A 20-foot-tall sculpture of a Labrador surrounded by puppies and kittens will welcome guests to a "wonder world where dogs and cats can be forever friends" at Maurice A. Ferré Park at the grand opening of a new art installment this weekend, spearheaded by city commissioner and resident aesthete Joe Carollo.
Chaired by Carollo, the Bayfront Park Management Trust is hosting a two-day celebration, beginning on February 10, which will include a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Dogs & Cats Walkway. The ceremony is by invitation only but will be followed by a free block party open to the public on Saturday, February 11 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., according to the press release.
Call it kitsch, quirky, or just a lovely addition to the park. We've been assured that none of the vividly colored pet sculptures will haunt your dreams.
"There is nothing like this artwork around the world," Carollo said in the release. "We are very proud to offer world-class artwork in our local parks for the enjoyment of residents and tourists alike."
The walkway located next to the Pérez Art Museum features more than 50 oversized aluminum sculptures of different cats and dogs painted to represent Miami neighborhoods and breeds from all over the world. It is meant to encapsulate "the connection pets play in our lives."
The art includes sculptures of rottweilers, basset hounds, poodles, Great Danes, yorkies and Siamese cats.
There is "Cinnamon," the bronze-colored mini poodle, and "Kefir," the Brickell street cat adorned in pastels. The installment also features a large "Cotton Candy" poodle with rainbow-colored, protruding hair and lifelike features, as well as "Tourist," the massive boxer wearing sunglasses decorated with images of the beach and different fish. The pets on display include "Ebony," the black-and-gold striped cat from Malaysia and "Baba-Ji," the pink chihuahua of Mexico decorated with images of trees, a putting green, and the sun.
The park had its "soft opening" this past December during Art Basel and has already been "visited by thousands of people from all around the world," the release notes.
Nearly two years ago, Carollo and his wife Marjorie came up with El Paseo de los Perros y Gatos — the Walkway of Dogs and Cats— after she watched a Facebook video about a popular park in Colombia decorated with cat sculptures. The grand opening press release notes the pair was "inspired by their infinite love for pets."
Thinking the exhibit would be make a great tourist attraction, Carollo suggested the idea to rest of the board for the Bayfront Park Management Trust, which is responsible for managing Bayfront and Maurice A. Ferré parks downtown.
“Mark my words, these sculptures will bring busloads of tourists to the park,” Carollo said. “I envision people flocking to see this art. Miami will be known for its 'Walkway of Dogs and Cats.'"
Not everyone at the Bayfront Park trust was pleased with the project, as board member Cristina Palomo claimed chairman-turned-art curator Carollo rushed to get the exhibit approved without proper notice, discussion, input from art consultants, or competitive bidding. Palomo resigned in 2021 over her gripes with the project after serving on the board for three years.
As reported by the Miami Herald, the board awarded a $896,000 contract to Art and Sculpture Unlimited Inc. to install, cast, and design the statues.
In her resignation letter, Palomo called out the board for operating in a "dysfunctional and nontransparent fashion." She noted how the "poorly vetted project" was prioritized over other "long promised essential park elements."
"We should have sought out a collaborative approach from our neighbors, the museums who will have this work displayed right on their front lawn," Palomo wrote. "The [Pérez Art Museum] in particular could surely contribute some valuable input towards a permanent art installation of this magnitude."
While the trust's artistic director Miguel Ferro curated the exhibit, the board chose artists to paint each sculpture through a lengthy application process that encouraged participation from local painters.
The trust's social media coordinator Daiana Rocha tells New Times the board members were not looking for specific backgrounds when deciding the artists. She says they were picked on the basis of the artistic merits of the more than 700 designs submitted.
"The call was for all type of artists whether they were amateur or professional," she says.
Each sculpture is accompanied by a QR code for visitors to scan to learn more about the breed, the chosen design, and the artist.
"The community is entitled to enjoy quality artwork and beautiful spaces in our city without having to pay high prices for it," Marjorie Carollo said in the press release ahead of the grand opening.