Vivian Acosta: Miami as Text 2020-2021

Photo by Anthony Velasquez CC BY 4.0

Vivian Acosta is a senior at Florida International University majoring in psychology. She has always been passionate about highlighting the importance of mental health and other’s well-being. After exploring different psychology areas, she discovered that helping organizations create a healthy environment for their employees is what she wanted to devote her time to; therefore, she is specializing in industrial-organizational psychology.
During her free time, she likes to spend quality time with her family and friends or playing sports. She also visits her home country, Honduras, often and plans to expand her vacation destinations.
Vivian enjoys learning about different cultures, history, and societal issues. She believes that all of these topics merge through art, so she decided to enroll in the Art Society and Conflict course thought by the French American artist John Bailly.
Below you can find Vivian’s reflections.

Deering As Text

Photos by Vivian Acosta CC BY 4.0

“Pieces of Miami” By Vivian Acosta of FIU At Deering Estate on september 9th, 2020.

A hidden treasure is in Cutler Bay, treasuring unique gems: nature, art, architecture, and history. Undisturbed mangroves, trees, and animals guard the land, bodies, and remains of the Tequesta, one of Miami’s first inhabitants. In there, we get to see a different side of Miami, a lot simpler one. 

Charles Deering’s Spanish Villa, the Stone House, and his winter home, the Richmond Cottage, face Biscayne Bay. Manatees and fish visit the boat basin regularly—if I could, I would too—such a tranquil and breezy place. As I stood there, I paused and contemplated the view while the wind caressed my face. 

The Richmond Cottage was an inn about 100 years ago. Then, it became Charles’ self-sufficient winter home. The Richmond Cottage has a pioneer home design and is currently one of the oldest structures in Cutler bay (Historic Structures).

The Stone House is a three-story house with a Mediterranean revival design. The arched-shaped windows inspired by Islamic architecture give the place a dramatic yet elegant look. Throughout the house, I got to appreciate a diversity of adornments, designs, and architectural styles from all over the world: some contemporary and some historical ones.

A French gate hugged by vines and colorful flowers watch one of the rooms. The gate looked delicate and romantic; I could visualize Cinderella twirling in that room. I also got to cross Charles’ Chinese Bridge. This bridge allowed Charles to cross Cutler Creek. Unique art decorates the house, but my favorite piece was a mosaic made from pieces of Miami. Hundreds of small seashells, rocks, corals, sticks, and starfish assembled to form a unique shape decorate a ceiling. I never expected to see that above me. An Islamic design created by Afro-bohemian men on a Spanish Villa out of Miamian pieces. What an original work of art. It holds the essence of Miami: the diversity and rich culture that makes the city unique.

Photo by Vivian Acosta CC BY 4.0

Even though there were various styles and designs within the house, they fit in perfectly—just like us, Miamians.  During my Deering Estate visit, I discovered a little more of Miami through its landscape, early architecture influence, and historical figures, which translated to the Miami we know today.

South Beach as Text

Photos by Vivian Acosta CC BY 4.0

“The Beautiful and The Ugly” By Vivian Acosta of FIU at South Beach on September 23, 2020

About 100 years ago, South Beach was a barrier island enriched with mangroves, marine life, and mosquitoes. People occasionally visited to spend a day at the beach. This changed when Carl Fisher decided that the island covered with mangroves should become an independent city where tourists could visit regularly. Carl Fisher accomplished his vision, scaring the environment, and Bahamian workers, physically, emotionally, and historically. The same figures who cleared thousands of mangrove trees were eventually banned from the land they helped building. They were used. They couldn’t enjoy the results of their hard work. Fortunately, South Beach has evolved over the years. The city welcomes everyone, and anyone and differences are celebrated. The atmosphere encourages people to show their true selves. The festive atmosphere and vivacious people match the unique scenery.

Walking down Ocean Drive, I came across different architectural styles. Pastel-colored buildings, European-looking structures, and contemporary designs. The style that matched South Beach the most, without a doubt, was Art Deco. Warm hues, neon-lights, and unique structures. An authentic combination that sets a tropical yet lively mood.

A diverse color palette, unique geometric ornamentations, and asymmetrical buildings are connected by the buildings’ horizontal detailing, guiding one’s eyes down Ocean Drive. These buildings match the beach, the weather, and the people. South Beach has the world’s most extensive collection of Art Deco buildings, which were once in danger of being demolished. Developers wanted to destroy the buildings to then build contemporary structures. Years of history, rich heritage, and the cultural essence of South Beach could have been deliberately whipped out if it were not for a visionary, persistent woman, community activist, Barbara Capitman. Capitman brought together a group of like-minded, conscious people, and prevented that disaster from happening. Today, the city conserves the iconic architecture that characterizes South Beach.

I realized that many important details go unnoticed due to our lack of information. If we perceive something, and we are uninterested–  either because it doesn’t make sense, we don’t understand it, or it looks ordinary– our brains ignore it, which prevents us from fully appreciating our surroundings. Things don’t stand out until we learn what they are and what they mean. When we finally learn the symbolic representation of things, we begin to “unlock” details that we didn’t pick up before from our surroundings. I experienced this during our visit to South Beach. I have been to South Beach countless times, but how didn’t I notice the piano keys painted on the sidewalk of Lincoln Road before? They were just a pattern of black & white rectangles on the ground before Professor Bailly pointed out the architect’s intention. H&M never had a metallic sign with the words “Lincoln Theater” with neon lights, and I could have sworn the ziggurat roof and low relief decorations on the Guess store had just been added on that day. “Ocean Beach Park”—”a play of words” I thought.  WRONG! South Beach was originally called “Ocean Beach” before it was turned into the vacation destination it is today. This is a worthy detail of South Beach’s history that everyone should know. The numerous coconut trees decorating the city? They are remains from the Lum brothers’ failed coconut plantation. Just because we are looking does not mean we are noticing everything around us, and the more we learn, the more we open our eyes to the beauty and the ugly: the truth of our surroundings.

Bakehouse as Text

Photos by Vivian Acosta CC BY 4.0

“One Change at a Time” by Vivian Acosta of FIU at Bakehouse on October 7th, 2020

Coral Reefs are beautiful structures under the ocean. They are home to millions of species, and they also protect our coastlines from storms. They are essential for the survival of many species, including ours. As rational beings, it should be common sense to protect them; however, we have been doing the opposite, and they are dying faster and faster. Irregular changes in their ecosystems’ temperature, pollution, and intentional removal of corals are just some causes of this species’ disappearance.

Scientists have highlighted this issue for a significant amount of time, but somehow, we overlook it and consciously keep on causing harm. Why do we insist on harming something so precious and vital? Perhaps the way the information is shared does not catch our attention, or we just fail to connect with the issue. Maybe if we all got to see the greatness of these structures, the unique and diverse fauna, and this ecosystem’s importance, we would have the drive to save them! Articles, news, and different initiatives worldwide are doing what they can to spread awareness on this issue, but nothing seems to change! We all need to come together to make a change, and for the majority of people to just ignore issues because it does not affect their present, it sparks a combination of frustration and helplessness in me.

Through Lauren Shapiro’s Future Pacific Project, I learned that change starts somewhere, and it does not happen overnight. My hopes went up, and I realized that we only control our actions and that sharing the message little by little adds up. Years of research, articles, news, and different projects have sparked initiatives little by little. These initiatives attract people from all around the world, who are willing to make a change, change that begins with the individual, and has a collective impact.

Future Pacific uses a unique technique to spread awareness of this issue. The project spreads science knowledge through the voice of art– a beautiful, creative, unique, subjective voice. The intended message, or the idea, is there, but everybody will perceive it in a unique, personal way, and that’s the beauty of it.

I had the unique opportunity of creating corals out of clay—this is part of Lauren Shapiro’s project. Some figures were small, while others were big, but what amazed me was the final result. Hundreds of coral forms made one by one added on to a huge coral mountain, just like those in the ocean. It was breathtaking. Helping create such structures ignited a unique connection and responsibility between me, the project, and the project’s intent: making a change to save the corals. I can say that I was part of the project, and now, that project is a part of me!

Rubell Museum as Text

Photos by Jennifer Quintero CC BY 4.0

“Appreciating the Unknown” by Vivian Acosta of FIU at the Rubell Museum on October 21st, 2020

The Rubell Museum is a contemporary art museum where Mr. and Mrs. Rubell’s precious art collection is shared with the public. Mr. and Mrs. Rubell have been collecting art for about 54 years. Their collection includes pieces by various artists with different styles; therefore, at their museum, you can encounter a diversity of works–from minimalistic canvases to breathtaking, realistic portraits. Contemporary art is unlike any other art style. There is a lot more freedom in the themes, mediums, and rules; therefore, this museum is filled with unique aesthetics, ideas, and experiences. 

The erroneous belief about art is that art should be aesthetically pleasing, but that is not necessarily what art is. Art is anything that one creates with the intent to express one’s ideas. Art is not mainly about aesthetics but about artists’ creativity when expressing their thoughts through their artwork. That is why, at times, many people fail to appreciate art, including myself– especially with a style that gives artists more freedom to express themselves like contemporary art. Some pieces’ intended message can be obvious, while others are open-ended or even unknown.

Mr. and Mrs. Rubell mentioned that they choose pieces that speak to them to add to their collection. Quite frankly, I did not understand what that meant. I realized that I was trying to understand art too hard. When visiting a museum, we should go in with an open mind. Things do not have to make sense necessarily. We have to appreciate the ambiguity, enjoy the experience, and allow ourselves to come up with our own interpretations. When you are able to engage with the art piece and enjoy the expression, that’s when the artwork speaks to you. If nothing of that happens, then move on to the next work, or simply stop trying to make sense of everything. Art is subjective—while one person can feel moved by an art piece, another person could think it’s boring. I realized that loosening up and being curious and open-minded was what I needed to experience the unknown.

Deering Hike as Text 

Photos by Vivian Acosta CC BY 4.0

“Where it All Began” by Vivian Acosta of FIU at the Deering Hike on November 4th, 2020

Miles away from the city’s commotion rests a spot that preserves a piece of Miami’s history. A natural preserve protecting acres of nature, history, and beauty lies in Deering Estate. Pure fauna and flora take us back to enjoy what Miami’s ecosystem was like before conquerors, before industrialization, and before the city was in a rush. The vivid greenery covers the path that Native Americans, such as the Tequesta, and native species once walked in. Different shades of green guide the way in this vivid place. In this natural preserve, it is difficult not to get lost physically, but it’s easy to find inner peace, harmony, and become mindful. Without the unavoidable disturbances we face daily, getting in touch with nature, ourselves, and our past is inevitable. Visiting a place like this hidden gem allows us to create a connection with our history, a much simpler time, where it all began.

Walking in the natural preserve, you will encounter mangroves, tropical hardwood hammocks, the Miami Rock Ridge, solution holes, a crashed airplane, and the Tequesta mound. My favorite part in this hidden gem is a hidden treasure, the Tequesta burial mound. Approximately 12-18 Tequesta buried, and an approximately 500-year-old oak tree is growing over the mound. I like to believe that the tree protects the bodies of the Tequesta. In the past, mounds have been disrespectfully uncovered since they’re “in the way” of “developments.” Nowadays, superficial things are valued more than history, or perhaps this part of history is purposely ignored by some.

Native Americans deserve more respect and more recognition. They inhabited Miami before anyone else, and outsiders came and took over. After that, Native Americans were basically pushed out of their home. Our history is told from the conquerors’ perspective, leaving Natives out of the picture for the most part. History should be told exactly how it happened, not how it’s more convenient. Deering Estate highlights Miami’s pioneer inhabitants’ truth and protects and preserves their land, our land, a piece of Miami, the unbothered Miami.

Downtown Miami as Text

Photo1 by Vivian Acosta and Photo2 by Lorena Cuenca CC BY 4.0

“Hidden Historical Figures” By Vivian Acosta of FIU at Downtown Miami on November 25th, 2020

Our geographical ancestors used to settle in places where there was a source of water supply nearby. The Miami River was used by the Tequesta and other Native Americans. Many Tequesta settled near the mouth of this body of water. Today, the Miami River is highly polluted, and it is home to several businesses. The Tequesta left behind several mounds along the Miami River. However, none of them remain since they were in the way of developers’ plans. Only a handful of mounds have survived urbanization. I do not understand how something so significant to Miami’s history can be consciously destroyed. On the other hand, there are countless memorials, statues, and streets to commemorate conquerors and developers.

A little after Ponce de Leon’s arrival in Miami, Native Americans were pushed out of their land, and some of them died as a result of diseases brought by Europeans. Europeans “conquered” the land of the Tequesta; however, I would use a different choice of words when referring to stealing land and harming locals. The Tequesta’s history has been marginalized along with other Miami pioneers’.

Julia Tuttle, a Miamian businesswoman, noticed Miami’s potential in being a prosperous city, so she encouraged Henry Flagler to extend his railroad to here. Since then, Miami began to grow exponentially. I have always learned about Flagler, but the first time I heard Julia Tuttle’s name was recent. I never knew that it was a woman’s initiative to develop Miami. Instead, all the credit has been attributed to a wealthy man, Henry Flagler.

Fort Dallas is a historic structure located in Lummus Park, Downtown, Miami. This building served several purposes over the years, including Julia Tuttle’s property, a military base, and a slave porter. Slaves built many of Miami’s structures, and they were also taken advantage of, discriminated against, and dehumanized. This part of our history is not highlighted; however, centuries later, racist attitudes are still prevalent.

The stories about our history are carefully selected, so ideals remain consistent over the years; however, these modified stories do more harm than good– they reinforce negative perspectives. Native Americans, Slaves, and women in our history deserve more credit and appreciation than what they are receiving. The truth of Miami’s history should be told, and the sacrifices people made should be highlighted, not only the wins of the historical figures we hear of today. The losses people had in order for “powerful” men to achieve their ambitions should also be known.

Everglades as Text

Photo by Vivian Acosta CC BY 4.0

“a Magical place” By Vivian Acosta of fiu at everglades national park on january 13th, 2021

Approximately an hour away from Downtown Miami’s commotion lies a parallel natural environment. The atmosphere is nothing like “current Miami’s,” but definitely like the one Miamian pioneers explored. You can find numerous ecosystems, habitats, animals, and organisms in the Everglades National Park. 1.5 million miles covered with sawgrass, pine trees, cypress trees, mangroves, and water. The park is inhabited by a diversity of birds and other animals including reptiles, and the Florida Panther.

Standing in the middle of a slough and being welcomed to wildlife’s habitat was a unique experience. It is human to feel scared, especially since we are so fond of being in control– in here, Mother Nature rules. Away from our hectic routines, unavoidable distractions, and rushed pace, time slows down a little, and one finally has the liberty to celebrate life—not only our lives but also the lives of the thousands of species populating the Everglades.  I rarely take a minute out of my day to admire the beauty in my surroundings, but in this River of Grass, it is inevitable not to notice. Thousands of creatures co-existing harmoniously. “Where is north? Where is south? What’s underneath?”, one wonders while being surrounded by tall grasses and trees.

Without my mind on what’s next on my to-do list and my phone blowing up, I got to acknowledge how magical nature is. How are we impressed by human-made objects, but not by other living things and how their environments work? Different, unique, natural systems contribute to nature’s collective wellbeing. Different species play unique and significant roles in their ecosystems! In the Everglades, algae and bacteria absorb contaminants to clean the water, similar to how we use filters to make water clean and safe to drink. I also found it interesting how tiny needles of cypress trees fall into the water, eventually decomposing, leaving acid behind: this eats away the limestone on the bottom, causing solution holes to deepen. These solution holes become home to alligators! It is incredible how nature works, how everything is connected, including us. However, this could be a double-edged sword; we have to be cautious because a small change could throw off nature’s incredible equilibrium. We have the power to destroy gems like this one, and with our selfish actions, we already are! Exposing ourselves to these kinds of experiences in which we are present and involved is crucial to learning about our environment and contributing to its preservation.

Wynwood As Text

Photos by Vivian Acosta CC BY 4.0

“This is Art” by Vivian Acosta of FIU at The Margulies Collection on January 27th, 2021

In Miami’s art hotspot, Wynwood, lies the Margulies Collection. One of the most famous art collection in Miami. This museum stores unique contemporary art. Do not expect to find portraits or realistic paintings because contemporary art breaks traditional art ideals. Contemporary art is more like a pile of paper with wings, senior superheroes, or hanging spices. Expect works that break the barriers we have forced upon our creativity– expect the unexpected.

The more I expose myself to art, the more I learn its real purpose, and the more I learn about a wide variety of topics. I would’ve never thought that one learns far more than merely technique through art: history, memoirs, nature, and societal issues are just some of the themes expressed through artworks. Mr. Margulies’ mission is to share his unique collection with the public and educate others through his collection. I am amazed by how artworks are thought-provoking, they spark discussions, and they trigger feelings.

If you had asked me a couple of years ago what art is, my response would’ve had something to do with aesthetics. In reality, that is not the case. I believe that this flawed idea is prevalent. Yes, art is often beautiful, but beauty can also be found within. An art piece can have a flawless technique, while the idea of another one can be brilliant. These two pieces would probably be very different, but they would be beautiful in their own way; they provoke different reactions in us– and that’s the beauty of it.

As we stood in front of Hurma by Magdalena Abakanowicz, we could feel the metaphor behind the headless bodies. It was very gloomy, scary even. This piece reflected on how people were dehumanized– their thoughts, ideas, beliefs, desires, qualities, values, and rights were taken from them. Hurma’s beauty lies deeper than in its appearance.

The talking woman’s head stuck under a mattress also caught our attention. “What was she saying? What was she referring to? What are her emotions?” we all wondered. We were confused. We were trying to imagine what she was admiring, or maybe she was scared? We had different things in mind, and we all experienced the piece uniquely. We were all eagerly trying to figure out the piece’s intent as if it were a riddle; however, now that I think about it—that was exactly it.

One of my favorite works was Blind Eye by Jennifer Steinkamp. A projection of Trees going through different seasons. Something that we can see outside, taken out of context, being highlighted and acknowledged, made me realize how beauty is even in ordinary things, but we fail to admire them when they are in their place.

This is what art is. The idea. The medium. The technique. The context. The thoughts. The emotions. The discussions.

Bill Baggs as Text

Photo by Vivian Acosta CC By 4.0

“History on the Beach” by Vivian Acosta of FIU at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park on February 10th, 2021

My class and I attempted to clean Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park—it was challenging. The amount of trash was unbelievable! I had never been to a beach where it was easier to find seashells and pretty balloon-like Man-Of-War creatures than garbage. “Where is all the trash?” I wondered. Surprisingly, it is all deposited where it belongs, in trashcans and not the ocean, nor the sand, and neither in bushes. I am so used to seeing beautiful landscapes, natural environments, and any other place with at least candy wrappers that it seemed unreal to have trouble finding garbage on such a popular beach. Whenever I found a tiny remnant of paper or plastic after long periods of walking and digging, it felt like I had found the hidden treasure—Eureka!!

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park is located on the southern tip of Key Biscayne. Here, you can find a breathtaking, calm, and clean beach, a historic lighthouse, biking and hiking trails, etc. The beach has been ranked as one of the top ten nicest beaches in the United States. How couldn’t it be? It is rich in beauty, history, and biodiversity.

The Cape Florida Lighthouse is the oldest structure in Miami Dade. The Lighthouse was built to warn seamen about shallow water and reefs—essentially, to prevent accidents and save lives. This island was also a port for runaway slaves. A spot where individuals took off in search of their freedom, leaving their enslaved lives deprived of their liberty and rights. Today, people visit Bill Baggs Park to relax, enjoy the water, the scenery, and the history to have fun! To recharge and cleanse themselves from their everyday tension, to learn and educate themselves—which also saves lives!

During the second Seminole war, Seminoles attacked the Lighthouse. This act has been frowned upon to the point that Seminoles were seen as “savages”; however, their homes, farms, and villages were also being attacked and destroyed as a tactic to force them out of their land. The Seminoles fighting back was not an act of “savagery,” but an action of defense, a response to the unjust doing to their tribe.

The Tequesta were the first to inhabit the land. Key Biscayne had freshwater, making it an ideal spot for the Tequesta to meet their needs. Today, pieces of pottery, shells, and tools are often found here. These souvenirs of our past are priceless and unique. Each piece of evidence of our ancestors we find is special.  Unfortunately, throughout the development of Key Biscayne, artifacts have been unappreciated, destroyed, and lost. Some of the remains found may have been sacred belongings of past residents or just remains of the tools they used. Whatever the tiny pieces were used for, there is one thing for sure: they come from the land’s past, and we cannot go back; therefore, they should have been conserved and protected. Sadly, not every part of our history is appreciated, just a convenient selection of events.

River of Grass as Text

Photo by Vivian Acosta CC by 4.0

“Easter Eggs” by Vivian Acosta of FIU At The River of Grass on February 24, 2021

We got to explore the Everglades National Park once again, but this time, we saw more than what’s currently there— we explored its past. There is so much to see, learn, discover, and experience that visiting a couple of times is not enough. Think about the amount of history this place holds. I wonder what it looked like back then—there was probably a variety of fauna, flora, and beauty just like today! However, considering how the climate has changed over the years, I’m probably wrong.

Approximately 15,000 years ago, when humans came to Florida, the environment was different. There were arid landscapes where Paleo-Indians hunted large animals such as giant sloths and saber-toothed cats. Over the years, the climate changed, and the terrain got wetter. Inhabitants adapted, and large animals became extinct. The subtropical wetland became home to two major tribes, the Calusa and the Tequesta.

Fast-forwarding to the 19th Century, parts of the Everglades were used as farmland. Sugarcane and tomatoes were grown here. I would have never imagined crops in the middle of an ecological gem –nor a hidden missile site, but hey, this place is packed with easter eggs! Altering the land and adding chemicals to the environment when cultivating crops would throw off the ecosystem’s balance with no doubt. Unfortunately, back then, most people thought a piece of land was insignificant and useless unless it was used for something they could profit from, so why consider the consequences of development and agriculture? Developers were trying to basically destroy the wildlife’s environment and replace it with buildings and businesses. Luckily, Marjory Stoneman Douglas magnified the beauty that was here, and that people were choosing not to see. She also highlighted the importance of this natural wonder and saved the Everglades.

Photo by Vivian Acosta CC BY 4.0

I got to experience the beauty and greatness of nature once again, just as Marjory Stoneman Douglas describes it in her book “The Everglades: River of Grass.” I was mesmerized by solution holes. Solution holes are a wonder. Small, natural pools for animals–and humans.. or maybe not. Holes in the middle of a dry landscape where animals refresh themselves from Florida’s high temperatures. I also enjoyed watching a bird I had never seen before, the Roseate Spoonbill, a great pink bird who was posing for us and welcoming us to its home.

We also came across the Brazilian Peppertree, a small tree with red berries. These trees can be found in the Everglades, but they are originally from South America. They were brought to Florida in the mid-1800s to use as decoration for homes and gardens. Because their berries are bright red and the leaves are green, they are the perfect ornaments for the holidays. However, this tree is an invasive non-indigenous pest plant in Florida. These trees produce a dense canopy that prevents sunlight from reaching other plants; therefore, the habitat becomes unsuitable for native species.

Just like the Native species were colonized by invasive species, so were the Calusa and the Tequesta. These two tribes occupied this region; however, soon after the Spanish explorers arrived, the Calusa began to vanish. The Tequesta and the Calusa’s habitats were no longer safe for them. Their home was invaded, taken over, and infected with diseases. Unfortunately, the Brazilian peppertree prevailed in this metaphor, ending with native species, their beauty, diversity, and culture.

Frost as Text

Photo by Vivian Acosta CC BY 4.0

“What Hides Behind the Masks?” By Vivian Acosta of FIU at The Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum on March 10, 2021

“Multiple Personalities” is one of the exhibits at The Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum at FIU. This exhibit aims to display “similar items,” in this case, masks, and allow the viewer to find connections between these elements. Several masks are grouped together on a wall, and paintings by Carlos Alfonzo stand on each side of the masked wall. This exhibit’s name implies that each mask represents a unique sense of self; it embodies a unique persona; however, I believe that these masks’ meanings go farther than that. These masks were meant to be appreciated, conserved, and even honored— romanticizing them does not feel right.

“Where are these masks from? What were they used for? How were they acquired?” I kept on asking myself. Masks are often used for several cultural practices around the world. They are used during religious ceremonies, for fertility and funerary rituals, and to honor gods and deceased family members. They are reserved for special occasions; therefore, they are respected and honored. Are they still being honored and respected when they are hung on a wall with no context? Here, to me, it just looks like a group of random masks put together to fulfill the artist’s idea. In my view, they seem like another piece of material used to display a concept. The cultural significance is taken away from the masks, and a mundane mask is left.  I feel like these masks are not receiving the honor or appreciation they deserve.

Should they be at an art museum at all? I do not see an issue with this idea, as long as the mask receives the respect and recognition it deserves and its group’s story is shared. I find it difficult to really appreciate something if I am ignorant of its origin and its significance. I begin to question myself on the meaning, the intent, the process, etc. If there isn’t a real meaning, then I just go with how the piece makes me feel. This piece did evoke some curiosity in me, but not the kind that allows your imagination to open up and expand the artwork in one’s mind, but the kind that makes you doubt and feel uncertain.

I find the name of the piece somewhat problematic also. I do not see these masks as personalities; I see them as various, unique cultures, beliefs, and practices. We use masks to disguise ourselves, and we use masks to protect ourselves; however, the masks that are displayed on this artwork did not serve this purpose. I understand that metaphorically, we change between numerous masks throughout the day depending on the situations we are in. We don’t show our true selves to everyone. We often exaggerate traits that we believe are desirable and hide the unliked ones; however, I do not feel like this piece is an adequate representation of our “multiple personalities” or multiple facades.

I would appreciate this exhibit much more if I learned the story of each mask or each “persona” as the artists refers to it.

Coral Gables as Text

Photos by Vivian Acosta CC BY 4.0

“The Castles From Spain” By Vivian Acosta Of FIU At Coral Gables On March 24th, 2021

It was difficult not to admire my surroundings when driving through Coral Gables. The architecture is so much different from the rest of Miami’s. I noticed a pattern, arches, columns, red roofs, and warm hues. The city looks clean, organized, and overall elegant. I later learned that the city has to follow strict regulations regarding architectural designs, which is the main contributor to the city’s harmonious aesthetic. Most of the buildings have a Mediterranean Revival Style. A design inspired by European buildings.

This was George Merrick’s vision, “a place where your castles in Spain are made real.” A city built with the City Beautiful concept. Merrick was devoted to including key details that would make this city stand out, and he succeeded. The town was carefully planned to be pedestrian friendly. Businesses are nearby, sidewalks are wide, and there are lush trees along sidewalks. The atmosphere is so calm, yet everyone looks so productive marching around to get to their destinations.

Mr. Merrick also designed small villages inspired by international architectural styles. It is usual of us to get inspiration from outside. We do not look into our past or our history, Miami’s true origin, nor highlight it with pride. It is almost as if we are trying to hide it at all costs by burring it with foreign influences. The perfect rationale for this is “to make tourists feel like home,” but I’m pretty sure that tourists would love to experience novelties and authentic places, not scenes they’re used to. We have many unique aspects that characterize our past, but we’ve tried so hard to erase them. Developers have always been so focused in making Miami attractive for outsiders, without considering its residents needs or desires..

Nevertheless, Merrick’s project remains a success. It really shows how careful planning can make a difference. There are cities in Miami that don’t even have sidewalks for pedestrians to walk on, businesses are far, and traffic is not pedestrian-friendly– or friendly at all.

Today, there are many historical landmarks at Coral Gables, such as the Coral Gables Congregational Church, Coral Gables Elementary, Coral Gables Police and Fire Station (currently Coral Gables Museum), and the Biltmore Hotel. The city has done an excellent job preserving these historical gems, and Merrick’s vision is still considered as the city continues to develop.

Vizcaya as Text

Photos by Vivian Acosta CC By 4.0

“Let there be Vizcaya” by Vivian Acosta of FIU at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens on April 7th, 2021.

Driving through the lush trees and plants, one would never imagine what awaits on the other side. The canopy of the trees creates a natural arch that guides us directly to the entrance of what was once James Deering’s home. A Mediterranean Revival mansion painted with a pale tone of pink peaks at the end of the road. Multiple gardens adorn the exterior space of the house. Right at the house entrance, a sculpture of a naked guy with a grape crown who is pouring wine into a bathtub welcomes us, making it clear what the house characterizes—abundance, pleasure, and fecundity.  As he pours the wine, he is inviting his guests to take a sip of the home’s essence– joy, celebration, and festivity. The second one steps into the house, we become part of the lavish show. Renaissance elements here, baroque architecture there, rococo rooms, every single detail adds to the extravagant yet elegant house of Mr. Deering.

Photos by Vivian Acosta CC BY 4.0

He was a wealthy man able to manipulate anything and everything he desired. Whatever he dreamed of, he would make a reality. “J’ai dit,” he proudly claims on the stained-glass door through which light glimmers. This French phrase translates to “I said”—he was a man aware of his power who played God in his heavenly mansion. A European Villa in the middle of the mangroves of Miami? –On it! Cutting a classic art piece by half and disregarding the ethos of the artwork he acquired so that it would fit his idea was not an issue for him. He had a pass to overlook cultural norms and societal rules. He brought components of different art styles and architecture inspired by different regions across Europe to his home. Several rooms of the house were built for specific items, such as roofs or furniture Mr. Deering purchased on his shopping sprees across Europe. James Deering’s precious collection of antiques and art remain at his house.

This mansion that embodies pleasure and ecstasy was built by Bahamian workers who were marginalized and punished for no acceptable reason. Banned from enjoying their creations, trapped in angst and uncertainty, but dedicated their lives to the development of grandiose places like Vizcaya.  Unfortunately, this is the reality of many places in Miami. I wish there were sculptures to commemorate those who built this city’s foundation, just like there are of those who colonized it. Bahamians contributed significantly to our development. Without their labor, monuments like Vizcaya would only be fantasies.

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