Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
Social media innovations. Flash mobs. Wynwood Second Saturday Art Walk performances. They sound like the attention-getting tactics of a young start-up arts collective. But the cultural organization that's making the biggest push for new audiences this year isn't a new one. In fact, it's been around for 71 seasons. It's Florida Grand Opera. FGO wants your ass in its audience, and it's going to great lengths to achieve it. In February, the opera's performers infiltrated Miami International Airport as part of the Knight Foundation's Random Acts of Culture. Dressed in plain clothes, they emerged from café lines and waiting areas to perform six times at gates throughout the terminals, to the delight of travelers who otherwise had nothing but stale coffee and flight delays to look forward to. FGO followed that spectacle with an announcement that was truly uncharacteristic, especially for an artistic medium as traditional as opera: The company was offering special seating at its shows for patrons who wanted to be able to use their cell phones, tablets, and other electronic devices during the performance. Tech-obsessed culture seekers could geek out to their hearts' content, sharing photos, tweeting, and even live-blogging from the shows themselves. Next came FGO's performances at the Dorsch Gallery during Second Saturday Art Walk in April, a showcase designed to appeal to an unlikely audience — hipsters. The Dorsch was packed for every performance that night. In an arts community as rapidly evolving as Miami's, innovative ideas are the only thing that'll hold anyone's interest for long.
READERS' POLL WINNERS
Best Art Gallery: Dorsch Gallery
Best Art-House Cinema: O Cinema
Best Bar, Central: Ricochet Bar & Lounge
Best Bar, Miami Beach: Chalk
Best Bar, South: Bougainvillea's
Best Bar, West: Blue Martini
Best Blog: Antisteez.com
Best Band: PALO!
Best Dance Club: LIV
Best DJ: Pinchadiscos 305
Best Gay Bar: Twist South Beach
Best Festival: Ultra
Best Movie Theater: Regal Cinemas South Beach
Best Museum: Miami Art Museum
Best Radio Station: Power 96 (96.5 FM)
Best Theater for Drama: GableStage at the Biltmore
Best TV News Anchor: Belkys Nerey
Best Twitter Feed: Pepe Billete (@PepeBillete)
Women. You know you can't live without them. But it sure helps if the one you're living with can carry on a conversation without using words like irregardless, high-larious, and — our personal favorite — anyways. Where can you find such a woman without having to scour comic-book conventions and Scrabble meetups? You want brains, but you could do without dressing up like Pikachu and engaging in cutthroat board-game play. Enter the SWAN Spoken Soul Festival, a celebration of women artists that climaxes with the Spoken Soul Showcase, an event featuring artists, singer/songwriters, photographers, and spoken-word artists — all of whom are female. In honor of International SWAN (Supporting Women Artists Now) Day, organizer, actress, and spoken-word artist Deborah Magdalena created an event that — wait for it — brings together the most talented, bright, creative, and (dare we say it?) beautiful women in Miami. Besides knowing who Mondrian is, female artists got swag. They're easy on the eyes — and that helps soothe the pain when they're laying the smackdown on you in a game of Words With Friends. If you're a dude looking for a brainy chick, your best bet is the Spoken Soul Showcase. If you're a chick looking for a brainy female, attend the Sunday brunch, which is ladies only. It's like shooting female Mensa fish in a barrel.
Face it: Spending your weekends at South Beach clubs hasn't helped your search for the perfect man. You want someone funny, handsome, and smart, but the majority of men bobbing their heads to the DJ's uhntz-uhntz are about as interesting as that recycled Madonna beat. Don't despair — the answer to your prayers is located right around the corner on Ocean Drive. In the middle of the art deco district, you'll find Effusion Gallery. Not only will you get a taste of Miami's culture through local artists' works, but also you just might find the man of your dreams. Sure, you'll occasionally encounter a hipster who overanalyzes every piece while wearing pants that are tighter than yours. But no doubt there will be at least one attractive smarty-pants checking out the scene. Replace that EDM with pop art; your ears and your love life will thank you.
It's 4 a.m. and you still haven't found a special lady with whom you can have a semi-inebriated conversation. You are thinking of calling it a night — but slow down there, buddy. There is a watering hole in downtown Miami perfect for meeting women who aren't ready to call it a night. Appropriately named the Corner — because it sits on the corner of NE 11th Street and North Miami Avenue — the bar takes its cues from places such as the Room in Miami Beach's South of Fifth neighborhood and Living Room at the W South Beach in that it offers the carefully crafted cocktails of the latter with the craft beers and cheap pints of PBR of the former. The women who frequent the Corner are of the hipster variety, so their ears will perk up if you complain how gentrified Wynwood has become. If you really want to impress her, skip the cheap beer and order her a Falerno ($14). Served in a small goblet, the cocktail combines Diplomático rum, Luxardo maraschino liqueur, candied ginger, and citrus. Notes of clove and allspice dance on the palate, giving it a sexy mouth-feel without being called something silly like Sex on the Beach. And we haven't even told you the best part. If you arrive at 4 in the morning, take your time in wooing your future girlfriend. Last call at the Corner is nonexistent, as long as there are willing patrons. The establishment is the only bar in the 305 with a 24-hour liquor license — not counting nearby megaclubs like Space and Mekka — thanks to its location in the Miami Entertainment District.
Granted, the guys who regularly hang at Hooters to suck down pitchers might not be moneyed, but they obviously dig chicks — and not only the ones with wings. Heck, they congregate at a place known for exposing so much of its staff's cleavage that the servers don't even expect patrons to look them in the eye. According to general manager Peter Gonzalez, peak man hours are Fridays at lunchtime (understandably, because the restaurant offers a slew of menu items for under $7) and Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at dinnertime. Unfortunately the city put the kibosh on the eatery's motorcycle meetups — perhaps the sight of all those choppers and their leather-clad bosses put the Coral Gables ne'er-do-wells on red alert — but loads of dudes can still be found there on a regular basis. Like the Latin look, ladies? Stop by during pay-per-view boxing matches. Want variety? Head over when the Heat plays. And here's more advice: Don't try to compete with the Hooters girls. The guys already know that most of those gals are out of their league. Instead, be yourself, dress as you normally would, and don't seem so interested in what's on TV that you can't be engaged in conversation. Oh, and if you go for the first time and don't find anyone who gets your loins warm, at least you can order a plate of 3-Mile Island wings and fire up your face. See? It's a win-win.
Miamians are a funny breed. We'll pay hundreds of dollars to stand shoulder-to-sweaty-shoulder in a dark nightclub, listening to electronic music that sounds the same coming out of our speakers at home, where we actually have room to dance. And though we have the daily opportunity to stand mere feet from million-dollar paintings by Picasso, Botero, Matisse, and other masters, at absolutely no cost, most of us don't take it. Then again, most of us don't know about Gary Nader Fine Art in Wynwood. That's why your love interest will be shocked, awed, and impressed when you take her (or him) to this warehouse of world-class art on your first date. At 55,000 square feet, it is the largest private gallery space in the world, and thanks to Nader's three decades of scouting and collecting great works from around the world, it is home to perhaps the greatest private collection of the Latin master painters. Woo your date by learning a few tidbits about Wifredo Lam before you traipse through the front door. Have an abstract conversation with the fluid photographs taken by ballet great Mikhail Baryshnikov or another special exhibition on the second floor. And on your way out, linger a bit in the parking lot while you admire the bodacious Botero sculptures; it might be an artful opportunity to steal that first kiss.
In 1944, the City of Miami hired its first black police officers. They worked on foot and bicycle, patrolling the Central Negro District of Overtown, then known colloquially as "Colored Town," from the Florida East Coast Railway tracks to NW Seventh Ave, and from NW Fifth to 21st streets. By 1946, they also patrolled Liberty City and Coconut Grove. They were trained in the Liberty Square public housing project, and for six years they struggled without a permanent headquarters. In 1950, through the efforts of respected black professionals and clergymen, they secured a separate courthouse, jail, and precinct house at 480 NW 11th St., the first of its kind in the nation and still the only known black police station, jail, and courthouse built from the ground up. The historic building still stands, and Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., expert tour guides such as Capt. Otis Davis and Det. Archie McKay, who were on the police force way back when, will lead you through and relate stories about the jail cells and courtroom where they worked until 1963, when the station was closed in favor of integration.
Music is the soul that makes the planet dance, and every third Friday of the month, Little Haiti shakes its hips, waves its hands, stomps its feet, and thanks the stars. Since March 2011, this festival of music, art, food, and culture has brought some of the biggest names in the history of Haitian music to a free party in the heart of the city. Tabou Combo, Shleu Shleu, BélO, Jowee Omicil, Beethova Obas, Magnum Band, and Zenglen have all touched down. Local legends such as Papaloko, Rara Kuyu, and JahNesta have also been given a chance to shine. Rara Lakay has led a vuvuzela parade through the streets, a vodou drum circle has filled the night air with percussive force, kids have painted murals together, world-famous visual artists have shown internationally renowned work in the pristine art gallery, World Cup of Beer gold medalist Prestige is always available, politicians have made proclamations honoring the event, and the sounds of compas, reggae, funk, and racine have vibrated in tune with the universe. Of all the money the Knight Foundation has donated to cultural events, this has been the best-spent.
Every day, including Christmas and Easter (and probably during hurricanes), Norman's celebrates its late-night happy hour from midnight to 5 a.m. When other bars close and people are sick of dancing on South Beach, tired of paying $15 for a cocktail, or looking for a good time when the freaks come out, they hit this Miami Beach gem for $5 martinis, margaritas, and mojitos, and $4 mixed drinks (vodka, rum, and tequila). The kitchen stays open till 3 a.m. (Fridays and Saturdays; till 1 a.m. weeknights), a Red Stripe costs $4.50, a pitcher costs $12, and a glass of the house Merlot is just $5. But like we said, the stars of the show are the $5 cocktails and $4 mixed drinks. There's free parking next door (with a pass from the hostess), and the Wi-Fi is gratis, so you can tweet all of your comrades about the afterparty. Oh yeah, the place also rents hotel studio apartments for $250 a week or $800 a month, so you can stretch your late-night happy hour into a permanent vacation.
For decades, the Fontainebleau had been regarded as the granddaddy of all luxury resorts in Miami Beach; by the '90s, it had lost a bit of its luster. But it's funny what a multibillion-dollar renovation can do. After a complete overhaul in 2009, the hotel reopened with a more youthful vibe, including a megaclub far away from South Beach. The legendary Tropigala, which had turned into a horrible, campy version of its former self toward its end, was replaced by LIV — which is the roman numeral for 54, the year the hotel opened. Locals and visitors seemed to fall instantly in love with the venue, proving you don't have to be located on Washington Avenue to be successful. The pantheonic dome remained, but it received a lighting face-lift that gives the illusion the room is moving. For VIPs, there are boxes overlooking the main floor, which is packed with couches and tables, as well as bottles outfitted with sparklers. And this being Miami Beach, and the Fontainebleau in particular, expect high admission prices, a hassle at the door, and a big drink bill at the end of the night — if you aren't of the fairer sex. That being said, you can't say you've experienced Miami nightlife if you haven't visited LIV. From Paul Oakenfold to Calvin Harris to Tiësto and other big live acts, thanks to LIV, your granddaddy's hotel is looking pretty hip these days.
To do the VIP experience right, you must follow the lead of the hip-hop heavyweights who visit South Beach to blow off some stress and put a serious dent in their financial portfolios. Sure, their accountants won't be happy come Monday, but Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, Flo Rida, Diddy, and even the insufferable Chris Brown know that the top place to be treated like a VIP is the area behind the DJ booth at Cameo. The unassuming plot of nightclub real estate is a flurry of bottle service, posturing, and groupies, with the occasional greenback shower. This scene has given the Opium Group a VIP area that seems to send gossip magazines and blogs into a tizzy. Only Cameo is ballsy enough to offer a $100,000 VIP package to ring in the new year with the Bawse. And it was Cameo where Brown infamously snatched a fan's iPhone as he left the club. Our source at Opium Group says if you want to live it up in the VIP area while a celebrity is sitting nearby, it will probably cost you around $10,000. Nobody said partying like a VIP was cheap.