Monica Barletta is a junior in the Honors College at Florida International University. She is currently double majoring in Biology and Health Sciences and minoring in Chemistry on the Pre-med track, and hopes to attend the medical school after graduating. Outside of school, she enjoys creating art, spending time with her friends and family, and playing the guitar.
Deering as Text: A Glimpse into Miami’s Past
By Monica Barletta of FIU on February 4, 2022
Visiting The Deering Estate is a strange experience because it is as if you were transported to the past, it is so unlike the rest of Miami or even the rest of the Cutler Bay suburbs that surround it. This estate sits on a 444-acre plot of land that preserves so much history not only from when it was owned by S.H. Richmond or even Charles Deering, but from thousands of years ago from when the Tequestans occupied the land.
Throughout our walking tour led by Professor John Bailly, we learned the history of the land and the two buildings on the property. What I enjoyed most about the tour was that we didn’t just learn the good things about this estate; the lecture was very unbiased showing us the good, the bad, and the ugly, from the way the Native Americans were pushed off their land to discovering four Bahamians had died building the estate’s barge.
As much as I loved what this landmark has done and continues to do for the community, the one feedback I have of this park is that it should be more open about its past. It is not as if the estate is trying to hide its history, but not everyone that visits has access to a guide that knows the place so well. One of the most amazing things I saw throughout the tour was the Tequestan burial mound, but to even get to it, it required a worker to open the lock on a huge gate, a 15-minute walk with many turns, and even then, the only evidence of it being there was a small sign. Although it is not necessarily hidden from the public, it would be nice for it to be accessible so more people could be more aware of not only the history of the estate but of Miami as well.
Vizcaya as Text: The Lavish Home of James Deering
By Monica Barletta of FIU on March 4, 2022
Following our trip to Charles Deering’s famous Florida home known as the Deering Estate, we visited the winter home of his younger brother, James. Located in the Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami, lies James Deering’s lavish winter home, Villa Vizcaya, known today as The Vizcaya Museum and Gardens.
As an executive at the Deering Harvester Company and as one of the wealthiest businessmen in America at the time, James spent his money unsparingly decorating his estate. His expensive taste his can be seen throughout his entire home not only with the newest technology of the time, from the telephone room to the vacuum cleaner, but with the countless art pieces in every single room and hallway.
The most interesting part of the house are the many different styles of each room. Paul Chalfin served as the artistic director during the construction of the home. As the artistic director of the home, Chalfin’s main role was to choose the design of the house and garden as well as to decorate the interior. As you walk through the home, you don’t need an architecture degree to see how the home is decorated in all different kinds of architectural styles. Some rooms were designed in the neoclassical style, which featured intellectual and symmetrical architecture which shows a balance between life and art. Other rooms, such as the Marie Antoinette room, was designed in a rococo hedonistic way, showing a celebration of life. The music room in the house, which was reportedly never used, was designed in a rococo baroque style as to be decorative, curvy, and natural.
This was just to name a few of the many art styles that can be seen in the lush estate of James Deering. It is one of the many aspects that makes this estate stand out, especially in the middle of Miami. The beauty and uniqueness of this home is what makes it such a popular destination for weddings, photoshoots, and tourists, and it is what keeps bringing me back to visit this site over and over again.
Downtown Miami as Text: The Hidden History of Miami
By Monica Barletta of FIU on March 27, 2022
In a city filled with so much history, it comes as no surprise that when visiting Downtown Miami, you will encounter at least something associated with our past at every turn.
From monuments with plaques telling the story of how the name “Dade County” came to be to a giant broken orange bowl art installation symbolizing the disorder of Miami’s expansion, the history of the making of Downtown Miami is documented throughout the city… if you know where to look. Lucky for our class, we had the help of our professor, John Bailly, to guide us through to the most significant sites. My favorite part of the lecture was at the Brickell Point Site that contained The Miami Circle, which is an archaeological site associated with an important Native North American group known as the Tequestas. This circle, which was discovered in 1998, is made up of holes and basins carved into the Miami Limestone. It contains many historic artifacts and items that provided some insight on how this Native American Group had lived: proving they had long-distance exchange, distinct architecture, and evidence of ceremonialism.
One of the topics I enjoy learning most about in this class was the influence and history the Tequestan people had on Miami. It really is so interesting to me because, despite being born and raised here, I had never heard of the Tequestan people throughout my 20 years living here and learning “Miami’s history” before taking this class. I hope that in the future, public schools teach their students more about the Tequestan people so that the history of our city can be passed down without having to take a special class for it.
SoBe as Text: The Diversity of Art on South Beach
This week’s lecture took us to one of the world’s biggest tourist destinations. SoBe brings in over $17 billion every year in tourism alone, and while people travel from all around the world to vacation on South Beach, our class was able to take a day trip to learn the rich history behind this famous spot. The class tour took us from the southernmost point of Miami Beach, South Pointe, and had us walk all along the famed Ocean Drive.
Known for its unique mix of so many architecture styles, Ocean Drive is the largest art deco neighborhood and can even be considered as the art deco capital of the world. There are many distinct characteristics that make these buildings so striking; they can be characterized by ten aesthetic devices which include: a reoccurring rule of 3 motif, eyebrow balconies, ziggurat roofs, and relief art representing natural aspects, to name a few. This style of architecture stands out immensely especially at night when the neon lights turn on causing the buildings to glow.
Despite being full of so many art deco style buildings, walking along this street you can see the various art styles that influenced the buildings lining this famous street. From the late Gianni Versace’s Casa Casuarina created in a Mediterranean revival design, to the oldest hotel in Miami turned restaurant featuring an Old Western style. These mixes of art styles are what makes Ocean Drive such a unique destination. While in theory, this combination of architecture styles might sound like it would make the area an eyesore, it somehow blends together perfectly to create an unmatched picturesque place like no other.
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