Monica Schmitz: Miami as Text 2021-2022

Photograph taken by Isabelle Schmitz/CC by 4.0

Monica Schmitz is a sophomore at Florida International University, studying Public Relations with Advertising, and Applied Communications. With a love for writing, graphic design, and photography, Monica aspires to be a published author and work at a communication agency. Having lived in Minnesota, Virginia, and California, Monica is passionate about discovering other cultures and traveling. She has challenged herself with many leadership positions and involvements which have allowed her to see the world through new perspectives. She is always eager to learn more and use her voice to make an impact in the world.

Downtown as Text

“History Can Be Ugly”

By Monica Schmitz of FIU at Downtown Miami, Florida, 12 September 2021

Downtown Miami, Florida is a collection of pieces of history, cultures, and memories. With this diverse collection of individuals and backgrounds come difficult historical moments that we try to block out. We often ignore the shameful, hateful moments of our history, focusing on the victories but erasing the struggle that we faced to reach those victories.

Photograph taken by Monica Schmitz/CC by 4.0

Growing up in southern Virginia, I was surrounded by statues of leaders from historical moments. However, these statues caused much controversy as the community and country as a whole discussed whether these statues should remain or be taken down. Seeing the statue of Henry Flagler at the courthouse in Downtown Miami sparked this memory for me. The statue of the confederate leader Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia was a topic of conversation that has been sparking in America for a long period of time. It was the question of whether historical leaders with wrongful actions should remain standing. Although it is important to remember history as history and understand the journey our country has taken to rid itself of prejudice and racism, it is also questionable to keep these statues standing because they could be seen as commemorating leaders that symbolize hate.

Photograph taken by Monica Schmitz/CC by 4.0

I am not from Miami, so the name Henry Flagler meant nothing to me until our first Miami in Miami class. Learning about Flagler’s influence on racism and prejudice in Miami opened my eyes to the fact that we often make judgments about history, cities, and historical figures without fully understanding the depth or the details. We cannot ignore the ugly pieces of history, such as hatred, poverty, and heartbreak. These pieces all build a beautiful masterpiece that makes up our communities. We must embrace the ugly but truthful history of our country.

Vizcaya as Text

Collected or Copied?

By Monica Schmitz of FIU at Downtown Miami, Florida, 24 October 2021

Taken by Monica Schmitz/CC by 4.0

Touring the Vizcaya house and gardens, I was in awe of the beauty and regality of the estate. From the moment you exit the mangroves to enter this stunning villa, you are surrounded by hundreds of details and stories. The first thing we saw when we entered the home of James Deering, we were greeted by a sculpture. He was filling a bathtub with wine, surrounded by an abundance of grapes. This set the stage for the rest of the house, embodying the culture of Miami where wealth is celebrated and festivity never ends. 

Photograph taken by Monica Schmitz/CC by 4.0

The house was full of art and items from every part of the world. Remnants of every country cluttered this home. However, did this mean that Deering was creating his own interior design masterpiece or was he copying the work of others? Touring this house raised that question for me. 

Taken by Monica Schmitz/CC by 4.0

Deering was using this home to display his collection of artwork, furniture, and architecture from Europe and Asia, bringing many countries to Miami. It creates a diverse and colorful collection, but it is also not a unique display. It is instead all pieces he imported, and it could be seen as cultural appropriation. He sent others to collect many of these pieces for him in an attempt to have the most elaborate and exquisite house possible. 

Taken by Monica Schmitz/CC by 4.0

South Beach as Text

“An Art Deco Influence”

By Monica Schmitz of FIU at Downtown Miami, Florida, 24 October 2021

Photograph taken by Monica Schmitz/CC by 4.0

When wandering the streets of Downtown Miami and South Beach, we were surrounded by colorful, decorative buildings. On our South Beach tour, I was not expecting to see architectural influences that date back centuries. However, as our class walked down Ocean Drive in South Beach, building after building displayed Art Deco architecture.

Photograph taken by Monica Schmitz/CC by 4.0

Art Deco pulls influences from many different eras, especially Ancient Egyptian pyramids and the geometric forms of Cubism. When taking graphic design courses in high school, I often looked to Art Deco as an influence in my design. From illustrations to posters to advertisements, Art Deco held a strong influence in the world of design with its geometric shapes, zig-zags, and chevron patterns.

Photograph taken by Monica Schmitz/CC by 4.0

When walking South Beach, I found it very intriguing to see these buildings that held the same design aspects as the Art Deco graphic design I had worked on during high school. The design elements include luxurious aspects of Ancient Egypt, as well as futuristic art styles such as Bauhaus. Art Deco has had an impact beyond just architecture and graphic design.

Photograph taken by Monica Schmitz/CC by 4.0

The 1960s show TV show The Jetsons ties in many Art Deco aspects and aspects of the episodes are a reflection of many golden age futuristic designs. Art Deco expresses a futuristic and modern style that emphasizes progress and change. Art Deco became the prominent design style of Miami South Beach during the 1930s, and most of the buildings have stayed the same since then. Art Deco architecture has become one of the things that have made South Beach historic, bringing together art and architecture aspects from all around the world. 

Deering Estate as Text

“Magic Among the Mangroves”

By Monica Schmitz of FIU at Downtown Miami, Florida, 28 November 2021

Photograph taken by Monica Schmitz/CC by 4.0

I have traveled quite a lot in my short twenty years of life. I spent nine years living in Minnesota and eight years living in Virginia before becoming a Florida resident. I have taken countless road trips, visited numerous museums, and toured many historical sights. However, I have never seen somewhere like the Deering Estate. Stepping onto the estate of Charles Deering, I felt as if I was stepping back in time. Entering his home, the Stone House, history envelops you. Furnishings, paintings, and tapestries displayed a variety of cultures as Deering used the house as a way to highlight his art collection. Unique aspects of the house struck my attention as they express the unique history of the 1920s when Deering was living at the estate. The lowest floor of the home contains a hidden cellar, secured by three vaults and cleverly disguised. Because the Prohibition period of the 1920s outlawed alcohol, Deering used his waterfront access to the Caribbean to acquire alcohol and store it safely and inconspicuously in his own home. Seeing unique and historical elements of the house, such as this hidden cellar, allowed me to go back in time in my mind. After visiting the estate, I could picture what it was like to be a wealthy industrialist in the 1900s. 

Photograph taken by Monica Schmitz/CC by 4.0

When exploring outdoors, I don’t think I was mentally prepared for the variety of ecosystems existing within the Deering Estate. As we hiked among the Salt Marsh, Mangroves, and Sea Grass Beds, I was very out of my comfort zone. I am not an outdoorsy person, but I let my awe overcome my fear as I soaked in the diverse scenery. No other historical sight I have visited can compare. 

Photograph taken by Monica Schmitz/CC by 4.0

I found it almost magical to walk along paths that Paleo-Indians and pioneers did as well. When I visit historical sights, I like to imagine the numerous conversations that occurred centuries ago along the path that I am walking. When we visited the Cutler Fossil site, I felt goosebumps knowing I was one of the few that got to witness this unearthed Tequesta burial site. I tried to imagine what Miami was like before the hustle and bustle of urban life occurred. I feel sad knowing that the Tequesta community was changed and challenged once Ponce de Leon navigated his way onto the land in the early 1500s, but I know that Miami would not be what it is today if the land had not been settled by pioneers and estates such as that of Charles Deering had not been established. 

Photograph taken by Monica Schmitz/CC by 4.0

Overtown as Text

“In the Footsteps of Leaders”

By Monica Schmitz of FIU at Downtown Miami, Florida, 5 December 2021

Photograph taken by Monica Schmitz/CC by 4.0

Overtown is a city name I had never heard of until I moved to Miami. As I dove deeper into the culture and history of Florida, however, I realized the historical significance Overtown has. However, this city filled with historical and cultural significance is slowly becoming swept over with construction and gentrification. Building I-95, for example, has caused prices of land to skyrocket in the area and is causing old buildings to be torn down to make way for the new. As I walked along the city street, there was one particular building that could not be ignored.

Photograph taken by Monica Schmitz/CC by 4.0

The Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church stood like a beacon in the city. This church is a space of great historical significance due to the many impactful moments that have occurred within its walls. Martin Luther King Jr. visited the church to speak just days before he passed away. The Mt. Zion church as well as the Greater Bethel African Methodist Episcopal church were open during the civil rights movement. Overtown was a spotlight during this movement, and both churches experienced nonviolent civil disobedience acts called sit-ins. Tactics such as these during the civil rights era brought attention to the city of Overtown and made the community closer as a great change was sparked.

Photograph taken by Monica Schmitz/CC by 4.0

The people of Overtown were faced with much adversity, especially during the civil rights era. However, they managed to take their challenges and use them to become a city known for its culture, being a hub for famous artists, musicians, and civil rights activists. The culture and significance of Overtown should be protected and highlighted, especially in light of the gentrification that is occurring. I-95 is practically towering over the famous Mt. Zion church, making it apparent how building new infrastructure has become more important to some people than preserving historical landmarks. Visiting Overtown was a very powerful experience, and it reminded me of the importance of preserving historical landmarks and inspired me with a passion to protect our history. 

Photograph taken by Monica Schmitz/CC by 4.0

Untitled as Text

“The World Through Another’s Eyes

Photograph taken by Monica Schmitz/CC by 4.0

I have always loved art. When I was little, I was painting before I could hold a paintbrush properly and I was constantly drawing sketch figures in all of my notebooks. Since starting college, I struggle to find time to create art amid all my assignments, having a job, and other tasks. However, there is nothing quite like an art fair to spark the artist within me. Stepping into the Untitled Art Fair, I was speechless. Row after row of artists and curators displaying their pieces surrounded me. There were over 145 international galleries gathered together to represent the Untitled Art Fair. Located in Miami on Ocean Drive, I couldn’t think of a better place to merge such a variety of cultures and curation of pieces. As we wandered the expansive art fair, I noticed that above each designated art cubicle was a plaque with the title of the art gallery or art piece as well as the origin. This aided in giving context to the art pieces because often the city and country it is from will impact the work of the artist, such as the style they use or the inspiration behind their decisions. 

Photograph taken by Monica Schmitz/CC by 4.0

One of the galleries that stood out to me was part of the Ant Project, a non-profit organization working to bring together artists, curators, writers, and performers. The artist of this gallery was Arleene Correa Valencia, and her work at Untitled stood out to me as one of the most impactful. Her portraits combined a variety of mediums to display families who have experienced separation due to immigration. As I viewed these portraits and heard her speak about them, I felt goosebumps hearing about the passion behind the project. Her pieces represented children who had been taken into U.S. custody and detention, as well as parents who had been forced to separate or were unable to cross into the United States. The empty silhouettes haunt me still, depicting the sad event many individuals have to face and a reality many of us are quick to ignore. 

Photographs taken by Monica Schmitz/CC by 4.0

Wandering around the art fair, I felt a sense of calm, wholeness, and inspiration wash over me. It made me itch to go home and work on my next art project, using my hands to create my story on canvas. Artists see the world through a unique set of eyes, focusing on little details that others might overlook. Visiting the Untitled Art Gallery was a powerful experience because it allowed me to step inside the minds of the artists, even getting the opportunity to meet with some of them and hear what the artwork represented. Viewing art is a meditative experience; to view art with an open and imaginative mindset, you need to clear your head of preconceived notions and observe it with a new perspective. I loved viewing the variety of artworks, hearing the stories of the artists, and imagining the journey it had taken to get the pieces gathered together in one exhibit. 

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