Nico Fajardo: Miami as Text 2022-2023

Photograph by Nico Fajardo / CC by 4.0

Nico Fajardo is a Junior double majoring in Finance and Business Analytics at Florida International University. He is an active member of the FIU Honors College and other organizations such as the International Business Honors Society. Born and raised in Quito, he is passionate about traveling, food, sports, and nature. In his free time, he loves to read and listen to a wide variety of music. He hopes to one day travel all over the world, explore different places, and experience different cultures.

Downtown as Text

“The Rich City” by Nico Fajardo of FIU at Downtown Miami on August 31, 2022.

All photographs taken and edited by Nico Fajardo / CC by 4.0

The City of Miami is a truly marvelous place. It offers jaw-dropping sights such as sandy beaches, tropical flora, and dazzling lights. To many, this glamorous city is a place they have only ever heard of; a symbol of vacation, luxury, and opportunity. When meeting people in other parts of the world, I could see the wonder and curiosity in their eyes as they listened to stories of this fabled place. Many would ask about the clubs, the restaurants, and the nightlife. Others would wonder about the beaches, the climate, and the feeling of eternal summer. However, most are not aware of the underlying wealth of this Magic City… its diversity.

All photographs taken and edited by Nico Fajardo / CC by 4.0

This became apparent to me when strolling through the downtown area. Different architectural styles clash and come together in what becomes a palpable juxtaposition of the city’s different historical influences. For instance, the “HistoryMiami Museum” is built upon a beautiful Spanish plaza that emanates the warmth and comfort that is iconic of the Mediterranean style. This setting reflects the strong Spanish influence that Miami experienced ever since Ponce de Leon arrived in 1513. Its tiles, ornaments, and decorations hint at the presence of many different Spaniards such as conquistadors, priests, and even pirates. Looming over this beautiful plaza is the government center, a phallic symbol of power and of the contemporary governing body of the city. These two structures stand side by side, forming a link between the past and the present.

All photographs taken and edited by Nico Fajardo / CC by 4.0

Similarly, the Freedom Tower elegantly stands by the water and reminds the careful observer of the cultural richness of Miami. Inspired by the Giralda that is located in Seville, Spain, Miami’s Freedom Tower displays a relatively simple body with a heavily decorated “cupola”. This particular blend is the result of the coming together of both the Islamic and Catholic architectural styles in one building. Furthermore, the history of this building is a powerful testament to the city’s diversity. Originally built as a headquarters of The Miami News, it turned into the “Ellis Island” of the south, where Cuban immigrants gained their nationality and stepped into a new life. Right across this structure is the famous FTX Arena, home of the Miami Heat, a stage for some of the world’s most famous musicians, and a symbol of contemporary entertainment. These two buildings were built more than 70 years apart from each other and yet they share the same city and see the same people when countless fans from all sorts of backgrounds gather under one roof to cheer on their favorite team or sing along with their favorite artist. 

Photograph taken and edited by Nico Fajardo / CC by 4.0

Last but certainly not least, the Wagner Homestead sits facing the Miami river with its population of countless boats and luxury yachts. Built in the mid-1850s, it is the oldest known house standing in Miami and it is the house where William Wagner lived alongside his wife and family. It is the place where their interracial marriage grew, flourished, and survived the period of segregation in Miami. A couple of yards away from this home, lies the William English Plantation slave quarters, a historic site that serves as a reminder of this land’s iniquitous history. When visiting this place, we got the opportunity to place our hands on the walls of this longhouse, the same walls that were built by enslaved men and women in the 1840s. The same walls that saw the unfair treatment and dehumanization of these people. The same walls that sit in the land that once belonged to the Tequesta and that saw the persecution of these people and others such as the Seminoles (which by the way, the word Seminole comes from the Spanish term “cimarron”). This is a part of history that many would prefer not to talk about, however, it must not be ignored. It is history. It is not entirely good and it is not entirely bad… it comes together and makes us who we are. 

Overall, this experience taught me a lot about the history of this city and made me reflect deeply on the underlying richness of Miami. From Tequesta people, to Bahamian immigrants, African slaves, Cuban immigrants, American plantation owners, army veterans, and even widows, this city has been a place for all to call home. There has been such great cultural diversity since before the city was even founded, and it continues to this day. Everywhere I go, especially at FIU, I meet people from all over the world; each and every one holding distinct beliefs, values, and cultures. Each and every one with different ways of thinking and from different walks of life. Each and every one sharing the same city and adding to the giant cultural melting pot that is Miami.

Overtown as Text

“Miami’s Little Broadway” by Nico Fajardo of FIU at Overtown on September 14, 2022.

All photographs taken and edited by Nico Fajardo / CC by 4.0

Rich with art, history, and culture, Overtown is a truly magical place. A walk through the neighborhood will gift the careful observer a glimpse into the past and offer a snapshot of what life was like in Miami’s “Little Broadway” district. Not only that, but it tells a story of perseverance and strength. It narrates a tale of how segregation cannot stop people from expressing themselves and enjoying life; it cannot stop culture from flourishing.

Our day began a couple of stops away from Overtown, at the Allapattah Metrorail station, where we got the chance to appreciate the artwork of Carlos Alfonso. This Cuban-American painter elegantly juxtaposed Latino and American cultures through his use of tropical colors and structured lines. This was a good way to prepare ourselves for what lay ahead throughout the day.

All photographs taken and edited by Nico Fajardo / CC by 4.0

Soon, we found ourselves standing in front of the Historic Lyric Theater, where legends such as Cab Calloway and Billie Holiday put on shows for a large audience of eager listeners. Now a calm residential street, NW 2nd Avenue used to be known by many names such as Miami’s Little Broadway, The Strip, and Great Black Way, due to the seemingly endless lineup of music halls, hotels, restaurants, and theaters that populated the street. As we were walking, I couldn’t help but close my eyes and imagine the atmosphere of this place back in the 1920s; imagine feeling the air, imbued with the harmonious tunes of Jazz, Blues, R&B, and Soul. Imagine hopping from one concert hall to another, finding famous faces such as Muhammad Ali and Joe Lewis sitting next to you in the audience. Imagine listening to Louis Armstrong, Aretha Franklin, and even Nat King Cole, all in the same night. Overtown was truly a thriving, dynamic, and culturally rich hub despite all the racism and segregation that the community faced.

All photographs taken and edited by Nico Fajardo / CC by 4.0

Historically, Overtown was the result of residential segregation because black people were forced to live there by law. This caused a population concentration in the area which set the perfect stage for this rich cultural hub to develop. In addition to restaurants and concert halls, many churches sprang up and began to grow. We got the opportunity to visit the Greater Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church and we even got to stand in front of the pulpit where Martin Luther King Jr. spoke on 12 February 1958 at the SCLC Crusade for Citizenship. The stained glass along the church walls creates a beautiful aura within the interior of the building. One can only imagine the atmosphere in the church when Dr. King gave his passionate speech. This Mediterranean Revival structure is very similar to that of Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church, not only in its architectural style but also in the crucial role that both churches played within the religious and civic life of the Overtown community.

All photographs taken and edited by Nico Fajardo / CC by 4.0

Mount Zion stood out to me because of its close proximity to expressway I-95. It was shocking to hear the cars zooming by in such close proximity to an otherwise peaceful and majestic church. It was sad to learn how I-95 cut the neighborhood in half, further separating this beautiful community. Additionally, all the modern condos scattered throughout Overtown are clear examples of the effects that gentrification has to this day. Rent has gone up in the area and many of the church members have been forced to move away, robbing the congregation, and the community as a whole, of valuable members.

Overall, this visit to Overtown showed me that no matter what obstacles get in the way, culture cannot be stopped. Human beings are social creatures and we will always find a way to coexist and make our communities thrive. Our art and our creativity always find a way to manifest themselves and add a touch of color to life, just like music and art did for the streets of Miami’s Little Broadway during the 1930s.

Biscayne Bay/Chicken Key As Text

“Pollution and Hope” by Nico Fajardo of FIU at Biscayne Bay on October 5, 2022.

Photographs taken and edited by Marco Lund-Hansen, Jane Osowski, and Nico Fajardo / CC by 4.0

Biscayne Bay is a beautiful subtropical lagoon that used to be a thriving estuary for countless species of marine flora and fauna such as mangrove trees, seagrass beds, fish, sea turtles, and even manatees. Historically, large volumes of freshwater from the Everglades flowed into the Bay and created a low salinity environment that promoted the growth of oysters, seagrass beds, and mangrove forests. These forests not only provide shelter for a plethora of animals and marine life, but also help stabilize the shoreline with their complex systems of prop roots. Additionally, tree branches provide both breeding and nesting areas for a wide variety of birds such as the brown pelican and the great egret. Below the water, seagrass beds spread out along the floor of the bay and provide food for species such as sea turtles, fish, shrimp, and manatees.

Photograph taken by Marco Lund-Hansen and edited by Nico Fajardo / CC by 4.0

Unfortunately, the quality of the freshwater flowing into the bay has been jeopardized over the years, affecting the health and diversity of this marine ecosystem. This has been done through a number of different ways, most of which can be attributed to humans; such as poor waste management and ineffective waste disposal. Nowadays, the freshwater that flows into the Bay comes from point source discharges that carry runoff from the land. This runoff often contains large amounts of nutrients and pollutants that promote algal blooms, increase the turbidity of the water, and degrade the overall health of the ecosystem. Many of the nutrient sources include pet waste, yard clippings, fertilizers, and even sewer leaks from the land. Additionally, large amounts of marine debris litter the nearby mangrove islands and contaminate them with all sorts of trash such as plastics, metals, rubbers, ropes, and fishing gear. Us humans are the reason for all of the debris, but we are also the solution. This became evident to me during our cleanup at Chicken Key.

Initially, I was taken aback by the sheer number of trash and waste that was accumulated along the south side of the Key. Seemingly endless amounts of plastics of all shapes and sizes were scattered throughout the marshy mix of saltwater and dead mangrove leaves. We walked around all day collecting this trash and loading it onto canoes for proper disposal. It was here that I saw the resilience of nature, as hundreds of little critters such as hermit crabs and isopods managed to survive among all the trash. This was a heartbreaking yet hope-filled sight as I realized that nature has the power to restore itself as long as we play our part and act responsibly with our waste. Our group effort allowed us to collect bags upon bags of debris that would have otherwise continued to pollute the key.

Photographs taken and edited by Nico Fajardo / CC by 4.0

Overall, the time spent at Chicken Key was both eye-opening and rewarding. It was sad to see the collection of trash in an otherwise beautiful and purely natural area. As exhausting as the canoe trip back from the key was, it was satisfying to finally reach the shore and see the collection and proper disposal of all the trash that was picked up throughout the day. We may be the reason for these places to suffer the effects of pollution, but we can also take care of these wonderful places and become key players in their restoration. It is only a matter of educating people and teaching them the importance of taking care of our beautiful planet earth.

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens as Text

“A Pleasure-Filled & Worry-Free Paradise” by Nico Fajardo of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens on October 19, 2022.

All photographs taken and edited by Nico Fajardo / CC by 4.0

There is no other place in Miami like Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. A walk through the villa transports the visitor into a fictional paradise that is overflowing with opulence and beauty. Built by James Deering, a wealthy businessman who amassed his large fortune off of industrial machinery for agricultural purposes, Vizcaya Villa stands as a harmonic juxtaposition of South Florida’s tropical flora and the elegant Mediterranean architectural style.

All photographs taken and edited by Nico Fajardo / CC by 4.0

Hidden deep within a majestic hammock forest, the long entrance hall of the villa is covered on both sides by trees and nature, acting as green curtains and leading straight to the heart of the main building. As one approaches the building, one begins to notice a seemingly endless array of valuable artifacts and decorations such as ornaments and sculptures that are spread out throughout the entirety of the villa. All of these beautiful elements can be attributed to three artists, Paul Chalfin, Burrall Hoffman, and Diego Suarez, who were Vizcaya’s artistic director, architect, and landscape architect respectively. Curiously, each and every one of these men spent a reasonable amount of time in Europe before beginning their work in the villa as a way of obtaining prestigious artistic inspiration and education.

All photographs taken and edited by Nico Fajardo / CC by 4.0

These men, under the orders of Deering, filled Vizcaya with exuberant luxuries. For example, the entrance hall is built with a French neoclassical design, and the walls are decorated with classical mythology paintings that were done by the Parisian artist Joseph Dufour himself. The reception room is built in the French rococo style, and the ceiling was originally built and purchased in Venice but reinstalled in Vizcaya. Furthermore, the north hall contains its very own telephone room, which was a luxury at the time. The living room is home to an exquisite piece of Mudejar art; an Admiral Carpet that was commissioned by King Ferdinand’s grandfather in the 1450s. The east loggia of Vizcaya contains four doors that were brought directly from the Palazzo Torlonia in Rome. Additionally, the elegant floor design in this area invites guests to explore the villa in its entirety. Finally, the music room is built in the French rococo style and is filled with instruments that were purchased only for their historical value; they were actually never played. The painted walls in the room contain pieces of putti, feathers, scrollwork, and floral elements, all of which were acquired from the Borromeo Palace in Milan.

All photographs taken and edited by Nico Fajardo / CC by 4.0

Not only was this place exuberantly opulent, but so was its owner. James Deering was like a real-life Jay Gatsby who, according to Chalfin, “always had in one hand a tiny glass of whisky, and in the other a cigarette, sipping first from one and puffing from the other.” He regularly entertained large parties of guests and invited them to “gladly accept the gifts of the present hour and abandon serious things,” as the Latin inscription on the east facade of the Villa reads. He welcomed his guests into a pleasure-filled and worry-free paradise, as is implied by the statue located at the back entrance of the Villa. This elegant art piece depicts Bachus, the Roman god of wine and ecstasy, glistening in the sunlight and urging his guests to take a wine bath in the bathtub that is laid at the feet of the god.

All photographs taken and edited by Nico Fajardo / CC by 4.0

Overall, both James Deering and Vizcaya Villa were extremely influential in the cultural identity of Miami, guiding the city into becoming the hedonist capital of the country. Deering’s romantic notion of Spanish conquistadors caused him to view them as valiant men who brought religious enlightenment and culture to underdeveloped societies. This led him to appropriate and show off European culture and style, just like a lot of people in Miami tend to show off and appropriate things. Furthermore, the mesmerizing balance of tropical hammocks, mangroves, ocean, and the elegant design of the Mediterranean Revival architectural style give Vizcaya Villa a unique aura and serve as inspiration for neighborhoods such as Coral Gables and Coconut Grove. Truly, without James Deering and Vizcaya Villa, Miami would be very different from what it is today.

South Beach as Text

“Shifting Environment and Rich Architecture” by Nico Fajardo of FIU at South Beach on November 2, 2022.

All photographs taken and edited by Nico Fajardo / CC by 4.0

South Beach is a place that is known worldwide for its glamour and style. Yearly, millions of tourists visit this hedonist capital in hopes of experiencing the true “Miami Vice” lifestyle even if it’s just for a weekend. A stroll down Ocean Drive will reveal lively buildings and countless different businesses such as hotels, restaurants, bars, and cafes. This area is always bustling, filled with people from all over the world who are dressed in their best summer clothes and ready to have a good time. Similarly, a walk through the beach area will offer tourists their fill of sun, sand, and tropical ocean. Not only that but it will also offer lots of outdoor activities such as beach volleyball, tanning, and countless other watersports. However, South Beach has more to it than meets the eye.

All photographs taken and edited by Nico Fajardo / CC by 4.0

This neighborhood is located on the bottom half of the barrier island of Miami Beach. It is important to understand that barrier islands are geographically different from other landforms such as keys because barrier islands are not permanent. They are deposits of sand that are constantly shifting due to ocean tides. Keeping this in mind, it must be acknowledged that this barrier island has experienced a significant amount of environmental change. Historically, Miami Beach was a mangrove forest, meaning that the intricate network of roots provided a nursery for all kinds of marine fauna and also protected the island against water erosion. However, this natural estuary/shield was removed and now the city of Miami is constantly forced to dump sand into the beach as an alternative method of protection.

All photographs taken and edited by Nico Fajardo / CC by 4.0

On another note, South Beach is actually one of the few neighborhoods in all of Miami that can be explored entirely on foot. A casual stroll down Ocean Drive will display many different architectural styles such as Mediterranean Revival, Miami Modern (MIMO), and Art Deco. Mediterranean revival style is characterized by the extensive use of white colors, clay tile roofs, and rectangular floor plans. Many of these buildings can be found mixed in with all the other styles in Miami Beach. On the other hand, Miami’s Modern style is characterized by the resemblance of these buildings to boats. Oftentimes, MIMO buildings will have nautical elements such as numerous curves, windows, and pastel colors. Finally, the balconies of these buildings tend to look like decks. The final and most emblematic style of South Beach is Art Deco because South Beach is the largest Art Deco neighborhood in the world. Art Deco buildings are characterized by their linear components, sleek designs, and resemblance of machines. More often than not, these buildings follow the rule of three, being three stories high and dividing the facade into three sections. They also tend to use lots of pastel colors and colors that reflect their tropical surroundings; they are constantly making references to the ocean, especially in Ocean Drive. These buildings also tend to have ziggurat rooflines, curved edges, eyebrows (long horizontal shades of reinforced concrete), porthole windows, relief art, neon elements, glass bricks, and terrazzo floors.

All photographs taken and edited by Nico Fajardo / CC by 4.0

Overall, there are so many changes and elements that have allowed South Beach to become the booming tourist destination that it is today. Aside from the global reputation that it has, Miami beach offers beautiful architecture as well as convenient walkability and bustling activity, all working in unison to attract tourists from all over the world. This has definitely been one of my favorite places in Miami as of now.

Deering Estate as Text

“A Land Frozen in Time” by Nico Fajardo of FIU at Deering Estate on November 27, 2022.

Throughout the semester, our search for the authentic Miami has brought us to many different places. From Overtown to South Beach, each location has had a unique collection of beautiful sights and important history attached to it. However, none has been like the Deering Estate. This 444-acre environment, archeological, and historical preserve allows its visitors to experience a connection with the past unlike any other place in Miami. From magnificent ecosystems to tiny fossil remains, the Deering estate is home to a part of Miami that seems to have been frozen in time; a small section that has remained unchanged for centuries.

The flora and fauna here are not only numerous, diverse, and beautiful but they are also steady. The Deering Estate is home to 8 different ecosystems: pine rocklands, salt marshes, mangrove forests, submerged sea grass beds, Deering estate flow away, remnant slough, tropical hardwood hammocks, and beach dune chicken key. Each and every one of these different ecosystems have not changed since 1492, making a walk through these areas feel like a trip in time to 16th-century South Florida. One can walk through the dry and rocky Pine Rocklands and appreciate the sight of endangered flora species such as deltoid spurge, small’s milkwort, and carter’s ground orchid. Interestingly enough, these ecosystems are fire-dependent, meaning that they rely on naturally occurring fires (and controlled fires, nowadays) in order to properly grow and flourish. Similarly, one can walk through tropical hardwood hammocks and enjoy one of the rarest plant communities of all South Florida due to their Caribbean Island origins. These tropical forests are higher in elevation than their surrounding areas and are home to beautiful hardwood trees such as poisonwood, live oak, and gumbo limbo. Lastly, visitors can wade through the mangrove forests where they will encounter interesting flora such as red mangroves, black mangroves, white mangroves, and buttonwood. These areas also provide nursery grounds for a large number of species such as fish, shrimp, crabs, and mollusks.

Furthermore, beautiful flora & fauna is not the only thing that visitors will encounter here. The estate’s 444 acres are home to some of the oldest fossils and evidence of human inhabitation in South Florida dating back 10,000 years. Access to these fossils is heavily restricted, with the main archeological site being the currently protected Cutler Fossil site. This large sinkhole contains all sorts of ancient fossils from Pleistocene beasts such as dire wolfs, mastodons, camels, llamas, saber-toothed tigers, and American lions. Additionally, the estate is home to many paleo-Indian tools and artifacts as well as a Tequesta midden where one can not only see but also touch the same tools that were used by Tequesta people to shuck shellfish, drill, and complete other daily tasks. Visitors can also find one of the only two unearthed Tequesta burial sites in all of South Florida. It is said that the remains of 12 to 18 Native Americans (including women and children) are placed here in a circular manner. Finally, one can also take a look at a more contemporary but equally significant part of Miami, the cocaine cowboys plane, a remnant of the iconic Miami of the 80s.

Overall, the Deering Estate is home to many historical elements that are significant and important for the city of Miami. From ancient fossils & environments to more modern cocaine plane wrecks, this 444-acre time machine offers its visitors a glimpse into historical Miami, unlike any other destination.

Rubell Museum as Text

“Rubell’s Public Mission” by Nico Fajardo of FIU at Rubell Museum on December 1, 2022.

All photographs taken from the Rubell Museum Website

Art is such a unique form of communication that offers a medium through which people can connect and share their experiences, thoughts, and beliefs. This communication channel is also global, holding the power to transcend geopolitical barriers and form a bridge between individuals who are separated by distances, languages, experiences, ideologies, beliefs, cultures, and countless other factors. It is precisely this global characteristic that gives art its magic and artists their powers. The Rubell Museum has done a great job of fostering this artistic spirit and sharing it with the community. I stumbled upon this realization when taking a deeper look into the museum.

The museum’s collection is distinguished by the geographic distribution and diversity of the artists represented within. Furthermore, the museum holds a great depth of seminal artists thanks to the hard work of its curators, who make sure that thorough research is done on a piece before adding it to the collection. They have extensive conversations with the artists in order to fully understand not only the pieces but also the ideas and stories behind them, resulting in an expansive collection that, according to them, “reveals both resonances and dissonances.” As time has passed, the Rubell Museum has solidified itself as “an advocate for a diverse mix of contemporary artists and [a] resource for both the public and [the] art world to engage in a dialogue with them.”

All photographs taken from the Rubell Museum website

Such is the case with Alexandre Diop, a young French artist whose work is mainly characterized by the use of discarded materials. When questioned about this, Diop answered, “I’m not only interested in material because it’s been thrown away, but also in the temporalities it suggests. I’m interested in discussions between generations—so when I find materials from the 1950s or 60s, which are not used anymore, this interests me.” Furthermore, Diop states, “I was educated with an African way of seeing—you see things in an object: a spirit, a parent, a god. It’s also like Duchamp seeing a fountain in a urinal. So my education is informed by this African way of reusing materials and Duchamp’s way of playing with what already exists.” It is evident that Diop imbues his work with his ideas, values, culture, interests, and so many other factors. Through this cocktail of influences, Diop is able to approach different topics, such as the discussions between generations, and talk about them in his own unique way. This is precisely what art allows individuals to do, empowering them to share their ideas and express themselves in whatever way they see fit.

Overall, I was fascinated by the Rubell Museum’s effort to foster this artistic element of our human condition, nurture its representatives, and share their creations with the local community. The museum was actually the first to support many renowned contemporary artists during critical moments in their careers. Some of these artists include people like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Yoshitomo Nara, Hayv Kahraman, Mickalene, Thomas, and so many others. Additionally, they host curatorial training internships, artist residencies, and even public programs such as partnerships with the Miami-Dade County Public Schools, engaging thousands of artists and students every year. The Rubell’s impact in Miami has been tremendous, clearing the path for many museums and public collections to rise, as well as leading the development of the vital arts ecology in the city. Without a doubt, the museum has been of great importance, not only in Miami but in all of South Florida, bringing about an overall positive impact on the community.

Miami Art Week as Text

“More Than Meets The Eye” by Nico Fajardo of FIU at Miami Art Week on December 8, 2022.”

All photographs taken and edited by Nico Fajardo / CC by 4.0

Untitled Art is an independent art fair that takes place annually in Miami Beach. Its mission is to support the broader art ecosystem by offering an inclusive platform where collaboration is prioritized and contemporary art can be discovered. Not only does the fair host well-known galleries and artists with large international reach, but they also support young galleries, emerging artists, and non-profit organizations. This unique artistic space attracts contemporary art collectors, art historians, curators, students, and contemporary art lovers from all around the world.

All photographs taken and edited by Nico Fajardo / CC by 4.0

I oftentimes struggled to appreciate the works of contemporary artists, not really understanding the message, feeling, or idea that was being portrayed through the piece. However, our visit to Untitled Art showed me that there is so much more to contemporary art than meets the eye. After having conversations with multiple different artists, I understood that in order to fully appreciate the pieces, one must understand several different components about the artist such as his or her past experiences, sources of inspiration, thoughts, ideas, emotions, beliefs, and so much more. I learned that art is a universal language that offers a unique channel through which people can connect, share, and exchange experiences, thoughts, and beliefs.

All photographs taken and edited by Nico Fajardo / CC by 4.0

One of the artists that captured my attention was Alba Triana, a Colombian artist whose work takes many forms such as sound and light sculptures, musical compositions, and electromagnetic field visualizations, among others. Her work is very hard to define, but it is absolutely fascinating. Her curiosity acts as a catalyst for her creativity, often exploring questions about our humanity and how things function in the universe. She is constantly collaborating with people from other disciplines such as science, mathematics, physics, and philosophy in order to find the answers to her questions. She oftentimes conducts extensive research prior to her periods of experimentation and creativity.

All photographs taken and edited by Nico Fajardo / CC by 4.0

Triana says, “I’m very inspired by nature. And when I say nature, I’m not talking about botany. It’s about how everything functions at a very fundamental level. I’m interested in how nature self-organizes. If you see things in nature, for example, a solar system, it’s not that different from an atom. And there’s an order within the chaos, which is very interesting.” For instance, in her work, “Delirious Fields, 2019” Triana explores the realm of magnetic fields by hanging an array of shiny silver spheres from transparent threads. These spheres engage in a disparate and mesmerizing choreography around spools of copper coil in a seemingly magical way. This occurs due to the force of electromagnetic fields, which we cannot hear, see, or even touch. Triana uses this piece as a way to “explore the relationship between our tangible physical world and the imperceptible forces that govern absolutely everything.” She further states that “intelligence is a very powerful thing that emerges through the human being, and that is something that I have learned by doing this work. I’ve learned many things about our desires, how we function, and how we self-organize.” Without a doubt, she has a uniquely artistic way of thinking, exploring the world around her, and allowing her curiosity to lead the way.

All photographs taken and edited by Nico Fajardo / CC by 4.0

Overall, Triana’s way of looking at art perfectly captures its beauty and power. She believes that “art is a powerful vehicle in which humanity expresses all forms of intelligence.” Furthermore, she states, “I think [that] when you engage different forms of intelligence, different things get revealed to you and through you.” I was enthralled at how she opens her mind and predispositions herself to “let the work manifest what it needs to manifest.” It is easy to judge a piece of contemporary art merely by its looks. However, Alba Triana taught me that when one takes the time to understand the artist and his or her way of interacting with his or her work, one can truly connect, share, and exchange experiences, thoughts, and beliefs through art.

My Miami Final Reflection as Text

“Closing Thoughts” By Nico Fajardo of FIU on December 9, 2022

Photograph taken from the Miami in Miami group chat

This semester was unlike any of my previous semesters at FIU. The dynamic of this class encouraged me to venture out of my comfort zone and explore unique areas of Miami alongside kind people. Our time together was filled with joy, laughter, and overall good vibes. Not only that but it was also jam-packed with interesting information and thoughtful reflections. I was pushed to keep an open mind and view this magical city through unique lenses that I had previously never considered.

Photograph taken from the Miami in Miami group chat

Each location taught me a different lesson. I was able to reflect not only on Miami as a city and all of its different components but also on the different elements of our human condition. For instance, our visit Downtown opened my eyes to the underlying richness of our city… its diversity. The architectural mix in the area is proof of the multiple different influences that Miami has had since even before it was incorporated. This cultural melting pot that we experience today has served as a home for countless different people such as the Tequesta, African slaves, Bahamian immigrants, American plantation owners, Cuban immigrants, army veterans, widows, and even an Ecuadorian college student like me. Learning about this rich history helped me appreciate Miami so much more and pushed me to establish conversations with other people, sharing our unique beliefs, values, thoughts, cultures, and ways of life. It is this exchange of knowledge that enriches us and adds to our depth as people. It is this exchange of cultures that truly globalizes the world and allows you to get a taste of a distant place in the world by simply talking to a stranger.

Photograph taken from the Miami in Miami group chat

Furthermore, our visit to Overtown opened my eyes to the resilience of our communities and the impressive influence that culture, creativity, and artistic expression have on these. Human beings are social creatures and we will always find a way to coexist and make our communities thrive despite the obstacles that will inevitably get in the way. Overtown is living proof of this, as it turned into “Miami’s Little Broadway” despite the racism and segregation that dominated Miami in the 1920s. As a matter of fact, it was precisely the segregation of black communities that led to a massive concentration of musical talent in the neighborhood. This particular environment caused the streets of Overtown to drown with the tunes of Blues, R&B, Jazz, and Soul, breathing life into the community.

Photograph taken from the Miami in Miami group chat

Moreover, our visit to South Beach showed me just how influential architecture can be in the identity of a neighborhood. I was able to understand how different types of buildings influence several distinct elements of a neighborhood such as its looks, main attractions, reputation, visitors, businesses, economic activity, and so much more. If South Beach would have been developed with condos instead of its emblematic art deco buildings, it would not be the world-renowned tourist destination that it is today. There is such an evident contrast between the “condo canyon” and the rest of Ocean Drive, portraying the stark difference between a residential and a tourist district. If developers would have had their way, South Beach would be a completely different neighborhood, robbing Miami of its emblematic “Miami Vice” element.

Photograph taken from the Miami in Miami group chat

Overall, I am incredibly grateful to have been able to travel alongside professor Bailly and learn from him. His artistic background along with his extensive academic and street knowledge allowed me to look at the city of Miami through a unique lens that is especially sensitive to the creative expression of human beings. I was able to appreciate different forms of art and understand how they can have a profound impact on individuals, communities, and even entire cities. I was able to wrestle with a wide variety of thoughts and understand how and why Miami is the way it is. There is so much knowledge and appreciation hidden within the historic, artistic, and cultural elements of a place; I cannot wait to do this same form of mindful exploration throughout cities all across the globe.

Miami Encounter as Text

“The Wise City” by Nico Fajardo of FIU at Miami Encounter on January 28, 2023

All photographs taken and edited by Nico Fajardo / CC by 4.0

Miami is a city unlike any other one in the world, hosting a seemingly endless plethora of things to see and lessons to learn. This has become apparent to me throughout our numerous adventures together as a class. The more I explore Miami and its several different components, the more I realize how unique it is and how much depth and wisdom it holds. I had initially come to Miami with little to no prior knowledge about this place, giving it credit only for its warm weather, constant party scene, and world-famous beaches. However, little did I know that there is more to Miami than meets the eye.

On top of its jaw-dropping cultural diversity (which I have already written about in my “Downtown as Text” blog), Miami also contains an impressive amount of environmental diversity. Aside from its tropical beaches, it is also home to beautiful ecosystems such as pine rocklands, salt marshes, mangrove forests, submerged sea grass beds, tropical hardwood hammocks, and even beach dune keys. Living in Miami has opened my eyes to the beauty of the tropics and the reliance that these have on us for their long-term health. I have come to learn just how big our responsibility is for the preservation of these water-dependent ecosystems and how important it is for us to help keep these wonders of nature safe. I will never lose hope of one day seeing the waters of Biscayne Bay and Miami Beach as clear as those in other parts of the world such as the Caribbean and the Mediterranean.

All photographs taken and edited by Nico Fajardo / CC by 4.0

I have also learned to appreciate the power that art holds. Whether it is through drawings, paintings, sculptures, architecture, or music, art is a universal language that offers a channel through which we can all connect and share our thoughts, experiences, and beliefs. Miami’s many art galleries and shows have enabled me to explore this fact by carefully observing and reflecting on the works of artists from all over the world. Additionally, Miami’s architecture has allowed me to learn about this city’s history and the different influences that have shaped it into what it is today. Similarly, Miami’s entertainment industry has allowed me to listen to all kinds of music and discover tunes, beats, and harmonies that were previously unknown to me. It is fascinating to see how each artist is influenced by his or her own experiences and environments, inevitably reflecting these in their works. Whether it be an art deco building, a classic canvas, or a reggae song, each piece of art has a story to tell and a lesson to teach.

All photographs taken and edited by Nico Fajardo / CC by 4.0

Overall, even though I have come to learn so much thanks to the “Magic City”, I know that there is so much more to discover. I am excited to continue this exploration alongside my classmates and professor Bailly, who is always willing to share his vast experience and knowledge with us. Hopefully, one day I will be able to show my friends around Miami as expertly as professor Bailly has done with us and maybe they too will learn as much as I have during these past few months.

Everglades as Text

“Preserving the Everglades” by Nico Fajardo of FIU at Everglades National Park on January 27, 2023

All photographs taken from Google images

Also known as the river of grass, the Everglades is the heart and soul of South Florida. Classified as a UNESCO world heritage site, this subtropical wetland ecosystem spans almost two million miles across South Florida and includes diverse habitats such as wet prairies, cypress domes, tree islands, pinelands, and even mangrove forests. It is home to a wide variety of different species of flora and fauna such as sawgrass, orchids, hardwood hammocks, alligators, egrets, herons, and even the endangered Florida panther. This unique place contains the largest continuous strand of sawgrass prairie along with the largest mangrove ecosystem in the western hemisphere. Furthermore, it serves as a gigantic carbon bank and acts as a buffer that offers protection from rising sea levels, high winds, and storm surges. It is also the most important breeding ground for wading birds in North America and even provides drinking water for the residents of South Florida by replenishing the Biscayne aquifer. Its significance is undeniable, further emphasizing the need for its protection.

Unfortunately, this beautiful place has been damaged and is in a constant state of degradation. Its natural water flow has been altered, which has destabilized the fragile balance of this water-dependent ecosystem. The lack of freshwater causes salinity levels to spike, killing off many of the flora and fauna in the area. Additionally, the redirection of nutrient-rich water flow to the Eastern and Western estuaries feeds red tide as well as toxic green algae, further spreading the degradation to south Florida’s bays. Furthermore, these unbalanced conditions allow invasive species, such as the Brazilian pepper tree and the Burmese python, to thrive while native plants and animals struggle to survive. Not only that, but the agricultural and stormwater runoff has degraded the water quality of the Everglades, further aggravating this ongoing degradation.

All photographs taken from Google images

However, as critical as the situation may be, it is not too late to solve this problem. It is important to inform the community and raise awareness of this issue that is at hand. Through various activities, the Everglades National Park allows visitors to explore the everglades and fall in love with its diverse selection of flora and fauna. Tourists can take airboat tours through the sawgrass prairies, kayak tours through the mangrove forests, and even explore the river of grass on foot through the unique activity known as a slough slog. Throughout these activities, one can not only learn about but also encounter several different animals such as American alligators, roseate spoonbills, great herons, marsh rabbits, and so many more.

My own experience in this beautiful ecosystem has helped me understand the importance of the everglades for life in South Florida. Not only that, but it has also helped me understand how easy it is for us to upset the delicate balance of mother nature and the devastating effects that this brings. Furthermore, I have come to understand how lucky we are to call this planet home and how imperative it is for us to take care of it. Just like we depend on nature for our survival, it also depends on us for its own.

Coconut Grove as Text

“Tales of Courage and Selflessness” by Nico Fajardo of FIU at Coconut Grove on February 7, 2023.

All photographs taken and edited by Nico Fajardo / CC by 4.0

Buildings always carry some form of history with them, enriching their neighborhoods by adding depth to their identities. For instance, South Beach’s architecture tells the tale of a newfound interest in different artistic styles, such as Art Deco, and the valiant fight of its community members against gentrification. In the case of Coconut Grove, its architecture tells a tale of pioneers; of strong men and women who were willing to break boundaries and pursue new endeavors to advance a cause or an idea they believed in.

For instance, the Barnacle is not only considered a historic site, but it is also the oldest home in Dade County that is still standing on its original site, and it is also a tangible element of Ralph Middleton Munroe’s legacy. Munroe, also known as “The Commodore”, was one of the founders of Coconut Grove and was always playing an active role as a leader within the community. Not only did he build a beautiful house such as the Barnacle, but he also established a library, post office, churches, and even schools! Furthermore, the Commodore fought for the preservation of the community against developers who wanted to build artificial islands offshore and against engineers who wanted to dump raw sewage into the Bay. In addition, Munroe helped organize the Biscayne Bay Yacht club and was installed as the club’s first commodore. Without a doubt, his involvement in the community of Coconut Grove was instrumental in its betterment and has allowed it to become what it is today.

All photographs taken and edited by Nico Fajardo / CC by 4.0

Similarly, the Mariah Brown House tells the story of a single mother who was not afraid to go out of her comfort zone, seek a better life for her family, and positively impact her community in the process. After working in Key West as a laundress, Brown moved to Coconut Grove with her three daughters and began working at the famous Peacock Inn. She eventually bought some land, built her own home (the first one ever built on Evangelist Street), and became one of the first black families to settle in Coconut Grove. The house is designed to cope with the hot and humid climate of South Florida; it features clapboard siding, high ceilings, operable sash windows, foundation piers, and porches; it is typical of the Bahamian style of home building, also known as “Conch Houses”. Brown marked the way for more black families to follow in her footsteps, quickly turning her house into the heart of the African-Bahamian community within Coconut Grove.

All photographs taken and edited by Nico Fajardo / CC by 4.0

Last but most definitely not least, I must talk about the E.W.F. Stirrup House, built by Ebenezer Woodbury Franklin Stirrup, a founding member of Christ Episcopal Church and yet another pioneer who left a positive impact within the Coconut Grove community. This house is yet another tangible element of a pioneer’s legacy. Stirrup not only owned several businesses but was also the largest landowner in the area at the time. He firmly believed that homeownership led to better citizens, so he went and built more than 100 homes for African American immigrants, giving them a chance to call Coconut Grove home and build a thriving community.

Overall, these tales of bravery, tenacity, and selflessness that are told by Coconut Grove’s many buildings and historic sites, have served as inspiration for my personal life. All these pioneers have taught me the value of being selfless and have inspired me to take actions that will lead to the betterment of my community, just as they did hundreds of years ago.

Coral Gables as Text

“The Ideal Mediterranean Style Neighborhood” by Nico Fajardo of FIU at Coral Gables on February 22, 2023

All photographs taken and edited by Nico Fajardo / CC by 4.0

Coral gables is a neighborhood that is located in Miami-Dade County, Florida. It was founded by George E. Merrick in the early 20th century and has now become known for its Mediterranean Revival architecture, tree-lined streets, and luxurious lifestyle.

Even though Coral Gables was originally an area of mangrove swamps and pine Rocklands, Merrick had a vision of a completely planned Mediterranean-style city that would stand out from the rest. To achieve his vision, he used a team of architects and planners to design the city’s layout and buildings. He also insisted on strict zoning laws to maintain the aesthetic and Mediterranean style. He also included wide boulevards, tree-lined streets, and numerous parks and public areas to create the ideal tropical residential neighborhood.

There is no phrase that encapsulates the essence of Coral Gables better than Merrick’s instructions to his salesmen: “Remember that what you are selling here is not just land. It is not just a piece of ground on which to put a house. What you are really selling is romance, the stars, the moon, the tropics, the wind off the blue water, and the perfume of flowers that never grew in northern climes.”

I was amazed at how carefully selected floral elements decorate the streets and avenues of Coral Gables. Banyan trees, mahoganies, and large oaks line the streets while giant alocasia, orchids, ferns, and other tropical species add to the neighborhood’s tropical vibes and create a perfect harmony with its Mediterranean Revival architecture.

All photographs taken and edited by Nico Fajardo / CC by 4.0

Often referred to simply as Spanish architecture, Mediterranean revival architecture is a blend of Spanish, Italian, and Moorish architecture. It has several emblematic elements such as white coral rock (commonly found throughout South Florida), arcade loggias (which offer protection from the sun and embrace the cool ocean breeze), patios (which provide a comfortable outdoor space), red tile roofs (which come from the style’s Spanish & Italian influences and help both drain water and cool houses during hot Miami days), stucco exteriors (which give a smooth white finish that blends in well with the style’s red-tiled roofs and decorative ornaments), ornate details (which are decorative elements such as tiles, carved stone, and even ironwork that are oftentimes placed to represent a character or symbolize a value or thought), and arched openings (which can be found over doors, windows, porches, and are placed to create a sense of grandeur and elegance).

Many of the notable buildings in the neighborhood are not only beautiful examples of Mediterranean Revival architecture, but they are also structures that have served multiple purposes throughout their lifetimes. For instance, the coral gables museum used to be a police and fire station, hotel Seville used to be an office building, the colonnade building used to be a sales office for George Merrick’s Coral Gables Corporation, and the Venetian pool was originally built as a quarry.

Furthermore, how could I talk about Coral Gables and not mention the Biltmore Hotel? Built in 1926, it is one of the neighborhood’s most famous landmarks and is considered to be the finest example of Mediterranean Revival Architecture in the United States. It was also modeled after the Giralda tower from the Cathedral of Seville in Spain, just like the freedom tower in Downtown Miami.

Overall, it is fascinating for me to see how Coral Gables has turned into an elegant, vibrant, and prosperous neighborhood with an upscale lifestyle that is home to numerous high-end shops, restaurants, and cultural attractions.

Norton as Text

“Diversity in Art” by Nico Fajardo of FIU at Norton Museum of Art on March 14, 2023

All photographs taken from the Norton Museum of Art website

The Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida, is a remarkable place that calls itself home to a diverse collection of art from around the world. It opened its doors to the public on February 8, 1941, and continues to serve the community to this day. A deeper dive into the museum’s collection highlighted the museum’s commitment to showcasing a wide range of different artistic styles and mediums, from contemporary works to classical pieces. Not only that, but it also reinforced my understanding of art as a unique communication method through which we can connect and express our unique beliefs, thoughts, and experiences.

One of the pieces that caught my attention is American contemporary artist Dan Flavin’s “Untitled (to Janie Lee) two, 1971”. His minimalistic style uses only fluorescent tube lights arranged in such a way as to create light, color, and space. Flavin uses these tube lights to play with these visual elements and abstract imagery from the piece and transform it into essential geometric forms. In this specific piece, Flavin uses the neon tube light and the wall to cast colorful shadows in the shape of a rhombus. I am fascinated at how the blue, green, yellow, and pink hues blend to cast beautiful and complimenting colors on the wall.

All photographs taken from the Norton Museum of Art website

Another piece that caught my attention is the Chinese scroll titled “The Nine Bends River” by Tang Yin. This artwork was masterfully completed during the Ming Dynasty and portrays an undulating mountainous landscape with improbable rock formations and a river that runs through the beautiful Wuyi mountains. This piece creates a most interesting link between the past and the present. It is crazy for me to think that a scroll from as early as the 14th century shares the space with a contemporary piece such as Flavin’s “Untitled (to Janie Lee) two, 1971”.

All photographs taken from the Norton Museum of Art website

Additionally, I was amazed to learn that the Norton Museum of Art has a program called “Art After Dark” that mixes art and entertainment for the public to enjoy live performances, film screenings, and even art workshops. It is such a joy to know that there are institutions such as the Norton Museum of Art that work hard to engage the community and expose individuals to unique events, performances, and opportunities such as these.

Finally, one of the most striking aspects of the Norton Museum of Art is the way in which it embraces diversity in all its forms. From showcasing the work of artists from a range of different cultural backgrounds to exploring a variety of artistic mediums, the museum is a celebration of the many ways in which art can inspire and challenge us.

All photographs taken from the Norton Museum of Art website

Overall, the Norton Museum of Art has left quite an impression on me. Through its diverse exhibitions and engaging events, the museum provides a window into the rich world of art and culture that is all around us. Whether you are a seasoned art aficionado or simply someone who appreciates beauty and creativity, the Norton Museum of Art offers something for everyone. Now, I can more confidently say that art is a universal language that offers a unique channel through which people can connect, share, and exchange experiences, thoughts, and beliefs.

Key Biscayne as Text

“History and Nature” by Nico Fajardo of FIU at Key Biscayne on March 21, 2023

All photographs taken and edited by Nico Fajardo / CC by 4.0

Key Biscayne is a beautiful and historic island located in Miami, Florida. It is about 5 miles in length, 1.5 miles in width and is home to a variety of natural ecosystems such as maritime hammocks and mangrove forests. Additionally, the key provides shelter for magnificent animals such as the peregrine falcon, loggerhead turtle, piping plover, American alligator, green sea turtle, and even the Florida manatee. It is also packed with history and is officially recognized as a National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom site. Our recent visit to the key opened my eyes to its rich history and its natural beauty; there is so much to discover and explore.

Key Biscayne’s history dates back to the pre-Columbian era when the Tequesta people inhabited it. Later, the island became inhabited by Spanish explorers and was eventually settled by the English in the 19th century. Its famous lighthouse was completed in 1825, damaged during the Second Seminole War, repaired in 1846, and is the oldest standing structure in Miami-Dade County. Being able to climb to the top of this 95-foot structure was such a surreal experience, especially when keeping in mind that it is the same structure that survived the famous 1836 Seminole Indian attack in which the assistant lighthouse keeper, John W. B. Thompson, threw a keg of gunpowder to the bottom of the tower. This mixture of gunpowder and roaring flames caused a tremendous explosion that could be heard even from about 12 miles at sea! The climb to the top of the lighthouse rewards the visitor with a jaw-dropping view of the key and of the open water, where one can see how the brackish water from the bay collides with the salty water of the Atlantic Ocean; it is truly a sight to behold.

All photographs taken and edited by Nico Fajardo / CC by 4.0

One of the most fascinating aspects of Key Biscayne’s history is its involvement in the saltwater underground railroad. During the 19th century, the key played a significant role in helping slaves escape to freedom. Its location, just a few miles off the coast of Florida, and its dense vegetation made it an ideal location for those evading capture and looking for an escape to freedom. Runaway slaves would rely on boat captains to take them aboard their ships, towards freedom in the neighboring Bahamas Islands. Unfortunately, the key’s emblematic lighthouse brought an end to this avenue of escape as its bright light uncovered the movements of any slaves trying to escape.

Finally, Key Biscayne’s natural environment is one to behold. We had the opportunity to collect trash along the key, scavenging its sandy beaches and green vegetation for any pieces of waste that we could find. Our efforts led to a great outcome, as we were able to pick up an entire large bag of trash, finding items such as bottle caps, plastic cups & wrappers, old ropes, and even a sign that read “Keep Off Rocks”.

All photographs taken and edited by Nico Fajardo / CC by 4.0

Overall, our visit to Key Biscayne reminded me of the struggles and sacrifices that so many people made to secure their freedom, a freedom that we are now able to enjoy at no cost. It is important for us to recognize this fact and be mindful of it in our day-to-day activities. Additionally, our visit taught me about the importance of being good stewards of our beautiful planet earth. As has been the case with many of our other class meetings, I learned that it is up to us to take care of our environment and encourage others to do the same.

Chosen Neighborhood as Text

“Brickell’s Lively Urban Activity” by Nico Fajardo of FIU at Brickell on March 21, 2023

All photographs taken and edited by Nico Fajardo / CC by 4.0

Brickell, located in the heart of Miami, is one of the most iconic neighborhoods in the city. It has undergone significant development and growth in recent years and has become a hub for commerce, finance, and entertainment. It is home to a diverse array of businesses such as retail stores, restaurants, and even nightclubs.

The history of Brickell dates back to 500 BCE when the Tequesta inhabited the area, using the mouth of the Miami River as the location for their main town. They lived in the area until 1763. Later in the 19th century, William and Mary Brickell purchased land in the area and established a trading post. This area would eventually become a hub for wealthy industrialists and entrepreneurs. Now, Brickell has seen a resurgence of development as many businesses and high-rise buildings have come to dominate the scenery. There is a plethora of residential and commercial properties in the area, setting the perfect scene for a bustling neighborhood with luxury shopping, high-end restaurants, and lively nightlife.

One of the most important landmarks is Brickell City Center, a sprawling development that includes luxury apartments, high-end retail stores & restaurants, offices, and a large outdoor shopping center. Its unique architectural style incorporates modern shapes and elements with a lively array of tropical plants and flowers. Additionally, its elevated landscapes create a center of gravity of sorts for Brickell City Center’s bustling activity. One store that is worth paying a visit is “Che by Chelsey”, a luxury clothing boutique that offers brands from around the world and takes pride in showcasing up-and-coming women designers. It is a must-see destination for those who indulge in fashion shopping therapy.

All photographs taken and edited by Nico Fajardo / CC by 4.0

Brickell also offers a wide variety of high-end restaurants that serve all types of food from around the world. It is home to stellar restaurants such as “KOMODO”, which offers an exquisite selection of Southeast Asian dishes, and even “Gekko” which is a Japanese steakhouse that serves sushi, steak, and specialty cocktails; additionally, Gekko is famously known for its owner, the reggaeton artist superstar, Bad Bunny. My personal favorite is “Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar” which not only offers aged prime beef but also serves classics like lobster tails and an exquisite selection of wines.

Last, but not least, I was impressed by the lively nightlife in Brickell. Visitors and residents alike parade up and down the streets and sidewalks in an exuberant display of luxury motor cars and fashion. Many of these individuals find themselves behind the doors of one of the many nightclubs in the neighborhood, dancing to all genres and styles of music and having a good time. Of all these places, my personal favorite is “Candela”, a small Latin nightclub that relies on talented DJs to imbue the club’s atmosphere with the catchy tunes of the most popular reggaeton songs. Visiting this club is a must!

Overall, Brickell has a lot to offer. From retail stores to clubs, there is something for everyone to do. My adventures around Brickell put me across the path of several different people from all over the world. They all expressed themselves, thought, and conversed with me differently. This experience led me to reflect and realize how this unique neighborhood is a central hub not only for business but also for a diverse array of individuals coming from all over the world with different nationalities and unique ways of viewing the world; all of this further contributes to the huge melting pot of cultures and nationalities that is Miami.

Design District & Wynwood as Text

“A Love for Art” by Nico Fajardo of FIU at Design District & Wynwood on April 13, 2023

All photographs taken and edited by Nico Fajardo / CC by 4.0

Our visit to the Margulies Collection and the De La Cruz Collection in both the Design District and Wynwood opened my eyes to the power that passion and love for something can have. I witnessed firsthand how individuals can shape an entire city’s relationship with art by providing the public with carefully curated spaces where both visitors and artists alike can grow and explore the realm of art in unique and creative ways.

All photographs taken and edited by Nico Fajardo / CC by 4.0

To start, I must express my gratitude to Mr. Martin Z. Margulies for personally welcoming us into his collection and giving us a tour of the 50,000-square-foot warehouse and its contents. I was amazed at the diversity of works found in the collection. From paintings to photographs, installations, and even sculptures, the collection counts with a carefully curated environment that creates a dynamic and immersive experience for visitors. I loved how each work was purposefully selected and placed in a specific location to create an engaging and interactive environment that encourages exploration and discovery. One of my personal favorite pieces was Anselm Kiefer’s “Die Erdzeitalter” which translates to The Ages of the World. I was particularly fond of the way that the visitor interacts with this piece by walking into the room and exploring the space. Kiefer uses his art to interact with the troubled history that his people have had as a result of the Second World War. The pile of canvases, dried sunflowers, and rubble in the middle of the room does not really act as a significant source of color or vitality. In addition, the dust on the ground gives the piece an unfinished look. To me, this is Kiefer’s way of reconciling with this past and releasing all the “junk” in his mind.

All photographs taken and edited by Nico Fajardo / CC by 4.0

I must also express my gratitude to both Rosa and Carlos de la Cruz, who opened the doors of their collection to our class and even took the time to chat with us for a little bit. My favorite piece here was Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ “Untitled (Portrait of Dad)”. Consisting of white mint candies in clear wrappers, the art piece is placed on the floor next to a column and ideally weighs 175 pounds, which was the weight of the artist’s father during his lifetime. I found this piece particularly interesting because it pushes the boundaries of what many people label as “art”. There is no paint or canvas displayed here; instead, the visitor is able to see firsthand how Felix Gonzalez-Torres explores his creativity through nontraditional mediums and techniques. Furthermore, visitors can interact with the piece by picking up one of these delicious mint candies and eating it. By doing so, visitors go beyond an interaction of thoughtful contemplation with the piece, one that also engages tastebuds and noses.

All photographs taken and edited by Nico Fajardo / CC by 4.0

To me, it is precisely works like the ones I have mentioned above that cement the positive influence that these galleries have had in the greater Miami art scene. Artists with all kinds of thoughts, techniques, and styles are provided with a safe environment where they can not only showcase their work and gain recognition, but also experiment and push the boundaries of contemporary art. Consequently, visitors are exposed to these innovative artists and their unique creative expressions, capturing the attention of the general public and hopefully causing thoughtful reflections at both a social and personal level. I have no doubt that collections throughout Miami will continue to foster this artistic spirit and spread its beauty and magic throughout the city.

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