Gean Moreno, Cannonball's New Artistic Director: Miami Needs to Focus on Art, Not Attendance

Miami's reputation as a growing hub for artists and collectors may be most manifest in the form of Art Basel and the ever evolving renaissance of Wynwood as a fine arts destination. However, there's another player behind the scenes, a Miami-based, not for profit organization called Cannonball that's played an active role in furthering support for the arts through such core initiatives as its residency programs, legal, professional and education services, and professional development efforts geared at encouraging a stronger and more vibrant artistic community.

Cannonball recently announced the appointment of Gean Moreno as its new artistic director, a step that's sure to bring the group increased recognition due to Moreno's international reputation as an internationally known artist, author and editor. We asked Moreno, who also happens to have graduated from FIU, about his plans for firing up Cannonball for the future.

New Times: What do you think you bring to the table in terms of administrative ability and how do you feel your experience as an artist, editor and writer will enhance the organization's efforts?

Gean Moreno: Having worked on numerous projects over the years, from developing book series to organizing exhibitions, I have a sense of how to effectively distribute available resources, which is often one of the main challenges that emerges in cultural projects, as funding sources are no longer as abundant as they have been at other times. But as much as administrative abilities, I think that part of the reason that I was hired was to enhance the existing residency program and to develop a vision for the educational platform that Cannonball has begun to develop. Structuring this platform will be one of our major projects over the next year, and we are looking to do this in such as way as to have a long-lasting and sustainable model.

What is it about Cannonball that you would like to further in terms of its outreach and/or mission?

In terms of outreach, I want to draw an even larger number of artists and art professionals in, but with substantial offerings. In a culture that increasingly feels event-driven and measured in numbers of attendants rather than the quality of what is offered, it is important to build an audience that is there because it values what is being presented, because what is being offered is serious and considered and enriching. The possibility of meeting these two goals -- the involvement of a larger public and relevant programming -- will occur as we formalize our seminars and lectures into an educational initiative.

What about the organization do you feel has been particularly successful?

Its residential program is a fantastic success. Having seven studios constantly filled by a rotating group of local, national, and international artists is quite a feather on Cannonball's cap. I think the organization has also been successful in integrating into the local social fabric some of the out-of-town artists that visit. This is possible because their stays are extended -- one to three months, and often multiple stays. I think that the organization's presence in downtown helps with the entrance of our visiting artists into the community of local artists. I like to think that this is more a time for innovation than improvement at Cannonball. We have two really significant projects on the horizon, which will both feed on what is in place already and, through their very unfolding, make it richer. 

What is your overall view of the status of visual arts in South Florida? Do you think it's given enough attention and enough funding?

Over the last decade or so, inordinate amounts of special attention have fallen on the visual arts, but this hasn't translated into a robust infrastructure that looks out for the most important element in the field -- the producers and the artists. And while the efforts of numerous individuals, foundations and organizations should be highlighted and applauded, there is still a great deal of work to be done on this front. Is there enough funding? There is never enough funding and there seems to be little political will to generate more, but we can't use this as an excuse for paralysis. We have to continue working, continue building unexpected collaborations, and continue pushing to generate the will and awareness to get more funding into the arts. 

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