Play your part for the art / Fall 2008

Activism rewards Miami’s growing art community. Like a jewel-toned garden, this community gleams brighter when more do their part.An arts community, like democracy, is not a spectator sport. There’s a role for everyone to play, encouraging others to participate.Find a niche of your own. Make it bloom. In our ebulliently fertile region, where the growing season is famously long, enough is never enough.

Consider examples set by a curator and collectors. Thanks to e-mail, their activism spurs a ripple effect through Miami and beyond. It creates more opportunities for artists to develop, more opportunities for everyone to converse about art.

Take part in Miami’s radical ripple effect. Click on the web addresses in my column. Find out about artist talks and other public events. Sign up to learn more via e-mail.

Recently I chatted with Rosie Gordon-Wallace, the effervescent director and curator of Diaspora Vibe Gallery,, in the Design District. She has done much to provide a forum for artists of Caribbean descent. “Art is politics,” she says. “Yes, the commercial art world is not necessarily looking at our region, but I think strong, innovative ideas are coming from that region.”

She introduces me to Hubert Neal, Jr., the current Diaspora Vibe artist-in-residence. Born in Belize, he’s an articulate artist educated at Cornell who left his job as a photojournalist in Belize to make art in Miami. “I came to Miami with a dollar and a dream,” he tells me.

The activist energy at Diaspora Vibe thrills Hubert. “You’re more than just an artist in a gallery,” he says, describing how he gets to exhibit his art, mount and dismantle shows, and run the website. “I’m essentially Rosie’s apprentice. I’m not content to just make art. I want to know how this whole operation works,” Hubert explains. “Art is my passion, but I can’t ignore the fact that there are a lot of people who don’t have opportunities, especially when you come from the Third World. You can’t get distracted and give up.”

In Miami’s Morningside district, I visit Kathryn Mikesell, who with husband Daniel began the Fountainhead Residency,, in March 2008. The residency is in a simple, sunny 1950’s house across the street from their stylishly renovated home of the same era. The couple’s home is graced with their lively international collection of contemporary art. Artworks by Michael Loveland and Louise Nevelson greet the eye.

As Kathryn describes Fountainhead, she sparkles with an activist spirit. For years she and her husband traveled for their telecommunication business. Now she’s taking a break from her career to raise their children and play her part for art.

“We wanted to bring artists in from around the world to live and work in Miami for a period of up to two months,” she says. “It’s not only about providing them with a place to work, but it’s getting them integrated into the community.” They hope these artists find a Miami gallery.

The Mikesells provide resident artists roundtrip flights to Miami. When Miami artist Brandon Opalka needed space to create art for his show at Dorsch Gallery, they let him turn the garage into his studio.

Not only do they provide residencies for artists they collect, they offer hospitality to artists exhibiting at Miami Art Museum, Locust Projects, and Museum of Contemporary Art. Kathryn shows me the room shared by Ida Ekblad of Oslo and her assistant, who were installing art for “Dark Continents” at MOCA. She introduces me to artists working there, Tucker from Los Angeles and Mike Swaney, a Canadian living in Barcelona. Both appreciate the chance to focus on making art, without distractions of daily life. “It’s super good to meet other artists and curators,” adds Swaney.

The Mikesells host shows open to the public for each resident. It’s for one night, but through the website collectors can arrange to see the show by appointment. “Miami has this phenomenal art scene,” she says. Using Fountainhead to network, “artists that have come have really taken advantage of all that Miami has to offer,” Kathryn beams.

Collectors Arturo and Liza Mosquera polish gems for Miami. Their art collection is a stimulating part of patients’ visits to Arturo’s orthodontist office. Several years ago they began “Art@Work” in his waiting room, with shows for Miami artists. In May 2007 they opened Farside Gallery next to his office, producing catalogs for artists, including Pedro Vizcaino, who’ve presented notable exhibits at Farside. Call 305-264-3355 to put your name on their e-mail list.

Why keep doing more for art and artists?

“We just feel it’s difficult for museums to do everything,” Arturo says, speaking like a true activist.

Hubert Neal, Jr. The Artist - Again, Acrylic On Canvas, 2008

Pedro Vizcaino , Taxi, 2004, ink, color pencil on paper, 41 x 25 in

Mike Swaney, For Sale, collage on watercolour paper, 2008. 23.2 x 19.7 in.

Ida Ekblad, i.e, Primitive, 2008. Mixed media installation; papier-mâché of National Geographic magazines, found sticks of wood and found cans. Dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist, Oslo

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