MasterMinds 2017: Oliver Sanchez Has Been a Fixture in Miami's Design District for More Than 50 Years

MasterMinds 2017 finalist Oliver Sanchez
MasterMinds 2017 finalist Oliver Sanchez Photo by Monica McGivern

The finalists in New Times' eighth-annual MasterMind Awards are a diverse bunch, representing the best locally created culture in South Florida. A group of editors and critics chose these nine talents from a pool of more than 80 applicants. The three winners, who will each receive a $750 grant, will be announced live onstage at Artopia, presented by Miracle Mile Downtown Coral Gables this Thursday night at the Coral Gables Museum. The finalists will show off their work at the event. Here's what you'll see.

"My passion is to be socially relevant, humble, and funny."

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Oliver Sanchez deserves a lifetime achievement award for his artistic contributions. For more than 50 years, Sanchez has been a fixture in Miami's Design District. As the founder of Swampspace — a contemporary art space he founded in 2008 that is dedicated to providing an alternative venue to commercial galleries for artists — Sanchez has done more than merely contribute his art to the art community; he's continually done his part to keep that community healthy, self-sustaining, and afloat.

From working as an art director with High Times in New York in the '80s and frequenting the club scene with famous friends such as Madonna to the more low-key life he now lives making art in Miami, Sanchez has consistently followed his artistic passions wherever they've led him. These days, that drive is what makes him happiest, something he says other artists should never underestimate.

"My passion is to be socially relevant, humble, and funny," Sanchez says. "These are the things that guide me through the quagmire that is the arts industry. Every artist should be true to their passion, or risk the vacancy of losing the creative spirit."

Sanchez is known on the art scene for building things. Artists often ask him to collaborate on projects because his attention to detail and knack for architecture are well documented. He's had a hand in design, building, and installing art in places around the world, from Moscow to London, Barcelona, Tokyo, and São Paulo. Wherever his art ends up, though, he hopes people view it as more than a pretty picture.

"I hope the takeaway is that art is so much more than drawing, painting, sculpting, performing, and writing. An embrace of art is the foundation for critical thought and the principles of civility."

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Ryan Yousefi is a freelance writer for Miami New Times, a lover of sports, and an expert consumer of craft beer and pho. Hanley Ramirez once stole a baseball from him and to this day still owes him $10.