Sydney Gavula: Miami as Text 2020

My name is Sydney Gavula and I am currently a sophomore at Florida International University getting my degree in Chemistry. With this, I hope to go into further education to receive my Master’s in Forensic Science so that I can work in a law enforcement lab. Being from Tampa, I haven’t had as much exposure to Spanish culture nor have I traveled a lot outside of the United States. Because of this, I am excited to become immersed in this culture that I have so much to learn about through the historical wonders that Miami has to offer and the experiences that I will gain while in Spain.  

Vizcaya as Text

“A Fusion of Cultures” by Sydney Gavula of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

When walking into Vizcaya, one of the first things that can be seen is a long cascading water fountain leading down the drive towards one of the most impressive historical houses in Miami. At first glance, this fountain appears as only an extravagant entrance way that James Deering placed to boast his wealth. However, it holds Islamic influence within its calm nature of the water simply flowing down the drive which is just the beginning of the mixture of cultural influences that can be seen throughout the estate and gardens. The symbolism of multiculturalism can be seen in the architecture of the rooms and sculptures and art throughout the property. Some of these cultures that are represented are Islamic, Italian, Spanish and French, some of which was inspired by James Deering’s time that he spent in Europe before starting construction of Vizcaya.

For myself personally, going to this property was the most intriguing in the aspect of the multicultural environment. Anyone can go in and learn about the history of James Deering, his wealth and how he went about building the estate, however going through and understanding the cultural inspirations and connections behind design features brings the estate into a new light. You can see the influence of each of Deering’s travels within the building and how he brought in the beauty of each culture that he immersed himself in during his time in Europe. It has an opening into the past of the thought process that Deering and his architecture team had, whether it was the slightly egotistical addition of “j’ai dit” which means “I have spoken” and includes his own initials or how multiple rooms encompass individual cultures. All in all, going to Vizcaya shows a different aspect of historical art, architecture and living in a way that really encompasses the personality and passion that James Deering had for culture and travel.

MOAD as Text

“A Pound of Feathers or a Pound of Gold” by Sydney Gavula of FIU at The Museum of Art and Design

Standing in the heart of downtown Miami and almost directly on the water is the Freedom Tower. A historical landmark that not only represents the extensive Cuban culture in Miami, but also now provides a look into the past of the Americas. The tower originally served as a Cuban processing center for immigrants and most notably aided in Operation Pedro Pan that moved children into the U.S. from Cuba. This major portion of history is commemorated by a statue of a young boy with a sack on his back right outside of the Freedom Tower.

The building still stands as a testament to that part of history, yet the inside of the building now additionally houses the Museum of Art and Design which currently has an exhibit showcasing the history of the Americas. Artifacts such as books, maps, jewelry and artwork are put on display to show both indigenous cultures and how the cultures changed with the coming of Europeans.

The most intriguing of these artifacts while I went through this exhibit was the ones that indigenous people made of items that were naturally found in the environment and how the value of the articles in their eyes were drastically different than the Europeans. For example, as gold was found in many places in the Americas, it was a staple that indigenous people used to create beautiful works of jewelry and held sentimental value. However, for the Europeans, this gold held monetary value and therefore, they gave no sympathy in taking and selling the jewelry to be melted down and used to benefit themselves. There was one other significant piece of artwork that particularly stood out to me as it was made entirely of feathers of birds. Unlike the gold, these feathers would not have held as much of an importance to the Europeans, yet they were utilized by those native to the area in not only artwork but also accessories used in everyday and religious aspects of their lives.

While both groups were all human, the differences in how and where they lived drastically shaped what was valued. It continues to raise questions in me about why different regions of the world developed so differently when in the end, they were all made up of the same basic human needs, desires and abilities.

Deering Estate as Text

“The Art of Conservation” By Sydney Gavula of FIU at The Deering Estate

Deering Estate: (Photo by JW Bailly CC BY 4.0)

In the southern part of Miami-Dade sits the Deering Estate, built for the Richmond family, taken over by Charles Deering and upkept by the Deering family until it was bought by the state of Florida. Considered a National Historic Place, the Deering Estate is a prime example of the conservation of the environment and the arts in Miami. The mission of the estate today is to preserve the artistic culture that Charles Deering cherished as well as the natural state of the environment and animals around the grounds. 

As there is a lack of this type of environmental conservation around Miami due to the constant construction and work occurring, having a large area be so dedicated to conserving and protecting wildlife and nature is important. One of the conservation tactics that is enforced around the Estate is low to no boat activity in the bay, which ensures the safety of water wildlife such as manatees, as well as ensuring that the historic Tequesta burial ground is preserved and untouched. Not only is it important, but as somebody who is interested in learning about this type of conservation, it was fun to learn about somewhere that I can go to and experience the results of preservation for myself.

The Estate’s most prominent work of preservation of art is within the Artist in Residence Program that offers all forms of artists to work on projects and collaborate with others. Not only does the Estate allow for official environments for artists, but the grounds in general preserve the creative environment that Charles Deering initially embodied with the art pieces on display. Personally, I haven’t seen an environment outside of a museum or gallery that emphasizes and showcases the importance of art. So, to see that the Deering Estate also preserves arts in a freer setting is intriguing as I have only known art in a more serious manner. From the time that I had visited, the Estate gave a calm and creative aura where people and artists were thriving and all around the grounds people were drawing and painting their surroundings. Seeing that and being on the property brings a sense of peace, history and wildlife together in a way that isn’t often seen in Miami and I am lucky to have had the chance to experience it.

Miami Beach as Text

“More Than Just a Beach” By Sydney Gavula of FIU at South Beach

One of the most notorious destinations for vacations nationally and internationally is South Beach, located on the island Miami Beach, Florida. While for decades this beach has been bringing in college students and families from all over, there is more history and meaning to the area than what it appears. What typically ends up going unnoticed in the hustle of the spring break aura is the architecture of the Art Deco neighborhood. Characteristics such as the ‘law of three’, the curved edges and neon all play into creating South Beach’s Art Deco architecture, an architecture of what makes South Beach so unique and attracts the crowds of tourists and locals throughout the year.

The architectural characteristics and designs of South Beach Art Deco can vary from building to building making them individual and unique, however they all come together in one harmonious and distinct style. One of these characteristics is the law of three, which can be seen in many buildings that are three stories tall or include walls that are split up into threes. While not all buildings adhere to this, it is an aesthetic design that can be seen in multiple buildings throughout South Beach that add character to each of them. Another is the curved edges that corner buildings often utilize and actually ties into the architectural goal of Art Deco. This architecture style works to make buildings seem more like machines with a sleeker and smoother look that may appeal to individuals. Although there are plenty more design characteristics specific to the South Beach Art Deco, one of the most identifying characteristics of South Beach, especially along Ocean Drive, is the neon that can be seen throughout. During South Beach’s early years, this neon reflected the new sophisticated cosmopolitan style that became popular, and today it is reflective of the area’s uniqueness.

Miami Beach, and in particular South Beach, has always had an environment that has been indescribable to me every single time I have gone, and I think a big part of it is the uniqueness of the neighborhood’s architecture. It’s something that I had never seen before in the suburban area that I had grown up in and I believe it’s a big factor of what has drawn me in to moving to Miami. While it’s something that I had always visually acknowledged, learning about the intricacies and uniqueness of what makes South Beach so appealing was interesting and eye-opening to how much even just one design can change the feel of an area in an instant.

HistoryMiami as Text

“Immersion into the Past” by Sydney Gavula of FIU at the HistoryMiami Museum

HistoryMiami Museum (Photo by JW Bailly CC BY 4.0)

The city of Miami has an extensive amount of history dating back to before European influence came to the Americas, and the HistoryMiami Museum provides exhibits that embody every piece of that history. They provide information and artifacts from native inhabitation through historic European settlement and more recent history through the 20th century. Currently the largest history museum in Florida, the HistoryMiami Museum is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution and emphasized the importance of how history can affect the future. As the core exhibition that the museum houses to showcase that, the exhibit “Tropical Dreams: A People’s History of South Florida” tells the history of South Florida beginning from before any European settlement.

Some of the most prominent memories that I have from when I was a kid, was going to history museums for field trips. Even at such a young age, learning about the history of where I grew up and the places around me intrigued me and to this day, I still love learning about the past. While, I never had a fascination with learning about history in school through textbooks and reading assignments, seeing artifacts and being where I can physically interact with parts of history is a completely different experience.

I didn’t grow up in Miami, and I don’t know the extent of its history, but the city has become part of my own story and because of that I want to know more about its origins, and HistoryMiami Museum provides that. The museum provides a place that not only tells the story of the city’s past but also incorporates parts of its society today through additional resources other than the exhibits, such as tours and on-going research. Currently, I may not be able to experience the HistoryMiami Museum in person, but I do know that I will be visiting soon.


“Deering Estate Walking Tour.” Edited by John W Bailly and Sophia Guerra, John William Bailly, 21 Mar. 2020,

“HistoryMiami Museum Walking Tour.” Edited by John W Bailly and Marco Linares, John William Bailly, 31 Mar. 2020,

“South Beach Walking Tour.” Edited by John W Bailly and Sophia Guerra, John William Bailly, 24 Mar. 2020,

Author: miamiastext

Admin Account for Miami in Miami

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