| Art |

Giant Beach Towel Brings Beachgoers Together Over Memorial Day Weekend

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Sometimes, people don't take advantage of their closeness. At least that's the concern of artist Misael Soto, a Floridian who likes to shatter the barriers of awkward human interaction.

"When you break walls, people smile more," said Soto.

That's why the Fort Lauderdale native decided to design a giant -- like, really giant -- beach towel to lay across the sands at the end of 41st street on Miami Beach for the many Memorial Day beach-goers Monday.

He chose Memorial Day because of its reputation as a national beach day, and particularly the effect of that reputation on the locals and tourists of Miami.

Paddle-ball matches, drinks, umbrellas, and guitars found their way to Soto's 56-by-29-foot terrycloth camp-out throughout the morning and evening. Confused-looking passers-by were waved over by Soto and his friends, some new and some old.

Omar Amaye and Marisol Munon visit the beach from their homes in Allapattah nearly every week, and did not expect to spend their holiday with strangers. "I was just checking it out from a distance, but everyone over here was so excited to welcome new people over," said Amaye as he sat perched at the edge of the Herculean-sized towel, still hesitant to join in the festivities happening in the center. "I've never seen anything like it, it's cool."

In his works, Soto aims to take objects, actions, and situations that are traditionally isolating or personal, and making them social, participative, and communal. "I search for public areas where people are physically close but tend to not interact," he said.

"The beach is one of the last free public real estate, especially in Miami Beach," said Soto of his choice of location. If making common ground with strangers was Soto's Memorial Day goal, he certainly achieved it. At least, that is, if you don't account for foreign-tongued tourists and some anti-social sunbathers who could only feign not noticing the less-than-subtle monster-sized fabric installment.

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