Lauren Farina: Fort Myers 2020

Student Bio

Photo by Janett Torres of Lauren Farina, taken at the Perez Art Museum. (C.C. by 4.0)

My name is Lauren Farina. I am a junior in the Florida International University Honors College, majoring in Biology, minoring in chemistry, with a certificate in Women and Gender Studies. My ultimate goal following my undergraduate education is to attend PA school, hopefully here, at FIU. Besides my goals in the health profession, in my free time I like to paint, foster kittens, volunteer with Habitat 4 Humanity, and spend quality time with family and friends. I joined Bailly’s study abroad class to Italy to explore my roots and travel in a unique and educational way. I hope to be able to continue this journey in 2021.


Maps of Florida and Fort Myers from Google Maps.

Fort Myers is on the southwest coast of the state of Florida, located just along the Caloosahatchee River. It is closely associated with Florida Gulf Coast University which created the nickname of “Dunk City”. The nearest well-known city is Naples. The downtown area of Fort Myers is quaint and mostly enjoyed by the snowbirds and tourists. It’s mostly made up of small businesses and statues by local artists. It is situated right on the water where boats are going in and out all day, which creates an exciting view from some restaurants and hotels. Fort Myers is probably most known for its beach. It is one of the hot spots for spring breakers and a classic day out for residents. The area around the beach is like its own little town with souvenir shops, ice cream parlours, hotels, and restaurants. The main entrance onto the beach is met with a long, tall pier that many visit for sunsets. The beach itself has been in the media for a few years now because of a lack of control regarding the algae blooms. When the beach is clean and healthy, it is packed, with hardly any space between towels. Getting to Miami or Tampa is fast (<2 hours) and easy (1 main road) using either US 41 or I-75.


Historic Buck Airfield Photos 11
Pilots at Buckingham airfield during WWII. Photo from

Fort Myers was initially a base for the Seminole Indian Wars, and then for the Civil War. Following the Civil War, the fort reinvented itself into a town of about 10 founding families. Cattle farming and logging were the most popular labor forms at the time. At this point in history, population growth was slow and resources were scarce. In 1885, Thomas Edison came to Fort Myers for the first time, and was apparently pretty impressed because he built himself a winter home. This became the first real population growth in Fort Myers. After many years of friendship and visits to Fort Myers, Henry Ford also decided to build his own winter estate attached to Edison’s. This is now one of the most important and populated landmarks in Fort Myers, and will be discussed in further detail later on. A few years later, US 41 was established through Fort Myers, and population continued to rise through the 1920’s until the devastations of the 1930’s. The Great depression affected Fort Myers just as it had affected the rest of the country. When the economy began to return to normality in the 1940’s, Fort Myers had established two airfields that were leased by the federal government for World War II as Air Force bases. They are now known as Buckingham Airfield and Pagefield. Buckingham is now a base of operations for Lee County Mosquito Control, while Pagefield allows for private flights and flight relief from the international airport here, RSW. Over the following 60+ years, Fort Myers has grown tremendously in population with no signs of slowing down. It is typical for northerners to have winter homes here, just as Edison and Ford did.

Demographics & biography

According to the US Census Bureau, white people make up about 64.16% of the population, African Americans make up about 23.77%, Asians make up 2.75%, and the other 7.27% identify as “other”. The population consists of upwards of 82,000 people, with women and men equally represented. A bar graph showing the age demographics of Fort Myers is below.

US Census 2018 ACS 5-Year Survey (Table S0101)

Biography of John & Fay Farina (Fort Myers residents for 25 years)(Also my grandparents for 19 years)

John Farina was born on November 21, 1942 in Brooklyn, NY. Fay Farina was born 7 days later, that same year in Farmingdale, NY. They met in high school and got married 6 years later, in 1966. They had two children: a daughter, and a son (my father). After their children moved out, they made the decision to leave New York for retirement life in Fort Myers, Florida. They have spent the last 25 years in Fort Myers.

How did you decide to move to Fort Myers?

John: “A friend of ours told us about this beautiful island down in Florida called Marco Island, so we decided to go down and see for ourselves… then we bought ourselves a winter home which we visited all the time for many years. We realized we loved it so much and we wanted to find a permanent home in Florida. We chose Fort Myers!”

What is the best part about living in Fort Myers?

John: “The weather, for sure. We couldn’t handle the cold and the snow anymore. We love the sunny days and warmth here.”

Fay: “Family! We are finally all together in one place and, for many years, it wasn’t like that. I’m grateful that we’re all together again.”

What is the worst part about living in Fort Myers?

John: “Neighborhoods aren’t quite the same. There are a lot of rules here, as opposed to in New York.”

Fay: “There is a lot of construction in Fort Myers and it’s taking over the greenery.”

What has changed the most in Fort Myers since you moved here?

John: “The weather has gotten much warmer over the last 25 years. Also, the traffic has gotten worse. The population has grown so much that it’s “rush hour” all day.”


Edison & Ford Winter Estates

A photo of the Edison estate during the holidays. © Copyright Edison and Ford Winter Estates. All rights reserved.

The Edison and Ford Winter Estates is the most prominent landmark in Fort Myers. People can go anytime of the year to tour the homes of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, but the absolute best time of the year is winter. The homes and the surrounding property are eloquently decorated with lights and holiday decorations. The connected homes are a family favorite during the holiday season. There are many different tours to choose from- including a self-guided, automotive, lab, and “inside the homes”. Whether you go to see the lights and the incredibly large and decorative homes, or you really want to immerse yourself in the rich history of the homes and their late inhabitants, there is an option for you at the Estates. A standard tour during the holiday season will take visitors around the Edison home with sneak peaks of the rooms through large windows, through the garden and pool area, the guest/caretaker house, across a small bridge to the Ford estate where one can catch glimpses of his rooms through windows, and the Ford guest house. Visitors will learn about the friendship that Edison and Ford built which ultimately led to them connecting their winter homes in Fort Myers. They will also learn about their individual inventions and what inspired their ideas. It can be a historical landmark to some, and just an enjoyable day out to others, but either way it is revered by Fort Myers inhabitants and visitors.

IMAG History & Science Museum

A photo of the IMAG museum. Photo from

The IMAG History and Science Museum is well-known to residents of Fort Myers. Anyone who grew up here in the last 25 years probably went there as a kid, whether it was for a summer camp or a day at the museum. It features exhibits with aquatic animals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and other local wildlife, for the education of the environment that surrounds us. There are also historical exhibits that showcase models of what Fort Myers looked like in the 1800’s and early 1900’s. There are reconstructions of the army bases that were located here as well. Most kids find fun in the interactive science exhibits in the main area of the museum. These interactive installations include puzzles, games, weather simulations, and other hands-on ways to learn about science. It is a great place to bring kids for educational fun. The museum aims to educate the public about their local surroundings through science and history displays and interactions.

Downtown 24 bronze sculptures (that have now been dispersed across Fort Myers)

The statues in downtown Fort Myers sculpted by Columbian artist Edgardo Carmona were bought by the City of Fort Myers last fall. They were supposed to be a temporary exhibit.
One of the sculptures downtown picturing an intense chess match. Photo: Andrew West, The News-Press USA Today Network-Florida

Anyone who has been to downtown Fort Myers will recognize these bronze sculptures. There were originally 24 of these scattered in the downtown area. In May of 2019, it was decided that 16 of the sculptures would be moved to other older areas of Fort Myers, like McGregor Blvd. Whether all together or spread apart, these sculptures are eye-catching. When you are downtown, you are bound to see tourists taking pictures of, and with, the sculptures. They depict all different random tasks from walking a dog to playing a game of chess, leaving the purpose of these art pieces up to viewers!

Green Spaces

Lakes Park

Lakes Regional Park
A view across the main lake at Lakes Park. Photo courtesy of Gina Birch.

Lakes Park is a family-friendly park that includes multiple playgrounds, nature trails, and kayak and paddle boat rentals. It’s free admission, but you do need to pay for hourly or daily parking. It’s $1 per hour and $5 for the day. The pavillions there are often rented out for birthday parties or family get-togethers. People often bring picnics and sit in the grass or bike ride through the trail. It’s a great place to spend the day outdoors with lots of different activities to explore. There’s even a butterfly garden within the park!

Fort Myers Beach

The pier along Fort Myers Beach. By: WFTX Digital Team
Posted at 10:34 AM, Sep 03, 2019 and last updated 10:34 AM, Sep 03, 2019

Fort Myers Beach is the #1 tourist attraction in Fort Myers, especially during Spring Break . It is known for the pier that goes along the water right at the main entrance of the beach. This is the hot spot during sunrise and sunset everyday. Also right along the beach entrance are a few restaurants, ice cream places, and even henna tattoo shops. It is of course a tourist-heavy area, but locals definitely love the fun and lively nature of this beach. Sanibel Island is the other closest beach, which has the quieter beaches, but is also beloved by locals. The beach you should go to depends on the type of beach day you want to have!

Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve

Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve | Florida Hikes!
The boardwalk through the forest at the Slough. Photo by Sandra Friend and John Keatley

The Slough is a really amazing nature preserve that has boardwalks throughout to allow visitors to explore the natural environment that is quickly being diminished in growing cities like Fort Myers. There is no admission cost; only a parking fee of $1 per hour or $5 for the day. It is typical for residents of Fort Myers to ride their bikes over to spend the day to avoid this fee. Often, visitors can spot turtles, alligators, otters, and a plethora of species of birds.



LeeTran - The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel
A photo of the LeeTran. Photo from

Leetran is the government-sponsored public transportation system in Fort Myers. There are 24 different routes that the bus system operates within the city limits. It costs $1.50 for each entry onto the bus. There are discounts for passengers 65 and older, those with a disability, and full-time students. There are also a variety of passes that can be purchased that are, in some cases, more cost-effective. Among those options are an all-day pass and a week-long pass.

Fort Myers Beach Trolley & Tram

Fort Myers Beach Trolley & Tram Info - Fort Myers Beach Chamber
The Trolley doing a pick-up/drop-off at Fort Myers Beach. Photo from Fort Myers Beach Chamber

The trolley has 7 pick-up/drop-off spots that are closer to the beach area of Fort Myers. People can park their cars at the free parking lot to board the trolley or ride their bikes, which can be attached the the trolley. The cost is 75 cents a ride, $2 for an all-day pass or $4 for a 3-day pass. It operates from 8am to 11:30pm 7 days a week.


Bullig Coffee & Bites

Bullig Coffee and Bites, Fort Myers - Restaurant Reviews, Photos ...
One of the delicious treats you can order at Bullig. Photo featured on TripAdvisor.
Bullig coffee & bites - 203 Photos & 72 Reviews - Cafes - 1815 ...
The S’mores coffee at Bullig. Photo featured on Yelp.

Bullig Coffee & Bites opened in June of 2018. They are located in downtown Fort Myers and have the cutest bulldog themed coffee and breakfast shop! They serve all kinds of special waffles and sandwiches. Not to mention their coffees that can come with all kinds of sweets on top. They have plenty of gluten-free vegan and vegetarian-friendly options which makes it a great option for anyone. They also use paper straws, so they do their part in being environmentally-friendly. It is the perfect place to meet your girlfriends for brunch or have a cup of coffee with your parents. It’s also located right next to the Butterfly Estates which can be your next stop after a delicious breakfast!

Trattoria Mia

Trattoria Mia Fort Myers
A lunch portion of spaghetti bolognese, from Trattoria Mia in South Fort Myers.” (Photo: Special to The News-Press)

Trattoria Mia has to be my favorite dinner spot in Fort Myers. The atmosphere is classic high-end Italian, with the aromas of sauces and breads cascading throughout the restaurant. It features real authentic Italian meals that are to die for. The best appetizer is the bruschetta. Something about the balsamic vinaigrette dipping sauce heightens this bruschetta to a level that I’ve never tasted before- and I’ve had my fair share. They have every pasta you could dream of, including gnocchi. Desserts are a must! Don’t tell yourself that you’re too full because you are cheating yourself out of perfectly creamy sorbet or a dreamy tiramisu.

Love Boat Ice Cream

Love Boat Ice Cream – Premium Homemade Ice Cream
The front of Love Boat, featuring the famous mural. Photo from
Online Menu of Love Boat Ice Cream Restaurant, Fort Myers, Florida ...
The vast menu of options at Love Boat. Photo from

Love Boat is a locally-owned, one-of-a -kind ice cream shop that opened in Fort Myers in 1967 and has been a staple for locals ever since. The flavor options are extensive with many different types of cones to choose from as well. I’ve lived here 10 years and still haven’t tried every flavor and cone. The best time to go here is after a hot beach day or right before going to sunset on the causeway. It’s also a popular picture spot because of the famous mural on the front.


Mario’s Italian Meat Market

Marios Meat Market Italian Deli Menu
catering menu - Quality MeatsJust a few of the options of meats and appetizers that you can purchase at Marios. Photos from

Mario’s is a staple for Italians in Fort Myers. They have a vast selection of meats, italian appetizers, and desserts ready to be cooked and/or eaten. The rest of the market is typical Italian ingredients- canned tomatoes, fresh basil, and the biggest selection of pastas in the city. You can go to eat there for lunch and have a meatball parm or call in an order to bring home. The employees are beyond friendly and helpful and it makes supporting this small business even more important.

Sun Harvest Citrus

Sun Harvest Citrus
The entrance of Sun Harvest with the big orange. Photo from
Sun Harvest Citrus Directions, Information, Map, Hours | Fort ...
Some of the selection of fruits and juices inside Sun Harvest. Photo from Pinterest

Sun Harvest is a market for all things citrus! Whether you’re looking for a key chain, a T-shirt, or some really delicious juice, you can find it here. You also can’t leave without trying their orange vanilla swirl ice cream. They are most famous for their juices, however. My personal favorite in the cranberry orange, but you really can’t go wrong with any of them. You can get free samples of all of them in the store to decide which one you have to buy for home. It’s best to visit after a hot day outside. Nothing beats the cool juice or sweet ice cream to refresh your body.

Masters Designs

Gene Esposito, the owner of Masters Designs, doing what he’s best at. Photo from

Gene Esposito owns a small local shop that specializes in everything from hemming a prom dress to making you your own custom swimsuit. He is truly a master of his craft. He has been tailoring clothes for over 40 years and I would say he is an expert like no other. If you ever need ANYTHING tailored, fixed, or made in the clothing department, this is your guy hands-down.


Fort Myers is definitely more intricate than an outsider may think. For a long time, I even thought it was dull and lacked any unique traits. Looking back on this project, I can see the relationship I’ve formed with this city over the last ten years. All the small places I’ve discovered with my friends and family that still bring me joy to this day. Oh, how I wish I could have a beach day with my friends and stop at Love Boat after or go to dinner with my family at Trattoria Mia right now. Covid-19 has unfortunately made so many of these joys unattainable right now.

Probably the best feature about Fort Myers as a whole is its connection to nature. Between the beaches, the nature preserves, and parks in the area, I would argue that you have to enjoy spending time outdoors to live here. Yes, it is unbearably hot during the summer months, but the rest of the year is so worth it. The beaches are beautiful and bring people together year-round, with sunsets being a classic outing for anyone in any age category. The many trails through forests and swamp land in Fort Myers are keeping our natural environment in tact and allowing visitors to remember its importance. These factors make Fort Myers somewhere that people can appreciate the world around them.

The biggest qualm that people seem to have with Fort Myers over time is that there isn’t a lot to do. It can get repetitive at times. It feels silly typing this in a time where we’re all locked up and would do just about anything to go back to the times before Covid-19. The typical hangouts for teens and young adults are the movie theaters, beaches, or bowling alleys. Those go in rotation for the four years you spend in high school and you’re about over it.

Fort Myers could benefit by adding more things for young people to do here. While it seems like the population is dominated by older people due to the snowbirds, the young people actually make up the same amount of the population. Since moving to Miami, I feel like I’ll never have enough time to do everything Miami offers. From escape rooms to Wynwood Walls to the endless events going on on every corner. I wish Fort Myers offered more of that opportunity and community involvement.

Overall, I think Fort Myers is worth a visit; maybe not the #1 option to live, but certainly worth a weekend or two. Following this guide, you could hit a lot of the best spots in town and not have missed much else. The only other recommendation I would give would be to definitely take the hour ride to Sanibel Island. It is unmatched in the continental U.S. Fort Myers has its faults, but overall it has its charm and unique places that do make it special.


Boeuf, Jean Le. “Bullig Coffee & Bites in Fort Myers Is Adorably Delicious – JLB Review.” Press, The News-Press, 30 Aug. 2018,

Esposito, Gene. “Home: Masters-Designs.” Masters Designs,

“Fares & Passes.” Lee County Southwest Florida,

“Fort Myers Beach Trolley & Tram Info.” Fort Myers Beach Chamber,

“Fort Myers Museums, Attractions, Things To Do: Edison Ford Winter Estates.” Edison and Ford Winter Estates,

“Fort Myers, FL.” Google Maps, Google,

“Fort Myers, Florida Population 2020.” World Population Review,

G., Haley, et al. “Bullig Coffee & Bites – Fort Myers, FL.” Yelp, 22 Oct. 2019,

Hall, Tom. “Buckingham & Page Army Airfields Memorial.”,

“The History of Fort Myers.” Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce, 2020,

“Home.” Love Boat Ice Cream,

The Imaginarium Group INC. “The IMAG History & Science Center: Fort Myers, Florida.” IMAG, 30 Mar. 2020,

“Italian Market – Fort Myers – Mario’s Meat Market and Deli.” Marios Meat Market and Deli, 15 Apr. 2020,

Messina, Tom. “The History of Downtown Fort Myers.” Downtown Fort Myers River District, 2020,

Ojo, Joseph. “Controversial Sculptures in Downtown Fort Myers Could Be Moved.” NBC2 News, May 2019,

“The Preserve.” Slough Preserve,

Runnells, Charles. “Popular Fort Myers Statues Leaving Downtown, Moving All over the City.” News-Press, The News-Press, 3 May 2019,

“Sun Harvest Citrus.” Search Fort Myers, 11 Sept. 2018,

U.S. Census Bureau. “Fort Myers City, Florida.” Census Bureau QuickFacts,

Lauren Farina: Miami Service Project 2021

Hi, my name is Lauren Farina and I am a senior at Florida International University’s Honors College, majoring in Biology with a minor in Chemistry and a Certificate in Women’s Studies. My goal is to use my undergraduate knowledge and experience towards becoming a Physician Assistant with a specialty in Obstetrics and Gynecology.

I volunteered with Professor Bailly of the Honors College at Florida International University in partnership with the Deering Estate. Along with my classmates, we all canoed out to Chicken Key.

Due to the restrictive nature of the pandemic, it is difficult to find places that are able to accept volunteers. However, Professor Bailly was able to secure a volunteer opportunity for all of us. Most people would question how this particular opportunity relates to my career path, but I think it is more related than it seems. I’m certainly not the most inclined individual when it comes to the outdoors; I’m sure Bailly can attest to that. This class as a whole was completely out of my comfort zone, and Chicken Key was no different. Throughout the cleanup, I thought a lot about how much community service matters in all forms. I am a strong believer that everything in this world is connected; that helping the endangered species and trying to remedy the mess that humans have made of our planet is something that contributes to the betterment of us all. As I continue on the path to my profession, I find that work like this is what matters most in an aspiring health professional. It is important that we care about others, even if we are not the same. I think it is important to have experiences like this that ground you and bring you back to what is truly important in this world.

This experience was humbling in many ways. Canoeing is not as easy as it may look and it was especially interesting when you add 50+ pounds of trash. Once my partner and I got the hang of the paddling, it was satisfying and freeing to be going through the water by the work of our own bodies. I had so much fun on Chicken Key finding all kinds of different crabs and sharing these exciting moments with my peers. I think it is important to use experiences in your life that are special, like this one, to grow as an individual and reflect on how it makes you feel. This experience provided me with simultaneous uneasiness and comfort, and for all of it, I feel grateful.


Photo of me taken by John Bailly/ CC by 4.0
Photo of lunch at Chicken Key taken by John Bailly/ CC by 4.0
Photo of me with a canoe of trash taken by John Bailly/ CC by 4.0

This day of service was rewarding in more ways than one. When I arrived at the Deering Estate, I was first confronted with a canoe. Sounds funny, but I have only ever kayaked and the huge canoe was intimidating. I finally got in the canoe and my partner and I struggled to get going, but eventually we figured it out and were the first to land on Chicken Key. When we arrived, we had our final exam which was to run as far as you could into the water until you fell. It was so much fun and was a moment that all of the students could take to step away from “real life” and the responsibilities on our shoulders, and just enjoy with one another. We spent some time in the water talking about COVID vaccines, study abroad programs, and summer plans. We then got back on Chicken Key to begin the real work. All of us set out on the island to begin picking up trash. It was such a cool experience because we got to be with our peers in a new environment and help clean up the island. We also were able to see a lot of animals that we don’t typically see including lemon sharks, horseshoe crabs, blue crabs, and hermit crabs. The experience allowed us to build and further friendships, which was definitely hard to do this year. After a few hours of cleanup we took a break in the ocean to cool off. It was the perfect day. I frequently lost track of time just floating in the water, either staring at the sky or closing my eyes. I appreciate moments like these where I can let go of stress, anxiety, and deadlines. After the break, we cleaned up some more. We found a rat’s nest within a boat mattress, a toilet seat, crates, beer bottles, helmets, soccer balls, and so many more items that you wonder how people could be so careless. When we packed our canoes up to go back, the amount of trash was upsetting to be completely honest. It’s hard to know that no matter how dire the circumstances of climate change are becoming, people still just leave their trash to drift into our water and harm animals. While it was a tough moment of realization, it was also a moment of pride for the work we all did together to clean up Chicken Key. We then canoed back to the Deering Estate, through some very strong winds that blew against us, which was challenging. We unloaded the trash and helped the staff bring it to the dumpsters. It was a long day and I think all of us took long naps after we got home, but it was so worth it. I felt more connected with my peers, nature, and myself from this experience.


Overall, this experience was one of the highlights of my year. It has been a tough one, to say the least, but this experience allowed me to be free of the last year. To be able to be out with a group of my peers learning and doing service for the betterment of our environment was something I haven’t been able to do for over a year that was previously a huge part of my life. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know my classmates and having such an enjoyable experience together. I would love to participate in this experience again and I know that I can because of the program started by another Honors College student. It was the perfect mix of work and play to end the semester and get some service hours!


Lauren Farina: Design District 2021


Photo by Eva Holly of me!/ CC by 4.0

Hi, my name is Lauren Farina and I am a senior at Florida International University’s Honors College, majoring in Biology with a minor in Chemistry and a Certificate in Women’s Studies. My goal is to use my undergraduate knowledge and experience towards becoming a Physician Assistant with a specialty in Obstetrics and Gynecology.


Map delineating the Design District in greater Miami/ from
Illustration by Daniel Gary-Barnett

The Design District is on the southeast coast of the state of Florida, located just between Wynwood and Little Haiti. The area is about 18 blocks of upscale shopping, art exhibits and installations, and great food. It also borders Magnolia Park on Biscayne Bay which is a primarily residential area sitting directly on Biscayne Bay. The location fits well with some surrounding areas. Wynwood is a stereotypically tourist-ridden place, so these tourists can explore the murals in Wynwood and then make their way over to shop in the Design District. Little Hati is quickly being gentrified and overtaken by its borders with Wynwood and the Design District. The art particularly has made its way through Little Hati. Cost of living is rising which is displacing many of the Haitian migrants that settled there, giving the town its current name. While it is great for a city to flourish and modernize, sometimes the way it happens can be very damaging for some communities. These communities tend to be an afterthought or are ignored completely. There should still be preservation of communities as they modernize. So, the Design District has been a great addition to Miami for economic purposes, but may also be playing a role in (their) unintentional displacement of communities.


The land that is now the Design District/

The Design District is about as old as I am, if not younger. It sits on land that was once a pineapple farm. It later became a neighborhood for families in the furniture business. However, just prior to the 2000’s, the area was falling apart. Craig Robins recognized this and purchased buildings on about 18 blocks to begin the renovation into the Design District.


Education Statistics/

The Design District doesn’t have a ton of accessible data regarding the demographics. It is also probably difficult to solidify because of the high levels of tourism and how young it is. What we do know is that Hispanics and African Americans overwhelmingly dominate this area (as they do in much of Miami). African Americans make up about 44% of the population, Hispanics make up 42%, and Caucasians make up about 10% of the population. The population consists of just under 4,000 people, with women and men equally represented. The most common age group that is observed in the Design District is 25-35 years old. The two most common income brackets are between $25-44k and $75-149k. I also included a graph above of education levels in the area. Feature a bio and portrait of one resident that the student interviewed.


Photo of Tye Rothberg at the Design District taken by Lauren Farina/ CC by 4.0

Lauren: Why are you here (in the Design District)?

Tye: “I am here on vacation, but I am also a photographer and I enjoy documenting my travels through photos.

Lauren: What is your favorite place to go to in the Design District?

Tye: “I really like the David Castillo Art Gallery!”

Lauren: What would you improve about the Design District?

Tye: “I think it’s awesome, but they should include more swings or other playground installations”


Institute of Contemporary Art

Ana Mendieta, Untitled (Glass on Body), 1972. Color photograph, 17 1/4 x 24 inches (43.82 cm x 60.96). Purchased with funds provided by Rosa and Carlos de la Cruz.

The Institute of Contemporary Art does an amazing service for the modern art community in Miami. Not only is the institute committed to providing a platform for new and underappreciated artists, but they display it to the public for free! You can find all different forms of art from photography to sculpture. The sculpture garden is particularly amazing It allows for a completely different experience of viewing the pieces. Pictured above is a piece by Ana Mendieta as part of her Untitled (Glass on Body) collection. She was a Cuban-American artist until her suspicious death in 1985. Her work focused on feminism, connections of the body to Earth, and identity through her art. She used herself as the subject of her art often to make statements about her place in the politics of her broader situation. Her work is just some of the thousands of exhibitions that can be viewed at the Institute of Contemporary Art that are so important to the culture and backbone of Miami.

Conscious Actions by GT2P

Photo taken by Lauren Farina of Conscious Actions by GT2P in the Design District/ CC by 4.0

Conscious Actions is such a cool installment in the Design District. It’s easy to get caught up in all of the fancy, upscale stores and amazing architecture in the area, but then you run into a set of swings smack in the middle. It feels almost out of place but it is such a great way to incorporate some fun into your day!

Museum Garage

Photo taken by Vanessa Robiana of me at the Museum Garage/ CC by 4.0

If there is one place that someone visiting the Design District should definitely go, particularly if they want pictures of themselves or with family/friends, I would definitely recommend the Museum Garage. The architecture of the garage is eye-catching in the Design District. When you first enter the garage, it is like any other parking garage, with relatively inexpensive parking in comparison to most of Miami. Once you either walk or drive up to the top, you realize that it is more than just a place to park. The entire top floor is painted in a mosaic of a bunch of different colors. Then, at the end of the top floor there are interactive, almost playground-like installments that make for some awesome pictures. There is a bright pink spiral staircase paired with a rope bridge (pictured above). There is also a slanted wall that somewhat resembles a skate park, with more beautiful designs. It is a lot of fun to go here and experiment with different types of pictures that you can take.


Photo by Giovanny Gutierrez/ Chat Chow TV

Unfortunately Swan and Bevy is the closest thing to green space that you’re going to get in the Design District. This is one of the main downfalls in the area. When rehabilitating the Design District, it seems as though building, innovating, and unique architecture were at the forefront of the process. Green space was not only eliminated, but was also not brought back into the space at all. I went down to the Design District one day, specifically trying to find just one area of greenery that I could write about, but there truly isn’t any. There are beautiful trees that line some of the streets and some nice plants included in the areas that restaurants like Swan take up, but there is no one specific space completely dedicated to greenery. Any landscaping seen is purely decorative.


Metro-mover plan for Miami/

Public transportation is not well instituted in the Design District. However, things may be looking up! It was recently announced that the Metromover will be expanding into the Design District. Pictured above is the plan to expand which will greatly increase accessibility to the area. At this point, the only ways to get there are to walk, drive, or catch an Uber!



OTL Interior | Justin Namon, Ra-Haus Photography

OTL is the cutest little eatery in the Design District. It features the beautiful pastel colors that are signature Miami with modern design and delicious food and drinks. There are plenty of options for vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free diets. I would personally recommend an Egg & Cheese Sandwich with a Banana Quinoa Muffin. It’s a great location too because it sits right at the heart of the Design District so it’s perfect to grab a quick pick-me-up during a day out.


MIAMI, FL – An omelet at Swan in the Miami Design District

Swan is the nightlife of the Design District. There is quite literally nothing else to do there past 6 or 7 P.M. Swan is a restaurant and bar that was curated by David Grutman and Pharrell Williams, both of which have had a hand in much of the aesthetic and design of modern Miami. The menu includes mostly meats and seafoods, with some specialty items typically based around seasonality. Be prepared to spend $100-$150 per person, which is quite the price tag. Definitely a place for special occasions only!

MIA Market

Photo of MIA Market by Pola Bunster

MIA Market is a great way to immerse yourself in food, culture, and socializing. There are currently 9 different places to eat that include Italian, Vietnamese, and Peruvian food, among other genres. There is also a delicious coffee shop within. It’s a great experience because you can walk through and watch the chefs, smell all the different cuisines and decide what’s truly calling you that day.



Off-White interior/

Off-White is a fashion label created by the menswear artistic director of Louis Vuitton, Virgil Abloh. It focuses on new and now in fashion and has been extremely successful since its inception in 2012. The idea behind the branding is that there is a “grey area” in fashion between black and white that Abloh likes to call “off-white”. Having this store in the Design District just makes sense. The brand is a baby in comparison to most of the brands in the District, but it is young and modern like the Design District itself!

Warby Parker

Warby Parker interior/

Warby Parker is also young in the world of design. Founded in 2010, it is young and innovative. I chose to focus on it because I really like what they do. They are not an expensive brand by any means. The company was created by students who recognized the inequality to just be able to see and decided to take over the monopoly on eyeglasses. They make custom eyeglasses and sunglasses, but for every pair that is bought, a pair is donated. I think it is important that we support brands like these with stories like theirs because they do give back to the community.


Photo of MONTCE in the Design District by Stephanie Pernas

MONTCE is a swimwear brand that was created in 2009 and took off in 2013. Alexandra Grief is the mind behind it all and she has created a niche in fashion for luxury swimwear. Her work emphasizes women feeling comfortable and confident in their swimwear. She ensures this with inclusive sizing and options for all comfort levels.

Overall, the Design District is an awesome place to visit. While I would say that it is most conducive to someone who has an interest in high fashion, there are many hidden gems in the area that I feel anyone can appreciate. It is very young so I think it is only fair that there is a lot of room for growth. While it has a great foundation, there are some aspects that are missing that would really improve and accentuate the area. One of the main issues that I identified in the Design District is the lack of transportation to and within the area. The Design District itself is very walkable, however getting there is impossible via public transportation. This makes the area very accessible, especially if one does not have a car- which is common for tourists and other visitors to the area. It was great to see that there has been a proposal for the Metromover to expand into the Design District. I think it would be very beneficial, so hopefully it gets approved and the process can be expedited. Another thing that is severely lacking is green spaces. I think there are a lot of cool ways that the Design District can incorporate greenery into a really cool space that allows for nature to be brought back into the area. I’m sure that there is an architect and/or designer that can make a space that functions seamlessly with the area but also incorporates more greenery. I have not read anything about any initiatives to add green spaces to the Design District, but it is my hope that it is on the long list of things that can be changed and improved as the Design District settles and matures. I think that the purpose of the Design District is not particularly focused in small businesses, but it can definitely shift focus to smaller, lesser known artists and designers. With all of that being said, the area has changed and evolved so much in its very short lifespan, so there is a lot of potential for the future. The Design District is definitely a great place to go to take in great architecture, modern art installations, get your steps in for the day, and have some really good food. I would argue that that can be said for most areas of Miami but the Design District is definitely a niche that is unlike any of the other towns in Miami.


Lauren Farina: Miami as Text 2021

Photo by Lauren Farina/ CC by 4.0

My name is Lauren Farina! I’m a Senior at Florida International University’s Honors College as of Spring 2021. I’m majoring in Biology with a minor in chemistry and a certificate in Women and Gender Studies. My goal is to become a physician assistant and specialize in women’s health and obstetrics. As a former student of Bailly’s, I always knew that I would take another class with him. His class opens your eyes to the lesser known and allows students to be expressive and creative with their thoughts and observations. While it may not seem relevant to some, I think this class is important as an aspiring healthcare provider because it subjects me as a student to a deeper understanding of myself and those that I will provide care for in my profession. I feel that a large and neglected part of healthcare preparation is learning to listen and have a deeper understanding of patients. Ensuring the ability to listen to others and their experiences is crucial to be a successful healthcare provider.

Downtown Miami as Text

Photo of Fort Dallas (also slave quarters) taken and edited by Lauren Farina/ CC by 4.0

“A Window into Miami’s Past” by Lauren Farina of FIU at Downtown Miami; January 22, 2021

Miami is typically labeled as a diverse place- inclusive of all races, languages, and sexualities. It becomes an even more special place when you learn about the beginnings of Miami. Similar to all states and cities in the United States, Miami does have its origins and modern day decisions rooted in racism, colonialism, and power, but it happens to be one of the strangest cases that can be examined in the country. Before Miami became Miami, it was an area inhabited by the Tequesta tribe and Bahamians escaping slavery. Unlike the rest of the states at the time, this area was dominated by people of color and indigenous tribes but not for slavery. The beginning of what became Miami shows a palate for diversity. 

As Europeans began their colonialist quests to the Americas, they came to Miami on multiple occasions. The interactions between the colonialists and the Tequestas was an unfortunate encounter for the indigenous tribe, which fell to disease. What started as a place where all people could co-exist peacefully, became infiltrated by policies and ideologies already thriving in the United States when Florida became a state in 1821. One of the first buildings built by the U.S. in Miami was a fort meant to be used in the Seminole Indian wars. That same building was then used as slave quarters. It is unknown how many slaves were kept here in this small space but it was unlikely to have been an adequate, humane situation. The window pictured above is a part of this building. Looking inside felt cold and wrong. It felt as if I could feel the emotions and atrocities that the people kept there endured. I felt sorrow and anger and injustice just beyond this window. This class reminded me about how history is portrayed in America, how slavery and segregation and racism is glossed over and covered up. It was unfortunate to unfold the history of Miami and how such a diverse place, even today, still covers up it’s history.

Everglades as Text

Photo at Everglades National Park taken by Annette Cruz/ CC by 4.0

“Balancing Through a Global Pandemic” by Lauren Farina of FIU at Everglades National Park; February 5, 2021

COVID-19 has changed our lives in so many ways over the last year. Some people had it, some knew people who had it, and others sat in their home for the last 12 months wondering if it will ever end. It’s been an upsetting year, to say the least. I was supposed to join my class in visiting Everglades National Park, but due to the unpredictable nature of this virus, I had to unexpectedly quarantine for two weeks after my roommates tested positive for COVID-19. I was very lucky and did not contract the virus, however, it was important for the health and safety of my friends, family, and classmates that I monitored my health and isolated myself until I was completely sure that I did not have the virus. Nonetheless, I was devastated to miss this experience. This caused me to do a lot of reflecting not only about the things that have changed for me throughout the pandemic, but for every single person. No matter your age, profession, gender, class, ethnicity – this pandemic has made a long-lasting impact on our personal lives and our communities. It is hard to imagine when the return of normalcy will arrive, but it is my hope that it is soon.

Since I could not attend the lecture in person, I dove into everything I could find about Everglades National Park online. I even was able to watch a live video of the park where I saw a little bird sleeping on top of one of the structures at the park. I also read reflections from other students in my class to get an idea of what personal experiences were like there. It was very apparent to me that the experience was just the right mixture of calm and chaos. Some students described the uneasy feeling of not knowing where to step in the water, and even falling in the water, while others spoke of the innate peace that nature provided there. Reading about my classmates’ experiences Reminded me of this very important balance that we have in life. Just like the balance of emotions that students felt that day in the park, the Everglades also has a balance and human beings are destroying it. Not only has much of the Everglades been manually destroyed for human uses, but the pollution and climate change that we have caused as a species is directly impacting this environment. It is incredibly upsetting the amount of evidence there is that we are running out of time to remedy what we’ve done, yet stubborn individuals and complacent government systems brush it off. Often times when I am able to have the experience to go somewhere special and unique in nature like the Everglades or a natural spring, I become quite sad because it is likely that much of the beauty I have gotten to experience in my two decades of life will be irreversibly damaged or nonexistent for my future children and grandchildren. I think missing this experience happened at a really interesting time for me. It really opened my eyes to the delicate balance we must uphold in our lives.

South Beach as Text

Photos at South Beach taken and edited by Lauren Farina/ CC by 4.0

“How One Woman Saved South Beach” by Lauren Farina of FIU at South Beach; February 19, 2021

South Beach is intentional about what you see when you visit and a woman is greatly responsible for that. Barbara Capitman is the reason Art Deco has survived on South Beach, and made it the international destination of so many. When strolling or rollerblading down Ocean Drive surrounded by color, it’s hard to imagine South Beach could’ve turned out any other way. However, every few buildings you’ll notice one that just… doesn’t look right. More likely than not, this is a building that was destroyed before Capitman was able to save it. She formed the Miami Design Preservation League in 1976 which focused on saving these buildings of art. The group would protest the demolition of Art Deco buildings on South Beach to the point of standing in front of the machinery being used for the demolition. In a roundabout way, FIU is also a contributor to the preservation. It was Barbara’s husband’s job offer to teach at FIU that prompted the family to come to Miami. Barring this, it’s unlikely she would’ve been involved to the extent she was in saving the art of South Beach. It is a surreal feeling to walk through South Beach and be able to identify not only the buildings that are considered art deco, but also what features make those buildings the work of art deco. As you walk past, you notice the infamous eyebrows that loom over the entrances, the rule of three that is captured throughout the architecture, the pastels, and of course- the relief sculptures. It is an overwhelming thought that all of this could’ve been another “concrete jungle”.

Deering as Text

Photos at the Deering Estate taken by Annette Cruz (bottom left) and Lauren Farina (top and bottom right), edited by Lauren Farina/ CC by 4.0

“Control” by Lauren Farina of FIU at the Deering Estate; March 5, 2021

This lecture made me think a lot about control. This may sound strange at first, but I think it will become more clear as I reflect on my experience. I have always had a very challenging relationship with control, in the way that I feel the need to be in control of myself and my situations at all times. This experience was far out of my comfort zone and pushed me to put myself in situations that I could not control. It was a day that I was anxious for, but came out of with a special appreciation for. Throughout my time taking Professor Bailly‘s lectures, I have often learned about how certain groups of people took control over others; the most prominent of which being the Tequesta tribe. At the Deering Estate, I was able to enter an area that is a preserved Tequesta burial mound. For me, it was a very surreal experience. I was standing on a bridge that was built around the area to ensure that it was not disturbed and for a few moments the entire class was silent and all you could hear was the wind blowing through the trees. It was a brief moment where we were able to reflect on the wrongdoings of foreigners that came to this land and took from those who were there first. During my time in this area, I thought a lot about how I wish there were descendants of the Tequesta tribe still alive today and what they would have been able to tell us. It is a tragedy that they were not able to control their situation and continue to populate our planet. In that moment, it gave me a special appreciation for all the things I take for granted everyday that I do have control over. I think it’s important to acknowledge people or groups of people that have been forgotten as the United States was formed and as it continues to evolve and modernize.

Vizcaya as Text

Photos at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens taken by Lauren Farina, edited by Lauren Farina/ CC by 4.0

“The Truth Is In The Details” by Lauren Farina of FIU at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens; March 19, 2021

When walking through the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, it is easy to be captured by the natural and artificial beauty that surrounds you. Statues and paintings, carpets and ceilings; the details are captivating. However, the further you look, the less everything makes sense. Upon entering the home, you are greeted by Bacchus, the Roman god of agriculture, wine, and fertility. It is an entrance that feels important and suggestive. It was indicative of what James Deering expected his guests to experience at his home in the early 1920’s. While prohibition was in place at the time, there was no shortage of alcohol when he was hosting. In a secondary room sits a replica statue of the “Dancing Faun” which is originally found in Pompeii. It is a renowned piece in Pompeii and some see it here as improper and egotistical. Much of the home can be described in this way. James thought highly of himself, and if he liked something, he wanted it to be his. Whether this was disrespectful or inappropriate to a culture or religion was none of his concern. There is a door filled with books, that aren’t actually real books, to give the appearance of education and intelligence. There is a painting of the Virgin Mary cut in half to cover organ pipes- just because he wanted it that way. At the top of the stairs, the French saying “J’ai Dit” is carved into stained glass, as his way of telling guests- he is god-like. James Deering tried very hard to impress, and for those with no knowledge of historical, cultural, artistic, or religious background, he did. But the deeper one looks into his home, the more they come to the realization that it was more about him and his wealth than appreciation for art, religion, or culture.

Marguiles as Text

“Art That Makes You Feel Something” by Lauren Farina of FIU at Marguiles Warehouse; April 16, 2021

As I entered the Marguiles Warehouse, I don’t think I was truly prepared for the way that my time there was going to make me feel. Something that really stood out to me about Mr. Marguiles was his emphasis on how art made you feel instead of how it looks. He makes a compelling point that you can only further support as you explore his warehouse. One of the most surreal installations was “Geheimnis der Farne” by artist Anselm Kiefer. I spent another hour after class in this room. There is an overwhelming presence in the room, although it is completely silent. There were few people walking around the warehouse, so I was to myself for most of the time I spent in there, but it felt like someone was walking beside me the entire time. The center of the room is taken up by two massive concrete sculptures that are representative of gas chambers from the Holocaust. They are eerie and provoke a great deal of emotion. On the surrounding walls are over 40 paintings that draw inspiration from a poet who was a Holocaust survivor that took his own life, named Paul Celan. The poems Celan wrote were deep, and of dark nature, and sometimes quite difficult to understand. The paintings in the room showed a visual interpretation of what Celan wrote. It was breathtaking in a very somber and heart-wrenching way. You could feel the pain of a survivor, the sorrow of a son, the loss of a childhood- it was extremely emotional for me. There was another installation called “Herma” by artist Magdalena Abakanowicz that also took on the subject matter of the Holocaust. Specifically, it visually addresses the majority loss of women/mothers and children. The emotions I felt were so strong that I did not re-enter that room during my visit to the Warehouse. I am incredibly appreciative of Mr. Marguiles for collecting and displaying these important works in such an accessible way. I will be going back before he closes up to re-set the warehouse, and definitely again to see the new displays he has.

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