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New Public Art in Opa-locka Promises to Break Down Barriers, Literally

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Earlier this week, Riptide asked readers if the fancy renaming of historically rough Miami neighborhoods would ever end. We're here to answer: no.

Recently, "The Triangle" in Opa-locka, blocked off by a metal barricade erected in the '80s to isolate the large amount of drugs and violence in the area, was given the new name "Magnolia North." But this is more than just a renaming. It could come with a hopeful new era for Opa-locka.

One year ago, the Opa‐locka Community Development Corporation received a $250,000 Our Town grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to be put toward strengthening the community's involvement with the arts. Part of the project included choosing four artist teams to help change the face of the neighborhood. Now, the artists have been chosen, and organizers hope the work they install will kick off a period of revitalization in the area.

Out of nearly 200 applicants around the country, four finalists were selected. Walter Hood, Gale Fulton Ross, the team of Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt, and the team of Jennifer Bonner and Christian Stayner are all now officially parts of the revamping of Opa-Locka, particularly the area around Magnolia North.

Nearly all of the select artists have ties to the neighborhood or to public and urban art. New urbanist, L.A. hipsters Jennifer Bonner and Christian Stayner plan to build their own home in the community, where they'll live in order to immerse themselves in Opa-Locka and create a live/work/create space for their art. Walter Hood and Gale Fulton Ross are celebrated African American artists both in Florida and around the country. Architects Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt of R&R Studios in Miami both teach at University of Miami School of Architecture.

The artists will work alongside local architects and project developers in the area to complete the public art component of the redevelopment of the Magnolia North neighborhood. The plan is to create six gateways to represent the coming together of art and community.

The new art is just one component of the Opa-locka Community Development Corporation team's goal to drastically turn around the neighborhood and increase economic opportunity, offer better future housing options, and beautify the environment overall. The organization also plans to launch arts education and outreach programs in the area.

The works of art are scheduled to be completed by February 2013. If all goes as planned, the physical and metaphorical walls will come crashing down in Opa-locka, and in their place will be world-class art and -- in theory -- chicer, lifted, spirits.

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