Knight Arts Challenge Finalist ArtCenter Aims to Take Art to the Seas with ARTsail

Each year, the Knight Foundation calls on the bevy of creatives in South Florida to submit an idea they think will benefit the arts. And each year, a group of finalists are selected from a deep pool of talent.

Seventy-five finalists were chosen this year from over 1,000 submissions, and among the lucky honorees is ArtCenter/South Florida, whose proposal aims to send an artist on a month-long residency aboard a boat.

For ArtCenter/South Florida, it's all about water. "Miami is surrounded by water," says Executive Director Maria del Valle, adding how the closeness to the ocean is likely a determining factor for people who move down to Miami.

See also: Knight Arts Challenge South Florida 2014 Finalists Announced

With their proposed project, ARTsail, del Valle explains how they want to further explore man's connection to the water in various ways: "we want to involve artists working in different disciplines with other professionals such as scientists, sociologists, economists, and so on."

According to del Valle, one purpose that ArtCenter serves is to "give artists space, time, and resources to create in freedom - we just want to give them the opportunity to grow in all senses of the word." So when Ombretta Agro, an independent curator, first approached del Valle with the idea to create a floating venue for artists to work, she immediately jumped on it.

Even though the project essentially deals with art, "The residency is more about the process than the product; we want our artists to focus on the research, development, and collaborative processes," says del Valle.

"The only condition these artists have is that their project has to be related to the water in some form;" and living, working, and sailing on the open seas seems like an ideal form of inspiration. As for the final products, they could be anything from site-specific art installations to a musical composition, or from literature to poetry.

But wait -- these are artists we're talking about. What's the likelihood they know how to sail a boat?

No experience needed on that front! Captain William Rey has happily signed on to assist ArtCenter in bringing ARTsail to fruition. Currently, they are hoping to use the Maribel, a moderately sized wooden boat that was built in 1984, which is the same year ArtCenter/South Florida was founded. However, because ArtCenter does not own the Maribel, del Valle explains that they have also been looking for other vessels in case things should fall through.

Aside from the fact that ARTsail will "attract artists and creative thinkers to Miami," del Valle is broadening her sights: "the big dream would be to organize an expedition through the intercostal in a big ship with artists and creative minds to research, discover, and create."

Though the winners of the Knight Arts Challenge won't be announced until December, ArtCenter and del Valle are staying hopeful. Regardless who receives the grant, del Valle recognizes the important work done by the Knight Foundation: "the change and cultural growth that Miami has experienced in the past few years has been possible in part thanks to the support of the Knight Foundation.

While there is still a lot to do, [Miami] is becoming an interesting place for art and cultural lovers."

Get the latest on this year's Knight Arts Challenge at

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Carolina del Busto is a freelance writer for Miami New Times. She nurtured her love of words at Boston College before moving back home to Miami and has been covering arts and culture in the Magic City since 2013.