“A Cartoon World” by Nicholas D. Pastrana of FIU at Locust Projects, Miami Design District, 12/2/19
Nicholas Pastrana is a sophomore an Accounting major pursuing a double major in Computer Information Systems and a certificate in Pre-Law at Florida International University. He serves as the Vice President of Membership Development and Scholarship on the Interfraternity Council’s Executive Board and on the Finance Committee of Relay for Life. His hobbies include weight-lifting, running, fishing, diving, and playing the piano. Nicholas has toured most of Europe including the Louvre and La Sagrada Familia with an interest in Realist, Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and Architectural artworks.
Locust Projects is located a couple blocks west of the center of Miami’s Design District. A few blocks to the East, the streets are lined with luxury stores including Versace, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton. Additionally, the architecture, sculptures, and interesting street art add to the aesthetic appeal of the geography. High-ticket stores and artsy ambiance make this place a hotspot for tourists in Miami.
Locust Projects was founded in 1998 by a group of Miami-based artists including Elizabeth Withstandly, Westen Charles, and COOPER. Originally, Locust Projects opened in Wynwood and was one of the first warehouse-turned-art exhibit/collection. In 2001, Locust Projects was incorporated and designated its Board of Directors. In 2002, it was recognized as a 501 (c) (3) not for profit. After receiving a grant from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts in 2006, they were able to hire their first full-time Executive Director and later relocate to Miami’s Design District in 2009. Locust Projects has been able to sustain itself through large grants from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, as well as the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs.
Reproduction– “Create opportunities for visual artists at all career stages, invite risk taking and experimentation, activate conversations around new art and ideas, and advocate for artists and creative practices.”
Explanation– Locust Projects is utterly committed to providing artists the opportunity to exhibit their works. They pride themselves on promoting artists of all ages, ethnicities, religions, qualifications, and career stages. Locust Projects holds no fear when showcasing relatively inexperienced artists and/or artists who show controversial works. When reading about the Locust Projects online, they claim to “emphasize boundary-pushing creative endeavors”. They do so to encourage thought provoking conversations about art and it’s influences on and from society. Furthermore, as a non-profit Locust Projects finds satisfaction in providing artists grants and free legal services.
Locust Projects is highly accessible as it is free to the public. It has limited parking in the back and there are a few parking spots on the nearby streets but if it were to be a busy night parking would go quick. The hourly fee for street parking is a dollar and fifty cents per hour. There are four parking garages in the area all about a couple blocks away. The nearest parking garage is City View Garage (entrance on Northeast thirty-eighth street). City View Garage is only three dollars for the first four hours, which if you know anything about Miami parking prices that’s practically a Black Friday sale. Locust Projects’ hours of operation are Tuesday through Saturday from 11am to 5pm.
Locust Projects is not an art gallery nor a collection. As mentioned before, they are a non-profit art space. Locust Projects opens it space to one artist at a time to give the artist an opportunity to exhibit their work with the intentions of educating the community.
Currently on display at Locust Projects is an artist named Trenton Doyle Hancock. Hancock’s exhibition is titled I Made Mound City in Miami Dade County. Hancock was born in Oklahoma City, OK and raised in Paris, Texas. He graduated from Texas A&M University with a BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts), then later from Tyler School of Art at Temple University with a MFA (Master of Fine Arts).
Interestingly, Hancock’s art comes in the form of cartoons. His exhibition I Made a Mound City in Miami Dade County tells tales of his character Torpedo Boy and his adventures in the Moundverse. In the Moundverse are fictional creatures called Mounds, Mounds art plant like creatures that feed off pollution and negative human emotions to “[transform] this dark malignant sediment into positive colorful energy” and cleanse the earth and air. These stories are told through a variety of medias including paintings, drawings, videos, and sculptures. In these stories Hancock explores ideas of good, evil, authority, race, class, moral relativism, politics, and religion.
Hancock’s main medium of presentation – cartoons – makes his art appealing to younger audiences which could easily understand the narratives but may not pick up on the underlying social ideas meant for older audiences. Hancock’s cartoon drawings are all in black and white but outside of them he commonly uses bright colors, often in a “psychedelic” manner.
In a dark room towards the back left, a video named What the Bringback Brought is playing. This video was very dark in nature and Hancock describes it as a commercial where he’s “…selling [would] not only [be the] toys but sensibilities from another time, a time when toys were better, when horror films and children’s fantasy entertainment was better”. (Ref. 1)
I enjoyed the way Hancock presented the topics and ideas he was conveying to his audience. In comparison to a politician, for example, who might lecture his ideas to an audience in attempt to force it down their throats. Hancock is much more clam in the suggestion of his ideas, allowing the audience to keep an open mind and entertain his ideas without feeling attacked. In the works showcased, Hancock never explicitly says: “Humans are destroying the earth via pollution, and we’re all going to suffer because of it!”. Instead, he uses an alternative reality where Mounds eat pollution to cleanse the rotting Earth to introduce the depressing results of pollution. I don’t lack respect for the Earth, but Hancock encouraged me to re-evaluate my contentment with only not harming the Earth. I was left questioning myself; if there was more, I should be doing to protect the Earth since in this reality I don’t have any mounds to cleanup after me. One page of Hancock’s story he discusses how humans have always used Mounds as a way of storing stuff and providing shelter. When reflecting on this it made me think of the flaw in the continuity of human design and ideas. For example, we all know that pollution is wrong but generation after generation we fall back on it because we assume that the little bit of trash, we leave behind isn’t a big deal. When we feed into this desire for immediate gratification through simplicity, we consistently hurt ourselves. Then when the human race as whole comes together to do this, we do serious damage to the Earth. Similarly, many races look down upon other ones, a phenomenon that has occurred since the beginning of time. Until we can learn to break this continuity, we will still wage war on one another because the opposition is different than us. In my mind I blew this up a lot from just humans consistently building mounds, but until humans can accept the lessons taught to us in our history and innovate from them, we will never evolve to what we’re capable of. Fortunately, I had the opportunity of further discussing these ideas with a visitor of the institution.
Locust Projects has several from summer programs for students to grants for artists.
Practice + Process: In this program artists discuss their “behind-the-scenes” creative processes.
Talks: This program is in conjunction with ArtCenter South Florida, together Locust Projects and ArtCenter South Florida bring in top art curators to Miami six times a year to discuss their vision practice, and the art and artists that shaped their careers.
Locust Art Builders (LAB): A Summer Art Intensive for Teens: Every summer Locust Projects turns its space over to twenty-five teens from across the country to learn how to build an exhibition from scratch.
WaveMaker: Part of a national network of Andy Warhol Foundation re-granting programs providing up to $60,000 in funding a year, awarded directly to artists for non-commercial, non-institutional projects that are accessible to the public.
LegalLink: Program providing free and low-cost legal services, pro bono attorney referrals, and professional development to artists in Florida.
R+D Mobile Studio: A new initiative launched in 2017, R=D / Mobile Studio offers artists space and time to develop ideas for new projects and convene conversations and collaborations that inform new directions.
Interview with a visitor of the institution – Neil
Q1 “Is this your first time visiting Locust Projects?”
A1 “No, actually I live nearby, and my girlfriend and I like to come visit.”
Q2 “What made you want to come today to see Trenton Doyle Hancock?”
A2 “I’m really into comics and sequential art and I know Trenton’s work is highly influenced by comics and it’s always fun to see how and when comics and find art intersect and how they influence each other. The final project of the two is always interesting.”
Q3 “So it sounds like you have an interest in art, do you have any formal background?”
A3 “Actually I do, I got my BFA in visual arts.”
Q4 “If you had to pick a piece of this exhibit that peaks your interest, what would it be?”
A4 “The giant Mound in the middle of the room, the cut-away or cross section of the Mound (cartoon drawing explaining what a Mound is made of and its structural composition), and the animation inside of the physical Mound.
Q5 “Did you pick up on any of the ideas Hancock expresses about pollution, emotions, or moral relativism?”
Q5 “Yes, especially the pollution and the whole creation myths he’s working with, I think it speaks a lot towards human design. In fact, if you look at page seven of the Moundverse, Trenton talks about how humans have always used mounds, Egyptians making pyramids, Eskimos making igloos, graves are mounds too. It a metaphor for us being stuck in our ways.”
Interview of an employee of the institution – Jordyn Newsome, Gallery and Exhibitions Manager
Q1 “What demographic does Locust Projects tend to target?”
A1 “Locust Projects demographic is very diverse, since we’re located in Miami it’s international.”
Q2 “What age rage does Locust Projects tend to target?”
A2 “Well, geared towards eighteen to probably sixty-five, adults, we get people of all ages, but there is no children programming.”
Q3 “What is Locust Projects to you, as in what does it mean to you”
A3 “Well, Locust Projects is an alternative art space, not a museum, artists can use the ceilings, the floors, the walls. Artists are free to use the space however they want as long as they don’t affect the building structurally. Daniel Arsham jackhammered a hole in the floor. I think it means a lot because it gives artists full control over the presentation of their art, it’s very expressive.”
Q4 “What do you think of the location, would you say it’s convenient for artists and Locust Project’s guests”
A4 “We don’t bring in a lot of foot traffic, but it’s good for driving because we’re right off of I-95. Mostly people who come, come because they set out to do so.”
Q5 “How influential do you believe Locust Projects’ programs are?”
A5 “Programming is important. Locust Projects gives free grants for artists to do projects. Locust Projects provides workshops for artists on how to budget projects, workshops on protecting their work legally, Locust Projects sets out to give artists opportunities to invest in their careers.”
Q6 “Are most of the artists who come here ‘Big name’ artists or ‘investments’?”
A6 “We do both. We try to give all artists a chance regardless of what stage of their career they are at. Every summer we give a Master of Fine Arts student an exhibit.”
Q7 “Is the comic book shop in the back part of Locust Projects?”
A7 “No, since Trenton Doyle Hancock uses comics as a medium, we had a comic book pop up shop. It’s part of a local shop called Radiator Comics. When this exhibition is over the space of the pop-up shop will switch to the next exhibition.
Locust Projects works. It’s highly accessible to the public, the parking situation is amazing by Miami standards, and to top it off the staff is incredible. From the outside Locust Projects doesn’t look like much, its outside appearance is not reflective of the value inside. When you walk inside, you’re greeted by friendly staff and a large open room which is essential a work of art itself since it’s completely designed by the exhibited artist. This struck me as brilliant when showcasing just one artist because it leaves all of the guest’s focus on that artist and their work.
Unfortunately, there was only one staff member available for me to speak to. Nonetheless, from that one conversation, Locust Projects’ value in their philanthropic initiatives was undeniable. Locust Projects is proud to promote art and provide education through a plethora of programs and open public access. I had no idea ventures such as Locust Projects existed, I’m thankful for their incredible service to the community and the amazing experience.