Amaranta Bailly: Miami as Text 2021-2022

This image was taken by Natalia Garcia-Lee/CC by 4.0

My name is Amaranta Mattie Bailly and I am a proud Cuban-French-Floridian. I have grown up in Miami for the Majority of my life but have had the privilege to travel much of the world at a very young age. My education, passions, upbringing and goals drive me to constantly learn more about the world that I live in and how I can better it. I consistently find myself fascinated with various forms of artistic expression, as well as the environment and understanding its intricacies. Comprehending the profound history and facets of my hometown Miami will undoubtedly provide more clarity regarding where I hope my life, as well as hard work, will take me.

Downtown as Text

This image of “Dropped Bowl with Scattered Slices and Peels” by artists Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen is taken by Amaranta Bailly/CC by 4.0

The Origin Story”

by Amaranta Bailly of Florida International University at Downtown Miami, 1 September 2021

For 19 years I have lived on these streets, going to the beach with family, grabbing food with friends, and exploring with anyone willing to join me. It was both riveting and shocking to learn that I didn’t understand how my city came to be the undeniable wonder it is today, and that I had been denying myself the privilege of truly understanding what lay just below my feet. It was disheartening to realize I hadn’t seen this statue before class. Not only did I experience Miami in a different light on an educational level, but observing the physical landmarks I had passed by for so long was a wake up call. I quickly recognized that I need to become more aware of my surroundings.

Throughout the day I absorbed what seemed like an endless amount of information that revealed or involved the development of Miami economically, socially, politically and environmentally. Somehow, Oldenburg and Bruggen were able to narrow these incredible and at times heartbreaking stories down into a single sculpture, that somehow sits at the near center of our city. This piece was developed to display how Miami grew as a city; explosive, stunning and through chaos. On top of how unique to our state and city it is, seeing as how the Orange has been a Florida staple for decades, the shattering glass properly reflects the literal groundbreaking work that was required to build from the ground up.

This Image of the Plantation Slave Quarters in City Park was taken by Amaranta Bailly/CC by 4.0

The Fort Dallas and William F. English Plantation Slave Quarters in City park display a perfect parallel between the darker and lighter parts of history. The stone unit, although it was relocated, emanated a physical and evil energy that will never leave those walls. It was built approximately 200 years ago by slaves themselves, and holds tales of horror that are incomprehensible when compared with the Miami that surrounds the structure today. The quarters were passed down through generations as well as the plantation until 1849, when the Army claimed the land and used it as a base during the Seminole Wars. I was standing in front of a building that had been used as an aid to commit mass genocide as well as strip the humanity from individuals, individuals who were treated as less than mules, I felt and still feel disgusted. Professor Bailly recommended that we become physical with the structure but I almost couldn’t bring myself to move so close. I felt nothing but repelled by the mass before me. He then had gone on to elaborate regarding his request, and stated that he felt connected to the slaves building this quarter, and not the stories that had occurred within them. I then proceeded to hold the same rock a slave had held 200 years before, and the sensation of the grainy material beneath my hand brought about feelings of extreme sadness and sympathy. I began to ponder how exactly a city can host such tragedy a mere 200 years ago, and morph the diverse and cultured beaut it is today.

This image of William and Evelyns old home was taken by Amaranta Bailly/CC by 4.0

The answer I had quickly begun to search for was found earlier than expected in the neighboring building. Not more then 20 feet from the slave quarters stood a home from the same time period, but told a strong opposing story when looked at from a moral perspective. William Vagner was a German man who had immigrated to the United States in the earlier 1800s and met a woman named Evelyn Emair. They had fallen in love but unfortunately were forced into keeping their relationship a secret because interracial marriages were not legal at the time. They lived a beautiful life together and had 15 children. It stunned me that even during this dark time period, there were tolerant people who looked past societal standard to find happiness. Professor Bailly then went on to discuss a seemingly frightening encounter with a Group of 17 seminoles. William had come across the unit with his wife and daughter Rose, and seeing as how the political situation at the time was rough to say the least, its natural to feel a certain level of fear when the intentions of others are unknown. Instead of insighting violence or being verbally aggressive in order to protect his family, William invited the Seminoles to his home for dinner. Together, 17 seminoles, an interracial couple and several biracial children were more than capable of sitting at a table and have a meal together despite the judgement and war raging on the outside world. William formed an alliance with the seminoles, and attempted to bring peace between peoples throughout his life. My admiration and respect for William grew to unimaginable proportions as the minutes passed. He has a vision that not many had at this time and was not influenced by the fact that because of his origin or the color of his skin, he could have abused his position in more way than one. Instead, because of his endlessly tolerant mind, he found love within Evelyn, faith in his children, and peace with the Seminoles. He used his divine insight to make people stronger in a time where everything was divided amongst the masses.

I am thrilled that I was able to become more educated regarding the origin story of the city I was raised in and adore. I was fortunately raised around a largely diverse group of people. My family is from various different countries and continents, as are my friends. Now I don’t have to question the ways to which we reached this peace in this place we call home. Now I know that even in the darkest times, there were people out there who saw the light in others. The extent to which these people fought to save that light now gives me the privilege to do the same, and gave others privileges that I won’t take for granted anymore.

OverTown as Text

“New vs Original Overtown”

by Amaranta Bailly of Florida International University at Overtown Miami, 15 September 2021

Miami is a city well renowned for its diverse population. The large variety of cultures compacted into approximately 100 miles of coast is unparalleled nationwide. Although it has grown to be quite the tourist attraction, its authenticity still burns bright as day. It wasn’t until I made my way into Overtown along with my fellow pupils and professor that I realized the roots of what makes Miami flourish as a city is gravely under threat. 

This picture of Overtown MIA was taken by Amaranta Bailly/CC by 4.0

Overtown was originally founded in 1896 and went by the name Darkie-Town. In the late 19th and early 20th century, Black Americans were only permitted to inhabit certain neighborhoods and enter wealthier neighborhoods for work. Slavery at the time was outlawed, but segregation played an enormous part in the formation of Miami at this time. Through the challenges of a marginalized life, the Black Americans that were forced into Overtown were still able to build a successful community that flourished over the years. The fact that strong, original remnants of this town remain today is relieving to say the least.

This image of the Lyric theater was taken by Amaranta Bailly of FIU/CC by 4.0

Celebrities such as Billy Holiday and Muhammad Ali would come to Miami and showcase their talents in wealthy parts of the city but were after sent to Darkie-Town because they were not permitted to rest at hotels near where they performed. The Lyric theater pictured above was a safe space for celebrities to behave authentically and is a large part of why Overtown was referenced as “Miami’s Broadway”. Not only did celebrities visit Overtown, but strong political activist such as Andrew Young, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. often spoke at churches, which brought resilience into the hearts of the community.

This image of the interior of Mount Zion Church was taken by Amaranta Bailly of FIU/CC by 4.0

This altar is located in Mount Zion, one of the other few structures that still does this historically charged area justice. I was astounded when I learned that I was standing before a place where various heroes had previously preached their ideas to the people. Knowing that empowering words of tolerance and change were spoken and heard here, by people who needed to constantly battle oppression, is a once in a lifetime experience. A heartwarming woman elaborated on the personal connections she shared with Martin Luther King as well as the kind and homey atmosphere that the church possessed. Her unique words of wisdom brought to my attention that any one individual has the ability to make a difference if they can attain the courage, strength and heart to do so. I felt moved, and had a reality check to the largest extent of the word. These chosen few individuals had the ability to reach people to unbelievable proportions and honed that talent to change the world for the better. Their ideals are still touched upon in schools nationwide today, but to stand before a woman and a place that was graced with an extraordinarily powerful presence brought upon the realization that people suffered in cosmic proportions to build the town I’ve come to visit.

I also didn’t realize until traveling to town with my class just how much the local’s fight for equality is ongoing. Overtown is currently experiencing Gentrification; when wealthier people move into an urban area and push out those without a financial advantage. The process is slow and grueling for the true locals. Overtime, due to environmental and financial reasons, Overtown has been nearly torn to the ground. For approximatley a century the Black Americans who were forced into Overtown to begin with have been building a community with the small amount they worked tirelessly for. The talent that came to life on Miami Broadway attracted folks from all over, and soon the roads buzzed with activity. There came a gradual shift in Overtown in a sense of who wanted to inhabit the streets, and once developers arrived, the authentic community began to be a thing of the past. As wealthy people flood into a town that has beautiful music, great food, and people living harmoniously, they begin to clear house and create establishments too difficult for the locals to afford. It starts with an Art Gallery in a prominent cultural area, followed by little cafés, bakeries and shops. Slowly older restaurants and stores are purchased and remodeled, charging more than any other place in town. Then come the high-rises, slowly but surely pushing people from their homes and cities because they can’t afford rent. Fortunately historically valuable buildings are protected to a certain extent, although it is extremely difficult for these structures to be put on the list of Heritage Registers, which is essentially a list of areas that cannot be remodeled or destroyed because they hold a historically important past.

This image of a violation notice was taken by Professor John Bailly of FIU/CC by 4.0

This image was taken less than two weeks after my class and I visited the church of Greater Bethel. This church is technically on the register of historic structures that cannot be demolished but certain protocols are in place in to maintain structures of a community, and if the following repairs are not completed in a time frame provided then the building might not have a very long future. Filure to follow these difficult codes can result in the “destruction of the offending structure by the city of Miami.” Because the community is forcibly absent, not many are able to visit the Greater Bethel church and therefore it does not receive suitable funding. It only goes to show that the government does not care about the historical landmarks that exist in Overtown, they do not recognize the challenges that those who are attempting to keep the community alive face. If the Greater Bethel Church cannot fulfill the cities requests, then less than a year from now this sacred ground might not exist. Who is going to remember that Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Andrew Young took a stand within these walls if there are no walls to marvel at? How is it fair to be forced out of a town your ancestors were herded into, who then encouraged it to grow into something to be admired? How will anyone be able to attest to the existence of Overtown without a place to explore? The absence of the original Overtown as well as the people who fill it with pride and beauty is an injustice to the growth of our nation and one step closer to erasing our past. This should strike anger into the core of anyone who values the history of Miami and the people who helped create the community that lies before us.

I spent the day being immersed in a community that I quickly grew adore. Every single individual opened their personal their nook for us to be explored with open arms, on the condition that we came with open minds. Civilians on the street, gentleman at the barbershop, and the totality of Mount Zion as well as Greater Bethel wanted us to know where they come from and exactly how threatened they are by big companies and developers with big money. Professor Bailly continues to emphasize that the destruction and harmful events that occurred here are not our own fault unless we lack the ability to educate ourselves. This brought upon a large moral dilemma that I fought with internally the entire day and for quite some time after. How can I say I’m innocent and free of blame if I absorb all of this information and choose to do nothing with it? If I hear all of the stories and emphasize with the people who are being harmed, then I believe I would be flawed morally if I remain silent. Challenging the government and people behind Gentrification is how we can aid and possibly save the remnants of Overtown as well as other communities that are struggling. I realize that in order for me to repay the entirety of Overtown for the unparalleled generosity, I have to give them my support that extends past my personal education. I will continue to visit Overtown, to eat their delicious food and to walk their streets with my companions so that they can also open their mind to a beautiful part of our city. A part of our city that is unforgettable and beyond a shadow of a doubt, worth fighting for.

Vizcaya as Text

“House of Power”

by Amaranta Bailly of Florida International University at Vizcaya Museum, 3 October 2021

The Vizcaya Museum and Gardens have stood as a symbol of aged wealth in Miami for approximately the past century. Ten percent of the Miami population was employed by James Deering, the only true resident of this establishment, and participated in the construction of this stunning Villa. The structure is completed with various guest rooms, more than one floor, an interior courtyard, towers that flank the structure, a barge to protect from the tide amongst other things and the most high end trinkets of the early 20th century.

This image of Dionysus was taken by Amaranta Bailly of FIU//CC by 4.0

Not only is this home a fascination to various architects, interior designers and artists, but the gardens are very well maintained and breathtaking to say the least. These amenities are a clear indicator of the magnitude of wealth James Deering attained in his lifetime. The peaceful waterfalls, inspired by islamic temples, guide your slow descent to the back entrance of the home, where you will find a glorious yet revealing statue of Dyonisus. Dyonisus is known as the god of wine, but is also often associated with both pleasure and ecstasy. This statue was carefully selected to stand in the entrance of the home because his power accurately displays the message James Deering was attempting to send to any visitor who has the pleasure of entering his home.

Mr. Deering was clearly a man of immense riches, a party animal ahead of his time, and desired more than anything a cultured image. This sculpture of Dionisus, amount many others, as well as the actual structure of the home is meant to display the fact that he could actually afford the culture he so greatly admired, as well as the fact that anyone who came into his home should prepare for a good time. The tour of his home is absolutely immaculate. Each room, specially crafted by Architect Paul Chalfin, displays a different time period and location in Europe. Nearly all of the items in this room were imported from different parts of Europe and were not actually selected by James Deering, he sent Paul Chalfin on various trips to select the priciest handmade items for months on end.

I can admit that this accumulation of wealth for his time is to be gawked at, but I in no way felt a personal connection to these excessive items. It appears to me that James Deering was a man who lacked actual culture but had the ability to pay in large for it. The presence of an antique organ in the living room is strong evidence of my take on this home. Mr. Deering did not actually know how to play an organ, but the ownership of an organ when not by a public place at this time indicates extreme wealth. His closer associates questioned his desire to have this particular object imported because it would serve no actual use in his home. Mr. Deering would not hear any of this logical questions and purchased the organ regardless to achieve the status quo.

This image of the exterior of Vizcaya was taken by Amaranta Bailly of FIU//CC by 4.0

Just because Mr. Deering was clearly obsessed with appearances, does not necessarily mean that what I think he paid to create is in any way less important, admirable and powerful. Vizcaya is now a place where one can venture off to in order to admire the beauty thats a blended history holds. The mixing of cultures is something commonly seen in Miami, but this structure is evidence that citizens of this city admired all parts of the world from a very early age.

I personally felt at home in a cultural sense while visiting Vizcaya because I am of both Latin and European descent. My mother is Cuban and My father is French, therefore I can state with confidence that the entirety of my life has been graced with a combination of backgrounds. I often traveled with my father through different parts of Europe as he worked tirelessly to make something for his family. I was blessed with the opportunity to experience different parts of the world at an incredibly young age and for that my gratitude will never waver. I had the pleasure of exploring various cities out of state, of eating food that does not exist or is not often found in Miami, of getting to know my extended family and admiring structures that stand tall after thousands of years.

After traveling for months I would return to Miami and be surrounded by my Cuban culture and family, as well as the members of my family who are Peruvian and Thai. Not only did I have a very unique cultural experience in my youth because of personal reasons, but Miami has flourished into a city where I have had the privilege of becoming well acquainted with individuals who originate from all over the world, like myself. Often my blended background lead to questions of self identity. I didn’t feel like I belonged to any one place and I couldn’t answer a question regarding my origin without quite a lengthy response. As I got older and explored places like Vizcaya, my questions regarding the explanation of my origin were answered overtime. The discussion that occurred in the discussion room spoke to me on a deeper level in particular.

This image of the Marie Antoinette room was taken by Amaranta Bailly of FIU//CC by 4.0

At first I had thoughtlessly assumed that all this room could attain was an extreme display of wealth that Mr. Deering spent though sands of dollars on in order to impress other people who attained a similar amount of wealth. This room is focused on the eighteenth century time period in France, and is breathtaking for lack of a better word. Tall ceilings, a glistening chandelier, windows lining the north wall, and a statue of Mary Antoinette by the east door truly resemble the form of riches she lived with. As we were about to leave this room, the attention of my classmates and I was brought to the walls, which were gracefully and subtly covered in palm trees.

It was at this point I realized that although James Deering himself was not extremely knowledgable and did not actually enthrall himself in cultural affairs, through his immense financial gain he created a structure that would influence Miami as well as the rest of the world, as it continues to gain popularity among tourists. Vizcaya in essence is both unique and lovely, and has become a beacon of unity for generations to come.

South Beach as Text

“The Untouchable Streets” 

by Amaranta Bailly of Florida International University on 3rd November, 2021

The exploration of South Beach in an educational sense, accompanied by my pupils and professor of FIU, allowed me to fully recognize the unique environment I had the opportunity to grow up in, and the disparity between different areas of Miami as a whole. Our class spent the majority of our day observing the astoundingly mixed architecture of South Beach, and the volume of information that I previously had no knowledge of, regarding a place I adore spending time in, is near disappointing.

This image was taken by Amaranta Bailly of Florida International University on 3 November 2021//CC by 4.0

I did not take into recognition previous to this class the intensity that the forms of architecture present on South Beach have on my personal mindset and emotions when exploring near the water. Through lengthy discussion of what history contributed to the distinct appearance of South Beach, it has occurred to me that I have taken a large portion of my go-to area of relaxation for granted. I’ve been wandering by these structures for years and never truly questioned their eccentric appearance. My favorite of the styles present is the Art Deco architecture, which first developed in France. Buildings that are modeled in the Deco style tend to showcase geometrical, linear, and curvaceous features. Art Deco architecture also contains “eyebrows’; meaning a shelf that slightly protrudes from a building. The presence of eyebrows on many Deco buildings actually help protect the interior from heavy rainfall, but simultaneously lure your eyes into moving across the structure. Pastel colors normally blend together when looking at these buildings and the appearance instantly calms me. I cherished the water as a child, logically, because I was born and raised near the sea. I spent my time growing up venturing off to the waves whenever my family, friends and I have the time to. The aroma, sounds, sea breeze and silky sand have always been a strong source of peace in my life. The Art Deco structures that line the coast near mimic the waves. They are built with movement swift as the waters that lie before them. 

This image was taken by Amaranta Bailly of Florida International University on 3 November 2021//CC by 4.0

I am also very fond of the MiMo architecture that is derived from Art Deco. They are greatly similar in appearance regarding their massive an intristic curves, as well as parallels present in various parts of the structure. MiMo , or Miami Modern Architecture, blossomed in the 1930s and greatly influenced the world view of Miami as it was inspired by the ideal image of a futuristic city. There is a great influence of subtropical and Latinx influence on this particular style, and a large population of Latinx people in Miami today (including myself) should appreciate past evidence of our presence in an artistic manner. Although visually I preference Art Deco, I did feel a homey and warm connection to the MiMo buildings throughout our day. This architectural style has inspired the neon, lively, electric and constantly entertaining city that Miami is made out to be. When tourists want to come to the clubbing city of the country, they picture MiMo.

This image was taken by Amaranta Bailly of Florida International University on 3 November 2021//CC by 4.0

The Mediterranean Revival inspired structures make for a very interesting addition to the Decour of South Beach and it differs the most between the three main architectural styles that are present here. The Mediterranean Revival began to flourish in Miami around the 1920s and is greatly influenced by Spanish and Moorish designs. Visually, this means that symmetry, slanted rooftops, shorter buildings, and a structure with easy access to the outside world are prominent sightings. Often on South Beach, when you come across a Mediterranean Revival hotel or restaurant, you find that doorways appear to be larger than normal and oftentimes there are terraces between the doorway and the street so that individuals can lounge. Although the Mediterranean Revival buildings are extremely beautiful and different, I found them slightly offputting when next to a MiMo or Art Deco building. The Art Deco and MiMo buildings are very similar incomparison to a Revival building, although the Revival building and the seaside are a fitting pair, and I see the convenience of having such an open building in the subtropical climate that Miami offers. 

South Beach is a very unique part of Miami because the distinctive architecture is not as prominent anywhere else in the city. I gained valuable knowledge from the excursion, but I couldn’t help but think back to when the Miami in Miami class explored Over Town and we discussed how difficult it was to protect buildings in such an underfunded neighborhood. South Beach is extremely well renowned today and the buildings in this area are to be protected at all costs. This is only because the authentic Miami that the world pictures if they arent a Miamian brings thousands upon thousands of tourists to our beaches, as well as money. I can say without a doubt that I love exploring South Beach and I can admire the way that such a large effort has been put into maintaining the historically charged portion of Miami, but I was disappointed when I realized that the history behind our city isn’t valued when it’s not making money.

In essence, I greatly appreciate the history behind how South Beach was built into such a stunning and well-known area to let loose and enjoy life. I believe that the combination of influences that occurred within South Beach between the 1920s in the 1960s make for a truly unique appearance that should be protected at all costs. South Beach would lose its magic and charming draw if it weren’t for the work that is constantly being put into it. The unification of people of different backgrounds, who have different views of the world and what makes a pulchritudinous design also lives within the streets of South Beach. Through great challenges something magnificent was created, and the walls stand today as evidence of a powerful history behind unforgettable beauty. I will not forget these truths, but I also cannot shake the realization that South Beach reeks of privlege, because their history will be remembered while the history of Over Town is erased.

Deering as Text

“The Motherland” 

By Amaranta Bailly of Florida International University on 10th Novermber, 2020

This Image was taken by Amaranta Bailly of Florida International University on 10 November 2021//CC by 4.0

I can state with confidence that my personal connection to the Deering Estate during this entertaining escapade has been amplified to a massive extent. I was bestowed the privilege of running the Miami in Miami Instagram as our class thoroughly explored what lies within this protected park. I have also previously taught and guided children through the Deering Estate for two years prior to my academic career at FIU, therefore my knowledge of the area is quite sizable. My admiration for the Deering Estate grew because I was able to share my unique experience as well as the natural allure of Miami with individuals who would appreciate my expertise.

The Miami in Miami class gathered at approximately 10 AM and completed a morning hike to a stunning archaeological site located near Deering. It was at this location that evidence of Tequesta presence dating back to 10,000 years ago, as well as the presence of an enormous ecosystem, and perhaps more than one, was uncovered. We had the opportunity to stand between the Tropical Hardwood Hammocks as well as the Pine Rocklands on a single excursion, meaning that we got to experience two unique and threatened ecosystems at once. Although the distinctive Florida landscape can always be appreciated, I was not shocked at the state of beauty because I have spent so much time at the Deering Estate previous to this excursion. It was at the archaeological site specifically that I became emotionally moved because the context of our class. Professor Bailly discussed at length during our visit the value of our geographical ancestors, and his description of how the Tequestas treasured the land they walked on ensured the realization that I follow in their footsteps. It is my responsibility to care for the idiosyncratic system that I live and thrive in. I failed to realize how similar I am to the Tequesta‘s that used to inhabit my home, in the sense that we undoubtedly adore the natural life present. Not only did I begin to feel attached to the people that took care of and made use of this land before me, but I felt connected to the passage of time. I now realize that, if there are humans 10,000 years into the future, they could potentially study what I have left behind, and how I have put effort into this world, and take from it like I have from those who came before me. 

This image was taken by Amaranta Bailly of Florida International University on 10 November 2021// CC by 4.0

For the same reason, my appreciation of the nature present also grew to a massive extent. We were informed by Madison, a longtime employee of the Deering Estate, that the overgrown mangroves, Pine Rocklands and Hardwood Hammocks greatly resembled the appearance of the entirety of our city before the Spanish voyaged to Florida. Granted, there are a number of invasive species that are difficult to eradicate, although the wildlife in this protected area is mostly the same. Knowing this, the nature that surrounded me transported me to what feels like a different universe or timeline, which was amplified due to a lack of modernity.

A similar feeling arose when we had gone on our second hike later in the day and encountered the Tequesta burial mound located at the Deering estate in a restricted area. There are approximately 17 bodies in the mound, lying face down and whose heads are surrounding a tree that is older than Miami itself. The way that these bodies are laid out implies that there was some sort of ritual performed in order to lay the fallen Tequesta to rest. There is not much known about the Tequesta civilization, therefore details of what they did with their dead cannot be answered in full. In my opinion, it is apparent that they valued life similar to how most humans do today, and their methods of burial may not be the same, but the fact that they were evidently sentimental amplifies the fact that those who lived in the past are more like us than we think.

The value of the education I received at the archaeological site and burial mound can in no way be compared to the context of the course previous to this class. I feel that we have been studying at length the various ways that Miami has grown into the city it is today, but we haven’t thoroughly explored as a group who inhabited this land further back in time. This class made me analyze the world that we live in today, and I’ve come to realize that the majority of individuals we are surrounded with are goal driven and future oriented. If our minds and future aspirations can be escaped for even a short period of time, it is because we’re caught up in the good and evil that the present has to offer us. We are so focused on where we intend to go that we don’t often take the time to contemplate where we come from. The answer to many of the questions we have as well as the situation we are in as individuals, in groups and as a society can be helped or solved by observing the humans that existed before us. The land I walk on today holds more secrets and beauties that I previously could have possibly comprehended, it has mothered eons of tales before my time. I will continue to value it above all else. 

Rubell as Text

“Tranquil Release”

by Amaranta Bailly of Florida International University on the 24th November 2021

I felt profoundly disappointed that despite my longtime fascination with art, I had never taken the time visit the Rubell Museum. This museum is a permanent, private installation owned originally by Don Rubell and His wife Mera Rubell. This enormous Contemporary Art installation is considered one of the best in the modern world, and has been accumulated over many decades. I am largely impressed by the quantity and diversity of the Art present in this Museum, and I believe Miami is the perfect location for such an abundance of work because it reflects the valued diversity Miami has to offer.

In particular, the work of Yayoi Kusama touched me deeply and brought about a wave of unexpectedly strong emotions. The FIU group had special tickets in order to enter her rooms which are kept separate from the rest of the gallery because the immersiveness of these two pieces specifically requires a separate room. We only were permitted thirty seconds to enter her work and we were not allowed to enter with other people. I was not expecting to be so undeniably consumed by the piece “Where the Lights in My Heart Go,” which was completed in 2016 and later purchased by the Rubell museum. The magnificence, elegance and simplicity of this piece spoke to me on a more personal level than I even felt was appropriate to feel in public.

I have a tendency to bottle my emotions, worries and fears so that they don’t overwhelm me, but oftentimes I don’t realize that those little weights amass into the weight of the world on my shoulders, and it becomes to heavy to bear. I find it important that my personal shortcomings don’t greatly interfere with my responsibilities. This dark room gave me one second in the middle of a stressful days to feel a floe of tranquility with a lack of disturbance. In this room, small bright lights glimmer throughout the darkness that did not illuminate the seemingly infinite room, but glimmered throughout the space like young, fiery stars. The room appeared to span on indefinitely from the interior because like the exterior, every surface that was not a beam of light is glass.

This is the closest I’ve ever felt to what it may be like to float through space. Alone, at peace, surrounded by the infinite universe that does not make me feel smaller, but that makes me feel like the weight of my reality has been lifted from my shoulders. The armor that is glued to my person was pulled off my body and I seemed to grow just a little taller, the more I stood in this box. Sometimes one becomes so distracted with handling the responsibilities that come with an everyday life that moments of peace like the one I experienced are hard to reach, and come less often than many deserve. I was moved to tears, exhaustion pouring out of me, relief leading through my veins. I wanted to stay indefinitely, to wander these cosmos and this never-ending plane of cerebral existence.

Works like this masterpiece is why installations such as the Rubell Museum are so successful and well renowned. Contemporary Art is composed of  breaking edge materials and works that have been produced by brilliant minds. The appreciation of art has evolved beyond the gaze of the white man and it has surpassed the obscene adoration of oil paintings and marble. Women, people of color, and those with differing sexual orientation‘s are now able to produce art without repercussions or judgment. Any individual in this day and age with a voice worth listening to can become a fascinating, respectable and talented artist, if they work hard enough to reach that goal. 

Contemporary Art is not solely about doing something that can never be done again, or doing something that nobody else could replicate. Contemporary Art is about making a work that belongs to you, that displays how you do and don’t view the world. I find that many who create and are a part of what embodies Contemporary Art use their unique voice to communicate through their work without restriction or fear of being misunderstood. This trip to the Rubell Museum showed me that there is a place for me in the art world that is exploding before my eyes. I have a newfound motivation to aid artists in their pursuit of success and a stronger value of the individual, unique voices that are now being appreciated on a creative level. This class brought me a powerful sense of peace and more confidence in my ability to succeed in my upcoming career. I will continue to move toward my goals, feeling great relief in recognizing the wide variety of possibilities that await me in this exploding new world of artistic endeavors.

Everglades as Text

This image was taken by Amaranta Bailly of Florida International University on 19th January, 2022// CC by 4.0

“The Middle of Somewhere”

by Amaranta Bailly of Florida International University on 19th January, 2022

Being a Miami resident for the majority of my life means that I have grown up surrounded by the beautiful architecture, art, various cultures, beaches, and stunning nature that Miami and its surrounding area has to offer. Throughout the years, I have been privileged enough to explore the majority of this area, although I found in the Everglades that I take it massively for granted. My extended time in this city has numbed me to the unique society and land I live in. We began our trek into the Everglades by driving to observe a sinkhole located just East of the Nike Missle Site. We were informed by ranger Dylan that as the rest of the everglades became protected, the plot of land on which the sinkhole resides remained private property for long after, and was covered in tomatoes. As the years went on, the property was taken over by the government and placed under protection, and so the dirt that was used to grow the tomatoes was pushed into massive hills. Now, this area is pure limestone with a thin layer of native plants spread across the surface, aside from a few given sinkholes which we had specifically parked to see. The sinkhole we had all gathered around was not quite large or deep, and had crystal clear water that didnt seem to touch the brim of the amorphous circle. Inside this sinkhole were very small fish going about their usual days, communicating, swimming, eating the small plants that grew from the bottom, without a worry in the world. Or so I had originally suspected. 

This image was taken by Amaranta Bailly of Florida International University on 19th January, 2022// CC by 4.0

The truth is that there is much more to this sinkhole than what met my eye. The muck that surrounded the brim, the various fish floating around and the crevices hidden in the sinkhole are all part of a massive ecosystem, and is an entire ecosystem in and of itself. That “muck” provides various nutrients which aid plant growth and are filled with tons of microorganisms that bring life even to the least appealing part of the hole. The tunnels that are hidden below the brim of the whole at times permit travel between different sinkholes for small fish to maneuver through during the dry season, when the water level is lower. The complexities that exist in this mere 15 feet of space are boggling to the mind. I listened to the gigantuan amount of information Ranger Dylan had on hand for this small space alone, and her speech left me in nothing but anticipation for what the rest of the day could possibly bring me. 

With that it was time for the main event, the so-called hike that all the leaders of this everglades tour seemed to be thrilled about. We were told to hop back in our vehicles and head to the location of our slough slog hike. Everyone had carpooled for the day, but I had ended up alone in my car for the drive. I thought I would have had distaste for the alone time originally, but as I began to travel in line with the rest of the group, I felt an unparalleled sense of peace as my crappy car flew through the massively different habitats that encompass the Everglades. I came to the realization that I didn’t want to be around anyone else, I wanted nature to engulf me to the largest extent possible. My windows remained down, the wind in my hair, the heat kissing my skin, the sun lighting my path, and suddenly it wasn’t the path I was taking with the rangers or with FIU, it was my path, my world, and I didn’t want to share it. 

In fast timing for my taste, we arrived at the middle of nowhere. Everyone parked on the side of this winding road in the small space of grass available to us. We gathered at Ranger Dylans car, and she gave each of us a long wooden stick. I wasn’t surprised to receive it, but I was surprised I would need it. There is no winter in South Florida, but there is a dry season that encompasses the few months of what the rest of the world considers to be winter. At this time not only does South Florida experience an absence of rain, but rivers, ponds, sinkholes, swamps, marshes and canals all experience a massive decrease in water level. Could our walk really be so precarious that we have to use makeshift measuring sticks to make sure we dont completely sink into this swamp? Ranger Dylan gave a short introduction and reviewed certain rules we must follow as we’re on our hike, and with that walked straight into the trees, following no set trail. 

This image was taken by Amaranta Bailly of Florida International University on 19th January, 2022// CC by 4.0

We all followed a single file into the thick vegetation, and slowly fell silent. The water was ice cold at first, and the trees surrounding us quickly obstructed our view of the road. The stillness of our changing location stunned me, and I was grateful for the first few moments we walked in silence, once we became accustomed to the way we should maneuver through the trees, I began to listen to the second ranger that accompanied ranger Dylan and the call on our trip. She began talking about the vast variety of Tillandsia’s and Orchids that thrived in the everglades because of the textured bark on the Conifer Trees. I work at Galloway Farm Nursery as a sales associate, but I must also care for and know an extensive amount about the plants we have for sale. We have quite the selection of Tillandsias for sale and our slough slog has renewed my fascination with the species of plant.

This image of a Tillandsia was taken by Amaranta Bailly of Florida International University on 19th January, 2022// CC by 4.0

Tillandsia’s possess a strong and unique root system, similar to orchids. A Tillandsia is not supposed to be planted in the ground, but instead thrives midair attached to the bark of trees. They derive the majority of their nutrients from the humidity compacted in the vegetation as well as the rain that trickled through the grooves of the bark. Somehow, these the and winding roots have the ability to support massive Tillandsias, at sizes I had never seen before. The flowers of Tillandsia’s are extremely attractive, although do not often display petals, but appear like fireworks would as they shoot into the sky with resounding colors. I had this previous knowledge regarding Tillandisa’s and their growing habits, but I was largely impressed by the unique forms they took in the forest.

As our hike continued, I was consistently shocked by the emanating natural power that coursed though trees engulfing us, the water sloshing about our lower bodies and the small organisms that crawled around aimlessly. This was a home to millions of creatures and I had the privilege of standing right in the middle of it. I couldn’t imagine what a disturbance I must have been to all off them, clogging around with my massive stick, shouting and stumbling, grabbing and stepping all over the place. The tranquility that our presence was disrupting was everything I desired, so when we were exiting the tightly packed trees into a sweeping prarie and we were told to split up, I felt a wave of relief wash over me.

“One minute” we were told. For a single minute we were to spread throughout the prairie and stand in silence. I walked, as far as I possibly could from anyone else, I saw people approach me and in response turned on my heels and near ran to put more distance between us. Eventually, the time began and my back turned towards my group, and into the abyss. Crisp winds grazed the tall grasses before me, whipping through my hair as it did through the strands of green. The sky lit the land as if it would always be day, and the natural sounds pushed my mind away from anything I had ever known. I was completely alone, no man or unnatural creation in my wake and nothing to stop my mind from traveling to utter peace.

This image was taken by Amaranta Bailly of Florida International University on 19th January, 2022// CC by 4.0

When the time went out, I snapped out of my trance and looked down to find a sparkling yellow flower. The breeze made the flower dance a little, almost as if it was happy to see me. Up until this moment a part of me stressed that I was in the middle of nowhere, and that I had driven thirty miles from my home to thousands of acres of wilderness with no service and without strong knowledge of directions for a class. But this little yellow flower, so daint and kind, somehow turned the middle of nowhere into the middle of somewhere.

Coral Gables as Text

This image was taken by Amaranta Bailly of Florida International University on 2nd February 2022//CC by 4.0

“The Controversial Blueprints”

I made my way up to Coral Gables early in the day because I felt the traffic would be extremely heavy surrounding this bustling neighborhood. I felt low levels of stress because I had always felt that the stunning structure of buildings was crawling with individuals moving too fast for my taste. I realized, as I drove into Gables, that the day to day life of individuals in this area are much calmer than I had previously envisioned. The trees cradled the one way roads and created a lightly speckled canopy that was beyond peaceful to drive through. It was incredibly easy to navigate the neighborhood and arrive at the Coral Gables Museum on time for class. It was at this point I met Mrs. Lilian, who is the Educational Director of the Museum. Before our official lecture began I was dispersed alongside her and a few other students in the lobby, and I discovered a small studio with large windows on the east side. I pose the question to Lillian regarding her specific desires with this room and why it was attached to the museum of all places. She had explained to me that she was attempting to teach classes throughout the week so that younger children as well as a few older individuals could begin to express themselves through their artwork as well as admire the history of Coral Gables. 

I realized immediately that much enjoyment would come for my day because I was in the presence of someone who is dedicated to bettering the community. 

Our walk began and we quickly became familiar with the development of Coral Gables which the gentleman George Merrick was mostly responsible for. Through our walk we saw stunning buildings with a mediterranean revival architectural style, and it was easy to get sucked into the unique and fascinating glamour that Coral Gables has to offer. There was a modernity incorporated into the original layout of the city that creates an authentic feeling, but this neighborhood does not provide a feeling of living in the past. I did appreciate the natural and the beach-like feel I got from strolling around with my classmates, but I cannot say that pleasant feelings arose regarding the content of the lecture.

At the time that Coral Gables began to develop Vizcaya and The Deering Estate had already reached the final steps of completion. George Merrick witnessed the creation of the incredibly attractive structure, so desired a similar build for the city he founded. Mr. Merrick, just like Charles and James Deering, used the cheap labor of Bohemians in order to build an entire neighborhood out of the raw and remarkable materials that Miami contains. Once Coral Gables grew into a success story, that many wealthy miamians began to inhabit, George Merrick attempted to relocate Overtown so that the Black Americans that aided in the building of Coral Gables would have to resort to moving entire families out of Merricks way so that he could grow his success. It should be noted that Merrick proposed this idea and it was shot down by the government, so we are not able to blame his disturbing mindset on the mindset of the majority of society at the time. Coral Gables is currently a flourishing neighborhood that was built on the back of Bohemians. It is vital to remember that much like the rest of young  Miami, Coral Gables didn’t allow Black Americans, including the Bohemians who built those walls, to rest inside. 

This image was taken by Amaranta Bailly of Florida International University on 2nd February 2022//CC by 4.0

Knowing this and discussing this before we entered the museum was integral to my understanding of why exactly George Merrick is so controversial. There is currently action being taken by the University of Miami, as well as parts of Coral Gables, to remove the shrines and extensive appreciation of George Merrick because of his views. I found it wildly disappointing that the Museum of Coral Gables is not doing the same. The museum does a fantastic job of glamorizing and romanticizing the course of history that led to the wealthy neighborhood we explored that day. This museum claims that George Merrick and his family came here to avoid the frost occurring up north in order to sell fruit, and as George grew up in Miami his weath and power became a crucial part of its development. Allegedly, he worked “alongside” the Bohemians in order to create Coral Gables, but as I took the time to read over the fine print offered in the museum, much of the information seemed to imply that George Merrick treated the Bohemians with much care under his powerful hand. I found this shocking, as we had discovered previous to our short tour of the museum that George wanted to vacate Overtown and relocate entire black families for his personal benefit. I found it difficult to accept that Lilian shared my points of view on erasure, and was capable of working for an establishment so willing to make the facts comforting to the uneducated eye. I believe that the erasure in Coral Gables, much like thousands of other places in America, is derived from the guilt of the privileged. Most of the time when white guilt is experienced, white people might feel like they are contributing to negative treatment of POC or Black people because they benefit socially, politically, economically and financially from the horrific actions of their ancestors.. Erasure can better the feeling of white guilt through rewriting history, but it just so happens that people cannot learn from the history of Coral Gables, or the history of other places when specific facts are brushed over or softened. It’s important that George Merrick is seen for exactly who he is and not for who is admirable, and to give copious credit to the Bohemians who built Miami under less than fair conditions.

In essence, I can genuinely state that Coral Gables is a stunning and unique community that is peaceful and safe to be around, but was built on the backs of underpaid Bohemians who miss out on deserved recognition. Many individuals who live in Coral Gables today can’t  tolerate or fathom the idea that the neighborhood they live in might have been created under poor ideals. I thought the information I had taken from the day was interesting and I will continue to ponder the moral questions that come with understanding the growth of Coral Gables, but I was unimpressed in a larger sense because of the erasure that seems to not be questioned by the larger populace, or by the Museum of Coral Gables, whose responsibility is to display history accurately.

River of Glass

This image was taken by Amaranta Bailly of Florida International University on 16th February 2022//CC by 4.0

“Is Running on Glass Safer than Walking?”

My expectations were set very high for the second trip into Everglades National Park as I had the most beautiful experience traveling through the Slough Slog of the first trip. As I drove through the long and winding roads I felt incredibly tense because of my excitement, our journey to the Nike missile site was long overdue. This time during our escapade, as opposed to hoping I would carpool with classmates, I opted to be alone and hoped that the feeling of peace through isolation would return through my journey. I was correct in assuming that the short, lonely dirve to the Nike missile site was the perfect way to focus me for the day. The Nike missile site was built in 1964 and held active missiles above ground during the Cuban missile crisis. A small number of soldiers were stationed out at the Everglades during the civil dispute, but the missiles were made so that the mechanism that holds the missile in place is supposed to tilt it up to a certain degree so that the missile can fly in a desired direction. At the time that this technology was developed, it was foolproof, but it was solely advanced to the point that personnel was still necessary at the scene of action to safeguard the dangerous machinery and fix any issues. These soldiers’ dealt with incredibly dangerous and massive bombs while often suffering consequences. As the stationed employee finished his short explanation of what exactly this plain cement structure was meant for, we saw nearly comedic signs describing what to do if a fellow soldier was electrocuted. The hands-on work was proven to be risky because of the description describing the medical course of action, which was to move the body away from the source of electricity with a designated wooden stick, and then to wait for help. I felt a strong level of respect for the soldiers when entering and exploring  the shelter but I couldn’t help finding the signs humorous. Aside from this feeling, I was overjoyed that the missile site closed in 1979 and is no longer operational. The economic and political reasons for building in the Everglades park can be easily understood, although it is harder to respect when the reasons for destruction are not absolutely vital to the well being of the human race.

As we completed our journey to the Nike missile site, we prepared for our large hike in order to view one of the oldest human made structures in the Everglades. Before we officially began hiking we heard a story of a young man who has seen an atomic bomb. As the story goes, the whole sky turned white and in an instant everyone around him died, buildings were destroyed, civilization seemed to have come to an end in just moments. His actions were then driven by panic, he made his way on foot to a nearby train station so that he could go visit his family and make sure that they were still alive. He had found his family and saw they were okay, and went to work a few days later. his coworkers were discussing the atomic bomb that he hit the nearby town at length, so the man commented on his experience and what it was like to escape the diaplidated city. His coworkers did not believe him when he described the way that everything around him turned white, as if reality as he knew it was permanently erased. That same day at work another atomic bomb hit. Originally I thought the story was a myth but allegedly, this gentleman, named Tsutomu Yamaguchi, survived Hiroshima and after Nagasaki, meaning he lived through two atomic bombs. 

There was no assigned lecture for the second portion of our day, aside from the description of Tsutomu Yamaguchi’s life. The question that we were supposed to attempt to answer for ourselves, was whether or not we could consider this one man the luckiest or unluckiest individual alive. At first I was not certain of whether or not he was one or the other, or both. If I hadn’t gone on the hike I would’ve just decided that he was an anomaly and not attempt to definitively answer a question so unequivocally subjective. I don’t mean to diminish the quality of the question, but I couldn’t imagine myself in such an abnormal situation. If I could put myself in Tsutomu Yamaguchi’s shoes, I would just live the rest of my life shocked that I’m alive at all. 

I was told the general direction that we were supposed to head in to complete our hike and set out in a rush at first, overtaking my classmates as fast as possible. I had the opportunity to replicate what happened the last time I had set foot in Everglades, and be in touch with nature without any individual by my side. The farther I went into the wilderness, the more I slowed. I soon lost sight of my classmates behind me and realized that I was isolated in acres of Marsh, blessed with a dark and overcast sky that protected me from the ultralight beams. Although it was cold and breezy, I rather liked that I would enter in and out of water on a moment’s notice. I kept a sharp lookout for any creatures I could observe without being in harm’s way. I then realized I wouldn’t see too many birds or other critters because the weather seemed to progressively worsen. I then realized I was moving too fast to not be in some kind of hurry. I paused for a second, wondering why I suddenly felt I had to finish this walk as soon as humanly possible. I looked to my classmates, far behind me, in a loosely formed group. I didn’t want to be around them, but I didn’t want to be away from them. 

So I’m standing there, watching their heads bobble up and down between the tall grasses. Wondering why it is they made me so anxious. Why I felt like I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Why I simultaneously didn’t want to be anywhere else. 

It is at a point of desperation I feel an epiphany will form the fastest. I realized that when we come to the Everglades specifically I want to be alone, constantly, because I don’t need people to feel happy, and when I am happy I’m selfish enough not to want to share it. I realized that every time I come to the Everglades with my classmates, they are the only thing that represents my connection to people, and although I value their thoughts, I don’t feel obligated to sacrifice a unique opportunity to connect with them on a larger level. The only reason I felt the need to be closer to them is because I felt a storm brewing and didn’t want to face a potentially dangerous complication far away from any kind of assistance. 

This was the point where I decided Tsutomu Yamaguchi is one of the luckiest men alive, and one of the luckiest men in the history of the human race. I don’t think he should have preferred to die in Hiroshima or Nagasaki because everyone he knew or loved died. He had an incredibly unique twist of fate that gave him a longer life, and although his story may have a large facet of sadness, he was able to create a family and live an entire life because of his choices during the explosions destroying Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

I continued to move at a fast pace because I didn’t want to get rained on, and essentially left my peers in the dust. I have the utmost respect for them but I would rather not get sick than to wait on them. I then spotted the final destination for our hike. A cemented structure, not more than 12 feet tall and 15 feet long, without a roof, without windows apart from a few leftover rusted metal bars. 

This image was taken by Amaranta Bailly of Florida International University on 16th February 2022//CC by 4.0

It looked, for lack of a better word, absolutely awesome. I can’t say I put much thought into it, but I started to run as fast as I could toward this structure. I twisted and turned through grasses, splashed through puddles, whipped a bug or two out of my face, and took absolutely no breaks. I was gonna make it, I was gonna survive with or without my peers. A test of drive, a test of survival, was this safe space attainable? I pretend I’m running from a million and one monsters on my heels, grabbing at my laces. I got tired but didn’t slow down, because I could see the storm clouds brewing overhead, now a deep purple, and once I made it to the structure I could leave this class alone with my sanity. I would know I had made it. 

And eventually I do, I slow only slightly as the distance between this dilapidated structure and I went from yards to feet. I run in and step on the high window sill, and use my momentum to toss my chest on top of the south facing wall. I swing my leg over and manage a way to stand. 

Now, I can truly see the miles of land before me, although hills and patches of trees blocked my view entirely. It was beautiful, beyond the storm that finally had to rain overhead, the sun glistened over the wetland, the grass nearly blew sideways in the wind. The colors blended together and appeared as if I was in a heaven on earth. 

And then I saw my classmates, coming to join me, to break the silence. I felt happy to see they were enjoying themselves and were in one piece, but it doesn’t change the fact that I wish there was an alternative grey structure in a different universe that they were heading to that I was not standing on top of.It doesn’t change the fact that I wished they would never actually reach me. The fortune of finding joy in solidarity is irreplaceable by a connection to any individual

Design District as Text

This image was taken by Amaranta Bailly of Florida International University on 9th March 2022//CC by 4.0

“The District with the Most to Gain and Lose”

The class of FIU and I made our way from the Marguellies collection to the de la Cruz collection after lunch, and my expectations were set incredibly high. The Marguellies collection did not disappoint, as it has been accumulated over various decades and has a large variety of art from across the globe that does a phenomenal job of embodying contemporary art. I loved our time at the Marguellies collection, as we saw works made by a variety of forms that each spoke volumes to me, but the de la Cruz collection was on another level entirely. 

The de la Cruz collection was completed in 2009 by Husband and Wife, Carlos and Rosa de la Cruz. Their private collection that is open to the public does have changing exhibitions years but focuses maily on contemporary art. Because of this focus, that is the focus of the majority of the Design District in Miami, there is a massive variety of artworks created by different artists, in different locations, with different materials, for different purposes. This unique niche that the design district created without much effort makes the de la Cruz collection an attraction that cannot be missed when visiting Miami. I am disappointed it’s taken me so long to visit the de la Cruz collection and have lived my entire life here. 

This image was taken by Amaranta Bailly of Florida International University on 9th March 2022//CC by 4.0

We were given a tour of the De la Cruz collection by the staff available but also by the well known artist named George Sanchez-Calderon. As it turns out, George Sanchez had a huge piece of work installed on the first floor of the collection, and so he took us over to the center table and gave us all an opportunity to observe images of his temporary installation underneath the Miami highway. George is a Cuban American who was commissioned to build a piece below the miami highway based on a french home that was well renowned amongst architects. It took George quite a few months to prepare such an installation and he could not have done it without the help of the gentleman that we’d be living in the design district at the time. It must be understood that in the early 1990s to latter 2000s, the Miami design district was not a safe space to spend copious amounts of time. The streets were riddled with crime and poverty, and was not a choice for tourists to visit until the past couple decades. George was part of a revolutionary change to the art district and was commissioned to install a massive structure below an expressway. Originally, this structure, based on a French home, was only supposed to stand for around five months. After it was installed fully, it stood tall for approximately four years.

As George spoke about his time building this structure, he explained the community that began to bond over time and aid in constructing the house. Even now, he spoke with such passion regarding his companions and their comedic escapades. He knew all the men that worked on the house, and that were in the various pictures on display by name. He explained how he once fell off the building and cut a hole in his hand so nonchalantly that my classmates and I couldn’t help but snicker. He spent his time speaking to us reminiscing over glory days, and about his creation that brought light into a dark and challenged part of Miami. The pictures were unedited according to George, and he elaborated on how different camera lenses can actually contribute to a variety of overtones when a final copy of the image is produced from the camera. The images were stunning, littered with smiling faces and a huge, white, modern structure emerging from the withered grey concrete background. I felt immensely moved by the artwork, and was equally impressed by the remainder of the museum. 

The artwork of Felix Gonzolez-Torres was exhibited in the museum, and attracted my attention immediately upon reaching the second floor. The large pile of candy was glistening and inviting, but I only loomed over it, trying to see if I could discover some sort of meaning beyond just a pile of candy. George had strolled over to my side, leaned down beside me, and grabbed up a handful of candy. Without a second thought, he popped a single candy in his mouth and then held a few out to me. I was so surprised, and only took a single one, but then asked what exactly would happen if all the candies eventually got eaten. He then explained to me that the items of art can essentially be refilled at any point. Felix Gonzalez-Torress is the prime example of an artist whose work is on display through a contractual agreement between an artist and company, gallery or collector that allows the second party to recreate the artist’s vision of their idea (with specific direction) and display that over a period of time. Interactive artwork can be replenished over time and if necessary, discarded if a contract is breached or reaches the end of its tenure. 

This image was taken by Amaranta Bailly of Florida International University on 9th March 2022//CC by 4.0

The work of Carlos Alfonzo was also incredibly beautiful and filled with a stunning level of color and movement. Carlos Alfonzo was an incredibly influential Cuban-American artist that has work spread out across Miami, including at Florida International University. Carlos Alfonzo gained quite a large following in America after he was exiled in Cuba and left on the Mariel BoatLift. He had many incluences from Cuba as he spent the majority of the early part of his life there and was alive for much of the Castro Regime. His art is expressive and filled with challenging elements that combine to create an emotional and powerfully developed piece. There were two grand pieces side by side that we all took a chance to admire. I was familiar with Carlos Alfonzo before our excursion, but I was pleasantly surprised to see his work beside a variety of others.

We as a class admired pictures, interactive art and paintings, as well as graffiti, advanced architecture and street art during our short time in the Design District. The accumulation of  visual stimulation to such a large extent has made it obscenely clear as to why Miami has become such a staple for contemporary and modern art. Although we spent the entire day exploring the Design District, I have a sense we have only scratched the surface of what can be explored. It is without a doubt, an area that has such a massive amount of art, but also will only become more brilliant through development over time.

Coconut Grove as Text

This image was taken by Amaranta Bailly of Florida International University on 30th March 2022//CC by 4.0

“Everything Must be Built”

The free and earthy feel that is experienced when entering Coconut Grove is unable to be replicated by any other part of Miami. Its flourishing nature and wide boulevards give off an unparalleled feeling of safety. I had a strong feeling that I would connect to Coconut Grove when I began to learn more about it because I was instantaneously fascinated by the design and layout of this small facet of Miami previous to my course. We begin our class at the Coconut Grove Playhouse, a small theater that is permanently shut down, located on an otherwise populated corner in the Grove. This theater has a relatively short history as it opened in the 1920s and experienced a small period of success before closing in the 1930s due to the Great Depression. In short the Coconut Grove Playhouse is a theater although in fact it served various purposes, in the Playhouse you were able to shop, work, go to the theaters, or simply experience a relaxing stop on your way to conduct the other business in Coconut Grove. Now this is a world heritage site, which means that it is not allowed to be torn down because The structure is vital to depicting an accurate tale of what Miami looks like and offered through a past period of its development. There are many developers that are attempting to tear this structure down and build a more economically efficient structure in its place. Coconut Grove in the past used to have a strong originality and now is tainted by chains and modern offices, with only a twinge of originality found in the actual layout of Coconut Grove as opposed to the content of the stores and offices. The structure now is incredibly beautiful and yet diapladated, wearing decades of history on its skeleton through coatings of chipped paint, rusted balconies, barred windows, and a dated design. 

This image was taken by Amaranta Bailly of Florida International University on 30th March 2022//CC by 4.0

We then explored the E.W.F Stirrup house on our way to discover more about the black community in Coconut Grove. Stirrup played a vital role in the development of the black bohemian community in Coconut Grove and lived in Coconut Grove for the majority of his life. Stirrup was a carpenter and built bohemian style homes on different pots of land in Coconut Grove. Stirrup built his home with slash pine, a variety of pine that is native to  Florida that is resistant to floods as well as insects, which would otherwise pose a challenge when building a home at the time period  that Stirrup became a bigger developer.  It should be noted that only bohemians knew how to build the unique style of home, and Miami constantly hired bohemians as carpenters and builders because bohemians knew how to use the natural materials offered in Miami, and did not often become subject to the harsh conditions. The unique style that is constantly viewed in Coconut Grove as well as the keys and in certain parts of the design district are all thanks to Bohemians and their unique style. 

This image was taken by Amaranta Bailly of Florida International University on 30th March 2022//CC by 4.0

Mariah Brown is technically the first woman to ever “Develop” in Coconut Grove although EWF developed on much more property. Mariah Brown was a young bohemian woman, and a single mother of three. She worked at the peacock inn for a long period of time before deciding to purchase a plot of land for 50 dollars. Her and her three kids lived as a normal family would, although her home, which is still protected in Coconut Grove today as is known as the first black owned home in Miami Dade county. The story behind Mariah Brown and the way she worked tirelessly for her family and fostered success, is indicative of the way in which the community that Bohemians built in Coconut Grove allowed for growth for an underprivileged part of the Miami population. 

This image was taken by Amaranta Bailly of Florida International University on 30th March 2022//CC by 4.0

Mariah Brown and E.W.F Stirrup both gave us a good sense of the community that was built in Coconut Grove, but nothing could have prepared me for the bohemian cemetery that was as next visited. The bohemian cemetery was absolutely beautiful and unique because the cement coffins were placed above ground, for the purpose of not wanting to put a body in an area that could flood. Some would figure the experience may be slightly morbid, but in fact it was quite the opposite. The beautiful Banyan and Oak trees speckled a lovely spritz of sunlight onto the worn stone, which allowed for a strong feeling of peace to be felt while visiting the lost lives. The graveyard is named after Charlotte Stirrup, who is the wife of E.W.F Stirrup, who was a keystone character in the building of this community. 

This image was taken by Amaranta Bailly of Florida International University on 30th March 2022//CC by 4.0

The Epsicopal church is another brilliant and more current example of the bohemian/ black community that still thrives in Coconut Grove. The church stunts a beautiful bright pink and startlingly vibrant stained glass. Aside from the color, the building possesses a simple structure that is extremely welcoming. We all are welcomed in by Annie, who has been caring for the church like generations of familyn before her, even though we later found that Annie lives two hours away. Her commitment to the church, its history and her family history resemble the commitment to Coconut Grove that many bohemians had in the past. Through her commitment I realized this community was an anchor for many, to a life closer in similarity to what they actually deserve. 

Walking through the neighborhood, after exploring the Park gave me a peaceful feeling because it was easy to envision the past. I pictured various people passing me by, individuals chatting in front of their homes, children tossing toys around in the street, older couples heading to the church, and civilians flying around on bikes. It was thoroughly enjoyable to live in my head while passing by the homes that were still filled with people, and the community that is so well preserved. I would hope that I live in a community like the one I so easily picture that Coconut Grove used to be. Unfortunately now Coconut Grove is bustling with tourists more than residents, and there are various chains that appeal to a wealthy and visiting population. High end restaurants are crowded with eager visitors and shops are built atop piles of cash that people carelessly spend in order to attain that high end, classy appearance that everyone desires.

This image was taken by Amaranta Bailly of Florida International University on 30th March 2022//CC by 4.0

After a longer stroll in the neighborhood, we took a tour to The Barnacle Historic State Park. I originally assumed that the tour would not be long lived, seeing as how the entrance to Barnacle Park was just off the street, cornered by restaurants, including the one I just ate lunch at. I couldn’t help bringing this up to the group and asked the Park ranger who assisted us through our tour if the stark change would mean that the Park is invaded by the outside world. Typically when I have entered protected historic Parks or state Parks, they are rather massive without much civilization flanking it. He assured me that once we were within the thick vegetation of Barnacle Park, that it would be as if we had walked through a portal in the outside world that would be hard to envision. Needless to say that he was absolutely correct. The Barnacle Park was clustered with various native trees, crowding a single road to Ralph Munroes boathouse and mansion. Ralph himself was unlike other innovators of his time, and spent most of his life working with boats. Monroe designed this house as well as the boathouse to be resistant towards storms that would absolutely crush the coast, while designing them so that the interior actually feels like you are inside of a massive boat itself. Boots are all Monroe had ever known, so when he attained this property, the only logical way to design it was in the way that he had been building everything for his entire life. In the mid-1900s a massive hurricane crashed into the boat house, which was the only structure on his property at the time. He then fortified the northern and southern sides of the structure so that when a storm came from the coast, it would only push in the front and back of the boat house, and not do any serious harm to the majority of the structure. Later on other storms crashed into Miami and it proved that his design had worked perfectly. Ralph left the majority of his property untouched other than the work he put into these two structures, and now a massive clear lawn dominates the majority of the space, aside from trees flanking the ends of the property and the forest before reaching his mansion. We discovered that Munroe desired life untouched by much of what we consider to be a part of the industrial revolution. Munroe did not value modern assets, trinkets and inventions that could’ve been added to his home throughout the years, he instead opted for life removed from much of society. Coconut Grove What is the perfect place for him to settle at the time, because it was incredibly underpopulated when he first moved down to Florida, after losing his family up north. I found Monroe‘s home to be quite appealing, it was not hard for me to picture a peaceful and focused life that he’s so clearly built for himself during the remainder of his stay in Florida. 

Before, all I saw was the wealth centered in Coconut Grove, the way it engulfed people, swirling them up in a world of untouchable amenities, parties, and opportunity. I always felt pushed away from Coconut Grove, although the appearance of it is welcoming, I felt anxious lacking a place to fit into such a cookie cutter community. Now, I understand how the authenticity and value of Coconut Grove is underlined by a much richer and authentic community, which is a large part of the reason why it is so beautiful and glamorous. The hard work put into the roots of this little town are the true reason it is doing so well today. Coconut Grove, now being known as one of the wealthiest parts of Miami, is a reminder that everything must be built, and everything has a beginning that might not be imagined through seeing its end. 

Author: amarantamattie

I am a proud Cuban-French-American that has the divine privilege of growing up in the city of Miami. I am currently majoring in Art History at Florida International University and hope that through my hard work, I will become a successful Gallery Owner. Art is expression, and there is nothing I value more than an individuals ability to tell a story. My greatest desire is to be surrounded by powerful and intelligent people that are capable of uniquely articulating their stories in a manner that educates the world. The ability to expand minds through a creative processes is an unparalleled talent that should be more valued, and I believe the Miami in Miami course will help me understand not only the history of this city, but the stories that are born out of it. The unique liveliness that emanates from these streets inspire me to open my mind every single day.

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