Miami can be a weird place. Weird, but great. And as the people behind the Bas Fisher Invitational (BFI) know, unique things are innately interesting. "We see anything outside of the norm as beautiful and wonderful," says Danielle Bender, operations manager at BFI.
Often, the artist organization puts together Weird Miami tours where guests take a bus ride to otherwise unknown spots. The stops include not only buildings and hidden paths but also cultural projects. Each tour is led by an artist. In fact, the creative leaders tailor their tours to reflect their own relationship with the city. As BFI states on its website: "The title Weird Miami is a loving ode influenced by the city slogan of Austin, Texas: 'Keep Austin Weird.'" Founder Naomi Fisher wants to show locals and visitors that Miami's cultural scene is more than just a few weeks in December during Art Basel Miami Beach. There are depths to explore year-round.
“Artists think differently,” Fisher says. “Weird Miami participants not only get to see and learn about sites in Miami they may have never visited before, but they also get to see the city through artists’ eyes.”
New Times asked Bender and BFI to choose their top ten "weirdest" places in Miami.
10. Crandon Gardens
Included in artist-led tour by Ana Mendez
"For Ana Mendez’s Weird Miami bus tour in April 2014, our group found itself winding through Crandon Gardens’ abandoned zoo," Bender says. "Formerly the Crandon Park Zoo, the animals were later moved to the now Zoo Miami, but the structures of the former
9. Matheson Hammock limestone caves
Included in artist-led tour by Frank Traynor
"Our current exhibiting artist, Frank Traynor, of The Perfect Nothing Catalog, has taken up residency at Matheson Hammock to present 'Topiary Poems,' a series of plant-based sculptures spelling out poems," Bender explains. "While looking further into the history of Matheson Hammock, he found there are a series of limestone caves, an abandoned plant nursery that used to house bears, and a supposed sinkhole with a lake deep within the hiking trails. He will spend the month with different resident poets to visit these spots and contribute poems and writings about them."
8. The Palace Sunday Drag Brunch
Included in artist-led tour by Juan Carlos Zaldivar
"Miami artist and filmmaker Juan Carlos Zaldivar led us through a tour of South Beach in transformation," the operations director recalls. "It included a 3D walking audio tour, performances, and readings at the Betsy Hotel by Reading Queer. Our favorite part of the tour was stopping by the Palace’s Sunday Drag Brunch, which featured live drag performances in the middle of Ocean Drive (sometimes on top of cars and catapulting over small children!)."
7. Miami International Mall (the abandoned wing)
Included in artist-led tour by TVGOV
"Last November, TVGOV (comprising artists Augustina Woodgate, Sofia Bastidas, Nicole Doran, Peter Fend, and Guillermo Gomez) created a bus tour surveying the retail real-estate industry in Miami. The weirdest moment came when we stopped by Miami International Mall to find an entire wing abandoned — all except for a Cuban coffee window serving about ten people
6. Ana Mendieta carving on Eighth Street
Included in artist-led tour by Cesar Trasobares
"Former Art in Public Places director Cesar Trasobares has previously taken BFI through commissioned public art pieces located throughout Miami-Dade. Nestled in Cuban Memorial Park is a carved silhouette in a tree, done by artist Ana Mendieta. This carving isn’t necessarily weird, but is a must-see," Bender says.
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Included in artist-led tour by Domingo Castillo and Patty Margarita Hernandez
"On our Hialeah-area tour, hosted by artists Domingo Castillo and Patty Margarita Hernandez, we made stops at bakery casinos, racing tracks with no horses, and a pirate radio station. One of the best stops still remains the
4. Virginia Key Beach spot
Included in artist-led tour by Tyson Reeder
"Our number one beach suggestion in Miami is a no-brainer: Virginia Key housed 2013’s Beach Painting Party, led by Tyson Reeder. The beach is generally pretty empty and is the perfect spot to paint by yourself, or invite a group to collaborate with you."
3. Little River burial mound
Included in artist-led tour by Christy Gast
"Artist Christy Gast led BFI through the neighborhood of El Portal to visit the historic site of a burial mound," Bender says. "Thought to be associated with the Tequestas, this spot was one of the first
2. Muhammad Ali’s former training gym
Included in artist-led tour by Shaneeka Harrell
"Choreographer and dancer Shaneeka Harrell led us through a day in the life of Cassius Clay by, recited poems and
1. Fancy Nasty & Palacio
Included in artist-led tour by Autumn Casey
"Artist and musician Autumn Casey led bus tour attendees through spaces in decay, exploring her need to use available resources. We visited a recording studio housed in a Miami Beach apartment; a Morningside home set to be demolished that acted as a temporary gallery space; and a home in Little Haiti that frequently acts as a venue for performances and shows," Bender says.
Weird Miami Tours by BFI
Visit basfisherinvitational.com for updates on the next tour.