Monica Barletta: Miami as Text

Monica Barletta at the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

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, spending time with friends, and watching movies.

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.

Stone House – Deering Estate, Photo taken by Monica Barletta

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.

Deering Estate, Photo taken by Monica Barletta

South Beach as Text

“The Versace Mansion”

The Iron Gates at the Versace Mansion

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.

Buildings on Ocean Drive

 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.

The steps on which Versace was shot

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,

Goldberg, Carrie. “You Can Spend a Night In Gianni Versace’s South Beach Mansion.” Harper’s BAZAAR, Harper’s BAZAAR, 28 Mar. 2018,

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.

Clay corals that have been applied to the sculpture

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.

Lauren Shapiro with her sculpture
Monica Barletta at the Bakehouse workshop

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,

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,

Rubell Museum as Text

“A Hidden Meaning”

Mera Rubell speaking to the morning class

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.

Two Cells with Circulating Conduit by Peter Halley

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.

Mirror room at the Rubell Art Museum
Sleep by Kehinde Wiley

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