Skye Duke: Miami as Text 2022-2023

Versailles / Photograph taken by Olivia Guthrie / CC by 4.0

Skye Duke is a Junior at Florida International University, majoring in Criminal Justice and Disaster Management, with a certificate in Political Transition and Human Rights. She intends to pursue a career in human rights and humanitarian aid, and is interested in criminal justice reform. She was born in England and lived in Dubai for a short time. Having moved to Miami, then recently spending time studying in France and backpacking across Europe, travel along with the exploration of culture is a passion in which she now finds integral to life. When she’s not reading or gaming, she’s most likely consuming some other form of escapism, romanticizing the mundane and willing the fantastical into existence.

Downtown as Text

Downtown Miami / Photograph taken by Skye Duke / CC by 4.0

To The Names That Shape the Skyline

By Skye Duke of FIU at Downtown Miami on October 31, 2022

Downtown Miami is a unique area, where a significant landscape of urbanisation meets the ocean in which Miami is known for. The area is just one of many that serves as a reminder that South Florida’s history is so deprived in the education of its residents, and yet so ingrained in the place. Upon walking around Downtown, there are three memorials that pay tribute to notable figures who have shaped the place to be as it is today.  

Downtown Miami / Photograph taken by Skye Duke / CC by 4.0

In considering the area of Downtown Miami, it is imperative to acknowledge potentially its most important figure. Julia Tuttle is known as the ‘Mother of Miami’ and can be attributed to founding the city. It was 1894, and Tuttle, a businesswoman (who sold oranges) and property owner in what is now known as Miami, sought to bring the railroad down Florida, to connect the now city to the rest of the country. When oranges became widely unobtainable due to weather, Tuttle won over the rich businessman responsible for extending the railroads. By sending a crate of her oranges, which did not undergo the harsh weather conditions tormenting the other parts of the country due to the unique climate of Miami, and giving up a piece of her land, the railroad was built! 

The rich businessman responsible for the extended railway is better known to history, his name now a well-known street in South Florida. Henry Flagler came to the area in 1878 and was involved in the incorporation of Miami. A statue of Flagler stands outside of the Dade County Courthouse. It cannot be argued that Henry Flagler brought about positive elements of the Miami that we know today… and yet he brought a lot of negatives too. Flagler can be blamed for the segregation of African Americans along with the formation of ‘Coloured Town’. He also demolished a Tequesta Burial Mound along with wreaking havoc on Miami’s environment by having his hostel’s sewage run into the Miami River. In my opinion, he is not a man that should be so glorified as to have his name on a major road that is utilised by a huge majority of the residents of the area daily. It is unfortunate that a man responsible for such actions has been chosen by history to be remembered in such a way, but very few know Tuttle’s name. A woman to thank for so much but known now to so few.   

The Major Dade Plaque brings another notable figure into the conversation when considering the historical importance of Downtown Miami. The plaque can be found on the Dade County Courthouse and explains the events which led to the naming of the county. In 1835, Major Francis Langhorne Dade, under the orders of the Federal Government, led his men in a move to defeat the Seminoles as they refused to surrender during the Second Seminole War. He was extremely unfamiliar with the area, and despite this, didn’t utilise his scouts as he wished to move faster. This proved to be a fatal flaw in his attack. Other than three men, the troops all died as they were ambushed by waiting Seminoles. This incident is referred to today as the Dade massacre and the county is named after a man defeated in battle. It is almost comical that a man who made such poor judgments in his role has received a tribute that is lasting to this day… and then disturbing when one considers a man involved in genocide and the mistreatment of Native Americans.

Downtown Miami / Photograph taken by Skye Duke / CC by 4.0

It is in knowing these facts, that Downtown becomes a living contradiction. The place is littered with politically charged stickers and posters. Advocating for change. Opposing the current social order. Demanding awareness. All of which concerning matters of political figures and legislative issues, both pertaining to a national scale. It struck me to see such posters across the street from a plaque memorialising Dade, and the statue of Flagler. I must wonder whether educational efforts would have activists in uproar over the glorification of those involved in suppressing the state’s former inhabitants.  

How do well educated activists oppose the present but do nothing in the face of a buried past? Or even on a more personal level, how do we as residents live with so little protest to names that immortalise such a dark past? At what point do we become complicit? There is a burden to being educated, as we are no longer able to sit in our ignorance.  Words have power, and so do names. I find it disturbing that certain name, that are related to such acts as Dade and Flagler, have been cemented in time, whilst names like Tuttle are barely whispered anymore. I will personally never hear the words Miami Dade County the same. But will speak of Tuttle, the Mother of Miami, proudly. 

Overtown as Text

Overtown / Photograph taken by Skye Duke / CC by 4.0

To Protect and Preserve

By Skye Duke of FIU at Overtown on September 14, 2022

While walking the area of Overtown, I was struck by how little of Miami I have explored and how uneducated I am in its history. Walking around Downtown Miami introduced parts of the past regarding Flagler and his act of segregating the African American population of Miami. After having taken time to consider that, it felt extremely immersive to then visit the area of Overtown, where people found themselves forced to live under Flagler’s instructions. Despite this, the place now holds a rich past that serves as a celebration of black history in Miami. 

The Greater Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church is one example of the historically important landmarks within Overtown (it is on the National Register of Historical Places). The church was founded in 1896 by Alex Lightburn, and destroyed in 1926 by a hurricane. The community came together in 1928 to build the church which stands today, completing it in 1943. In 1958 on the 12th of February, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke, in an attempt to encourage voter registration.

If democracy is to win its rightful place throughout the world, millions of people, Negro and white, must stand before the world as examples of democracy in action, not as voteless victims of the denial and corruption of our heritage.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. needs little explanation as to his historical importance. His coming to the Greater Bethel Church highlights the fact the area held an important role in civil rights and political change. To stand in a place where one of the most important speakers in history and figures in the pursuit of civil rights spoke was a lot to take in. It reaffirms the importance of Overtown and all it now represents.

Lyric Theatre / Photograph taken by Skye Duke / CC by 4.0

Another place located on the National Register of Historic places is the Lyric Theatre. During the time of segregation in Miami, many black artists were forced to relocate upon ending their performances in South Beach, unable to stay the night in the majority white owned districts. Therefore, while staying the night in Overtown, many performers ended their evenings by putting on an additional show, one that was more intimate and lively, in the Lyric Theatre. The theatre thrived during the 1930’s through 1940’s, and due to this NW 2nd Avenue coined the name Little Broadway. Along with concerts, the venue held Political meetings, boxing matches, and pageants, along with many other events. To this day, the theatre still puts on events, and symbolizes a period of incredible talent in the music community.

Roaming around the area, one is struck with the strength of the community and its residents. There is a sense of pride in those who call the place home, so much so that we ran into a man wearing head to toe Overtown merch. And yet despite housing many historically significant landmarks, the district also speaks to a prominent modern issue which is actively changing the community and burying its past by rebuilding a new Overtown.  

Gentrification is the act of attempting to add value to the area, and in theory looks to benefit the community by bringing in new businesses and improving residential buildings. In reality, gentrification preys upon minorities, and those in lower economic areas, breeding racial inequalities and leading to the mass displacement of communities. Overtown saw huge numbers of displacement when the highway was built in the 1960’s, and continues to experience such as homes are destroyed to house new shops and apartment complexes. The original residents cannot afford to stay in the areas due to a rising cost of living, developers are essentially forcing people out of the area so that they can tailor the demographic to suit their needs and industries. It is actively stripping the area of its culture, community, and the residents in which make the place so special. 

I understand that it’s important for areas to adapt, and there will always be incentive for economic and monetary gain. And yet, that does not justify what is occurring. Places like Overtown must be protected, not destroyed and whitewashed. It does a disservice to those of the past, along with those in the present who do not deserve to lose their homes in order for a new community to take advantage of potential economic profits. Gentrification can often fade and become a metaphorical economical issue. But exploring Overtown forces the concept to reshape, becoming more personal, as it ceases to be a faceless issue. 

I feel as though throughout my exploration of Miami I’ve taken a stance of protecting the past, not allowing it to fall through the cracks. To be buried. But Overtown must be protected in the present. It must not be lost to developers and gentrifiers. Its rich past along with its current community are hugely important to the diverse and special nature of Miami as whole.

Chicken Key as Text

Biscayne Bay / Photograph taken by Skye Duke / CC by 4.0

To Change the Tides

By Skye Duke of FIU at Chicken Key on October 5, 2022

In Miami, I would argue that it is so easy to become disconnected, in a place that’s exterior often feels so superficial. And yet, it is places like Chicken Key, where the world of urbanisation and industrialization simply falls away. While I unfortunately did not get to attend this class’s lecture, and haven’t been able to visit Chicken Key itself, I have been fortunate to explore many small islands around the coast of Miami over the years. I have found no greater sense of serenity, as to when I get to be alone with sea on a kayak. It’s a grounding experience, as the water almost washes away the world around it, all the daily anxieties and stressors. 

One mile offshore and ¾ km from Paradise point, sits the island of Chicken Key. Formed by the ocean currents, the island is made up of quartz and limestone, and has an oolite mound, which differentiates it from being a usual sand key. In the 1940’s, Chicken Key came to be due to the dredging of a closeby canal, where deposited spoil elevated the island to three feet above sea levels. Removal efforts to combat the impacts of dredging occurred in 1996, and the island now better reflects its initial state.

Biscayne Bay / Photograph taken by Skye Duke / CC by 4.0

There is something about water that’s healing to be around and within. The ocean is this immovable force, permanent and unyielding, seemingly so unaffected by the world around it. Except, it’s not. Because as humanity has developed and innovation has occurred, we have mistreated it. We have let ourselves taint it, mark it, darken it. Places such as Chicken Key, and the surrounding small islands within Biscayne Bay, highlight the need to protect the gifts of nature we have been granted. 

Marine debris and hydrological changes severely threaten Biscyane bay. Plastics and other forms of waste are long lasting, and hugely disruptive and dangerous to ecosystems within the ocean. Dredged canals and coastal runoff are impacting the surrounding freshwater. The water quality is only deteriorating, and poor water management practices indicate minimal chance of change unless action is taken. Biscayne Bay’s seagrass has proven to be essential to marine life, and its prevalence is declining due to said problems. 

As someone who is majoring in disaster management, and has studied protocols that pertain to environmental factors that seek to preserve and protect an area during a crisis, I see the importance of action. In considering the state of Biscayne Bay, the importance of climate change activism only becomes more apparent. It is crucial that we force ourselves to become informed over the impacts of our actions, and the ways in which they are hurting the earth. We must apply changes to our daily choices, and think beyond ourselves.

It is easy to cling to ignorance, to pass the issue onto the next generation. For we will not be of those who will truly feel the implications of this issue. But it will be our children, and those who come after us. And we will have failed them. It is in seeing natural islands covered in human made debris that must prompt us to act. I stand by that as humans, we must leave behind more than we take. And currently, our legacy will be one of destruction, and devaluing what must be protected. Nature is indefensible against the actions of humans. We must step up, and be better.

Vizcaya as Text

Vizcaya Gardens / Photograph taken by Skye Duke / CC by 4.0

To View the World in a New Light

By Skye Duke of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens on October 19, 2022

The beauty of the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens cannot be expressed enough. The grounds are extravagant and overwhelming. Every design choice and every feature screams wealth and thought out intent. The place is designed to draw you in, offering a peak of the villa through the trees from the top of a downward path, which is lined with water features. Your legs move on their own – eager to enter what feels like a brand new world, somewhere far from its surrounding city of Miami. 

I find that experiences change the way we view the world around us. I think of life to be painted in different hues, that change over time and depend on where you are in life and your relationship with the world around you. I adopted a fairly cynical stance last time I visited Vizcaya, viewing it in a somewhat dark and shadowed light. Though I found it to be beautiful and understood its value, I was caught up in debating the need for such opulence. I could not think beyond the fact it was built upon the backs of marginalised individuals who were taken advantage of by a social structure that is now so outdated and condemnable.

Vizcaya Museum / Photograph taken by Skye Duke / CC by 4.0

For context, James Deering began construction of Vizcaya in 1912. He was a wealthy businessman, who made his money from a harvester company. Alongside his designer Paul Chalfin, he sought to build an estate in which encapsulated his wealth, and would become his winter home, a place in which he was able to indulge in hedonism and his bachelor lifestyle. Over the years of construction, Vizcaya saw at least 1000 people employed. At this time, Miami was racially segregated and construction efforts took advantage of this, hiring Bahamians and providing poor work conditions and little compensation. Vizcaya is a show of wealth that does not coincide with the treatment of those crucial to its existence. The place also somewhat erases the history of the area, with no mention of its original inhabitants (the Tequesta), nor any acknowledgment of the people who built it, favouring European culture. 

I have since undergone experiences that have changed the way I interact with the world around me. I now understand that we cannot project modern standards onto the past. I am even more passionate about the fact that injustices must be brought to light, but I no longer believe that they need to stain all that remains, but can also serve to strengthen its significance. Places such as Vizcaya now represent how beauty can exist among a turbulent and problematic past. Studying in France, discussing the horrors of history whilst also touring what I now consider to be some of the most beautiful and impactful places in the world, has put things into perspective. Therefore this time, once again visiting and standing on the grounds, I believe that I saw Vizcaya through a brighter hue, despite the weather being overcast and rainy.

Vizcaya Museum / Photograph taken by Skye Duke / CC by 4.0

What I would give to have a library with a ‘hidden’ door leading to rooms with imported ceilings and harps owned by Marie Antionette. To live in a place where secrets lie in the marble that isn’t marble and the lion in which seems all too happy to be there. Vizcaya is a place of intrigue, where you roam in the hopes to simply get a glimpse into the minds of those who crafted and created what is now a portal into a different world. The building displays a style that is heavily influenced by Europe, so much so that the observer feels as though they have been whisked away to Italy upon walking down the path. With a Mediterranean architectural style and the Tropical Hardwood Hammocks, Vizcaya is truly like no other place in Miami. Though its influence can be felt far and wide throughout the area. 

It is in acknowledging the good and bad of Vizcaya, that it becomes extremely nuanced… which I would argue only adds to its intrigue. It is rare that a place with such nuance stands the test of time, and the scrutiny of modern standards. Unfortunately, Vizacays past is somewhat buried and withheld from its visitors. I would be interested to see the grounds and those involved in its running embrace the past, and strive to reflect all aspects of how it came to be. We have a responsibility to acknowledge the past. It need not taint the present but stand so that events do not get downplayed or swept under the rug. 

That being said, Vizcaya has become one of my favourite places in Miami. Its power of teleportation is magical, and I can’t wait to go back once again and feel its charm. 

South Beach as Text

South Beach / Photograph taken by Skye Duke / CC by 4.0

To Imprint on One’s Mind

By Skye Duke of FIU at South Beach on October 2, 2022

Before I moved to Miami, my family and I visited for a week to determine if it would be a good fit. I knew even on the flight over that the trip didn’t matter. That week wasn’t going to change anything, I was trapped in my fate of leaving behind everything I had ever known and loved. We stayed in a hotel on South Beach, had the quintessential vacation that was split up with school visits and mundane moving prep. My parents went on and on about South Beach and living a life in the sun. How could we ask for more? 

I didn’t realize until recently that the reason I’ve always hated South Beach is because I associate it with the resentment in which I held toward the move. A place that so many feel intense happiness in is one that forces me to feel the weight of loss and hollowness that came with leaving behind England. I’ve found over the years that I don’t hate Miami as much as ‘teenage me’ wanted to (in fact it is one of the most unique places I have had the fortune to live in). But South Beach, the symbol of Miami life, has become the unfortunate victim at which I’ve thrown my distaste and words of resentment.  

There is something so profound about the connections we form to places. How individualistic and emotionally charged these links can be. And I think, putting aside my cynical outlook of the place, that that’s perhaps what’s so compelling about South Beach. I have never met anybody who doesn’t hold strong feelings towards the place, good and bad. I’d say my own perception is constantly shifting, between sincere appreciation and awe to apprehensive resentment. 

Colony Hotel / Photograph taken by Skye Duke / CC by 4.0

South Beach is greatly unique in its vast array of tourists, high energy restaurants and the eccentric architecture. The 2.7 square miles of South Beach are made up of character, colorful and exciting, with nonstop activity. It is no wonder why people flood from all around the world to come to South Beach. To be surrounded by such an environment leaves an impact. The Art Deco style of architecture is now ingrained in the global perception and identity of South Beach. Inspired by what was considered to be a glimpse into the future, playing on the shapes of machinery, the style of Art Deco is like no other. The style gained popularity following World War I, and boasts sleek, linear distinctive designs influenced by Mesopotamian and Mesoamerican styles. Glass brick, eyebrows, three stories and neon. When one sees the style it is unlikely any place but South Beach comes to mind.

Originally developed by Carl Fisher, South Beach as we know it today was always intended to be a tourist attraction. That is not to say nothing existed before its development. South Beach of the past was one of nature, so far away from the materialistic essence of the current landscape. The barrier island was covered in mangroves, and the home to a plethora of marine life. Evidence shows proof of human inhabitants dating back to 10,000 years… though the process of urbanization has seemingly stripped the area of its important history, not acknowledging the past inhabitants such as the Tequesta and Seminoles. A CVS has a plaque noting that an important scene in Scarface was filmed there, but there is little to no indication of the beach’s past pertaining to segregation. There is a large Jewish population on South Beach, and tourists roam the area with no idea of its dark past ridden with anti-semitic rhetoric and behaviors. A picture perfect place that has erased its past in order to more effectively profit off of uneducated tourists.

When considering the marvels of South Beach along with the negative elements, it becomes a contradiction of itself. I always joke about the sun shining brighter over the strip of land. Perhaps that allows for the shadows to be cast further, where the important truths about its past are able to easily hide from the light. South Beach reminds me that it is okay to have complex and nuanced relationships with my surroundings. That I can feel a certain way about a place, but still manage to appreciate it for its uniqueness and beauty. 

Deering Estate as Text

Deering Estate / Photograph taken by Skye Duke / CC by 4.0

To Walk in the Footsteps of History

By Skye Duke of FIU at Deering Estate on November 16, 2022

Even as I fought off the hordes of mosquitoes and battled through the webs of Lord of the Rings sized spiders, I was overwhelmed by the peace granted by  the Deering Estate. I found I could breathe easier, so immersed by the surrounding nature. Life for me is a constant battle of finding things to soothe my anxiety, something I have found to have been intensified upon moving to Miami. And yet the Deering Estate, the two times I have visited, has served as such a deep remedy, bringing forth a clear head and a light chest. The Deering Estate serves as an instant reminder that human beings were never meant to be so disconnected from nature. Our brains were never meant to be so absorbed in technology, our bodies trapped inside and cut off from the land in which we inhabit. Deering Estate, a place in which our geographical ancestors are so heavily ingrained within, is an intense reminder of the need for our generation to connect with nature and our surroundings. 

The Deering Estate is so unlike its surrounding area and state. With eight ecosystems, walking through the area provides an experience like no other in Miami. The early 20 century estate owned by Charles Deering brings about examples of architectural history, whilst the ground and lands offer archaeological and environmental findings, dating back to 100,000 years ago. The Deering Estate Nature Preserve is the home to various sites and many species that one does not simply encounter in city life. The Cutler Creek Bridge is an example of such, connecting fresh water to Biscayne Bay and the Everglades. It is occasionally visited by otters, objectively the cutest animals to grace planet earth (absolutely no bias here!). 

Cutler Creek Bridge / Photograph taken by Skye Duke / CC by 4.0

The Crashed Airplane site is an exciting part of the exploration that is venturing around the grounds of Deering Estate. To wade through knee high water surrounded by mangroves is already an abnormal experience, but to do so next to a crashed place is somewhat surreal – straight out of a movie. The plane crashed in the 1990’s and is said to have been carrying cocaine. It was abandoned upon the incident as those involved fled with their ‘precious’ cargo. Over time, people have scavenged the plane for parts, but it still sits among the mangroves, so at odds with its natural surroundings. 

The Cutler Fossil Site at Deering Estate has seen the discovery of fossils such as Pleistocene beasts. It is around 16 feet above sea level, and is considered a watering hole. Surrounded by layers of limestone, the site is protected due to its elevation and surroundings. Bones from dire wolves, camera and saber-toothed tigers have been uncovered in the site. To be so close to Miami, the bustling activity of city life, and to be able to visit the site of bones dating back to the Ice Age, it truly is a privilege. Humans have inhabited Florida for around 10,000 years, and to get to connect with the past so physically as to climb into archeological sites is an opportunity so few people get. 

The Deering Estate facilitates not only a meaningful way of connecting to nature but also the past. It shines a light on pieces of Miami’s history, such as the inhabitants of the Tequesta, in which so few of the current residents are aware. In the perfect blend of preserving the past but also making it accessible to the present, Deering Estate is truly a remarkable and important landmark in Miami that all should take the time to visit. I for one hold my visits as fond memories, constantly yearning to go back and trade the Miami I know, with that that is preserved within the Deering Estate.

Rubell Museum as Text

Rubell Museum / Photograph taken by Skye Duke / CC by 4.0

To the Butterflies

By Skye Duke of FIU at the Rubell Museum on November 23, 2022

Don and Mera Rubell, renowned collectors, started collecting art 54 years ago. What started as a passion funded by weekly installments has now led to an expansive collection filling multiple museums. The Rubells collection is made up of 7,200 works, created by a wide range of diverse and talented artists. The Rubells moved to Miami 29 years ago, and have seen the area artistically shift. The family established their art foundation in Wynwood in 1993, the exhibit playing an integral role in enabling the accessibility of contemporary art to the public. The Rubell Museum in Miami is located in Allapattah, in an industrial building with 53,000 square feet dedicated purely to their gallery. In October, 2022 the Rubells opened a new museum in Washington DC. Both of which primarily showcase contemporary art.

During my visit to the Rubell Museum, my group had the privilege to meet Mera Rubell, whose passion for art and the vision of the collection was infectious. During the conversation, Mera mentioned an analogy referring to butterflies. That life is all about finding the butterflies, the unexpected beautiful moments that seek us out when we least expect it. I thought, what a beautiful sentiment to consider before immersing oneself into a museum full of politically and socially prominent art. How something unexpected can strike a deep chord within your soul. How universally similar but unique the human experience is –  the intimate feeling of being moved by another person’s creation. To watch and observe these moments in others as they experience its impact too. 

Rubell Museum / Photograph taken by Skye Duke / CC by 4.0

The importance of contemporary art cannot be stated enough. It often portrays an insightful depiction of the time in which it was created. Like all forms of art, the pieces differ greatly, sometimes more literal, sometimes abstract. The art form has aesthetic value, along with providing an expressive outlet for the creator. Though personally, what draws me to contemporary art is that it forces one into not only contemplation regarding the world, but deep introspection into oneself. It can be thought provoking, can provide commentary on the world and prominent issues. I think it also facilitates connection between artists and others, how one’s story can be spread, voices amplified. In today’s day and age, even in the modern world, there are deep systematic issues. Art is an important facet in the pursuit to bring said issues to light. Contemporary art is so impactful, because even in the calmest of pieces, it can be loud. 

An exhibit that really emphasizes the impact of contemporary art at the Rubell Museum are the two immersive rooms created by Yayoi Kusama. Both rooms utilize mirrors, creating a feeling that can only be described as infinite. The first room is called ‘Infinity Mirrored Room – Lets Survive Forever’ and was created in 2017. With hundreds of mirrored balls framing the floor and hanging, the room is captivating. The other room is called ‘Where the Lights in My Heart go”, created in 2016. Mirrored all around with specs of light peeking through into the otherwise dark room. This room feels celestial, as though upon entry one is whisked away to the stars. These rooms are so special due to how overwhelming they are to view. The rooms elicit such intense reactions as one is completely encompassed within the environment of the art. The mirrors draw the viewers in, so that they too are a part of the piece. 

“Rubell” / Photograph taken by Skye Duke / CC by 4.0

One piece that stuck out to me was the mattress hanging near the entrance. Created by Kaari Upson, the piece is titled ‘Rubells’ and made out of silicone, spandex and fiberglass, and created by Kaari Upson in 2014. Without having gotten the chance to hear Mera speak, I would have simply considered the piece to be abstract and not given too much thought into its meaning. But, there lies the fun of contemporary art – the insignificant tends to be significant. To hear the firsthand account as to the commission and creation of the piece was extremely interesting. Intended to be a portrait of Don and Mera, the mattress serves as a raw depiction of their fifty plus years of marriage, the passage of time and the significance a mattress might play in such a partnership. It is such a unique depiction, and really made me consider the way life can be depicted through such abstract but fitting means.  

Upon leaving the museum, I found myself absorbed in the metaphor of the butterflies. I have a habit of avoidance, I spend so much time immersed into books and other means of escapism. I felt inspired by my experience at the Rubell Museum. Moved to not shut myself off from the butterflies, the moments in life that are raw and beautiful but unassuming. I want to romanticize my own life, instead of those within the pages. If people can summon the courage to be so honest, to strip their souls so bare in the form of art – I want to take that and force myself to be braver in life. To seek out the butterflies. 

Miami Art Week as Text

‘Theta Tati – Talk to me Father’ / Photograph taken by Skye Duke / CC by 4.0

To the Voices That Demand to be Heard

By Skye Duke of FIU at Untitled Art on November 30, 2022

In 2012, Untitled Art was founded by Jeff Lawson and has now become a prominent part of Miami Art Week. Presenting a plethora of diverse and intriguing contemporary pieces, Untitled Art highlights varying voices coming from all over the globe. Located on South Beach, as close to the sea as possible, a large white tent sitting upon the sand presents an exhibit as immersed in Miami as possible. There is something to be said about the different levels of art within places such as Untitled Art – where narratives and reflections of the world are so deeply ingrained in every aspect. Even in people watching, one sees such an array of personalities, eccentric and understated, rich Miamians to tourists and art appreciators. The visitors speak to the importance of places such as Untitled Art, that seek to present contemporary art and make it accessible to all. 

Kates-Ferri Projects debuted at Untitled Art with three female artists, in a booth titled HIS(HER)TORY. With an emphasis on gender and the female gaze, the exhibit showcased a socially and culturally relevant message seeking to amplify women’s voices and stories in the realm of contemporary art. Turiya Magadlela is one of those to have art in the booth, of which is called “Theta Tati – Talk to me Father”. Made of womens pantyhose, the piece is as thought provoking and moving as it is beautiful and eye-catching. From afar, I felt it was reminiscent of butterfly winds, and did not realize what it was made from until being told – and then it became extremely apparent. The piece itself centers around the status of equality for women globally, along with consumerism and greed. Pantyhose are perhaps of the more intimate items of clothing, to see them stretched thin and displayed in such a manner was extremely compelling, considering the way women are viewed and objectified.

‘We Are Night and Day’ / Photograph taken by Skye Duke / CC by 4.0

The HIS(HER)TORY exhibition also presented a piece titled “We Are Night and Day”, by C.J. Chueca. Composed of a series of plane windows made of clay, the piece shows various views such as sunsets and landscapes from the perspective of being inside the place. I felt impacted by the piece, having lived in three different countries and having spent my life moving constantly. I feel that such change is a deeply personal and life altering experience that few truly understand. The piece delved into how such movement can almost capture certain parts of one’s life, and that life and who we are almost becomes divided by the changes in life. The piece reflected the journey in which one travels through life, and I thought it was a really creative and clear way of doing so. 

While Untitled Art is obviously somewhat profit driven, it is clear there is an emphasis on uplifting voices and stories. Both mentioned pieces were so different and yet similar in that they were personal, rooted in passion and meaning. Walking around Untitled Art was completely engrossing, each piece captivating and actively drawing the viewer in. It became increasingly apparent as to why the fair was held in Miami as one ventured through the diverse and unique perspectives. Colorful and exciting, Unique Art displayed the best and most exciting contemporary art in today’s artistic landscape.

Chosen Neighborhood as Text

Dadeland Station / Photograph taken by Skye Duke / CC by 4.0

To Shop till You Drop

By Skye Duke of FIU at Dadeland on December 11, 2022

Dadeland is widely known as South Miami’s hub for all things shopping. And yet, when attempting to dive beyond the surface, the area becomes far more diverse in its attributes. The commercial districts boundaries are somewhat ill defined and is considered an edge city. Transportation is a notable element of the area, Dadeland North train station placed right by Dadeland Station. The area also is highly accessible by bus and car, surrounded by US 1, Kendall Drive and the Palmetto Expressway.

One cannot write about the area of Dadeland without starting with Dadeland Mall. Having opened in 1962, the mall is now a modern attraction with businesses reflecting current trends. Consisting of 185 stores, the mall is estimated to have 18 million shoppers annually. Spanning 1,498,000, Dadeland Mall has an array of businesses to suit all the needs of its clientele. From clothing stores, car dealerships, and cupcake vending machines, Dadeland Mall has it all.

Located merely across the road from the Mall is Dadeland Station, another shopping center that has far fewer stores but caters to those looking to spend less money or with more specific purchases in mind. With a Target, Best Buy, Bed Bath & Beyond, Dicks Sporting Goods and Michaels, the smaller three level mall meets all types of needs. Perhaps the most notable point about the place is that there are usually a plethora of parrots flying around the roof and resting on bars. 

Lan Pan Asian Cafe / Photograph taken by Skye Duke / CC by 4.0

On the ground floor, next to the expansive parking lot (which offers free parking), sits Lan Pan Asian Cafe. Having been in Miami since 1999, the small restaurant is fairly established for its delicious affordable food, featuring dishes from all around Asia. For boba lovers, the small restaurant has an expansive menu of bubble teas that enables full customization to fit your taste. Conveniently located, Lan Pan makes accessible a full dining experience or the ability to grab something and go after a long day of shopping. 

Fuchs Park / Photograph taken by Skye Duke / CC by 4.0

The area of Dadeland is for the most part concrete – made up of roads and businesses. Perhaps the most difficult part, and what required the most exploration, was the search for green spaces in Dadeland. Miami is a bright and colorful place, and this is primarily due to its natural elements. In the outer area of Dadeland sits a park called Fuchs Park. The main feature of the park is a big pond, surrounded by greenery. With a picnic area, walking trail, water fountain, playground and volleyball court, the cute park has everything one might want. The park is almost at odds with what some might perhaps consider to be a very materialistic area. 

A unique business located in a strip mall in Dadeland is called Bases Loaded Sports Cards. Selling collectable sport cards and memorabilia, the store is very different from its surrounding area that is full of chain stores. A couple of stores down is a Brazilian food store called Mercado Brasil which was also unique. The area can often feel somewhat stripped of Miami’s diverse culture given how focused it is on shopping, so to have a place that is so authentic presents an interesting dichotomy.  Therefore, while much of Dadeland is made up of retail stores and higher end establishments, it is the unique stores that remind one that they are in Miami. 

My Miami Final Reflection as Text

Miami / Photograph taken by Skye Duke / CC by 4.0

To See Miami in a New Light

By Skye Duke of FIU on December 11, 2022

I have always had a complex relationship with Miami. While I’ve always loved its uniqueness and diversity, it is so different from what I consider to be home. Travel has always been one of the most important things in my life. And yet, when faced with this new place (Miami), I shut down. I let my resentment towards being forced to move countries color the way I viewed the place. The culture shock of moving to Miami was fairly intense, I had mentally prepared myself for moving to America, not Miami… which I now understand to be two very different places. I have always felt like an outsider here. But upon exploring the area in more depth, learning about its history and the different nuances and facets that make up what we know today as Miami, I feel so much more connected to it. I understand the place on a much deeper level. I feel privileged to have gotten to experience Miami on the level in which this class grants, as I know most people who have lived here their whole lives most likely won’t have trudged through mangroves to a crashed plane, or have gotten to climb into an archeological dig site and hold dire wolf teeth.  

Perhaps the most interesting part of this class for me was revisiting places I had gone to before my trip to France. It is so striking how a mere couple of months can so alter your brain chemistry and the way one perceives and interacts with their surroundings. By opening myself up to my immediate surroundings, I feel more open to the world at large. Therefore, on a personal level – I feel I have grown exponentially over the duration of this class. The Deering Estate class was perhaps my favorite. I love nature and have greatly missed England’s woods. Adventuring through the different ecological systems was so much fun, and the class reasserted how much I miss immersing myself in the great outdoors and that I really should be making more of an effort to do so. 

In my mind, Miami has shifted from a place of materialism to intense depth. Perhaps the most important part of this class is the way it brings light to a side of Miami that seems to be covered by willful ignorance. I have learnt so much about Miami, the erasure of its geographical ancestors, its lack of acknowledgment of the poor treatment of those that built this city, the ways in which even now communities are facing discrimination in the way of gentrification. I feel as though I now have an obligation to spread what I learnt. I feel almost guilty for having been so ignorant about Miami’s history, but I do think the issue speaks higher to the failings of the educational system. I think as residents, we have a responsibility to understand our surroundings, to pay tribute to those of the past by not allowing them to become lost to history. 

This class has made such a lasting impact on me… and now the people around me. I have continuously recommended all of the places we have visited, and have enjoyed being able to share information from the lectures that one would otherwise have no idea about when visiting. Due to this, my mum has even purchased a membership to Vizcaya and we plan to visit Deering Estate soon. Of my three years at FIU, Miami in Miami has been the most impactful and culturally relevant class I’ve taken!

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