August 24, 2022
Nikolas Lund-Hansen is an 18-year-old sophomore at Florida’s International University. He is currently majoring in Global Studies. In his free time, he enjoys going to the beach and doing physical activity especially soccer. Nikolas also values travelling as well as being with family and close friends. He hopes to get enlightened with knowledge on the region which has been his home for the last 11+ years.
Downtown as Text:
A walk along the Miami river on a day in late August was enough to get a glimpse of life hundreds of years ago. While the scorching heat or mosquitos were far from absent on our walk, we often were greeted with a luxury in form of air condition any time we stepped into a building. While the first inhabitants of the present-day Miami region were able to live in an unspoiled world, fresh and wild, new settlers, and slaves evidently endured hardships to survive. Working, sleeping, and living tightly quartered was the reality for both Bahamians and African slaves who were often dehumanized in the process of Miami’s gradual development into a town and later a city.
A simple walk a few kilometers from the bustling high rises in Downtown, lead us to a park. The relative silent background noise was fitting to introduce us as a class to both solemn and inspiring stories from when Miami was not Miami yet. A house tucked in the corner of Lummus Park was a former plantation quarter for slaves. Reflective and troubling were my first impressions on the plantation. Why this “house” had remained so isolated and why I hadn’t seen before in all my years living close by, lead my personal reflection. Being there didn’t make it necessarily easier to process the impossibly hard life slaves lived in early Florida, but it gave a more truthful insight to how our city was built.
A theme of ignorance to learn from our dark past and a rush to erase everything native before us, became a common theme as we walked briefly from Downtown to Brickell. How had our ancestors convinced themselves that traces of native history were either unimportant or expendable? The statue on the Brickell Bridge symbolized a Tequesta warrior and while the warrior is depicted to look fearless and triumphant, it struck me that nobody really knew how the Tequesta looked like. A circle of cultural and spiritual importance for the Calusa on the Brickell side of the bridge had until very recently, given an adequate memorial. Mistaken previously as a dog park may not be the product of ignorance but a result of the lack of representation and a willingness to teach the dark history. The archaeological finds of this “circle” had been undervalued as well as their importance in our understanding of Floridian history.
I couldn’t help but imagine what the Calusa people would do if they in present-day stumbled across the current monument of the remains. They might silently offer a prayer and a gift to their long distant ancestors. Instead, the circle remains at the mouth of the river, no longer a symbol of agriculture or fishing and hunting in the Bay. Instead, mega yachts are harbored nearby, and ever-growing skyscrapers steal both the serenity of what should be a more prominent holy site. When I think about how people made way for the structures that stand now in my backyard and the backyard of thousands of people, I can’t help but become disappointed. Especially the thought of those laborers (often the Bahamians and the African Slaves) forced to clear the land, or those forced out of their homes (natives), rarely escaped my mind as I peered onto the modern landscape.
Professor Bailly also told us about inspiring stories during our walk, which added a new perspective to the former inhabitants of the land we live in. Professor Bailly insisted we shouldn’t call the settlers like William Wagner, “pioneers” because there were already people living in Florida. Yet his story was one to pay attention to.
William Wagner story reminds me of how my life has been growing up in this city. Our ways of life can be regarded extremely different because of the era we lived in, yet Wagner’s values can be identified with many of us in this class. His strength of finding similarities within differences lead him to find himself a Creole wife (Everline), and to have a rare interracial marriage and children with her. Despite her being 15 years older than him, with two kids from a previous marriage, Wagner takes her to Miami. His regard for people as a whole and his open-minded interactions with people of different backgrounds including the Seminoles, made him an important figure during the Seminole American Wars.
Regarding the Seminoles, Professor Bailly’s stories about their fierceness and productivity were a source of my inspiration. Their unwillingness to surrender meant being pushed further down in Florida into what was thought to be inarable land or unsustainable living. Yet, the Seminoles continued to prove them wrong using their traditional methods of survival and managed until their near disappearance.
If I learned one thing from this trip, I would say that the power of a multi-cultural perspective and a traditional outlook on our resources and surroundings tie us back to the original inhabitants of “Miami.” Having learned new pockets of eye-opening information, this trip leaves me with newfound hope that being informed about the truth, has a chance in battling against ignorance, naivety, and greed.
Overtown as Text
By Nikolas Lund-Hansen of FIU at Overtown, September 25, 2022
Our eye-opening trip as a class with the Metrorail was evidence of our mobility in contemporary times. A simple train ride and a day pass costing little over five dollars, meant we could visit different parts of Miami without sitting in traffic. Our mobility meant being able to enjoy and learn about the historic city of Overtown, stop for lunch, and continue to the Northside station and the Hialeah Racetrack in just about 5 hours. Many times, we can take our mobility for granted, and we forget about how infrastructure can “imprison” and limit the mobility of others. Overtown is an example of historic example of this, and it was ever so evident during our walk around the area.
A 360 turn from the Mount Zion Baptist Church, meant gaining a grasp of the compression on the community. Tall modern condos, close in from the bay and from Downtown Miami. The skyline that in the past seemed distant, now is at the doorstep of the community of Overtown if not already in the community. On the other side of the church, the highway enclosed us. We learned as a class, how the same highway, I and others are dependent on to get from place to place, did unimaginable harm to the dynamic nature of Overtown.
Immersed is the wrong word for how gentrification has changed Overtown. Like Professor Bailly mentioned, the people in this community had little influence on their way of living. “Citizens” of Overtown have been limited historically by Jim Crow Laws and Segregation. The first black public school in Miami was not the product of wanting to be self-sufficient, rather because of necessity.In the case of the historic school, now a modern condo lays its place. It looms as an unaccommodating to the people who still live in Overtown and the generations of people who might have attended this school.
Decisions to demolish historic monuments, are often ones without consent and rarely reflected on. Considering the possibility of a future “extinction” of Overtown, I felt a certain degree of powerlessness as Professor Bailly told us about parts in the city that are no longer there.
We were constantly reminded of the past during this trip. Decisions, unrepresentative with the wishes of the people living in Overtown meant interruptions on end to progress and adequate aid to the community’s needs, past and present. Not to mention, most of the buildings we saw, only went back to 1926, the same year a hurricane devasted most of the area.
The most marking moments of our trip were our connections with the people of Overtown. Despite centuries of injustice and marginalization, the people we encountered on our trip, were helpful and welcoming. They told their stories and we listened. Our attitudes and eagerness to know the truth, organically led us to these resilient and inviting people. Despite their struggles or the struggles of their ancestors, they wanted to interact and share their knowledge with us. The many of the people who we met were eager for us to get the word out, that they were there. We often take being heard and seen for granted and our interactions repeated the same overarching message; good things happen in Overtown, a sense of community is still present, good food can be eaten there, and powerful monuments and churches still exist.
The element of disappointment during our trip, was my recognition of the power of persistent developers. It means realistically we might be seeing structures for the first and last time. Easy to oversee when driving through or looking at Google Maps, our trip showed that each block plays a different role to this historic part of a greater city. While infrastructure has made it advantageous and cheaper for external people to live in Overtown, it forces others from their homes and their communities. Our visits to two churches, showed the strength of unity for the greater good within a community to make something nice with the funds available. Unfortunately, the highway means people beautiful Greater Bethel Episcopal church we visited now has about 250 members rather than the previous membership of about 2,000 people.
This trip helped me gain more knowledge on the history and current situation of Overtown. It will no longer be a place for me, that gets driven through without stopping or looked down at from the highway. I hope the people of Overtown get the awareness and support necessary to avoid further historical blocks to be demolished in face of real estate. My resonance with the area as an integral part of Miami’s multicultural part, inspired me. Meeting people is a motivation to come back and interact with people who are a part of history and hopefully eating at Jackson’s Soul Food can be a new tradition with friends from this class and others.
Biscayne Bay/Chicken Key as Text:
“Paddling to clean up “
My first time going to Deering Estate and ultimately to the island of Chicken Key was marked by our collective adventure on October 5th, 2022. While I had kayaked in the bay before, the absence of infrastructure around us made the trip more adventurous and I was able to be in the present. Living in the present on this day meant understanding the importance of Biscayne Bay to Miami and to Florida historically. Being able to see flora and fauna throughout our trip as well as the scorching heat and the slight headwind made me feel like I was centuries back, not as a tourist or camper but as someone on a mission. To add to this, our mode of transportation for my twin brother and I wasn’t a flashy orange kayak, but a heavier canoe. One that forced us to sail with rhythm and purpose to get to the island, enjoying our surroundings as we went along.
Arriving on the island meant a combination of discovery and a grasp of our task. The garbage scattered across the island, not only demonstrated the strength of hurricanes such as Ian to move pollutants around, but also the sad nature of people who throw garbage in the ocean. It was a little difficult to know where to get started but following the flow of the class and my own instinct, meant that one thing at a time I started to collect garbage. As a group our finds went from car keys to glass bottles to loads of bottle caps and fishing lines, all ending in the same place – our garbage bags. When we thought we had done our part and were ready to take a break, the discovery meant we were just getting started. On the southern part of the island, we encountered absolute filth among the mangroves including the remains of a refugee boat likely from Cuba. Our sticky work was more effective and enjoyable as we were surrounded by other classmates. We worked until the very last five-ten minutes before returning to the Deering Estate.
My canoe group being the last one to come back from the island also meant time to let all the impressions of the day sink in. Our universal efforts to take care of the environment and clean up as much as possible left me with an incredibly gratifying feeling. However, I couldn’t feel entirely accomplished knowing how much garbage was left behind. Knowing that there will be future cleanups in the future we can hope and use our appreciation for Biscayne Bay and its islands to inspire others to do likewise. While the Deering Estate and Chicken Key is relatively far from where I live, it is easy to forget the enormity of Miami’s backyard. In our first class we were able to see Brickell Key. Brickell Key formerly being an isolated uninhabited island like Chicken Key, now is populated by luxury apartment buildings and hotels. Chicken Key does not face similar dangers for development, but if we are unable to protect it from our own garbage, we again will let an unspoiled beauty go to waste for future generations.
Vizcaya as Text:
Vizcaya is commonly regarded as a globally recognized tourist attraction and a must visit for those visiting Miami. Having a place like Vizcaya in our own backyard made the trip all that more purposeful. James Deering, who ordered to have this mansion built, utilized the multicultural nature of early Miami to build a mansion that suited him. Our experience would be incomplete without giving credit to the Bahamians who built this place. The Bahamians from nearby Coconut Grove were able to provide James Deering with cheap and effective labor. Consequently, Vizcaya was built in just about four years.
Like it did more than a century ago, jungle parted to form Vizcaya’s entrance, allowing us to enter a different universe. Deering’s enthusiasm of Spanish Conquistadores meant being greeted by a “false” sculpture of Ponce de Leon and a resounding reflection of Moro Spanish architecture across the mansion.
On yet another hot and humid day, we encountered air conditioning upon our entry to the house. The glass roof that provided protection from hurricanes and the AC hadn’t been there in the original house. The roman style pavilion and the view to the ocean was the part that inspired me most artistically during this trip. The feat of designing and combining elements from different artistic worlds couldn’t have been more Miami-like. The gardens meant an oasis and for visitors from the northeast or elsewhere at the time, Vizcaya would have been literal paradise on Earth.
A sculpture of Bacchus at the entrance set the tone for the theme of pleasure, comfort, and attention to detail in the rest of the house. With James Deering not having any children combined with the general décor of Vizcaya, questions arose regarding his heterosexuality. I, however, found most interesting about Deering, his devotion, and methods of sourcing his materials and artistic inspiration. In contrast, to this day where we are constantly bombarded with styles and designs from all over the world, Deering based his resource hauls from trips abroad. Being in Europe for months enabled him to gain clarity on elements that he liked. Being away with a team of people to collect art and gain inspiration, Deering would sometimes even bring people with him back to Vizcaya to get the job done how he wished.
While some of his purchases can be seen as unethical, I was grateful to witness history in every room of the house. I believe his fresh outlook of Miami as a unique, semi-isolated and exotic place, helped build a mansion like no other. The thought of the workers who built Vizcaya also made me leave with mixed feelings. Touring Vizcaya for probably my sixth or seventh time was ever so beautiful. Everything from location to material choice, to fountains, and gardens was well maintained and told a story. However, I didn’t see enough pictures or documentation of Vizcaya being built. The countless servants and laborers that kept a place of that size up and running must have been huge. I felt like this paradise turned reality by the blood sweat and tears of ordinary people, could be more proportionately represented.
We had the pleasure of eating lunch in the shade outside, by Vizcaya’s cafeteria. The hint of the breeze shone through amid the heat. In remembering this global yet local landmark, we can agree that a visionary with a pencil and an idea is nothing without the people whose hands and legs become devoted to carrying, lifting, and building.
Miami Beach as Text:
Miami Beach. Photo taken by Nikolas Lund-Hansen
The power of stepping through the streets of Miami Beach and making an inference about history that occurred in the neighborhoods we passed was unique. From the beginning of our excursion, the modern and touristy catch Miami Beach is known for was present. Foreign people exercising on the pier, residents and tourists going for a swim on a regular Wednesday, Fischer Island in the background, embodied what most “outsiders” might think of Miami Beach.
The inclusivity I felt walking through the streets of Miami Beach was reflective of what I think of Miami in general in terms of diversity and multi-culturalism. It was troubling that it hadn’t always been like that. Ocean Beach which had otherwise been a biracial place for enjoyment, boating and picnics, suddenly became segregated until relatively recently in history. However the visions of the main founders of Miami Beach, John Collins and Carl Fischer, didn’t include blacks nor Jews. Ironically, the Bahamians had been called to action yet again as the source of cheap effective labor they were, to clear Ocean Beach in the first place. Barred from being able to own property or spend the night there, Jews and blacks faced Miami Beach’s hard unexclusive beginnings on the forefront.
We had the pleasure of visiting Miami Beach in a time where inclusivity generally prevails. Miami Beach later would become a notorious “safe hub” for openly gay people and the Lummus brothers allocated land that Jews would be able to buy. Regardless of race, income, political affiliation, or religion it seemed only right Miami Beach that became more open to all sorts of people.
It is difficult to turn a blind eye to the current situation in Miami Beach. The myth of the city brings millions of tourists each year as well as a significant profit. The fairyland place it has become has led to all sorts of people visiting. Consequently, it also means that some people slip through the cracks in a negative way, making the atmosphere of South Beach at night borderline to unfamily-friendly. Proposed solutions to both drug and gun violence in Miami Beach, sound awfully like segregation proposed by Carl Fischer and John Collins in the early 1900s and isn’t a sustainable solution. With the globalized notion of Miami Beach as a place of comfort, good weather and often luxury, everyone should be able to enjoy Miami Beach and the true solution comes in education. By informing visitors, through more prominent plaques and monuments about Miami Beach’s history, to a greater extent would help shape less of a superficial atmosphere at and about Miami Beach.
The truth is that Miami Beach’s history is a vibrant one but also one that is divisive and based off myth. There are so many lessons that can be learned from Miami Beach’s history, especially tales of resilience and makeovers. The Art Deco houses are a staple of walking down Ocean Drive and we wouldn’t be able to witness as many of these unique buildings if it weren’t for Barbara Capitman. An activist that advocated for the prevention of high rises in that area, and yet another influential woman in Miami, Barbara Capitman’s efforts could be appreciated by us on our walk. I was able to see Miami Beach come to life on the beach on a regular Wednesday afternoon and night with a few classmates. The instant gratification of clear water, soft sands and a bustling beachfront still didn’t cloud my vision of this place’s creation. At the end of the day, we can hope that those uninformed become informed and those causing chaos realize the privilege of being in a place that once was uninclusive.
Deering Estate as Text:
Deering Estate. Photo taken by Nikolas Lund-Hansen
Florida’s urban development disappeared as soon as I stepped in behind the gates of the Deering Estate. While the historic hotel and dredged boat basin, briefly make it an urban ecosystem, the serenity of walking through the gates of the Estate mirrored the entrance of Vizcaya. Walking in meant a complete change of scenery and an escape from artificial sounds and happenings. Being greeted by mosquitos and spiders throughout our trip was common but so was the sound of manatees snorting in the bay, at least in the beginning. We were able to see and discover so many natural factors with every step we took and as we parted branches out of our way. A combination of both an on-trail and off trail trekking meant surprises after every turn. The secluded history of Miami and the somewhat timely walking to get to sites of historical importance demonstrate the extent of preservation needed to keep our history alive.
The little left of early Floridian history was empowering to watch. Its 10,000+ year old self was as subtle as could be. Nature engulfing us for 360 degrees, also meant we were given a natural pause from all the urban. The only thing preventing us from being in our own silent natural bubble was each other’s company. Walking as a group through the same paths walked on by people of different time periods made me reflect on the preservation of both the natural and the historical in Miami.
Even in a place as protected, maintained, and naturally thriving as the Deering Estate, it was interesting to hear about its challenges. The huge properties and homes go all the way up to the perpendicular road up to Deering Estate making the area prioritize the wants of people rather than the needs of the environment. It means not being able to burn off the ecosystem at the rate which it should happen in consideration to the people living nearby.
Mangroves have constantly been a theme of our trips and a staple of the original Miami. The energy of the natural world and life was felt by me through a simple walk into the unknown. The green all around either in form of bushes, leaves, or grasses characterized every ecosystem and formed a degree of incongruency within a pretty fixed ecosystem. When we began to wade in the water, suddenly the distractions of mosquitos disappeared mentally. My feet became sensors for change of terrain underneath the water. Both water and greenery symbolize life and I could only imagine the location’s value to both the living organisms and later to the people that would inhabit the area of the Deering Estate. The Spanish, British, Bahamians, Tequesta, later the Americans would all trudge those waters with different motives and different roles. Their point of agreement was that the Deering Estate just like the rest of South Florida was valuable. Miami has long been a victim of greedy developers with ignorance of history and while I was extremely grateful to have visited the Deering Estate two times already but it was still uncomprehensible that we don’t have more natural parks elsewhere in the city. With Miami continually expanding it is no secret that we all need a little greenery in our lives.
Rubell Museum as Text:
Rubell Museum. Photos taken and edited by Nikolas Lund-Hansen.
The Rubell Museum became ever so lively when we met Mera Rubell herself. I didn’t have any expectations so stepping into the museum was both surprising and thought provoking. Professor Bailly’s warning for us was simple. If we spent time trying to judge the different pieces by what we think is art and what we think isn’t, we wouldn’t be able to have an enjoyable experience. Keeping this in mind, I had an open mind when not only viewing art but also in my personal interpretations of an art piece.
My lack of experience in contemplating contemporary art shone through during an encounter with Yayoi Kusama’s Narcissus Garden. Interpreting it as two pathways, I chose to walk through a side of the artwork. The appearance of these balls from the outside meant this artwork might as well have belonged in a fancy playground. After learning about the purpose and story intended behind the placement and idea of the stainless steel balls, made me appreciate its presence in the museum much more. It gave me an additional layer of ideas to think about. That went along my whole time at the museum. I stopped adding value into the equation and was able to focus on the intent behind the individual artworks.
By also doing the experience as a big class, it was interesting to hear the opinions of my classmates about different pieces. I felt like talking about the art, artists, details, and materials used, helped bring out the best of what art is intended to do. By discussing respectfully, the art comes to life and it quickly becomes clearer that walking through an artwork was probably not the best idea, regardless of its value but more in context of the value of an undisrupted artwork like that one.
The pointing out of certain issues such as the struggles of African Americans and climate change, meant we were able to reflect on it for a moment. I arguably believe the artist’s job has become more difficult than ever to have a lasting impact on the minds of people. Social media is ever present in our lives and so finding something never seen before and living in the moment can be difficult. Our visit did provide solid discussion among us students and for me, I encountered so many different impressions during the trip. However, to a certain extent, I also witnessed the temporary fix art brought to me. While art brought peace and provoked thought and new perspectives, I recognized that visiting the Rubell Museum was a privilege and not accessible the same way for everyone. On the way home, I was able to witness Carlos Alfonzo’s Ceremony of the Tropics yet again at the Santa Clara metro station. It made me think about how Miami, being a global city, shares many of the globe’s major issues. If we can get more public art in the future, these inspirational pieces about climate change, poverty, and racial equality will have a greater impact. Art should be for the people, and we can hope that as many students as possible are able to visit the Rubell Art Museum in future.
Untitled Art as Text:
Untitled Art Fair. Photos taken and edited by Nikolas Lund-Hansen
There is a first for everything. Last week happened to be my first time attending the Miami Art Week as I visited the Untitled Art Fair. Our talk with the artist curator and director of the Untitled Art Fair, Omar López-Chahou became a preview to entering into the unknown for me. Previous to attending this fair, I had no idea of how such a visited Art Fair functions especially in one of the busiest cities in the world. It was made more apparent for me during our visit, but it still amazes me to see how these exhibitions can run so smoothly given the number of visitors. The gallery was busy and was organized based off of the exhibit name and where the gallery was based in. Walking through the rows of galleries, New York City, the art industry’s biggest market, had the most galleries on display.
Witnessing cities like Cologne, Paris or Tokyo gave me a sense of how international the Untitled Exhibition was. This was also reflected in the diverse audience of people walking through the exhibit alongside us. Finally, we found something that looked familiar – Wynwood, Miami. We were lucky enough to speak with Tyler Emerson Dorsch and Brook Dorsch. We had been briefed by professor Bailly about the stresses of being a gallerist and the immense pressure there is to sell artworks, so we scooted into a corner of this gallery to not block the views of potential buyers and to be able to hear Tyler and Brook better.
The source of inspiration had been to make a Latin American and New York fusion of art and the gallery had a mix of sculptures, and portraits. It was also later on also interesting to hear from other artists being represented by different galleries. One artwork that stood out to me was one done by Magnus Sigurdason. He combined different elements during more than a years’ time to create what he sometimes thought Miami to be like. A pole with a chain held a Southeast Asian inspired decorative cage with a glass dolphin in the middle. The dolphin in the middle was surrounded by moving lines of what seemed black textile, to symbolize oil and pollution.
Being represented by a non-profit gallery in Miami, I was able to better understand and connect with the process it took him to have an artwork at such a prestigious fair. As my twin brother and I explored the rest of the fair by ourselves it was incredible to realize the value of creativity we were walking through. I felt like it was also important to recognize that besides having the purpose of giving the public eye a glimpse into the elite contemporary art scene, many people were under pressure during the event. Logistics are a big issue for new and upcoming artists and even established ones need to rely on galleries to make a living to gain exposure. It was wild to think that some people walking alongside us had the funds to help sustain the lifestyle of an artist and at the same time provide the world with the gifts of that particular artist like the wealthy families during the Renaissance.
Everglades as Text:
Inside the Cypress Dome. Photo by Nikolas Lund-Hansen
Expectations were high coming into last Wednesday’s slough slog. To experience something that would make us “above-average” Miamians, was definitely something I looked forward for. The moment of silence in the Everglades couldn’t have been more fitting to our purpose of finding the real Miami. While the water hadn’t gotten warmer, I quickly adapted to it, and became unbothered with its presence at either knee or thigh height. The wooden staff was a reminder of our vulnerability to nature as we waded deeper and deeper into the Everglades. This wooden staff was our only tool keeping us on our feet at all times. The power of walking with little other than a bag for our basic necessities made our journey less of an expedition and more of an exploration.
The information and knowledge gained through this experience about conservation, history and current events happening were definitely not light. Flagler again was the villain of the story, having an impulsion to build a railroad across the Everglades. Necessary efforts to conserve, among other things, South Florida’s largest water source meant we could enjoy a sliver of this park during our trip.
Having our eyes shut and not saying anything meant a more acute understanding of the natural processes happening around us. Gusts of wind from outside the Cypress Dome were loud yet gentle and so was the screech of trees rubbing against each other. Our coexistence with nature was most present in that moment. As we stood there, the plants and animals hidden in our vicinity didn’t poke us or curiously get closer. We coexisted. Focused on our immediate surroundings, our next footstep, and instruction from Professor Bailly and Ranger Dylann meant we couldn’t take notice of every single process happening around us. Some of them regardless were invisible to the naked eye such as the photosynthesis cultivating grasses, trees, and moss, but still happening. My twin brother Marco saw a snake slither past, possibly on its way to catch some prey and a red woodpecker didn’t stop pecking despite our presence.
The Anhinga trail was what the slough slog made us work for, made easy. The sight of fish, birds, and alligators helped me realize the privilege of seeing the Everglades through the slough slog. The Anhinga trail meant not getting wet and following a straightforward boardwalk. Our eyes peeled to the right and left sides of the boardwalk looking for wildlife. On our slough slog, being a small point in something bigger than ourselves allowed me to reflect on how much we need the Everglades. As infamous as this national park is, we still need it, and the Everglades needs us to take care of it. Entering through the Ernst F Coe Visitor Center provided space for a mental regroup before entering into another dimension. Like a question with indefinite answers, the diverse ecosystems of the Everglades are all ones that add to our South Floridian Community and the World, beauty, and a majestic natural imbalance. The unique opportunity to be surrounded by nature for 360 degrees helped me feel free with my thoughts. Being only an hour away from the densest part of Miami where my physical home is, I hope the Everglades can help me as much as I want to help it.
Miami Encounter as Text:
Sitting in the Everglades. Photo taken by Letizia.
Encountering and learning about Miami in the fall, left me with a base of uncovered of Miami’s historical past both from an environment, socioeconomic and cultural way. Much of what we saw in our trips had been altered from unspoiled nature and indigenous lands. The transition from Miami as a sleepy town and later Miami transformed by Flagler’s railroad. The transformation of Miami meant segregating a previously interracial town, and also changing much of South Florida’s environment, among other things removing all the mangroves from Miami Beach.
One big part of the fall semester was “uncovering” historical facts that are not commented on or taught enough in early education. The other part was finding hidden gems in a city that focuses a lot on catering to tourists and their exotic, often skewed perspectives of what being in Miami means. Being part of a diverse class from different places and different countries, it meant that some of us would be new to the information and locations presented to us on our excursion. What surprised me so much was, even after living in Miami for 11 years I found myself not knowing as much as I thought I did.
Living in Brickell means being constantly bombarded with the modern. The buildings that make up the densest populated part of Miami are part of a completely man-made transformation of South Florida. The added factor of a lack of acknowledgement or historical events and achievements of early champions of conservation in our own backyard, meant that before this class, I hadn’t been exposed to the authentic Miami as much as I am now. Going to a K-8 in the beginning of Calle Ocho and not having been exposed to the nearby Downtown memorials like the house of William Wagner and the Slave Quarters was a mystery.
Being a part of this trip has made me think about why elementary and middle schools, and even high schools prioritize visiting places like ZooMiami instead of experiencing true South Floridian nature. I agree that visiting some locations like Flaglers statue and learning about him and development in Miami, can be a bit heavy for younger students. However, it can only do good having knowledge and being exposed to nature in the form of the Deering Estate, Chicken Key and the Everglades. Definitely learning about Julia Tuttle, Barbara Capitman, Diana Crump, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, William Wagner can also only benefit and inspire young students.
It has been privileged to visit some unique and beautiful sites. The saying is also better later than never and this goes hand in hand with my new knowledge of Miami in Miami. I still can’t imagine how transformative this information and experiences could have been to me if I had been exposed to them in my earlier years of education. The trips so far have made me more aware of the remnants of early injustice, gaps of wealth and the struggle to keep Miami authentic. I am ready to embark on another mission this semester to see many places that I already know, in a different light.
Coconut Grove as Text:
Historical Coconut Grove Cemetery. Photo taken by Nikolas Lund-Hansen
Coconut Grove is a special place for me. Since I moved to Miami with my family, Coconut Grove has always been a place to be. Coconut Grove is somewhere I am lucky enough to drive by or visit several times a week, whether it is going to church, visiting parks, grocery shopping or playing sports. What struck me most during our first class of the Miami in Miami class was learning about how Coconut Grove was a segregated city for Bahamians. Their exclusion from Miami meant a forced transport “across the town” to get to Overtown. The segregation of the city was still markant in the neighborhood we walked to, leading up to the cemetery. That can easily be taken for granted, as I have grown up doing most of my travels in the area of Brickell, Downtown, Coral Gables and Coconut Grove. The reality of Bahamians is they were slaves to the society they lived in and were greatly prejudiced and unable to reap a freedom of commuting where they wished.
Today, the area of Cocowalk and the new luxury condos are far off of what authentic Coconut Grove used to be going back just twenty, thirty years ago and even less than a hundred years. We were able to visit the authentic Coconut Grove that remained and learn about the people who made their mark in Coconut Grove’s history.
The Historic Coconut Grove Cemetery and the Barnacle were the two places which induced most thought. Uproar at the proposition of moving the cemetery elsewhere because of space, The Bahamian cemetery was saved by EW Stirrup, among other successful black families. Through buying land these five families secured a place for Bahamians to rest in peace close to where they lived. The cemetery accommodated hundreds of Bahamian tombs, including some of Coconut Grove’s pioneers. Among the people buried in the graveyard were the founders of Christ Episcopal Church (Daniel and Catherine Anderson), the owner of the bicycle store (Joseph Mayor), and a successful developer (John Sweeting) and his family. The uniqueness of having the tombs above ground and the twelve “head and shoulder” stones, makes the graveyard not only one of the most special cemeteries in Miami but in also the world.
Visiting the Barnacle was another experience that made me go back in time. The location of the park and the home sits as pristine as can be. Despite not being a “palace” like Charles Deering’s Vizcaya, Ralph Munroe’s home provided the same serene effect, as it did when entering Vizcaya and seeing the sea. Entering through a heavily vegetive surrounding to then an open view of the Biscayne Bay, was finding peace. Ralph Munroe built his house before Flagler’s railroad, realizing that Miami and Coconut Grove would change forever. As we walked by the Main Hwy and were able to witness shops, schools, and residential buildings, having a spot like Barnacle that still hides like a gem from its altered surroundings is refreshing.
Norton as Text:
Living in the bustling city of Miami, a now well-established metropolis in the world comes with its benefits. On the gastronomical, architectural and sports fronts we are fortunate to have in our backyard some of the most globally recognized sports teams, organizations, and restaurants. The art scene in Miami is currently known for its contemporary exhibitions such as Art Basel, Wynwood Art Festival, and the Untitled Art Fair, among others. While these events and exhibitions are also globally known to attract visitors from all over the world, there is little exposure to the old. The old classical art institutions are difficult to come by in Miami and are often overlooked.
This leaves a gray area of classical paintings that “Miamians” have access to and in this case meant we had to search elsewhere to get a notion of what a world class “classical” art museum would look like. The experience added a perspective on my view of art galleries. Often we forget about those who came before us, even our own family history. Our interest and pleasure in creating something new that has never been seen before absorbs us from the reality of where we come from and can misguide us. Art helps bring history to life and this was evident in everything from the Catholic artworks to Claude Monets water lilies and the ancient Chinese pottery. At the end of the day these are all memories of people whom we will never meet and perhaps never understand. Even so, by just observing the artworks our interpretations become priceless. I resonated mostly with the Chinese artworks and poetry and with the Christian-themed artworks. The Chinese artworks were interesting as the Asian Population in South Florida is very small and we are rarely presented with the chance to visit authentic remnants of Asian history in general.
Having taken Mandarin and being familiar with Chinese History, the exhibition at the museum helped add a new layer of depth. While we have access to countless documentaries and photos on the internet, experiencing art is the closest way to get mentally transported to another era or country without a time machine or plane tickets. Being Catholic on the other hand also helped me see the Bible through the eyes of artists and the general population hundreds of years ago. The focus on relatability in the paintings representing Jesus, the Disciples and Mary among other important figures, meant placing them in an environment of society at the time. The function of successful storytelling became equal to how well people could relate to an art piece. The soldiers in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus was handed over, wear iron protection even though metal armor didn’t exist at the time of Jesus Christ. It was incredible to think about the impact of these paintings on the general population in Europe at the time. Sure, few wealthy families were able to become part of biblical paintings through payment but in general these paintings helped provide life and illustration to the most read “story” in the man’s existence.
Seeing history flash before our eyes through a walk in the museum was definitely interesting and reminded us as a class about the history we often forget and the people of the past.
Key Biscayne as Text:
Bill Baggs Lighthouse. Photo by Nikolas Lund-Hansen
The “Key” is often known affectionately to all of us that see it as an alternative to the generally spring breaker heavy Miami Beach. A blessing of a location we were able to enjoy pristine nature yet again last Wednesday in class. I have had the privilege of have visited Key Biscayne’s different beaches countless times before. Through this class I became aware that Virginia Key’s beach was the only public beach available to blacks at the time following the sale of Fischer Island. When talking to Ranger Andrea, I was told that the nearby Crandon Park although having a nature center, had a close to entirely manipulated and manicured beachfront in comparison to Bill Baggs.
Unsurprisingly, the area known as Bill Baggs Beach, had been through challenges in its time. Once a place for fishing and leisure for the Tequestas living at the Bay of the Miami River, it also became a key site for the Underground Railroad for slaves. Known as the Saltwater Underground Railroad, small boats would help slaves over to the Bahamas. The construction of the lighthouse meant that the Saltwater Underground Railroad was exposed to the fleets of US Navy ships hanging around miles of the Key Biscayne Coast.
The historical elements of this place were interesting to learn about, especially how its sheer location meant a significant to the different groups “residing” in Florida at the time. From the Tequesta, to the Spanish, to the Seminoles, to the slaves and also belonging to the United States, each group had their own interests with this land. As we learned, the Seminoles became infuriated with the building of the lighthouse, consequently attacking and setting the lighthouse on fire. The group of Seminoles were “confronted” with just two people. While the lighthouse man and his slave both got wounded, the lighthouse keeper was able to survive by throwing a barrel of gunpowder on fire and tossing it to the bottom of the lighthouse.
The story brought the lighthouse to life on a day with gray, windy weather. Looking up at the lighthouse it was hard to picture the action that had occurred almost 200 years ago. A point of reflection was the abode of the lighthouse keeper. Remodeled after the recent hurricanes that damaged the house, it was hard to imagine the isolated faced by him and his assistant. When we did a 360 degree walk around the lighthouse we were able to point out places that seemed so familiar to us. Dadeland, Brickell, Miami Beach, Coconut Grove, etc. For the lighthouse keeper staring out from the top of the lighthouse meant looking at greenery and ocean, and to Miami that was not even a city yet.
As one might expect boredom meant the lighthouse keeper going on his own adventures and leaving the place to be taken care of two women. Women taking charge in Miami, has been a theme of our class and again the responsibility of a lighthouse is easy to look aside but nevertheless an integral part of daily life in those times.
Being back and enjoying the lighthouse, fitting in a minor cleanup, I felt enlightened leaving the “Key” as much as I would on a sunny day.
Wynwood as Text:
The Margulies Collection at the WAREhOUSE. Photo taken by Nikolas Lund-Hansen
Travelling to Wynwood meant travelling to a place alive in art. Art being found everywhere and, in any form, meant entering the “neighborhood” was like arriving into an open gallery. The Wynwood we saw was a Wynwood completely transformed from its working-class history. A drug and unemployment ridden place in the 1970s, in recent history Wynwood attracts millions of people from around the world to see its galleries. Having seen the Wynwood Walls and learned about the history of Wynwood on class trips to the area before, I was able to admire art that I hadn’t seen before and meet the people behind the exhibitions/galleries.
Meeting Martin Margulies was a treat. He was the sponsor of the Margulies collection and had both an interesting background and motivation to have a vast collection of art. We were lucky to have him show us around his collection at the WAREhOUSE, as Mr. Margulies mentioned he rarely did these tours anymore. After having a successful career as a realtor, he started collecting art in 1998 with help from an art curator named Katherine Hinds. The collection at the WAREhHOUSE has been open since 1999.
Some of the artworks I found most impactful were the Holocaust memorial-esque artworks and those prints representing Jews fleeing persecution. The reason I felt more inclined to this type of artwork was because when observing them, it made me think about my roots. Regardless if we are of Jewish descent or not, we have established in this class that it can only be valuable to discover and learn more about ones roots. Through learning about the struggles of other people and seeing them in similar shoes as our own ancestors, we can learn to view the world in another lens. Considering that we all immigrants in the United States except for the First Natives, we could all for example, learn to be more empathetic towards refugees.
In the collection, another exhibit that caught my eye was Olafur Eliasson’s Your now is my surroundings (2000). Fortunately, as the collection was expanding, Mr. Margulies found the perfect place to accommodate the installation. As I walked up to the installation, uniquely the presence of mirrors didn’t make it seem neither hot nor claustrophobic. It was like staring into my own reflection in a lake rather than looking directly into the sun. The contrast of light between the rest of the collection and that exhibit was surprisingly not blinding. My interpretation of this piece was as a place where there is an inability to hide from the light and reality of mirrors. The surroundings of the mirrors mean we are able to observe both our own physical features and what is happening above. We often get accustomed to wanting fast change in ourselves or in the world. It can be something as simple as gaining more muscles or getting better at something. We take our looks just like the sky for granted and don’t realize that change is omnipresent. Transformation rarely occurs from one day to another and while everything might seem the same as it was a few hours ago, change is happening around us, and in us both mentally and physically.
I couldn’t help but have a conversation with Marco and Delano and Mr. Margulies to gain more insight on his purpose in the art world. He summed it up perfectly by saying something along the lines of:
“Donations of art shouldn’t be given to then be named after the donor. The art pieces should provoke conversation among those viewing the work and in FIU’s case, make us feel proud to be attending FIU”.
Chicken Key as Text
Our trip to Chicken Key was definitely a highlight the first time we went last Fall. Even in early September and late April, we often can take South Florida’s weather for granted. During this class we have encountered everything from windy and rainy days to days where it was temperature for long pants. Most of all however, the days were sunny and while people up North would need long pants and thick hoodies to go kayaking in April, we were fortunate to go in shorts. The wind was more like a challenge than an obstacle and I thought we as a class braved it well. Going on canoes meant having to apply extra force and have a certain degree of chemistry to make it to Chicken Key. As I plowed with my brother Marco, we got to the island quickly and were able to enjoy the uniqueness of canoeing on a windy day with high tide.
The cleanup for me was a continuation of what we’ve learned in this class and the values we have strengthened. We cleaned up trash for a good two hours +, and without complaining. There was a reflective notion, that no matter how many times we would visit, Chicken Key would always have substantial amounts of trash. However, our activation in cleaning overwhelmed this notion, as I felt privileged to be on the island a second time in a year to cleanup. While the trips entirety took 4-5 hours, the time passed quickly, and I felt like they were productive. The biggest “distraction” was the rubber ball, still intact for a game of catch. In an isolated setting with no internet, we were able to disconnect and our issues in the real world disappeared. I think we can all apply this when wanting to do a job well done. A good combination of self control from our distractions, exercise, and being out of our comfort zone in a unique setting can propel us with practice to be effective. Our way of compartmentalizing in a week with Finals, helped me try to improve the island.
We had a team going and with other classmates we made collecting trash enjoyable. Making it the last class also felt like the end of an era. We tried to make the most out of it, with an inclusive game of catch and by loading up the canoes to the brim with trash bags. The canoe trip back was easier with regard to the wind, but the trash weighed us down a bit more. There wasn’t much of a rush to come back to the island but even, so Marco and I decided to mix enjoyment of the surroundings with strong paddling. The trash we brought back did weigh us down, but the current going in our direction made us ride the waves instead of colliding with them. I thought of it this way: If the trash was heavy in our canoes and in the other canoes, imagine how heavy a burden must have been on the island’s shoulders. Hopefully next time we get to try the kayaks (0/4).