Builders are banking on Miami's magic in a big way. Somehow in the next two to four years -- poof! -- the downtown area, from Brickell through the newly christened Biscayne Boulevard Corridor, will fill with some 40,000 new residents eager to shell out a quarter-million to a million bucks to live in so-called lofts in chic neighborhoods. For now, many of those neighborhoods are largely imaginary, hopeful names scribbled in developers' dreams: the Performing Arts District, the Cultural Arts District, the Florida East Corridor. The names of the new so-called loft projects are no less whimsical: Aria, Quantum, Platinum, Star, Mist, Blue, Sky, Ice. But who knows? Sometimes developers' dreams do come true. Maybe in five years or so Miami will be transformed into Manhattan south, with well-heeled culture vultures perched in high-priced nests overlooking Biscayne Bay. On the other hand, maybe there aren't quite so many gritty culture hounds with deep pockets ready to move into little skyboxes in America's Poorest City. Maybe then the prices will come down and families from the shrinking middle class will have a chance to move into condos with "endless views of Biscayne Bay." It's possible not even the middle class will buy into the developers' fantasy, and the buildings will stand empty, sky-scraping testaments to another crazy Magic City scheme. That could be cool, too. Imagine mile upon mile of empty towers. A wild squatters' underworld. A sultry Blade Runner. Instead of the art scene driving development, once again we'll have urban decay driving the art scene.

In the absence of a full-fledged art cinema, the place to see a movie may as well be chosen for its parking as much as its programming. Narrow ramps, cavernous floors, electronic parking-payment contraptions? No thanks. When you have only five minutes to put butt to seat before the credits roll, pull into the wide-open lots at Sunrise Intracoastal (for free). Hustle to the ticket booth and enter -- lines are rare, except at bargain matinees showing movies with geriatric appeal. "No stairs to climb. Listening devices available," the North Miami Beach theater advertises, clearly spotlighting a more aged demographic than those ramp-cavern-contraption places. Though the programming won't be proclaimed "adventurous" by any sane person, you are likely to find two or three of the Intracoastal's eight large auditoriums screening those artsy foreign and indie films you read about so wistfully in the New York Times.

As any starving artist knows, it is possible to create culture without money. But it's a heck of a lot easier to be creative with money. For the 1000-plus cultural groups in Miami-Dade County and thousands more individual artists, Michael Spring has been a crusader, benefactor, and best friend. The director of the county's Department of Cultural Affairs oversees an annual budget of more than nine million dollars, and he makes sure as much of it as possible sustains the cultural diversity that makes Miami's art scene vibrant. A graduate of Edison High and the University of Miami, Spring has a long-standing commitment to Made-in-Miami culture. A member of the county's arts bureaucracy since 1983, he is a supporter of established institutions, but he's also the go-to guy for new arts initiatives. This enlightened bureaucrat pushes artists and arts presenters to think bigger, to reach new audiences, and welcome other cultures into their work. Spring has spearheaded a major county initiative to maintain and build new arts venues and has structured grants programs that nudge otherwise ethnically isolated groups to present their work in unfamiliar territory. Tango in Overtown? Vodoun dance in Little Havana? Why not!

As any starving artist knows, it is possible to create culture without money. But it's a heck of a lot easier to be creative with money. For the 1000-plus cultural groups in Miami-Dade County and thousands more individual artists, Michael Spring has been a crusader, benefactor, and best friend. The director of the county's Department of Cultural Affairs oversees an annual budget of more than nine million dollars, and he makes sure as much of it as possible sustains the cultural diversity that makes Miami's art scene vibrant. A graduate of Edison High and the University of Miami, Spring has a long-standing commitment to Made-in-Miami culture. A member of the county's arts bureaucracy since 1983, he is a supporter of established institutions, but he's also the go-to guy for new arts initiatives. This enlightened bureaucrat pushes artists and arts presenters to think bigger, to reach new audiences, and welcome other cultures into their work. Spring has spearheaded a major county initiative to maintain and build new arts venues and has structured grants programs that nudge otherwise ethnically isolated groups to present their work in unfamiliar territory. Tango in Overtown? Vodoun dance in Little Havana? Why not!

Miami Beach Cinematheque
Since the lights first flickered on less than a year ago, the Cinematheque has established itself as the screen to be seen. In the heart of South Beach, the movie house's art-gallery setting provides a perfect scene for cineastes eager to enjoy true classics (Hiroshima, Mon Amour), rare oddities (Todd Haynes's Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story), or specific programs tied to local festivals such as Art Basel and the Winter Music Conference. The Cinematheque also provides an outlet for locally produced independent films, making it something much more important than simply an alternative to multiplex hell.

Power up for your stroll with a pinolio purchased at the Nicaraguan cantina on the corner of Twelfth and Flagler. A cold cocoa drink made with sweet milk, it's just the jolt you'll want to get you on your way. Heading east on Flagler, you'll pass street peddlers and homeless immigrants working hard to collect those nickels and dimes for their main meal of the day -- a sixteen-ounce can of Schlitz Malt Liquor. At Tenth Avenue, Central American families are drawn to La Ideal, the Burdines of East Little Havana. The next few blocks feature empty lots and forsaken office buildings ripe for redevelopment. Then you traverse the Miami River via the Flagler drawbridge and head into the murky dead zone created by Interstate 95. As you emerge from the behemoth overpasses, signs of urban life beckon: the Miami-Dade Cultural Center, designed by famed architect Philip Johnson and quickly denounced for its intimidating, fortresslike isolation. But it's still home to the main library, the Historical Museum of Southern Florida, and the Miami Art Museum -- at least for the moment; the museums are plotting to abandon the place. Moving past the stately courthouse, you plunge into the teeming commercial center of the city. With its cacophony of blaring music, display-window strobe lights, luggage and electronic and shoe and jewelry and perfume stores, plus the street vendors and the alluring aromas from open kitchens, this stretch of Miami's signature thoroughfare could easily be mistaken for the main drag of most any Latin American capital city. Your journey ends at the entrance to Bayfront Park and the magnificent, panoramic views of Biscayne Bay. It's been less than two miles and a couple of hours or so, but you'll feel as though you've just toured the entire Western Hemisphere.

Power up for your stroll with a pinolio purchased at the Nicaraguan cantina on the corner of Twelfth and Flagler. A cold cocoa drink made with sweet milk, it's just the jolt you'll want to get you on your way. Heading east on Flagler, you'll pass street peddlers and homeless immigrants working hard to collect those nickels and dimes for their main meal of the day -- a sixteen-ounce can of Schlitz Malt Liquor. At Tenth Avenue, Central American families are drawn to La Ideal, the Burdines of East Little Havana. The next few blocks feature empty lots and forsaken office buildings ripe for redevelopment. Then you traverse the Miami River via the Flagler drawbridge and head into the murky dead zone created by Interstate 95. As you emerge from the behemoth overpasses, signs of urban life beckon: the Miami-Dade Cultural Center, designed by famed architect Philip Johnson and quickly denounced for its intimidating, fortresslike isolation. But it's still home to the main library, the Historical Museum of Southern Florida, and the Miami Art Museum -- at least for the moment; the museums are plotting to abandon the place. Moving past the stately courthouse, you plunge into the teeming commercial center of the city. With its cacophony of blaring music, display-window strobe lights, luggage and electronic and shoe and jewelry and perfume stores, plus the street vendors and the alluring aromas from open kitchens, this stretch of Miami's signature thoroughfare could easily be mistaken for the main drag of most any Latin American capital city. Your journey ends at the entrance to Bayfront Park and the magnificent, panoramic views of Biscayne Bay. It's been less than two miles and a couple of hours or so, but you'll feel as though you've just toured the entire Western Hemisphere.

Nobody truly escapes reality via public transportation, not even on a long day's journey from Government Center to Aventura via Biscayne Boulevard (and on to Miami Beach if you want). Go surreal: Put the L'Avventura in your field trip to Aventura and turn this ride into a mind film. Friends afeared you've vanished to the point no one will ever find you, a cast of thousands, sights to behold or be filmed. Like Antonioni's dense tableaux, you may judge your encounter with mass transit as aggressively alienating and maddening in its slow pace, but by using your Truffaut-informed imagination (after steering clear of an aisle seat) and pretending you're chilling at Cinecitta instead, the vehicle transforms in that day-for-night way. As the Bluebird diesel rumbles north, downtown's hectic sets fall behind and the windows frame unbroken vistas of on-location neighborhoods -- housing, strip malls, construction sites, restaurants. Interestingly costumed extras appear, some more than once, making ominous eye contact or uninterpretable gestures. When you disembark at the mall, you will be astounded to discover that neither David Hemmings nor Monica Vitti is waiting to accompany you to the Gap. Ask the old woman in the heavy coat and sweater or the teenager appropriating black culture with his wardrobe but holding tight that platinum Visa just in case. Maybe Fellini should be your mental guide. At least until you enter the mall and walk head on into its 24-screen multiplex. A comedy turned tragic. So new wave.

The event's original presenters -- Miami architect Willy Bermello, attorney Peter Yanowitch, and racing celebrity Emerson Fittipaldi -- fled the scene like a torqued-up Porsche when they sold their interest in the three-day extravaganza to Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) for $1.2 million. Then, after wreaking havoc on the Biscayne Boulevard streetscape by removing architecturally significant pavers and relocating palm trees that had lined the boulevard since the Twenties, CART pulled the plug on the Miami race, citing losses of nearly ten million dollars. Left behind: a two-million-dollar oil slick of bills and debts owed to the City of Miami and other public agencies.

The event's original presenters -- Miami architect Willy Bermello, attorney Peter Yanowitch, and racing celebrity Emerson Fittipaldi -- fled the scene like a torqued-up Porsche when they sold their interest in the three-day extravaganza to Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) for $1.2 million. Then, after wreaking havoc on the Biscayne Boulevard streetscape by removing architecturally significant pavers and relocating palm trees that had lined the boulevard since the Twenties, CART pulled the plug on the Miami race, citing losses of nearly ten million dollars. Left behind: a two-million-dollar oil slick of bills and debts owed to the City of Miami and other public agencies.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®