Downtown Miami will become a living canvas during the third annual DWNTWN Art Days. The event, developed by the Miami Downtown Development Authority (Miami DDA), brings together Miami's cultural venues with artists from Miami and around the world to celebrate the city's vibrant love affair with visual art.
Sonja Bogensperger, team leader of business development, real estate, and marketing for Miami Downtown Development Authority, and Claire Breukel, the creative director of DWNTWN Art Days, say that the weekend-long event was developed from a desire to showcase the area's growing art community.
"Art Days came together in 2011...Three years ago, the cultural landscape of downtown Miami was different than it is today and back then, we were 16 people sitting around the table talking about how best we could promote the downtown cultural community," Bogensperger said. "The idea that came up was to come up with a sustainable event that we do in September, in month [in which] most arts and cultural organizations launch their season..." The Miami DDA decided it wanted to not only facilitate the marketing, but become directly involved with the art scene, commissioning work and doing very contemporary art installations.
Even though Miami's art scene is still relatively young, Bogensperger says its importance and influence rivals that of cities with longer-established art communities. She credits the work of visionaries 20 years ago, who began establishing a cultural center in downtown Miami that led to arts hubs like the Arsht Center, the Museum Park, Pérez Art Museum, and the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science.
"Outside of that, Art Basel was clearly a factor when it came to town 12 to 13 years ago and it started showing Miami in a different light," Bogensperger said. "It brought to the foreground the already existing and burgeoning art scene. Overall, Miami is 115 years old, so the city is growing and growing up."
"There was a moment when Sonja and I were working together where a lot of the artists...were told they couldn't work in parts of Wynwood or the Design District anymore, so we really took advantage of that time and worked to see if we could...get some of these artist's groups to move downtown," Breukel said. "And, we were able to help work on the downtown art houses that have been anchors for the artist community."
Fringe Projects is one way DWNTWN Art Days is exemplifying Miami's prominence as a national and international art destination.
The exhibit uses public spaces as canvasses for temporary, site-specific art installations. Amanda Sanfilippo, the curator of Fringe Projects, said the project is in line with other international public art projects, such as New York's Creative Time and London's Artangel.
"It's really about asking these artists to expand their practices but also consider the city as their studio and not just a gallery or a museum," Sanfilippo said. "This is [about] making work in public that really integrates the public space. It's really different than just a sculpture planned for a park...The Fringe Projects are really about where the artists want to work, why do they want to work at this site, how does this site become integrated into what they're doing."
This year, thanks to a new partnership with the Miami DDA and Miami Dade Art in Public Places (AiPP), the exhibit will feature several new art installations commissioned for Fringe Projects. Over 43 project proposals were received from artists in the U.S. and around the world, but only five projects, plus a special project by artists Kevin Arrow and Barron Sherer, based up on a hashtag #DDAFF2014 were chosen by a jury of experts. The artists -- Jenny Brillhart, Nicolas Lobo, Emmett Moore, Domingo Castillo, and Moira Holohan -- are already a part of Miami's artistic culture, all living and working in the area.
"I was looking for site-determined [projects], artists really thinking about the sites they chose," said Sanfilippo on the the judging process. "...This was them choosing their sites as part of their pieces in a very important way. I was interested in artists who really wanted to take risks, could think outside the box both literally and figuratively, and think about their site as part of their work."
Sanfilippo said the intersection of public spaces and art should expand the artists' repertoire and the space's use.
"Because the art is out of a gallery or a museum, it has the power to really create a situation, almost like a lived metaphor for the idea the artist is interested in," said Sanfilippo. "The art becomes integrated into reality in a really profound way. It becomes a lived experience. It's no longer about object making; it's more about the expansion of ideas."
The Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science is also celebrating public involvement with visual art through its new Maker Space. Run by the museum's marketing director, Joseph Quinones, the Maker Space gives attendees the chance to create new objects from found materials, such as cardboard, packing tape, and colored paper.
"On different days, we're going to do different activities. There's also going to be some activities with what are called Swivel Bots, in which you put together these robotic items that make a little drawing in the sand as they move around. You learn how to connect a battery to a motor and things like that," said James Herring, the museum's exhibition manager. "Also, Ernesto Oroza, a local artist here in Miami will be there for one of the days. He works with what he calls 'The Architecture of Necessity' and repurposing objects. He'll take things like packing tape and create a lamp that can be lit up from the inside."
The idea of a Maker Space is something more science museums are incorporating, Herring says.
"It's part of a trend with science museums around the country now, exploring these making activities as a way of trying to instill creative thinking," he said. "It's part of a whole sort of STEM and STEAM learning. There's more of an emphasis on engineering practices."
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The Maker Space and Fringe Project are only two of the 170 exhibits and and showcases occurring throughout DWNTWN Art Days. DWNTWN Art Days begins September 19 and lasts until September 21; plan your time at DWNTWN Art Days with their online calendar or calendar app. The Miami Center for Architecture & Design (MCAD) will also act as the informational hub for attendees as well as a charging station in case your phone can't handle the full day of panel discussions, exhibitions, and other activities.
Fringe Projects will be available for viewing ten days, including the DWNTWN Art Days weekend, between September 18 to September 28. The events at DWNTWN Art Days are free unless otherwise noted. Visit dwntwnartdays.com.
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