Hello, my name is Trent Martino. I am a junior at Florida International University, studying Electrical Engineering. I am also in the Honors College, and this semester I am taking Professor John Bailly’s class: Art Society Conflict. For this class, Professor Bailly asked us to volunteer with an art institution, and I chose to volunteer with the Deering Estate.
Where and Why
The Deering Estate is home to one of the oldest civilizations in South Florida. This is true whether you are talking about the original indigenous tribes of the Tequesta people, or if you are talking about one of the first major settlements in the area when Charles Deering decided to build his estate here in the early 1900’s. When the State of Florida acquired the Deering Estate in the 1980’s, the began a mission to preserve both aspects of this historical landmark.
The Deering Estate is also a great place for platforming artists in the community. When I was in middle school, I went to Southwood Middle School, which is down the street from the Deering Estate, and I was in the orchestra magnet program. They would hold recitals that students of all ages could participate in or come watch. Not only that, they actually hire and support local artists. Professor Bailly is one of the resident artists at the Deering Estate, where he has an art studio, and is given access to the property to help inspire him in his work.
All of these reasons gave me a grand amount of respect for what the Deering Estate does in their goals and their mission. It’s a nice mixture of preservation and innovation. Because of this, I wanted to help them out in any way possible. So, I reached out to some volunteering coordinators there to ask them if there were any opportunities for me to help them out. They sent me a list of events that they were hosting where they needed volunteers, and I chose to participate in their Historic Holiday Evening Strolls event on December 4th. The Historic Holiday Strolls is a yearly event that this organization holds where they decorate the property with holiday-themed decorations, and guests can come and walk around the property to see how they transformed it for the holiday event.
The event that I volunteered for is called the Historic Holiday Strolls. This is an event where organizers and staff decorate the entire residential part of the property (where the houses and cottage is located) with holiday decorations. the place is really transformed for this and similar events! If you are a fan of the aesthetic of Christmastime, this is a must see, whenever you can.
What I did
This event was hosted by the Deering Estate for their members and the community at large (however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the spots were limited and guests had to register beforehand). The entire property was decorated with winter holiday decorations (mainly Christmas, but there were some Hanukah decorations thrown in as well). They really transformed everything into a beautiful landscape, and it feels like you’re walking through a South Florida version of the North Pole, with all of the lights and trees put up. For this event, I acted as a greeter. I sat a table at the entrance to the event, and along with another volunteer, we would help direct the guests to the many events on the property that night. We would also pass out fliers that had other events that the Deering Estate was holding throughout the first quarter of 2021. There were many people who were interested in what they Deering Estate had to offer, which was very exciting and encouraging. I was also asked to help families take pictures as they walked in.
Towards the end of the event, I was re-stationed to the exit of the event, where I was asked to pass out more of the fliers of the Deering Estate’s future events.
I hope that the organization has good turnouts throughout these events, even with the pandemic going on, because I would like to see their operations expand and for their to do more projects. In the future I would consider participating in more events that they host and become a regular over there.
By participating in this event, I think that I got a good behind-the-scenes look at what the Deering Estate does to earn extra funding. This event was very grandiose, and it looked as though they had a large turnout. Overall, i wold say that these events work in their favor. They are giving people the opportunity to come into the prestigious property and get a unique experience – seeing a historical house decorated for the holidays in a very grandiose fashion.
Overall, I feel like the people responsible for running the event did an excellent job of setting it up and giving people the needed information. However, many people from the community, including “members” came to the front confused about the ticket limit that was imposed on the event due to the pandemic. While this is something that the organizers made obvious on their website, I suppose that there could have been more efforts made to ensure that other members of the community were aware of the changes.
In the future I hope to get the opportunity to help the Deering Estate with more of their endeavors. I would love to help with more of the art projects that they have on the property as apart of the organization. Even though I am a STEM major, I think that the art world is extremely interesting and important, and I believe that the Deering Estate is doing an excellent job of supporting this fantastic part of our culture.