Andrea Sofía Rodríguez Matos: See Miami Project, Fall 2020

Photograph taken by Gabriela Del Monte CC by 4.0

STUDENT BIO
Andrea Sofia Rodriguez Matos is a junior majoring in Art History with a minor in Photography at Florida International University. Passionate for the art and culture of the Caribbean, Latin America, and the African Diaspora, she aspires to be a curator. As part of Art Society Conflict, Andrea desires to expand her knowledge in art and the history of Florida’s most vibrant city.

GEOGRAPHY
The Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum is located on Florida International University’s Modesto A. Maidique campus. More than five entrances can lead one to campus and directly to the museum, one of them is the Avenue of the Arts. The museum is located in front of the Blue Garage and directly across from the FIU Wertheim Performing Arts Center. Next to the museum, one can also find the Management and Advanced Research Center (MARC).  

HISTORY
The Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum were founded in 1977 with humble beginnings in a small space in the Primera Casa building. The museum was housed in the 7,000 square feet space from 1977 to 2008. Since space was an issue during these years, began efforts to collect an outdoor sculpture program that became one the most prestigious in the USA, featuring 57 monumental works by contemporary sculptors. Simultaneously, the museum sought Yann Weymouth, a renowned architect, and designer, to design the new Frost Art Museum building. A new 46,0000 square-foot facility opened its doors in November of 2008. The structure features a three-story glass atrium entrance and a suspended staircase leading to the second and third floors containing over 9,000 sq ft of exhibition space. Nine galleries regularly feature artwork from the museum’s permanent collection and the temporary exhibitions. The first level features the Steven & Dorothea Green Multi-Purpose Auditorium and Lecture Hall, the Dahlia Morgan Members’ Lounge, the café, and the museum shop. The museum itself has grown to achieve international recognition as a major cultural institution of the State of Florida for its great collection of Latin American and 20th-century American art. There acclaim was also achieved because the Frost has always focused its efforts on championing local artists and the art that identifies the nation’s diversity and their audience. 

MISSION
The Frost Art Museum’s mission is to provide a cathartic experience through the art presented within the museum’s walls and advance FIU’s stature as a top research university. Through their permanent collection and the temporary exhibitions featured, the museums seek to reach and appeal to the FIU and Miami community’s diversity. Through their special programming, the Frost Art Museum also tries to increase the FIU community’s participation and the general public. 

ACCESS

Transportation and Parking

Public transportation is scarce in this area of town, but there is still a bus stop inside FIU, which would make the museum available my walking from the bus stop. When using a personal vehicle, guests to the museum must park in the Blue or Gold garages’ metered parking spots or in additional Lots 3-6. Guest can pay for parking with the Pay by Phone app or at the meter located in the Blue Garage. Their website offers the map below and direct instructions to locate the museum and parking garages efficiently. 

FIU Map directly taken from the FIU Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum website. CC by 4.0

COVID-19 Museum Guidelines

The museum is taking the necessary precautions to insure its visitors a safe and clean experience by asking them to review the state mandated rules and the following guidelines.

  1. Stay home if you are sick or have a fever.
  2. All visitors to the museum must wear a face mask, no exceptions.
  3. Temperature check will be required. If your temperature is at or above 100.4 you will be asked to come back another time.
  4. All visitors will practice social distancing during their visit with anyone not in their household group. Children must stay with adults at all times.
  5. No large bags or backpacks permitted in the galleries. We recommend leaving them in your car, our coat check is closed. Visitors may put backpacks or bags in unmonitored cubbies at their own risk.
  6. Please follow signs to enter museum.
  7. All visitors, not part of the FIU community, must must make an appointment on their website.
  8. Members of the FIU Community (Faculty, Staff, and Students with One Card) may walk-in and visit the museum if it is not to capacity
  9. Cashless transactions only for items in the kiosk.
  10. Enhanced cleaning measures will be conducted throughout the day for high touch areas.
  11. Hand sanitizer is available throughout the museum.
  12. Water fountains will be shut off. Bottles of water are not permitted in the gallery unless they are in a purse or small bag. No other beverages permitted.
  13. Vicky Café is closed, and outside food and beverage are not permitted.
  14. The Kenan-Flagler Children’s Discovery Gallery is closed.
  15. Groups larger than 6 are not permitted.
  16. Only one person allowed on the elevator at a time. Family/Friend units may ride together, able bodied people encouraged to take the stairs.

Hours
Given the COVID-19 pandemic the museum had to rearrange their hours, once we go back to “normal” or the pandemic is under control the hours and dates may change.

Sunday – Tuesday: Closed
Wednesday – Thursday: Open to the FIU community only; 10:00 am – 3:00 pm
Friday – Saturday: Open to FIU community, members and the general public by appointment only; 10:00 am – 3:00 pm

Admission
Admission to the Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum is always free however, donations are always welcome.

Memberships
FIU Faculty, Employees and Alumni – $35.00
Senior – $40.00
Individual – $50.00
Dual – $75.00

All of these memberships have access for the Blue Level benefits:
Discounted admission to ticketed events and educational programs. Exhibition previews and gallery talks with curators and artists. Quarterly member programming. Complimentary beverages and bites during exhibition receptions. 10% discount on Frost merchandise. 10% discount at Vicky Café. Access to Members’ Lounge. (100% is Tax Deductible).

Friend – $125.00

Includes Blue Level benefits plus: Discounted admission to ticketed events and educational programs, plus one complimentary guest ticket • North American Reciprocal Museum (NARM) membership benefits • 20% discount on Frost merchandise

Supporter – $250.00

Includes Friend level benefits plus: • Priority seating to ticketed events and educational programs.

Contributor – $500.00

Includes Supporter level benefits plus: • Select passes for Miami Art Fair Week partners • Access to private collections and gallery talks • 5% discount on museum facility rentals.

Benefactor – $1000.oo

Includes Contributor level benefits plus: Premier passes for Miami Art Fair Week partners • Invitation to annual Benefactor events. Access to national and international art fairs. Invitation to private receptions. Name recognition in lobby. Guided museum tour for 10 with director • One gift of Individual membership.

Accessibility
The museum is ready to accommodate anyone to ensure an enjoyable visit. Special accommodations may be requested in advance by contacting the museum through phone or email. The building is also wheelchair accessible and also offer themselves wheelchairs upon request. Service animals are also welcome inside the museum; however, regular pets and companion animals are not. 

COLLECTION
The Frost Art Museum’s permanent collection includes over 7,000 objects with a strong representation of American printmaking and photography from the 1960s and 1970s, pre-Columbian objects dating from 200-500 AD, and a growing number of works by contemporary artists, especially from Latin American and Caribbean countries and their diaspora. The collection features areas of concentration of Haitian and Cuban painting. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the galleries with permanent work were not available but “Tesoro” by Pepe Mar utilized works from the permanent collection which I will present below.

Purvis Young (American, 1943-2010), Untitled, 1998, mixed media. Photograph taken and edited by Andrea S. Rodriguez Matos/CC BY 4.0
Carlos Alfonzo (Cuban-American, 1950-1991), Untitled, gouche and watercolor on paper, 1988. Photographs taken and edited by Andrea S. Rodriguez Matos/CC BY 4.0
René Portocarrero (Cuban, 1912-1985), Mujer, 1954, oil on canvas. Photographs taken and edited by Andrea S. Rodriguez Matos/CC BY 4.0

EXHIBITIONS
Currently there are four ongoing temporary exhibitions.

The Inside World: Contemporary Aboriginal Australian Memorial Poles from the Debra and Dennis Scholl Collection.

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea S. Rodriguez Matos/CC BY 4.0

On View: Saturday, July 11, 2020 — Sunday, January 10, 2021
Organized By: Nevada Museum of Art

This exhibition presents around 100+ contemporary artworks by Aboriginal artists from different Australia regions, most of which come from Arnhem Land, a historical region in the Northern Territory of Australia. All the works feature wooden poles painted in various patterns that traditionally served as hollow log coffins that marked the final point in Aboriginal mortuary rites. Called by different names in different regions, the poles signified spirituality and the moment when the deceased had finally returned home, meaning they had become one with the world of the ancestors. As a contemporary practice, artists have reclaimed the hollow log and turned them into works of art. 

Otros Lados: Itzel Basualdo, Hugo Crosthwaite, and Judithe Hernández

Image taken of Otros Lados exhibition. All photographs taken and edited by Andrea S. Rodriguez Matos/CC BY 4.0

On View: Saturday, August 22, 2020 — Sunday, December 6, 2020
Curated By: Amy Galpin, Ph.D., Chief Curator and Maryanna Ramirez, Manager of Strategic Initiatives.

Otros Lados is an exhibition that brought together three artist generations of Mexican and Mexican American descent to present their experience and express the identity crisis that often happens when one is caught in the middle of two ways of living, traditions and customs. ­ “Al Otro lado” is often used in Mexico to describe areas of the United States populated by Mexican immigrants. The amount of migration, exile, labor, and cultural exchanges between Mexico and the U.S. resonates in people’s daily lives in both countries, and it is why this exhibition chooses to focus on this matter. 

House to House: Women, Politics, and Place

Image of House to House: Women, Politics and Place. All photographs taken and edited by Andrea S. Rodriguez Matos/CC BY 4.0

On View: Saturday, September 26, 2020 — Sunday, February 7, 2021
Curated By: Amy Galpin, Ph.D., Chief Curator

This exhibition took inspiration from our present political circumstances, the 2020 election, and the centennial anniversary of women gaining the right to vote. The wide range of multimedia works in this exhibition explores women’s changing roles in the domestic space versus the most public of houses, The US House of Representatives. The 20th century was marked by women all over the United States standing up for their rights to work, vote, and be equal to their male counterparts. Through the eyes of female and male artists, this exhibition seeks to assert the women’s incredible role in society, it seeks to empower and include all. 

Tesoro: Pepe Mar’s Love Letter to the Frost

Image of Pepe Mar’s Tesoro exhibition. All photographs taken and edited by Andrea S. Rodriguez Matos/CC BY 4.0

On View: Tuesday, December 1, 2020 — Ongoing
Curated By: Pepe Mar
Organized By: Amy Galpin, Ph.D., Chief Curator.

Pepe Mar, an artist, and curator, wanted to dive deep into the museum’s permanent collection to make connections across cultures. This exhibition features art from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australia, and Europe as special gifts to the public. Pepe Mar mentions that “I wanted to make a collage of the collection as an extension of my artistic practice, to create new definitions for the objects on view and encouraging unexpected connections throughout the installation.” The exhibition features four parts, each with its own theme and story to tell. “Theatre of the City”; “Mirror, Mirror”; “Procession”; and “Cabinet of Curiosities”, include masks, ceramics, paintings, sculptures, multimedia works, and drawings that reimagine these objects into a new narrative. 

SPECIAL PROGRAMS
Currently, there is a wide range of programming and events taking place digitally, given the pandemic. Under the museum’s website’s “Event” tab, visitors can find a calendar that gets updated regularly, showcasing the events, times, dates, and links. 

The museum’s newsletter is a great resource to stay updated with all events and exhibitions neatly placed in one’s email. Students have special programs they can join if interested in joining the museum’s family. 

Volunteers: Support the educational programs and assist in different events, museum activities, workshops, and special programs. Recruitment for this position happens twice a year (August and January), and High School students are free to join during the summer. 

Gallery Guides: Gallery Guides assists in leading the tours to academic and non-academic groups, studying the exhibitions, and taking part in the exhibitions’ programming. Gallery guides are volunteers, but FIU students could use their hours towards an internship for credit under specific requirements and commitments (and of course, with the approval of advisors and departments). 

The Museum Insider Program: Provides enrolled students of FIU the opportunity to unlock membership perks, priority treatment, and free access to all public programs. Participation is free and unlocks many benefits; students can find the program form on their website. 

Picture of Yanius Alvarado taken in the Frost Art Museum. All photographs taken and edited by Andrea S. Rodriguez Matos/CC BY 4.0

VISITOR
During my visit to the Frost, I interviewed Yanius Alvarado, a recent MFA graduate from the University of Miami who attended the museum.

Q: What was your favorite exhibition you saw today?

A: I would have to say that my favorite exhibition at the Frost Museum had to be the one curated by Pepe Mars. It’s a fundamental message of humanity thru convergence, and it was a magnificent experience. Located on the third floor, Pepe Mars’ “Tesoro” is a collection unlike any other. Divided into themes such’s as: Theatre of the City; Mirror, Mirror; Procession; and Cabinet of Curiosities, Tesoro’s. My favorite being Cabinet of Curiosities for its juxtaposition of artifacts. It carries energy. 

Q: Was there a specific artwork that caught your eye?

A: A visual storytelling piece called “Treading Thoughts” from the exhibition House to House: Women, Politics and Place. I love how it focused on the importance of community for women and men’s necessity to understand and join to become feminists. 

Q: Regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, did you feel safe coming and walking around the museum?

A: I felt safe, walking around the museum. The steps taken by the museum were excellent. 

Q: How does being in a museum make you feel? Do you like visiting artistic institutions regularly?

A: Museum are hard for me to understand due to the complex interpretation and rich history they curate and guard. I love the idea of spending time talking to the artwork on the wall to find everything and anything, so it takes me time to feel comfortable in them; nevertheless, museums are a space where everyone from the artist to the audiences should feel safe and cared for enough to keep returning to them. I didn’t but now that I think about it, I’ve always felt safe in them, so the next time the opportunity arises, I will remember that feeling and be grateful that I’m surrounded by such energy and talent. 

Q: How does art (any type) impact your life?

A: Like I expressed previously, museums are filled with inspiration and rich in history, so as a creative head myself, art provides a recharge/ replenish of new ideas and complex thoughts worthy of their time to develop. Life is art, and how rare for humanity to create a building for that same purpose. The grim comparison that museums are like churches for non-religious/faith people who enjoy art is controversial, but as a person who comes from a Catholic background (even though I don’t practice it), it is precisely that. Museums become incubators for humans like us with the necessity to fuel ourselves with art and the impact it has on our life. A day in a museum may be for a few short hours, but it stays with you forever. 

PORTRAIT
This is an interview with Emily Afre, the Education Specialist at the Frost Art Museum. This interview was done virtually, a few days after my museum visit, given the complexities of the pandemic.

Q: Can you briefly tell me how you got the job at the museum? What was your job when you started and what is your current job?

A: I was enrolled in your same class with John Bailey and participated in Aesthetics & Values 2017. My group worked with local artist, Felicia Chizuko Carlisle, where Carlisle performed an experimental sound piece on a sculpture she created, the night of the opening reception. I am a musician and found great interest in Carlisle’s sound performances. I then gave several tours of the exhibition and found myself interning as a docent/Gallery Guide for the museum. In a way, giving tours was like a performance and I enjoyed connecting with people in a conversation about art. During this time, I held the position as Traffic & Training Manager and on-air DJ at WRGP FIU Student-Radio where my primary responsibility was to ensure all staff followed FCC guidelines. Since graduating in 2017, I have served as the Frost’s Education Specialist.

Q: Can you expand on what your job is and what functions, projects or department(s) you oversee?

A: As Education Specialist I research exhibitions, manage the student Gallery Guide Program, and develop student programming. I also give tours to K-12, University, and community members. I work closely with Director of Education, Miriam Machado. We develop our programs with museum trends and social issues in mind.

Q: As we’re growing up, we always get asked what we want to be when we grow up. Was working in a museum ever in the list of careers you wanted to explore? Did you ever see it as a possibility?

A: I’ve been involved in the arts my entire life. I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember. I do not thrive in stagnant environments and the museum setting allows me to remain creative. I am currently working towards building a career in music as an independent artist.

Q: Have you been able to create any programs or projects within your department? If so, what has been your proudest moment?

A: A main focus of my job as Education Specialist is on student engagement. I am proud of our DEAI initiatives (Diversity, Equity, Accessibility and Inclusion, from the American Alliance of Museums Plan). It is important to me that the museum is a safe space for all students. This approach to programming has even extended to educating our staff on LGBTQ+, race, gender, and accessibility.

Q: Since you started working at the museum, which exhibition has been your favorite? And why?

A: My favorite exhibition so far would have to be Artist as Mystic: Rafael Soriano. This was a retrospective of a Cuban painter whose early work of geometric abstraction morphed into dark surrealism as a direct response to the Cuban Revolution. He managed to achieve a brilliant luminosity in his paintings while using oil paint, which is typically quite dense. That requires a lot of skill! His work gives form to the subconscious and I found myself really encompassed by this. I like to think Soriano’s later work embodies the music of Cocteau Twins, my favorite band.

Q: Can you mention an artist or artwork within the museum’s permanent collection that has a special connection with you either personally or professionally?

A: I really love Alameda Black (1981) by Richard Serra. It was the first work I would discuss on a tour of the permanent collection and for good reason. At first glance, you’d think you were looking at a black square, but then you start to see texture and its relationship to space. I’d ask people what their impressions were, if it looked like anything familiar to them, how it made them feel – even if “nothing” was an answer. Richard Serra used black oil paint sticks and melted them over a sheet of aluminum; the texture is a consequence of the paint not having been dried completely. This fascinated people – they couldn’t understand how the paint had not dried if the work was created in the early 80s. The aluminum, a non-porous material, does not allow the oil paint to dry as quickly as it would, if it were on a surface like canvas, for example. So in a way, the work is never quite the same at any given moment. To see how this changed the perspective most people had on abstract art was really interesting for me to experience.

Q: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your job and the museum in general?

A: I have been working remotely since March and it’s only recently that the museum has reopened to the public. Now I come in to the office once a week and continue to work from home. I feel extremely grateful that I have had the opportunity to continue working considering the overwhelming amount of individuals who have been unemployed or furloughed because of the pandemic. I miss engaging with classes in the galleries – the energy is not the same via ZOOM, but we make it work!

Q: Taking reference to the exhibitions that have been up this semester “House to House,” “Otros Lados,” and Pepe Mar’s “Tesoro”, I would argue the museum is actively working on showcasing the diversity of Miami while also connecting to the bigger conversations our nation’s dealing with such as gender inequality, racism and lgbtqia+ representation. Was this a decision the museum took given the country’s political climate? Or has the museum always been battling these topics one way or another. Could you elaborate?

A: As a public institution and university museum, it is our responsibility to educate and inspire the community. In the last few years, the museum has been focusing on efforts to be more diverse and inclusive and this mission is represented in the exhibitions and programming. Art can sometimes serve as a vessel for artists to either respond to these big conversations or encourage dialogue among the viewer, in the hopes of not only bringing awareness to these issues but to motivate others to build a more just world. Exhibitions are usually planned years in advance, House to House was meant to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of women gaining the right to vote. The exhibition is now on view and considering the context of the time, we are not only looking at the centennial of the 19th amendment, but also acknowledging the slow progress our country has made as we elect the first woman of color as Vice President. We would have never known the current state of our country then, but it is necessary to change with the times while remaining open to learn and unlearn. When developing student programming, I feel it is crucial that I think about what conversations we should be having with our students. If we can do this through art, then all the better!

Q: In recent years museum workers, all over the country have been speaking out about unfair wages, inequality and even institutionalized racism. Personally, I have found myself working with cultural organizations and art institutions where I am the minority. Do you think the museum is actively trying to battle these situations, whether it’s through the hiring process, the artists that get chosen or the exhibition selection?

A: FIU has always been an inherently diverse place to work in. As a university-museum, we welcome students and community members from all walks of life. This has always been at the heart of our goals as an institution. Now we are doing what we can to become more educated on current issues related to DEAI like attending trainings, workshops, and amplifying unheard voices through our programming and exhibitions.

Q: Many people often think the museum as a place solely for admiring works of art on a wall. However, many don’t know how much effort the museum goes to create programs and events that interact with the community and the students at the university. Knowing that you worked before at The Roar, the FIU radio station, and have created events that merge both; Would you say collaboration is an important part of the museum experience? Have you been able to see the change in people’s minds about the museum once they have attended one of these events?

A: Collaboration is key!! When it comes to events and programs, you need to understand your target audience. Once you do, the idea is to build your audience and sometimes this is done as a result of collaborating with other groups and organizations. Most organizations on campus are student-run and everyone deserves to be supported. Art is often a reflection of the people who make it and at the end of the day, we all relate to one another in some capacity. We’ve hosted drag performances, film screenings, and even invited local bands to play, in efforts to connect students to the art in unique or unconventional ways.

Q: Finally, what is your advice for students looking to work within a museum? Is there any particular way to begin this journey?

A: My advice is to go for it! Lose the self-doubt and apply for opportunities, even if you feel like you may not have enough experience. If you are motivated and willing to learn it will be evident. Sometimes, networking can feel disingenuous or, for a more introverted person like myself, a little difficult. Just remember you are as much of a person as the one you are talking to, so don’t be afraid to be yourself. Feel free to explore different options and once you land an opportunity, decide what it is you hope to learn and set out to achieve those things. I recommend volunteering and/or interning to get a feel for how a museum operates. Internships are a good way to build professional relationships, they give you the room to grow, and offer the chance to test out the waters. I am currently seeking interns for Spring 2021, so if any students would like to apply to the Gallery Guide Program at the Frost Art Museum, please send them my way! 

SUMMARY
I think the Frost Art Museum is a solid institution that has been focusing on the important conversations both local and nationally for a long time. They have served the South Florida community as a pioneer and champion of local artists. They serve as a realm of opportunity for FIU students who seek to explore volunteering and internship opportunities. The Frost was one of the first institutions I visited when coming to Miami and it still amazes me, this museum has introduced me to many Latin American and Caribbean artists like Rafael Soriano,  Jorge Alberto Hernández Cadi and Laura Aguilar among others. I am grateful for the museum being such an inclusive and equal institution and all they do for the advancement of the artistic community.


CITATIONS
Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum, frost.fiu.edu, Dec. 3, 2020. https://frost.fiu.edu/learn/index.html

Wikipedia, “Frost Art Museum,” wikipedia.org, Dec. 3, 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frost_Art_Museum#:~:text=Founded%20in%201977%20as%20The,draw%20on%20or%20enhance%20the

Author: andreasofiarm

Art History Student

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