Monica Barletta is a sophomore in the Honors College at Florida International University. She is currently a Biology major on the Pre-med track, and hopes to attend the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine. Outside of school, she enjoys creating art and spending time with her friends and family.
Monica Barletta at the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
Deering as Text
“The Influence of Cultures at Deering”
By Monica Barletta of FIU at the Deering Estate, 9 September 2020
The Deering Estate is a 444-acre plot of land containing some of Miami’s oldest pieces of history that can still be viewed today. This estate’s background dates back to the late 19th century when the first house on the property was built by the Richmond family. The property was later turned into an inn for travelers until 1915 when it was purchased by Charles Deering.
Deering was a very wealthy business owner who made his money from creating farming tools, but more importantly, he was an avid art collector. Deering’s interest in art is what makes this building such an interesting place to visit, as he incorporated art styles from so many different cultures throughout his estate. Built in 1922 from concrete and limestone, the second house on the property became known as the Stone House. This house is what stood out to me the most during my visit because of the way aspects from many different cultures can be found in the art and architecture.
The outside of the building is made from limestone, which is found in Florida, but is created in a Spanish style to look similar to his house in Spain. Features of Islamic architecture can also be seen around the house from the dome-like arches of the windows to the sea-shell mural on the ceiling. Inside of the Stone House, Deering’s collection of art is displayed, vases from China, stained glass panels from France, and Catholic statues from Spain are some of the many pieces he acquired from around the world. The way all of these small things are taken from so many cultures and come together is what makes the house so intriguing.
South Beach as Text
“The Versace Mansion”
By Monica Barletta of FIU at the South Beach, 23 September 2020
Bringing in over 23 million tourists annually, South Beach is considered one of the biggest tourist destinations in the world. Ocean Drive owes its huge success to Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace, who completely redefined this street’s culture.
The history of the Versace Mansion dates back to the 1930s, originally called La Casa Casuarina, it was built for Alden Freeman to be a replica of Christopher Columbus’s son’s house. The house was converted into an apartment building following Freeman’s death and remained that way until Gianni Versace came across the building and immediately fell in love with it. Versace had planned to attend his sister’s boutique opening in Bal Harbour and continue on to Cuba but cancelled his trip after visiting South Beach. He purchased the apartment building along with the properties next door and spent million in renovations, creating the renowned Versace Mansion.
Once Versace moved into his new home, tourists and celebrities from all around the world came to Ocean Drive, hoping to catch a glimpse of the designer on his morning walk to the famous News Café. Through the designer’s South Beach inspired clothing collections and photoshoots, the area became famous and transformed from a community of drug addicts and retirees to a huge tourist attraction.
Sadly, in 1997, Versace was shot by the serial killer, Andre Cunanan, on the steps of his home returning from the café. Although Versace only lived in his mansion for a short 5 years, he completely revitalized South Beach and its culture. His influence still remains today, as the Versace Mansion is the third most photographed home in America and the area around it is now known for its accepting and lively environment.
“A Historical Look at the Versace Mansion.” CR Fashion Book, CR Fashion Book, 2 May 2019, http://www.crfashionbook.com/fashion/a27274615/historical-look-versace-mansion/.
Goldberg, Carrie. “You Can Spend a Night In Gianni Versace’s South Beach Mansion.” Harper’s BAZAAR, Harper’s BAZAAR, 28 Mar. 2018, http://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/travel-dining/a14776642/versace-mansion-miami-hotel/.
Bakehouse as Text
“Using Art to Raise Awareness”
By Monica Barletta of FIU at the Bakehouse, 7 October 2020
Florida is home to many coral reef systems that benefit us in a variety of ways. We depend on our reef systems for income and protection. People come from all over to visit Florida’s reefs as they provide a home for a diversity of beautiful animals and plants. These reefs are a huge part of Florida’s economy, bringing in about $3.4 billion each year and supporting 36,000 jobs in Broward and Miami-Dade County alone.
Coral Reefs do more for Florida than just bring in money, they also act as a buffer against storms and floods. For the past few years, coral reefs have been dying at an alarming rate due to climate change, pollution, and physical destruction. The loss of these reef systems would be devastating to Florida, which is why we have to do everything in our power to help protect them.
Art can be used as a way to spread a message and bring awareness to an important issue. Lauren Shapiro at the Bakehouse has been creating an exhibit that allows the local community to engage and learn more about reefs. The workshop involves creating clay structures from silicone molds of coral skeletons and reef animal bones that will be applied to the structure. The artists also give lectures while everyone works in order to educate the participants on why protecting the reefs are so important and how to help protect them.
This art project is very unique because it brings together science and art to bring awareness to corals reefs. This topic may not be very interesting to some people but making this a hands-on activity that brings the community together is getting people to understand the importance of reefs.
“Florida’s Coral Reefs.” Florida Department of Environmental Protection, floridadep.gov/rcp/rcp/content/floridas-coral-reefs.
US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “NOAA CoRIS – Regional Portal – Florida.” NOAA Coral Reef Information System (CoRIS) Home Page, 29 June 2009, http://www.coris.noaa.gov/portals/florida.html.
Rubell Museum as Text
“A Hidden Meaning”
By Monica Barletta of FIU at the Rubell Museum, 21 October 2020
The Rubell Art Museum is home to many beautiful pieces that each tell their own story. One of the paintings that caught my eye was Peter Haalley’s Two Cells with Circulating Conduit. This piece stood out to me because as simple as it is, it has a very deep message that I did not notice until it was pointed out to me.
While at first glance, it just looks like two squares that are connected at two points, the actual meaning of it is much deeper. The boxes are meant to represent the way everything in life is a repetitive pattern. People fall into familiar routines until life just becomes a repetition of the same events such as constantly taking the same road to work and back home each day. If you take a step back and look at the piece as a whole, the way the boxes connect form what looks to be like a prison and the lines look like the prison bars holding them together.
What is also very interesting to me are the materials used in this painting. The background and lines are painted using acrylic paint, but the orange and black boxes are made of the textured material that make up the popcorn ceiling. The painting was created in 1987, and popcorn ceilings were very popular among American households at the time. At this time, materials like this were considered unorthodox to be used in artwork, but Halley used this in order to represent 1980s culture and the repetitive cycle of urban life.
While usually paintings this simple do not catch my eye, the message the artwork conveys is cleverly portrayed. I was fascinated with how Halley uses simple geometric structures to symbolize the confinement within our own lives to say that we are all trapped in a prison of our own making.
Deering Hike as Text
“The History Preserved in The Mangroves“ by Monica Barletta of FIU at Deering Estate on November 4, 2020.
Deering Estate is a historic site that is known for the preserved history that it contains. Visiting Deering is like traveling back in time, as the site holds many objects and buildings that are perfectly conserved. Even after already visiting the estate once before, there was still so much more to see going through it a second time. Instead of touring the inside of the Richmond Cottage and Stone House, this time we hiked through the nature trails.
Hiking through the Deering Estate is a unique experience because there are many different habitats that one can walk through. In this trip we were able to experience the beautiful tropical forests and pine rock lands, but my favorite part was walking through the mangroves. Besides the fact that it offered us protection from the relentless mosquitos, we came across plenty of cool things that have been preserved for years.
Before even stepping into the water, we found remnants of shells that could have been used as tools by the Tequesta, which were the Native American tribe that lived there even before any of buildings had been on the property. Seeing these shells was very interesting to me because the same shells we held in our hands could have been used thousands of years ago.
The most fascinating thing we encountered during our trip was the crashed Cocaine Cowboys Plane. The history of the wreck was that a few “cowboys” stole the plane from a nearby airport in order to transport cocaine but encountered difficulties and crash landed. The plane crashed into the mangroves of Deering Estate sometime during the 90s and has been there ever since. I loved being able to see and touch this relic that had the mangroves growing through the plane.
Downtown as Text
“The Miami Circle” by Monica Barletta of FIU at Downtown Miami on November 25, 2020.
Downtown Miami is known to be the heart of the city, containing some of Miami’s most popular destinations from the American Airlines Arena to the Perez Art Museum. Before Miami became the city that it is today, this area was home to the Native American Tribe called the Tequestas.
There are plenty of structures and artifacts throughout Miami that the Tequestas have left behind, but one of the most notable ones was the Miami Circle. This archaeological site was discovered in 1998, and its approximate age is between 1,700 to 2,000 years old. It is thought to be the capital of the Tequesta civilization, as well as a site for trading and ceremonies. This structure is composed of 24 holes arranged into a perfect circle that have been carved into the limestone ground holding many artifacts from tools to animal bones.
Despite living in the Downtown area for almost 6 years, I was never taught about the rich history behind the area before this class. While most other history classes would not cover the darker side of Miami’s history, Professor Bailly did not hold back. Attending this lecture made me realize just how much public-school education whitewashes the history of Miami that is being taught to its students. Although there are a few signs placed around the area to indicate the Tequestas had lived in the area first, that is still not enough. Miami Dade’s education system should work better to educate about the true history of the city even before it was colonized by the Europeans.
The true history of Miami is a lot darker than we learned in history class. Not only was the city built using slave labor, but the Native Americans were run off of their own land and left to die out. This may not be the proudest moment of our history, but that does not mean that we should hide it.
Everglades as Text
“Slogging Through the Everglades” by Monica Barletta of FIU at Everglades National Park on January 13, 2021.
Found on the southern tip of Florida, the Everglades contains 1.5 million acres of wetland preserves and is home to a diverse array of wildlife. Florida is fortunate to contain such a unique ecosystem that people from all over the world come to visit. Despite living in South Florida my entire life, I could still count the number of times I have visited the Everglades on a single hand.
The first class back from winter break was a hike through one of the park’s many trails led by Park Ranger Dylann Turffs. As soon as the entire class was gathered, she gave us a brief lecture on how important the Everglades are to Florida, from providing a huge portion of drinking water to the protection it offers against flooding. After, we all drove deep into the park to get to the trail that went through the mangroves.
My favorite part of the class was the few minutes we were allowed to walk around freely in silence. It was a very unique experience as I got to see and hear all the animals I did not even notice were there before. It felt very surreal as I felt very connected to nature in that moment, especially after listening to the poem the Ranger read aloud right before.
This lecture made me realize that I should take advantage by visiting and supporting this park more often, because not everyone is as lucky to have such a unique environment so close to home. This trip was probably one of my favorites we have had from the class thus far and has given me newfound respect for a place that I have lived so close to my entire life.