In this week's Miami New Times, we profile 30 of the most interesting characters in town, with portraits of each from photographer Stian Roenning. See the entire Miami New Times People Issue here.
Naomi Fisher traces her current success to the web of relationships she built with Dade's class of "creative weirdos" at Miami's art magnet school programs. Not that she always intended to stay put in the city that shaped her creative identity.
"I was isolated in the deep suburbs," she says of growing up in the Miami of the 1980s and early '90s. "It was gnarly. I just wanted to get the hell out."
Instead, after wrapping up four years at the Maryland Institute College of Art, she returned to find an emerging scene in 1998. It was an exciting time for young artists in Miami like Fisher and her contemporaries Louis Gispert and Bert Rodriguez.
"All of a sudden, it was this moment when interesting things were happening, and within a couple of years, there was Art Basel," she says.
Since then, Fisher has grown into one of the city's most famous homegrown art stars. As part of Miami-Dade County's Art in Public Places, Fisher recently completed six 13-foot friezes at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, the place where her father was employed and which continues to inspire her work. Perhaps even more impressive, Fisher was commissioned by Art Basel Miami Beach for the second year in a row to create a large installation.
She's also concerned with keeping Miami connected to the cultural world. That's why ten years ago she launched BFI, formerly known as Bas Fisher Invitational, with fellow artist Hernan Bas (who is no longer involved).
"We recognized that a lot of our peers were incredibly talented but maybe weren't having the same opportunities we did," Fisher says.
Over the years, BFI evolved, allowing artists to shine but encompassing more than just the offering of an exhibition space.
"There isn't the same understanding of the importance of a nonprofit, an artist-initiated project; like why would an artist do a gallery and not make money?" she says. "A lot of people don't really understand that."
But, as she explains, outreach, education, and artist exchanges elevate our understanding of how contemporary art rises from the "grassroots up." Fisher and others at the space are still intent on raising funds for new and existing programs, such as the wildly popular Weird Miami bus tours that showcase the area's gems to curious locals and out-of-towners who've never left South Beach.
Though Fisher is freshly back from a stint in New York and a summer residency in Norway, she says she's invested completely in BFI and the work it has yet to do locally.
"Miami is 100 percent my home," she says. "I plan to continue building on what I have here."