George Sánchez-Calderón's Public Art Recalls Bal Harbour's Early Days

The idea of public art in Bal Harbour may induce thoughts of a jewel-encrusted relief or a Gucci-donned sculpture, but Miamian George Sánchez-Calderón has humbler ideas in mind.

In following a trend of erecting local public art in South Florida, Bal Harbour has chosen to kick off Unscripted, an ongoing series of commissions beginning in October, with Sánchez-Calderón, the multi-platform artist known for large-scale projects around Miami involving a degree of architecture.

Although Bal Harbour's known to most as that stretch along Collins with the fancy shops and pricey condos filled with America's retired community, Sánchez-Calderón sees the village differently. The area actually has a more timid, colorful history, and Sánchez-Calderón plans to showcase that history with his installations.

"Most people do describe [Bal Harbour] an older, wealthy neighborhood, but the reason it exists as an older, wealthy neighborhood at all is because of its old history as a postwar development," said the artist. "Bal Harbour was the American vernacular...and I'm working from that model."

Sánchez-Calderón calls his project "Pax Americana," and it encompasses two pieces: "Americana" and a two-dimensional, Levittown-style house that recalls early American architecture.

"Americana" will stand six feet tall in stainless steel in front of the St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort, where the famed Americana Hotel stood from 1956 to 1980. The word "Americana" will read Hollywood sign-style on the grass, a reference to both the historical building and the strong, " hell yeah, America" sentiment of the area.

The second installation, a recreation of classic American architecture, is another tribute to Bal Harbour's history as one of the first planned communities in South Florida. The now-affluent neighborhood was first occupied residentially in 1946, when tenants moved into former Air Corps barracks converted into apartments. Sánchez-Calderón's piece aims to symbolize the significance of those American homes. "You look at that little house and you're like 'whoa, that's an American home," he said of the Levittown prototype. The piece will stand in the "Founder's Circle" roundabout amidst central Bal Harbour traffic.

Bal Harbour's long-term project Unscripted is geared at supporting and engaging South Florida artists and displaying their work in highly visible places in the heart of Bal Harbour. The pieces from each artist will stand for up to six months, and will then be followed by something new. Sculptor, installation, and video artist Christy Gast is lined up as the series' second featured artist for Spring 2013. Visit for updates.

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Ilana Shulevitz