Miami transforms into the flashy center of the art world each December for Art Basel. But this week, the city will morph into a more cerebral cultural hub. Common Field Convening, commencing in Little Haiti this Thursday, is a conference that brings together arts organization administrators, artists, activists, and community leaders to hold a conversation about the challenges the art world faces.
Common Field Convening will consist of four days of panels, breakout sessions, and networking opportunities. The panels include Art & Economics 101; Handling Controversy; Reflections on Power, Privilege, and Justice; and Gentrification — all issues especially relevant to Miami arts. The convening will bring together more than 350 arts organizers and individuals from across the United States and the world.
Stephanie Sherman, codirector of Common Field, says, “We’re trying to create a convening where everyone has a voice. We have a smaller participation format. We’re trying to move away from spectacle. Participants will walk away with a new way of thinking and new practical tools. Through connection with others, people will find new skills.”
Officially founded in 2014 after a startup grant from the Warhol Foundation, Common Field is an itinerant group that has made a network of artist-centered organizations across the nation. It aims to create a platform for arts organizations to support experimental, contemporary, and noncommercial artists and their work. For its second-annual convening, Common Field partnered with four Miami artist organizations: Bas Fisher Invitational, Cannonball, Dimensions Variable, and Locust Projects.
Chana Sheldon, executive director of Locust Projects, says, “It’s a really great opportunity to put out there what is happening in Miami all year long, outside of Art Basel week. The arts organizations are doing this full-time, year-round. We have a commitment to the city and artists, so we want people to know about the Miami art scene outside of one time of the year.”
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Miami has always been on the radar for Common Field. Sherman, who has been working with a Miami artist since 2009, says, “I’ve seen Miami go through a transition with gentrification. A lot of the arts organizations have evolved. Miami is a special alternative art world because of the tight-knit community, network of collectors, and international acclaim. Miami has an ecology of resources, and a lot of opportunities.”
Sherman believes that many of the issues that trouble the art scene in Miami are also broader national issues. The theme for this year is “Arts Organizing in a Time of Accelerated Capitalism.” Sherman hopes to explore the solutions to difficult questions at the convening.
“How can art be a moment of change and incite provocation? How are we operating in a scope of privilege? Do we work in the system or against it? How do we incorporate a response that feels appropriate to the current social and political challenges?” Sherman says. “The convening is a place to exchange these kinds of ideas. Artists are a mobile and nomadic bunch, and they need to cope with an accelerated and capitalistic world. We’ll explore how to navigate the climate at the convening.”
Common Field Convening. Thursday, October 20, through Sunday, October 23, at Little Haiti Cultural Center (212 NE 59th Ter., Miami). Tickets start at $125. Visit convening.commonfield.org .