creativity has the power to make people happy, and losing oneself in the moment is a way of forgetting the stresses that constrain our ability to feel joy."

Cowdy says her garden makes her happy, and walking through nature is like a form of meditation for her. "I'm really happy among huge trees - their elemental quality and monumental size has an amazing presence which inspires creativity." Therefore, her artwork, as she explains, is all about depicting her "experience of and connection to the natural world." For the Arte del Barrio exhibit, Cowdy will be showcasing photographs she took in her garden pond, "in particular, its reflections and what I see in them." She oxidizes part of the image, creating an effect she hopes will leave viewers looking at a flower or plant "with a fresh eye."

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