Miami Art Central
Think of blockbuster exhibits. Think of provocative community-oriented programs that integrate film, literature, music, and performance with the visual arts. Think Miami Art Central. Since opening its doors in 2004, the nonprofit has blazed an impressive swath across our cultural landscape, showcasing heavyweight names and pulling in crowds with stimulating presentations of lectures, screenings, workshops, publications, and roundtable discussions. The William Kentridge exhibition -- featuring the South African artist's drawings, sculptures, and live-action films, spilling over most of the museum's 20,000-square-foot exhibition space -- was the undisputed best-of-season knockout. This bonanza's undercard weighed in with an African film festival and interesting talks about contemporary art in South Africa by curator and scholar Okwui Enwezor. Add to the mix "The Last Picture Show: Artists Using Photography (1960-1982)," one of the tightest photography surveys ever to see the daylight in these parts; the subtle "Ruth Vollmer & Gego: Thinking the Line"; and the comprehensive "Irreducible Contemporary Short Form Video," and one sees why the big-swinging institution has climbed with pizzazz to the top of the cultural ranks. Think Miami Art Central and you'll find yourself thinking of one of the most exciting cultural forums around here today. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors, free for children under twelve and students with valid ID. Free admission Sundays. Hours: Tuesday through Sunday noon to 7:00 p.m.
Reverend Thompson has been preaching from the pulpit here since 1974, and in 32 years has put the "community" in the church's name in both word and deed. He began by encouraging blacks, Hispanics, and the homeless to join a congregation of what one current parishioner calls "a very well-gloved ladies-who-lunch crowd." Thompson threw himself, and his congregation, into community works -- hosting regular hot meals for the homeless, cleaning up Lincoln Road before it became Lincoln Road, and raising money for students who wanted to further their education but couldn't afford it. A fluent Spanish-speaker from his time preaching in Puerto Rico, he reached out to the Hispanic community during South Beach's grittier cocaine cowboy years, and he has steadfastly created public interfaith dialogues with leaders from Jewish and Muslim communities. The reverend does not adhere to any rigid doctrinaire teachings, believing "God is still speaking" and that the messages in the Bible are still evolving. To that end, he welcomes gays and lesbians to the church, and he preaches against the kind of fire-and-brimstone morality that drives so many people away from their childhood pews. The beautiful white stucco church and its visionary pastor prove, even smack-dab in the middle of South Beach, that some things -- depth, commitment, and community building -- are not only possible but also eternal.
Overtown Youth Center
The Overtown Youth Center basketball court makes any ordinary hoopster hungry. There's something about this particular hardwood. Maybe it's the context. This freshly painted, recently polished, carefully maintained, full-size indoor gem is located in one of the slummiest, most dilapidated parts of Miami. Or maybe it's because you're not allowed to play here. The court is part of the Overtown Youth Center, an after-school program that was spurred by a multimillion-dollar donation from philanthropist Marty Margulies. It belongs to the program and is the centerpiece of a youth basketball league. Still, adults and community organizations can apply to use it. If looking at the Youth Center court gets you hot for some hoopin', simply take the short walk over to the Gibson Park courts. They aren't the field of dreams, but they'll satisfy your hoop dreams.
In a city where there are as many public-relations people as flashy, high-rise condos, one man stands out above the event-promoting pack. His name is Charlie Cinnamon. He's been a well-established fixture for more than 40 years. He's responsible for some of Miami's finest and longest-running cultural events. And through it all, he's remained as spicy-sweet as his name would suggest. Without Cinnamon, there would be no Coconut Grove Arts Festival. The Miami Beach Festival of the Arts probably wouldn't have become the nationally known event it is today. And local theater would be lost. Cinnamon's efforts haven't gone unnoticed. In 1983 he was honored with the Carbonell Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts by the South Florida Entertainment Writers Association. In 1984 the City of Miami Beach Fine Arts Board named him Man of the Year. In 1985 the PROPS Women of Show Business created the inaugural Charles Cinnamon Award, which is given out annually by the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts. This past March 25, 2006, Cinnamon was awarded the Playhouse Lifetime Community Achievement Award for his decades-long work in promoting the Magic City and its various cultural institutions. The award was presented by none other than suspenders-sporting CNN talk show host Larry King. Although he regularly deals with high-power celebrities, including Liza Minnelli, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Gloria Estefan, and Princess Caroline of Monaco, Cinnamon remains a man of the people who would rather enjoy lunch alfresco on Lincoln Road than spend time sucking up to name-dropping wannabes. Other self-described PR superstars and celebrity sycophants should learn from Charlie. He's lasted this long for a reason. Quite simply, he's tops.
Visit Crandon Beach on a gusty day and, for a $5 parking fee, here's what you'll find: kite surfers swooping and twirling in the distance and sandpipers dozing on one leg just offshore. The placid, lagoonlike waters make Crandon a perfect spot for swimming or wading. And its near-empty beaches are a welcome retreat from Miami Beach favorites. Besides, no other local waterfront spot can rival Crandon's velvety white sand and plentiful amenities -- among them meandering promenades, ample picnic areas, shaded pavilions, outdoor showers, and concession stands. For those with children, there's the Family Amusement Center with its antique carousel, roller rink, and sandy playground. You can also rent cabanas, complete with private restrooms and showers, for $20 per day or $200 per month. These small, mostly concrete spaces are better suited to storing lounge chairs and surfboards than lingering over mojitos. But who really needs a roof when there's so much sand to ply? And once you've had your fill of beach, you can sample some of Crandon Park's other offerings, such as fine restaurants, tennis courts, and a championship eighteen-hole golf course.
Born in Miami during a mainland visit by his Bahamian parents, this great American actor came to the Magic City as a fifteen-year-old in 1942 and remained in the United States after that. At first he had a really rough time, experiencing racism and difficulty in getting a job, which inspired his civil rights activism as an adult. Poitier joined the U.S. Army at age eighteen and while on leave auditioned impulsively for a Broadway production of Lysistrata. He got the part, and within a decade had copped the Oscar for his performance in 1963's Lilies of the Field, the first black to win in a leading role. Poitier maintained activity onstage, onscreen, and in the burgeoning civil rights movement. Roles in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967), as the suitor of a white woman (and by extension her uptight family), and To Sir, with Love (1967), as a teacher and inspiration to a bunch of teen hoodlums, were landmarks of their time. Today those films are still eminently watchable, in large part owing to Poitier's elegant elocution and reserved manner. And don't even get us started on They Call Me Mr. Tibbs.
In 1980 more than 125,000 Cubans fled the iron fist of Fidel Castro in what would become known as the Mariel Boatlift. Mirta Ojito was born in Cuba and lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Havana for sixteen years until her family joined the exodus to the United States. Ojito's family made it to Florida together, but many others were not as fortunate. Finding Mañana paints a bleak picture of the postmodern Cuba where self-expression was a crime and religion was rejected. But not all is despair and tribulation. As Ojito puts it: "We left the way one leaves a cherished but impossible love: our hearts heavy with regret but beating with great hope.''
Let us now have a moment of silence for Don Carter's, the little bowling alley that could, and did, for 30 years. The Kendall branch opened in 1976, when most of the overcrowded suburb was but a gleam in an ambitious developer's eye, and it sadly has gone the way of most Miami businesses that possess any glimmer of authentic retro chic. Shuttered. Kaput. Finis. If you're the kind of "athlete" who owns your own bowling ball and shoes, you'll have to head out to the annoying brightness of Bird Bowl (9275 SW 40 St., Miami; 305-221-1221, www.birdbowl.com) or even farther to the Homestead Bowling Center (111 S. Homestead Blvd., Homestead; 305-246-1333). Hipsters can enjoy Lucky Strike Lanes (1691 Michigan Ave., Miami Beach; 305-532-0307, www.bowlluckystrike.com). Just know that no self-respecting bowling alley serves coconut shrimp and hummus, dudes. Progress has marched on, but the memories remain. Don Carter's felt like the real deal -- musty, dark, and funky. The ambiance could be described as inadvertent kitsch (and isn't that really the best kind?), with cheesy track lighting, garish patterns in the carpet, and a distinct lack of contemporary chic flourishes. And the deals couldn't be beat. On Monday nights, visitors were able to pay $10 for the Bowl Your Brains Out deal: all-you-could-roll plus music, raffles, and Lightning Strikes, a stonerific explosion of special effects, lights, lasers, and fog. Ah, the good old days. Rumors of the location's imminent closing swirled for months. This past October, the following statement was posted on the company's Website: "While we are saddened to see this great establishment close, we will be open through October 2005." The date came and went, and the year came to a close. Two other dates were publicized as being the last call, but Don Carter representatives finally confirmed the tragic truth. The Kendall area landmark went out with a whimper, not with the promised celebration and hubbub. Sorry, boys, no more balls will roll down those familiar wooden lanes. Eventually the familiar gray building will be razed and maybe rebuilt into some bullshit chain store. Sentimental fans will lament, zip up their bowling bags, and then make the trek up to the remaining Don Carter locations in Tamarac and Davie.
This past December, when Chuck Zink quietly entered a nursing home after a major stroke, native South Floridians spread the news that our good friend was dying. To call The Skipper Chuck Show popular would be an understatement. From 1957 to 1979, every youngster in town wanted to appear on it. The production seemed a cheery reprieve from the often scary and confusing world that adults inhabited -- when Zink bravely ordered desegregation, it became a bellwether. No right-minded kid could forget the cheery Popeye's Playhouse at the end of a maze of dark hallways in that giant box where WTVJ shot the show. During his long career, Zink was also an announcer for The Jackie Gleason Show and the Miss Universe Pageant. His day jobs included weatherman and radio personality, and he earned a bronze star for bravery during World War II, but it was as host of a seemingly simple kiddie show that he made a lasting and positive impression on the world. When he passed away this past January, fans found it easy to lift their hands in the Skipper's trademark three-fingered gesture and wish Zink "peace, love, and happiness" one last time.
Route 8A, Miami-Dade Transit's exotic Third-World express through the heart of Little Havana, is an experience unrivaled in our public transportation system and dirt cheap at a buck-fifty. Many joke that for norteamericanos this rickety trip down Calle Ocho is like weathering the Florida Straits on a raft; it'll take you to another country, no passport required. Expect to find yourself immersed in spirited teeth-gnashing forums making mincemeat of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez. And if you don't speak Spanish, don't worry -- neither does the bus driver who appears in a zone all his own. Chances are a civic-minded translator will likely come to your rescue. You might also find yourself serenaded by a harmonica player belting out woeful tango standards and passing around a hat. Or you could run into a route regular canoodling with a life-size rag doll. The aging dandy is a street performer who dances with the dummy as part of his shtick, and hecklers yell at him to pay an extra fare as he slinks gracefully down the aisle with his tattered toe-tapping inamorata. Catch the infectious whiff of patriotism exuded by the geezer sporting the "Support Our Troops in Iraq" baseball cap with an American flag duct-taped to the brim. When the lady with the guava-tinge teeth waves her Lotto ticket at a man and denounces him an "infiltrator" before he tucks tail and hops off at the next stop, score one for back-yard democracy. Be wary of the guy waving the rusty garden rake -- it could poke out an eye. When you exit at Domino Park for some local color, don't miss the banner bearing an American bald eagle. It boasts, "Welcome to your Homeland Defense Neighborhood," in English.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®