Museum of Art and Design at Miami Dade College
Luis Gutierrez is currently a sophomore studying English at Florida International University. He loves to watch movies, listen to old music, and play beach volleyball with his friends. He also enjoys writing and collecting vinyl records.
The Museum of Art and Design at Miami Dade College is located at 600 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami, Florida. It contributes to the many institutions and other places in the heart of Downtown Miami. Two blocks from its doors is the bay and with that comes the famous Bayside Marketplace and its Observation Ferris Wheel. The parking is extremely slim and is hard to find around the actual building but instead it is found in nearby lots and garages that charge by the hour, and in my case 5$ an hour. The actual building can be seen from a mile away and easily stands out from its surrounding buildings with its culmination of different architectural designs and overall height.
The history of this building and museum goes all the way back to 1925, the year it was initially constructed for the Miami Daily News. Shortly after, it was leased by the U.S. government and became known as the Freedom Tower which served as a reception center for Cuban refugees in the early 60’s and 70’s. It became a monument and a “lighthouse” for refugees that were leaving the communist rule of dictator Fidel Castro. Similar to New York’s Ellis Island, the Freedom Tower became home to many Cubans and to this day still serves as a representation of that story of a Cuban exodus.
“El Refugio” or “The Refuge” became a common nickname made for the building and it fits very well. Cubans that were seeking refuge here found healthcare, education, housing, and so much more. The Freedom Tower became a “one stop” for these refuges but when the government found out that there were a lot more Cubans walking in than they had expected, they knew the building needed some advancements. This is when the different number of floors expanded and became other necessities such as a dental clinic and a record center.
In 1974, the United States government decided to close the Freedom Tower and two years later was purchased by a lawyer from New York. The ownership for the next two decades is transferred through many people and companies but in 2004, it is sold to the Pedro Martin Family. This family brought back this significant building back up with donations and repairs and four years later receives the long-awaited designation of “National historic Landmark”. Miami Dade College then establishes an exhibition space on the second floor and hosts many operations tied with the Miami International Film Festival and the Live Arts. Shortly after, it opens the Cuban Diaspora Cultural Legacy Gallery and the Cuban Exile Experience in 2014. Today, it still represents the struggle the Cubans went through in the 60’s and 70’s and how this building served as a beacon for them in their time of need through its current exhibits.
On their website it displays that their mission “is to provide open, critical, and collaborative frameworks for artistic experimentation and interdisciplinary risk-taking that explores the intersections of art, design, and other art forms with cultural action. MOAD advances Miami Dade College’s core values, contributing to the intellectual life of the college, engaging students and audiences from the community and the world beyond”.
This mission statement describes how the MOAD focuses on the importance and variety of elements that comes with all forms of art and design. It then ties its own college into producing fundamental and significant values that necessary for both their students and appreciators of the arts.
The museum is open from 1-6 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sunday. It is also open 1-8 p.m. on Thursdays.
-$8 senior and military
-Free for children under 12, MDC students, faculty, and staff
The Kislak Center: Jai and his Devotion to the History and Cultures of the Early Americas
One of the two permanent exhibits in the Museum of Art and Design is the Kislak Center. This exhibit explorers the different perspectives, processes, and expansions that our country went through and the artifacts that came with it. This exhibit goes hand in hand with the other Kislak exhibit in Washington, D.C. that also explores these same ideas.
Throughout the exhibit, there are many artifacts that symbolize different cultural points and religious beliefs. In the picture above, we are shown a handful of the treasures that are tied with the history of Mayan mythology. The plate, bowl, and vase all have drawings on them that represent stories, cultural personalities, and other items that the Mayans thought were significant such as their crops. The small figurine in the middle, my favorite of the four treasures, were typically found in tombs of people that had a higher social class. Its hunchback symbolizes a ties with the supernatural rheum because in their culture, someone who has a hunchback has spiritual powers.
Cuban Cultural Legacy Gallery: Josefina and Her Photos of a Transforming Miami
In this gallery, Josefina explores the history of Miami around the same time the Freedom Tower became a refuge for Cuban immigrants escaping Fidel Castro regime. She was a documentarian in Cuba in the 1940’s and later when she was exiled in the 1970’s, Josefina grew to continue exploring the life and impact Cubans have in Miami through photography. In this small room, there are many different framed photographs of different locations around Miami. Some locations are well known and renowned while others are just a typical neighborhood or store that you would see in that time period. These photos bring into light the impact Cubans had in Miami and how quickly they would transform this city forever with their amazing culture.
This photo is my favorite of the gallery and showcases the famous Cuban restaurant of La Carreta on 8th street in 1976. Though there are other restaurants highlighted in this gallery as well, this one in particular resonates with me due to how many times I have been to that restaurant with my grandparents who were Cuban immigrants. This photo highlights the Cuban culture’s expansion in Miami and the speed at which it expanded.
The Body Electric
The only current exhibit that is being showcased in The Body Electric which presents different forms of artwork, media, and technology to express controversial topics in our society and ultimately our understanding of them. Through the wide variety of art in this exhibit, people are shown a new lens into how technology is changing our identity, body, and everyday life, whether we like it or not.
One of the art pieces displayed in the exhibit is “Corrections” by Vito Acconci. It displays a man brushing a lit match around the back of his neck and upper back. The video continues on a loop until the man shakes the lit match, extinguishing it. Vito’s artwork in the 70’s typically involved body-based performances such as this one that were vastly open to interpretation by its audience.
Free Day & Free Family Program
This sponsored event happens every last Sunday of every month and includes free admission for everyone. It involves hours of fun activities that push you and your friends and family to create your very own art works.
This program involves discussing important topics that dwell in visual and art design. They offer a mailing list that invites individuals to these conversation circles.
Amanda Linares, Miami Resident and Miami Dade College Student
What made you come to the museum today? Have you been here before?
- I was recommended to come to this museum through a friend because she knows I love history and art. Overall, I enjoy visiting establishments and museums that are similar to this one. I have not been to this museum before but I am enjoying it thus far.
What has been your favorite piece of artwork here in the museum?
- My favorite is the “Constructing Roberta Breitmore” in the exhibit on the second floor. I read about it afterwards and it talks about how a performance artist adapted this role for four years and then created this artwork in the 70’s. I love the story behind it but I really love the actual art of it.
Would you consider yourself an art person?
- I would indeed consider myself an art person because I really love exploring all forms of art and I am an art major at Miami Dade College, so it really consumes my life with no problem.
If you were to alter something about anything in the museum, what would you alter?
- I would include more exhibits and maybe make it more people friendly so that people aren’t confused on where to go in this exhibit in particular.
Would you come back to this museum again?
- Yes! Absolutely! I love seeing the exhibition and I heard there are different ones every couple of months so I’m looking forward to the next one!
David Carl, Gallery Assistant at the Museum of Art and Design at Miami Dade College
What made you start working here? How long have you been working here?
- I have been working here for 3 years and I was on a work study here before COVID. When they opened back up in October, I applied as a gallery assistant because I love this museum and I got it. 3 years ago, I was looking for a job because it was my first semester in Miami Dade and I found this opportunity and I knew it was for me because of how easy and relaxing it is.
What is your favorite thing about the museum?
- My favorite thing about the museum is probably the people. My other coworkers are like my second family and they always have my back for anything. Also, the people that walk into the museum are always polite and sometimes have really cool stories relating to the exhibits and galleries.
What is your favorite artwork in the museum?
- There was an exhibit here before that was called the City of People and it talked about how our society functions as a whole. It also talked about transportation and how it evolved over time which I thought was really cool.
Has there been any changes to the museum due to COVID?
- Yeah, so there is now plexi glass in the front when you walk in to check in and obviously there are hand sanitizer stations, social distancing, and other basic regulations that we have to follow now. The amount of people has pretty much stayed the same even with COVID; its hard to tell because our numbers are pretty random for the days.
What is your least favorite part about working here?
- I ultimately have no dislike or least favorite parts about working here to be honest. I plan on staying here as long as I can because I love everything about my job thankfully.
The Museum of Art and Design at Miami Dade College is truly something extraordinary. The history tied to the actual building is expressed beautifully through a walkthrough of the timeline on the first floor. The Cuban Cultural Legacy Gallery is simple yet so effective with its assortment of photographs that transport you to that era of transformation for Miami. The Kislak Center also transports the audience to a point in time that gives us a point of view in life back then. The culture, religion, and way of life in the early Americas are displayed through an assortment of presentations, art, and treasures.
On the second floor is the The Body Electric exhibit that showcases how technology is reshaping the human condition and everything that comes along with being a human. The art work that is displayed here is really different from anything I have seen and is ultimately quite disturbing. I feel like the disturbing factor goes hand in hand with what the exhibit’s message is and really tells the public what is happening to us through raw and unsettling images.
Overall, I really enjoyed visiting the museum and I loved reading about the history of it. I am a Cuban American and my parents had to leave the communist country of Cuba to find a better life here in Miami. Looking at all the images and historically significant photos really resonated with me and made me look back at how much my parents sacrificed to live here. I didn’t find anything in the museum that I did not like or would change so I highly recommend this establishment to any museum goer, Cuban American, or lover of history and the arts.
The Museum of Art and Design at Miami Dade College Website