Monica Barletta: Miami as Text 2022

Photo taken by Nicholas Wolek

Monica Barletta is a junior in the Honors College at Florida International University. She is currently double majoring in Biology and Health Sciences and minoring in Chemistry on the Pre-med track, and hopes to attend the medical school after graduating. Outside of school, she enjoys creating art, spending time with her friends and family, and playing the guitar.

Deering as Text: A Glimpse into Miami’s Past

By Monica Barletta of FIU on February 4, 2022

            Visiting The Deering Estate is a strange experience because it is as if you were transported to the past, it is so unlike the rest of Miami or even the rest of the Cutler Bay suburbs that surround it. This estate sits on a 444-acre plot of land that preserves so much history not only from when it was owned by S.H. Richmond or even Charles Deering, but from thousands of years ago from when the Tequestans occupied the land.

Photo taken by Monica Barletta

            Throughout our walking tour led by Professor John Bailly, we learned the history of the land and the two buildings on the property. What I enjoyed most about the tour was that we didn’t just learn the good things about this estate; the lecture was very unbiased showing us the good, the bad, and the ugly, from the way the Native Americans were pushed off their land to discovering four Bahamians had died building the estate’s barge.

Photo taken by Monica Barletta

            As much as I loved what this landmark has done and continues to do for the community, the one feedback I have of this park is that it should be more open about its past. It is not as if the estate is trying to hide its history, but not everyone that visits has access to a guide that knows the place so well. One of the most amazing things I saw throughout the tour was the Tequestan burial mound, but to even get to it, it required a worker to open the lock on a huge gate, a 15-minute walk with many turns, and even then, the only evidence of it being there was a small sign. Although it is not necessarily hidden from the public, it would be nice for it to be accessible so more people could be more aware of not only the history of the estate but of Miami as well.

Photo taken by Monica Barletta

Vizcaya as Text: The Lavish Home of James Deering

By Monica Barletta of FIU on March 4, 2022

Following our trip to Charles Deering’s famous Florida home known as the Deering Estate, we visited the winter home of his younger brother, James. Located in the Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami, lies James Deering’s lavish winter home, Villa Vizcaya, known today as The Vizcaya Museum and Gardens.

Photo taken by Monica Barletta

  As an executive at the Deering Harvester Company and as one of the wealthiest businessmen in America at the time, James spent his money unsparingly decorating his estate. His expensive taste his can be seen throughout his entire home not only with the newest technology of the time, from the telephone room to the vacuum cleaner, but with the countless art pieces in every single room and hallway.

            The most interesting part of the house are the many different styles of each room. Paul Chalfin served as the artistic director during the construction of the home. As the artistic director of the home, Chalfin’s main role was to choose the design of the house and garden as well as to decorate the interior. As you walk through the home, you don’t need an architecture degree to see how the home is decorated in all different kinds of architectural styles. Some rooms were designed in the neoclassical style, which featured intellectual and symmetrical architecture which shows a balance between life and art. Other rooms, such as the Marie Antoinette room, was designed in a rococo hedonistic way, showing a celebration of life. The music room in the house, which was reportedly never used, was designed in a rococo baroque style as to be decorative, curvy, and natural.

Photo taken by Monica Barletta

            This was just to name a few of the many art styles that can be seen in the lush estate of James Deering. It is one of the many aspects that makes this estate stand out, especially in the middle of Miami. The beauty and uniqueness of this home is what makes it such a popular destination for weddings, photoshoots, and tourists, and it is what keeps bringing me back to visit this site over and over again.

Photo taken by Monica Barletta

Downtown Miami as Text: The Hidden History of Miami

By Monica Barletta of FIU on March 27, 2022

            In a city filled with so much history, it comes as no surprise that when visiting Downtown Miami, you will encounter at least something associated with our past at every turn.

            From monuments with plaques telling the story of how the name “Dade County” came to be to a giant broken orange bowl art installation symbolizing the disorder of Miami’s expansion, the history of the making of Downtown Miami is documented throughout the city… if you know where to look. Lucky for our class, we had the help of our professor, John Bailly, to guide us through to the most significant sites. My favorite part of the lecture was at the Brickell Point Site that contained The Miami Circle, which is an archaeological site associated with an important Native North American group known as the Tequestas. This circle, which was discovered in 1998, is made up of holes and basins carved into the Miami Limestone. It contains many historic artifacts and items that provided some insight on how this Native American Group had lived: proving they had long-distance exchange, distinct architecture, and evidence of ceremonialism.

Photo taken by Monica Barletta

One of the topics I enjoy learning most about in this class was the influence and history the Tequestan people had on Miami. It really is so interesting to me because, despite being born and raised here, I had never heard of the Tequestan people throughout my 20 years living here and learning “Miami’s history” before taking this class. I hope that in the future, public schools teach their students more about the Tequestan people so that the history of our city can be passed down without having to take a special class for it.

Photo taken by Professor John Bailly

SoBe as Text: The Diversity of Art on South Beach

Photo taken by Monica Barletta

            This week’s lecture took us to one of the world’s biggest tourist destinations. SoBe brings in over $17 billion every year in tourism alone, and while people travel from all around the world to vacation on South Beach, our class was able to take a day trip to learn the rich history behind this famous spot. The class tour took us from the southernmost point of Miami Beach, South Pointe, and had us walk all along the famed Ocean Drive.

            Known for its unique mix of so many architecture styles, Ocean Drive is the largest art deco neighborhood and can even be considered as the art deco capital of the world. There are many distinct characteristics that make these buildings so striking; they can be characterized by ten aesthetic devices which include: a reoccurring rule of 3 motif, eyebrow balconies, ziggurat roofs, and relief art representing natural aspects, to name a few. This style of architecture stands out immensely especially at night when the neon lights turn on causing the buildings to glow.

Photo taken by Monica Barletta

            Despite being full of so many art deco style buildings, walking along this street you can see the various art styles that influenced the buildings lining this famous street. From the late Gianni Versace’s Casa Casuarina created in a Mediterranean revival design, to the oldest hotel in Miami turned restaurant featuring an Old Western style. These mixes of art styles are what makes Ocean Drive such a unique destination. While in theory, this combination of architecture styles might sound like it would make the area an eyesore, it somehow blends together perfectly to create an unmatched picturesque place like no other.

Photo taken by Monica Barletta

Monica Barletta

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Monica Barletta: Grand Tour 2022

Grand Tour Redux

Colosseo, Foro Romano, & Ancient Roma

Photo taken by Monica Barletta

    Walking throughout Rome feels as if ancient and modern times are colliding. It is a strange sight to see cars casually driving around century-old monuments and pedestrians not even looking up from their phones as they walk past towering obelisks brought back from conquests of Augustus’ time. Now being the capital of Italy, Rome was once the biggest and ruling empire of the world for hundreds of years. 

    The Foro Romano, or the Roman Forum, is the area between Piazza Venezia and the Colosseo which is considered to be not only the biggest but the most important archaeological site in the world. It is the site of many structures containing much historical significance including the home of Rome’s legendary founder, Romulus, the Roman senate house, the temple of where Julius Caesar’s body was burned, and much more. 

    The Forum Romanum was originally a place to spectate gladiatorial games and contained shops along the Via Sacra that welcomed newcomers. The Forum’s main purpose shifted under the rule of the Roman Empire to become primarily for religious purposes, containing many of the city’s religious temples and monuments. The Via Sacra leads all the way to the oval amphitheater in the center of Rome, the Colosseum. Once a place for Romans to be amused with Gladiatorial battles, Roman victory re-enactments, and public executions.

    It can be seen that Rome, and particularly with the neighborhoods of the Roman Forum and the Colosseo, had a huge influence on the culture of politics in modern United States politics and American entertainment. Rome was the first to establish a republic form of government that was later copied by the United States, while the Colosseum (which was the first to just take the Greek’s theatrons and put two together) served as a blueprint for later arenas that, even today, host thousands of fans cheering for football players tackling each other similar to the way gladiators used to fight. The saying, “all roads lead to Rome,” truly does apply in so many aspects of our American culture.

Photo taken by Monica Barletta


    By far my favorite neighborhood, not only just in Firenze but all of Italy, was Oltrano. The name Oltrarno itself means “beyond the Arno”, because just a walk across the Arno river brings you to a whole new side of Firenze. This neighborhood contains the Palazzo Pitti, Boboli Gardens, Brancacci Chapel,Basilica of S. Maria del Santo Spirito, and my personal favorite, Piazzale Michelangelo.

    Firenze had been founded in the 1st century BCE on the northern bank of the Arno river. The first settlements did not occur until the 4th century AD as Christians began to establish themselves. In the 13th century, Florence began to build neighborhoods called “borghi”, two of which being in Oltrarno, around Borgo San Jacopo and Borgo di Piazza (now Via Guicciardini). 

    The city walls were built around the neighborhood in the 14th century and can still be seen today. It had previously been left unprotected with just wooden palisades and windowless facades being the only defences they had against outside forces. The neighborhood was made up of craftsmen and ciompi workers that had fled their houses near Via Maggio due to their opposition against their working conditions, so the protection of this neighborhood was not of great priority to Florence.

    The settlement of the rich and noble families of Firenze established the neighborhood into what it is today. At the end of 15th Century, The Pitti Palace was among the many palaces built at this time but it was the most important of them all. The beautiful palace was commissioned by the Pitti family who demolished part of Borgo di Piazza in front of the palace leading to the creation of the Gardens of Boboli.

    What really started the history of Oltrarno being an art-centered community was the influence of the Medici family. In 1550, the Medicis established their residence in the Pitti Palace. The Medici family has been well known throughout history to be fervent art collectors.Their desire, as well as the other families of Oltrarno, to decorate their homes with extravagant art pieces and constantly be surrounded by beauty is what turned the neighborhood into a place filled with craftsmen. The Medici family along with the other noble families brought in all sorts of craftsmen from painters and sculptors to gilders and goldsmiths to even smiths and carpenters.

    In 1861, Italy had finally formed into the modern Italian state with Florence as its capital at the time (Rome being under the control of the Papacy). The Savoia royal family which ruled over the Kingdom of Italy chose to establish the Palazzo Pitti as the royal palace. While the city walls of Oltrano were partly dismantled, the walls on the northern side of the Arno were completely demolished in order to make room for bigger buildings and streets that could accommodate vehicles, making it the only neighborhood in Firenze where one could still see the old wall.

    The history and significance of Oltrarno is why the true historic atmosphere of this Firenze neighborhood has been so well preserved. Not being at the center of Firenze, the neighborhood contains some hidden gems with its museums and monuments, and being under the control of such powerful families throughout history had contributed to the preservation of its beauty. While most other Firenze neighborhoods were very commercialized with vendors on the street and gift shops on every corner, Oltrarno was an even better example of the true Florentine culture. The environment of Oltrarno is composed of art studios and workshops, small cafés and restaurants, and small specialized shops throughout the whole neighborhood. While the quiet during the day felt like a relief from the loud chaotic buzz of Firenze’s city center, the night life Oltrarno was alive as soon as the sun set.

    The Piazzale Michelangelo, which was once commissioned by the Savoia royal family as part of Firenze’s “risanamento”, was truly the most unique piazza in all of Italy, feeling as if the entire community had come together to experience the sun setting with food and drink. Going there each night I had in Firenze, I felt the friendly atmosphere each time no matter if I sat in the gardens, in the square, or even on the steps, everywhere I looked I saw strangers laughing and making friends with new people, which truly summarized the core values of Oltrarno.

Photo taken by Monica Barletta


   Corniglia is one of the five towns of Cinque Terre. The town itself is named after the Roman family who originally owned the land, “Gens Cornelia”. It is believed that Corniglia began primarily as an area of wine production, with much folklore claiming their wine to be famous enough to be found in the remains of Pompeii. 

    While Corniglia is not the most remote of the five towns, it was certainly not as accessible in the past as it is now. Being that the only safe methods of voyaging into the town is by a train or on foot in the modern era, one can only imagine the struggle of living in this town or journeying to it in the past. I can’t see modern day Americans taking such risks to move to remote regions in order to pursue something such as wine production. 

    Unlike the other villages, Corniglia lacks a docking area for any boats meaning the population is likely heavily dependent on the supply of resources and food. It should come as no surprise that Corniglia is only home to about 250 people. This number is dwarfed by the 2.5 million tourists that visit Cinque Terre annually. In the United States, we usually see major population hubs surrounding such major tourist locations however this isn’t the case for this small town.

    Due to the location Corniglia’s main attractions are historical. The main attraction being the church of San Pietro. This church was built on top of ruins of a previous church and boasts a gothic and Liguarian style. Since Corniglia grew with the rise of Genoa, much of its architecture was relatively similar including San Pietro. The region was previously inhabited by the Ligures. This is likely why the architecture was so distinct compared to the Romanesque architecture of most other areas of Italy. While they shared the similar focus of churches, the architecture of these churches varied in many different ways. The front of the church of San Pietro boasts a large Romanesque-style rounded arch doorway. However, the gothic style is immediately visible upon seeing the large circular stained glass piece above this doorway which is a key part of gothic architecture. Other than this church, the next notable historical site would be in the main square of Piazza Taragio. There is a WW1 monument for the fallen soldiers of the war however there isn’t much detail on the monument. Corniglia is a rare hidden gem among the five towns and was definitely one of my favorite places to visit off the beaten path. 

Photo taken by Monica Barletta

Santa Croce

    On the topic of off the beaten path, San Croce certainly qualifies as well. While much of Venice is overrun with tourism-related businesses, San Croce remains one of the true Venetian neighborhoods left.

    With much of the tourism being steered away from this neighborhood towards Rialto, it definitely has a far more authentic way of life about it. Beginning from Piazzale Roma, San Croce spans to the east edge and ends right above San Polo and across the main canal from Cannaregio. Upon leaving the main train station of St. Lucia you can see the drastic difference in foot traffic across the canal compared to the bustling streets of Cannaregio. 

    The main historical attraction is the Church San Giacomo a L’Orio. One of the most interesting details about this church is that the origin of the name is unknown. It is clear from the pictures of the exterior that there are elements of Romanesque architecture such as the small stained glass piece and the lack of flying buttresses. The eastern portion of San Croce remains a heavily industrialized area not warranting a visit. However, the remainder of San Croce has a far more local vibe with many small pastry shops and bars as wells. It is interesting how this neighborhood remains untouched by tourism and why that might be. This similar occurrence happens in Miami in which you have heavily tourist trafficked areas such as Wynwood right in the middle of lower socioeconomic neighborhoods. While there is no correlation, it is interesting to note how this balance of tourism and locality remains.    

    Much of San Croce acts as a transportation hub for those with cars and such traveling into Venice. Between this and the industrialization it seems purely residential. I thoroughly enjoyed the quieter plazas and less crowded alleys. The attitude of the few seemingly residential people I asked for help from seemed to be genuinely helpful as opposed to the snarky, anti-tourism attitudes on the other side of the canal. 

    I think another reason San Croce likely doesn’t experience the same kind of tourism is due to the public transportation. Most people coming into Venice are guided to their left out of the train station by the hundreds of tour signs as well as the general flow of people towards Rialto. As well as this, seeing as the main water bus stops let off far before San Croce it’s not hard to see why no one seems to visit it. Although, just like many other tourist hubs, residents need a place to live and operate without the madness of the tourism industry. I couldn’t imagine having my child having to cross the Rialto bridge every morning to get to school. Seeing as we are in Miami, this is slightly relatable. If we take Miami Beach for example, most people live on the west side of the beach where there are far more neighborhood grocery stores, gyms, schools, parks, etc. whereas South Beach seems to strictly be reserved for hotels, restaurants, clubs, etc. It would appear the fate of San Croce was doomed upon the construction of the car lot that turned it into a district for commuters more than anything else. The lack in size, art, tourist attractions, and general accessibility all help make San Croce fade into the shadows of the other 5 neighborhoods of Venice.

Photo taken by Nicholas Wolek


Monica Barletta: Italia as Text 2022 

Roma as Text

The Goddess of Femininity

During our stay in Rome, from the hundreds of art pieces we were able to see, what truly caught my eye was the Capitoline Venus on display at the Capitoline Museum. People would come from all around just to gaze at the statue of the Capitoline Venus so much so that the museum dedicated an entire room to her, covered in mirrors so you can get a 360° view of her nude body. Venus is known as the goddess of love, beauty, and pleasure. She represents femininity and the acceptance of feminine sexuality among other things. She was even deemed among Romans as the “Mother of Rome.”

One of the most important key concepts I have been reflecting on as it seems to be a recurring motif regarding roman culture would be the cultural openness. Roman culture was most notable for its contributions to art and architecture. Unlike most other developing empires Rome was inclusive of many different aspects of cultural and religious influence from surrounding populations of Italy. One of the biggest influences to the Roman Empire was Greece. Although Greece and Rome had quarreled throughout the later part of the Hellenistic Period, many aspects of Greek culture became assimilated into Roman Culture. This included language, art, literature, etc.

    One of the clearest depictions of this receptivity to the cultures of others by the Roman Empire was the Capitoline Venus. The idea behind Capitoline Venus was a famous sculpture made by Greek sculptor, Praxiteles, of the goddess of love, Aphrodite (or Venus in Roman culture). This rather large, nude female sculpture was considered to be one of the greatest works of art in the world at the time between 360 BC and 475 AD. 

What made this statue stand out to me so much was the fact that Venus was praised for accepting her sexuality, and this statue featuring her nude was and is still held in such high regard. A statue this risqué would not be able to be featured this way in the public in United States. Despite the many art pieces across FIU and having an extensive art program, a statue even close to being this revealing being displayed would cause an uproar, even though it is just that… art representing a woman’s body. It made me think about the prudeness of our society now compared to that of ancient Rome. Romans, who were known for being openly gay, having multiple partners, and being anything but prude, had such a great influence on our culture but for some reason we did not retain their opinions on sexuality. Reflecting on our culture, it seems as if we took a step back in the wrong direction as we try to shame women for embracing their sexuality as opposed to celebrating it, in the same way Venus was praised in this piece.

Pompeii as Text

The Area Punished by The Gods

    Located in the Campania region of Southern Italy, the ancient city of Pompeii is known around the world as a window into the past. The eruption in 79 AD of the nearby volcano, Mount Vesuvius, completely covered Pompeii in 30 feet of ash which preserved the city for centuries as it hardened. With signs of impending doom, most of Pompeii’s 20,000 citizens fled the city, but the 2,000-3,000 that remained were forever immortalized under that ash, and with the reputation of the cursed city, it had been forgotten until the 16th century.

    The history of Pompeii’s tragic ending is a story known throughout the world, and personally, something I even remember learning about in elementary school as a young kid. What I was surprised to learn on this walking lecture was how modern this city really was and how many modern inventions/norms we have today had origins in Pompeii. From things as small as saying such as the term “red light district” used to describe urban neighborhoods that have high concentration of sex workers was once used to describe neighborhoods where prostitutes would stand outside holding lamps. To bigger things used in everyday life, such as reflective pavement markers on roads, car (or, in this case, carriage) size restriction entrances, and intersections of roads. The terms cardio maximo (as in cardio referring to the main artery) is used for roads that go North and South, while decumanus was an East-West road, and together they form an intersection of roads. Perhaps the most shocking to me was the origin of paying for public toilets, which turns out to be a great source of income and is now extremely common throughout Europe.

Before visiting, I had assumed those from Pompeii were simple or underdeveloped, so it was really quite a shock when I found out how many things we use today that we got from them. 

Pompeii as Text

The Beginning of Environmentalism” by Monica Barletta of FIU

    Located in central Italy’s Umbria region is a hill town that looks like it was pulled straight out of a fairytale. Even though this town has beautiful scenery and architecture, it is best known for being the birthplace of Saint Francis, the patron saint of ecology and animals.

    Saint Francis was a soldier and had lived a wealthy life before he decided he would no longer spend his time as a soldier for man, but instead for God. After choosing to devote his life to God, he gained attention from the pope because of a dream he had in which God showed him an image of a broken church commanding him to rebuild it, while the pope later had a similar vision showing Francis holding the church up.

    What I found so interesting about Francis is the change he inspired in the religion. His time signifies the birth of new christianity to a shift in focusing on what one is doing on their time on Earth and not just consider it a means to enter heaven in the afterlife. 

    One of his main ideals is to care for the environment and Earth’s creatures. He loved all animals, believing them to be our equals, and was even known to preach to the birds. He believed that we should love the Earth as it is a part of God’s creation and we should focus on taking care of it. As a biology major and someone who thinks it’s important to take care of the environment, I found it extremely interesting that Francis’ preachings sparked the movement that started western environmentalism. This lecture captivated my attention because I had not known about Saint Francis prior to this lecture despite the influence he has had on ecology and animal conservation, something I am so passionate about. Even to this day, the current pope has taken on the name Francis because his ideals are still held in such high regard.

Firenze as Text

Michelangelo: The Divine One” by Monica Barletta of FIU

    The Renaissance was a time in which there was a cultural rebirth that began in Florence and spread rapidly throughout Europe. As the increased interaction between different cultures allowed the exchange of ideas and techniques, it gave rise to this rebirth of science and culture that still has relevance today. The competition in 1401 for the baptistery doors between Ghiberti and Brunelleschi marked the beginning of the Renaissance. The art of this movement was given realistic, natural, and humanistic characteristics, one of the artists that did it the best was Michelangelo.

    One of the most influential artists of this period was the sculptor, painter, architect, and poet, Michelangelo. Walking throughout Florence, it seems as if there is a work done by Michelangelo in every place you look. He was commissioned so often for private and public work throughout the city, particularly by Florence’s ruling family: the Medicis. Known for being lovers of Renaissance art and the biggest sponsors of the time period, various members of the Medici family commissioned him throughout his life from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel to the unfinished tombs in the Cappelle Medici. Even as a young aspiring artist, they saw Michelangelo’s potential and offered him to move from his traditional apprenticeship to work and live under their patronage. Growing up under the Medici’s around so much art and intellect definitely attributed to his success, and is what shaped him into the artist he built himself up to be. 

    Although not commissioned by the Medicis, perhaps what he was most known for was his 19-foot statue of the biblical hero, David. The statue of David which used to stand in front of the Florentine Civic Center depicting Florence staring off threateningly to the “Goliath” Rome. When one thinks of Renaissance sculptures, David is most likely the first thing that comes to mind. It is no doubt that much of the Renaissance’s fame can be attributed to the works of Michelangelo, and he even later served as a major inspiration and influence on art styles that followed after the Renaissance. Even to this day, some of Florence’s most well known art is of Michelangelo’s work: the Sistine Chapel and David are among Italy’s biggest tourist attractions.

Pisa as Text

“All World” by Monica Barletta of FIU

Photo taken by John Bailly

    When one thinks of Pisa, the first thing they think about is one of the world’s biggest tourist attractions: The Leaning Tower of Pisa. Although being able to see and climb the tower was definitely a highlight of the Italy trip for me, what stood out to me the most was just a mural on the side of a building. Before coming to Pisa, I had no idea this mural was here or that it even existed, but just turning a random corner I was met with a 180-meter tall mural made by the famous New York street artist, Keith Harring.

    The story of how Harring ended up in Pisa to create this beautiful piece of art was simply that a resident of Pisa, Piergiorgio Castellani, asked him to create something in Italy when he ran into him in the 80s, and in the Keith Harring style, he impulsively said yes and made it happen. The mural was completed in 1989 named Tuttimondo. Harring enjoyed this project so much, he began on plans for another project in Pisa but sadly passed away of AIDS months after completing Tuttimondo, making this his last great work.

    What made this piece so amazing to me is not just the message, but that it caught me so off guard running into it. In a place that is just filled with Renaissance and Gothic art on every street corner, this giant modern art mural stood out even more. 

    Even while being outcasted and shamed by so many for his sexuality, Harrings pieces are all about love and peace among humans. Tuttimondo depicts many of his famous outlined figures in different positions and styles, but they each represent different aspects of peace. Despite not usually naming his pieces, Harring titled this mural “Tuttomondo” which translates to “All World”. This piece was just as creative as he was, even as he neared his end, and I think it is still such a great tribute to life, representing peace and harmony among the people of the world.

Cinque Terre as Text

A Reflection of our Grand Tour” by Monica Barletta

Photo taken by Monica Barletta

    During the Italian Grand Tour, Cinque Terre was the stop on the tour that was dedicated to reflect on all that had been seen and learned on the time away from home, which is exactly what our class did on our stop here. While Rome was a city full of chaos and brutal history, and Florence being known for its art and culture revolving around each artist trying to outcompete the other, Cinque Terre was the perfect break in our itinerary as it finally takes you away from all the madness of other Italian cities. 

    Cinque Terre is composed of the five “cinque” seaside towns that line the shore next to each other: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. From hiking the mountains across each village to cliff jumping, there is much to do in order to destress in these towns that look like they came straight out of a movie.

Photo taken by Monica Barletta

    Each of the small villages feel as if you are being transported back in history because the locals refuse to make it commercialized, a huge contribution to the natural beauty of each of the villages. The beauty of the entirety of the city is what makes it such a perfect place for those on their “pilgrimage” to reflect. Feeling like a vacation from our vacation, we did just that with our minimal lectures and class work at this point in the trip. Looking out over the top of each mountain we climbed with each spot as beautiful as the last, I felt as if it was a great reflection of our time abroad. Making our way through each city just to finally look back and realize how much we had accomplished felt just the same as making it past each mountain. As Cinque Terre has been known as a place to relax and reflect on all that has been seen during the Grand Tour across Italy, I couldn’t think of a better place to be able to think back about all we’ve learned than sitting on the beach and tanning as we enter the final week of our tour.

Photo taken by Monica Barletta

Venezia as Text

“Masters of Glass” by Monica Barletta

    The Venetian Lagoon contains many islands with each one being just as unique and different as the last. The actual city of Venice was incomparable to any other city I have ever seen. The techniques used by early Venetian settlers of putting pine tree trunks into the lagoon and placing the white Istrian stone over the hardened wood had never been done to this extent. The idea of a city floating right on the water not only makes it picturesque and beautiful for tourists, but it is one of the contributors to what made Venice so powerful, at one point even being the biggest European power in the Mediterranean. 

    As beautiful and unique as Venice is, the other islands that are on the Venetian Lagoon are just as special. The islands of Murano and Burano are located North of Venice, each one with a specialty in certain products with techniques that have been passed on through generations for hundreds of years. While Burano was beautiful with its colorful buildings and the intricate lacework displayed in every shop, I found Murano to be the most interesting with its history and its glassblowing specialty.

Photo taken by Monica Barletta

    From salt production to fishing port, prior to 1291 Murano was not very prosperous until Venice sent all its glassblowing masters to the island. While Venetians had a history of perfecting the art, the ovens used to mold the glass had to be kept on extremely high temperatures constantly, causing a great fire during the peak of the Serenissima Republic. The government outlawed the use of these furnaces and exiled the glassblowers to the island of Murano. While the glassblowers were held in high regard, they were not allowed to leave the city for the fear of their crafting secrets getting out. 

    I found the history of the island to be the most interesting of all of the islands of the lagoon because you can see the effects of the forced living of these “masters”. Venetians mastered the art of the glassblowing art, passing their knowledge from generation to generation. With the fear of assassins being sent to kill them before they spilled the secrets, the people of Murano perfected this art so much so that it is still a prosperous industry to this day hundreds of years later.

Photo taken by Monica Barletta

Monica Barletta: Italia America 2022

“Renaissance Influence on Sculpting”

“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it. I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”


            Sculptures are classified under the branch of visual arts that operates by working stone, metal, ceramics, wood and other materials into three-dimensional art objects. Sculptural processes are classified under three types: carving, modelling, or joining. Some of the most famous pieces of art found throughout history are sculptures, from Michelangelo’s David to the Statue of Liberty, this form of art has been extremely popular for thousands of years and is still prevalent all throughout the world. The art of sculpting has been around for hundreds of thousands of years, and evidence of certain sculptures have even dated back to before the emergence of the Neanderthals about 350,000 years ago during the Pleistocene Epoch. Although sculptures may not have looked the way we know them now, the art style has gone through many different changes in order to come to the point it has. Almost every corner of the world has adopted this form of art and tailored it to incorporate their own influence on it.

The Origins of Sculpting

            Although there is controversy on this topic, it is believed that sculpting is one of the oldest forms of art even surpassing that of painting. While today, most sculptures are used to convey beauty, people used to sculpt forms to be used in rituals or that represented their spirituality. The oldest known figurative carving in the world can be dated back to 23,000 – 700,000 BCE. The Venus of Berekhat Ram was found in Israel in 1998 and depicts the figure of a female. It was found that the original tuff pebble had curves that resembled the body of a female, and a hominid carver had cut grooves around the neck and arms to enhance the figure. This object is the earliest example of representational art in the archaeological record, proving the art of sculpting even predates the evolution of modern humans.

            Another early statue that was discovered is The Löwenmensch Statuette, dating back to 35,000 BC in Hohlenstein-Stadel, Germany. Löwenmensch means “lion human” in German, with the statue depicting a human figure with a feline face. It is believed to have been used in a ritual, as protection, or to ensure a good hunt. The carving has been estimated to have taken over 350 hours to finish, and since allocating time to finding sustenance was so crucial during this time, it suggests this was a very important artifact in the tribe. This statue also goes to show that spirituality and art were so important that there might have even been full-time artists being “employed” this long ago.

            Devotional sculptures can be found in cultures across the world and throughout time, with sculptures as big as the Egyptian Sphinx created in 2500 BC to the gold miniatures in the pre-Columbian era (500 AD), many cultures had used this art practice for spiritual or religious purposes. The beginning of the Mesolithic in Europe marked a period of a reduction of figurative sculptures and a rise in relief art of practical objects until the Roman period emerged that really popularized the use of sculpting and catalyzed the shift to modern sculptures.

Sculpting Throughout Different Cultures

            Egypt had served an important role in the change of style in sculpting. Egypt would not only depict people doing daily activities such that they appeared alive, but also used these statues to represent their gods, nobles, and rulers with the belief that their spirits could return to these statues. One of the most popular sculptures is the Great Sphinx, as opposed to The Löwenmensch Statuette which depicts the body of a man possessing the head of a lion, the Sphinx has the head of the pharaoh, Khafra, and body of a lion. It was carved out of limestone that sticks up above the desert floor, 65’ high and 240’ long. The statue was erected by Khafre’s father more than 4,500 years ago to guard the pyramid of Khafre at Giza.

            This Egyptian style of naturalism had a profound impact on Greek art as it emerged in the 7th century. The emergence of trading stations in the Nile delta resulted in an increase of contact with eastern art and tradition leading to a shift from geometric art to a more natural form of art. The Greek introduction to Egyptian art and techniques influenced the poses and posture of their figural art.

            In ancient Greek art, the Greek gods took appeared in a human form, which resulted in the human form being considered the most important subject in Greek art. Originally, Greeks followed Egyptian techniques and art styles rigidly as they carved very stiff and blocky figures in stone. As the Hellenistic period began to emerge, sculptors began to break away from the rigid Egyptian-influenced model and develop their own art style. 

            The conquest of Alexander the Great from 336 – 323 BC brought in the Hellenistic period in which Greek art and culture spread rapidly through his huge empire consisting of the eastern Mediterranean, Egypt, the Middle East, and parts of Asia. This period had a huge influence on the type of art that became popular, and this is mostly due to the type of material available. The Greek influence marked a shift into a more realistic, natural style especially with the change of material from stone to bronze and marble. Marble is much softer and easier to work with when is quarried and allowed famous statues that are still in great condition today to withstand the test of time because the material becomes hard and dense with time. This became the most popular material for great Greek and Italian artists. The medium of bronze allowed artists to introduce new subjects possessing realistic renderings of a variety of physical and emotional states. Bronze was so appealing to sculptures because of its tensile strength, reflective surface, and the ability to retain small details. Although more popular at the time, bronze deteriorates much quicker than marble and very few survive today. This gives the false impression to most that marble was the most commonly used medium in the ancient world for sculpting. The victory of Augustus over Mark Antony and Cleopatra in 31 BC marked the end of the Hellenistic era and the rise of the Roman Empire. Despite the end of this artistic period, the result of it had a lasting impact that changed the world of sculpting forever.

         Historians believe that the Western traditional sculptures began in Ancient Greece, as artists began to move away from creating solely spiritual or religious statues towards capturing the beauty of the human form in bronze and marble. This shift in artistic style had a huge and lasting influence on all art created after, even now in the 21st century we are still seeing this impact as it inspires contemporary artists today.

The Influence of Christianity

            Up until 325 AD, the Roman Empire was mainly polytheistic and sculptures were generally to honor their different Gods or certain members of nobility. As Emperor Constantine declared Christianity the official religion, a shift takes place on the subject matter of popular sculptures. Giant statues decreased in popularity and portraiture began to dominate the field of Roman sculpture. As the Gothic era expanded, religious sculptures on churches became more bigger and more elaborate. Biblical figures were shown in altarpieces and very high relief sculptures on and around the church.

            At the time many people were not able to read or write, and the church needed a way to represent what was right and wrong in the eyes of the lord. They made use of figures in reminding the churchgoers of their faith, representing biblical scenes as a caution to what would be waiting in the afterlife for those who sinned.

The Renaissance

            The term “Gothic style” refers to the style of European art during the 14th and early 15th century that served as a bridge by linking medieval Romanesque art with the Early Renaissance. The end of Christianity’s Gothic era marked the beginning of the Renaissance. A period in which a “rebirth” of classical learning and wisdom took place among European culture. It focused on the rediscovery of classical philosophy, literature and art. Emphasizing the idea that man was the center of his own universe, which manifested itself in the art that emerged from this period.

            The renaissance marked the transition from darkness to light; from the dark ages which were a period of war, ignorance, famine, and pandemics to an era that brought “light” to new ideas and art. The movement began in Florence, due to the fact that this area has a rich cultural history and was home to many wealthy citizens that could afford to support budding artists. The well-known Medici family famously backed and funded the movement during their rule over Florence which lasted over 60 years.

            This movement slowly expanded throughout Italy to Venice, Milan, Bologna, Ferrara and Rome. In the 15th century, it spread from Italy to France and then throughout western and northern Europe. The style of Renaissance art was characterized by realism and naturalism. For the first time in the history of sculpting, artists strived to depict people in a true-to-life way, and this style is still prevalent in modern art made today.

Famous Renaissance Sculptures


        By far the most well-known sculpture throughout all of history is Michelangelo’s 14-foot masterpiece, David. The sculpture depicts David, before his infamous defeat of the giant Biblical warrior Goliath. It was originally commissioned for the Florence Cathedral, to be placed along its rooftop, but was instead placed in a public square.


        Giambologna is one of the most important sculptors of the Late Renaissance. The works of Giovanni da Bologna, such as The Rape of the Sabine Woman and Hercules and the Centaur Nessus, can still be seen on the streets of Florence today. He trained in Antwerp before moving to Rome to study the Ancients and the work of Michelangelo until he settled in Florence to work for the Medici family.


           While Bartolomeo Ammannati is more famous for his architecture, some of his sculpting work is still on display today. Situated in the Piazza della Signoria, the Fountain of Neptune is one of Ammannati’s most famous pieces of work that stands today. Commissioned by Cosimo I de’ Medici in 1559 to celebrate the marriage of Francesco de’ Medici I to the Grand Duchess Joanna of Austria, it depicts the God of the sea, Neptune, accompanied by other groups of marine deities.

Modern Sculptures

            The Renaissance is believed by historians to be the bridge between the Middle Ages and modern-day civilization. The Renaissance changed the world in just about every way: from artistic style to new lines of thinking. In it, a humanist philosophy was reflected, new perspectives were developed, artists made use of light and shadows, and the focus of art shifted to focus on the beauty of human anatomy. A new desire emerged as sculptures sought to etch the beauty of the world as it really was into marble and bronze.

            The Renaissance is considered one of the most influential phases in art history. This period introduced the new idea of focusing on the significance and beauty of the human body to art. It paved the way for modern sculptures created in our western culture: the style, material, symbolism of the sculpture, and techniques used. The realism and naturalism that sparked in the renaissance is still very prevalent in sculptures being created today. Despite starting on the other side of the world so long ago, the influences the Renaissance has had on not only sculpting in America, but the entire art world has been revolutionary.


Daunt, Julie. “14 Powerful Sculptures around the World.” Culture Trip, The Culture Trip, 19 Aug. 2015,

“History of Italian Renaissance Sculpture.” HiSoUR, 22 Apr. 2019,,humanism%20and%20rationalism%2C%20developed%20a.

“The History of Sculpture: Event: Royal Academy of Arts.” Event | Royal Academy of Arts,

“History of Sculptures.” Skulpturhalle, Editors. “Renaissance.”, A&E Television Networks, 4 Apr. 2018,

“Lion-Man.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 12 Mar. 2022,

“Relief Art.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 5 Apr. 2022,

“Renaissance Sculpture from Florence and Rome.” Italian Renaissance,

“Sculpture in Western Art.” Working with Sculpture (Education at the Getty),,possible%20spiritual%20or%20religious%20purposes.

“Sculpture.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 24 Apr. 2022,

“Venus of Berekhat Ram.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 11 Apr. 2022,

“A Very Brief History of Sculpture.” SamsOriginalArt, 12 Dec. 2020,

Monica Barletta: Jennifer Basile 2021

“Whenever someone asks you if you can do it, you just say yes and figure it out.”

Jennifer Basile


Photo taken by Jorge Villareal

Monica Barletta is a sophomore in the Honors College at Florida International University. She is currently a Biology major on the Pre-med track and hopes to attend the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine. Outside of school, she enjoys creating art and spending time with her friends and family.


Image taken by Yael Boverman

Jennifer Basile is a Miami-based landscape artist specializing in printmaking and professor at Miami Dade College. She likes to focus on the landscape because of how important it is to her not just now, but throughout her childhood where she would use it as a way to escape. Basile was born and raised in Queens, New York and eventually moved to Long Island by the time she reached schooling age. She got to see both sides of New York as she described the neighborhood she grew up in as the average suburb where she would spend the weekdays and then go back to urban Queens to visit her grandmother on the weekends. She had a well-rounded education and her first source for inspiration was her junior high art teacher who introduced her to the AP art teacher, which motivated her to take more art classes. She recounted how one of her high school teachers had a program in which the upper-class students would teach the freshmen and sophomores. So, from the start, Basile was inspired to not only pursue art from a very young age, but to teach as well.

            In 1991, Basile moved to Florida despite receiving offers for many scholarships from prestigious art schools in New York. As much as she wanted to go to these schools, her parents made it clear to her that they would not support her decision to stay, being 18 and afraid, she agreed to move with them to Davie. There, she started going to Broward Community College and threw herself into her work. She was recognized by her hard work by her teacher and had the opportunity to work as an apprentice for the famous sculpture, Dwayne Hanson. She worked under him for 2 years during which she learned a lot about art and he taught her many valuable life lessons there as well.

            After 2 years at Broward, she applied for the University of Miami which she was able to go to because of the scholarships they offered her. Initially at UM, she began as a ceramics and painting major, but after studying under Christine Federighi, she realized she no longer enjoyed doing ceramics. One of her professors recommended trying out printmaking based on the way she did paintings, which she immediately fell in love with, prompting her to stay an extra year and change her major to printmaking and painting.

            In 1996, Basile began attending Southern Illinois University for printmaking and painting. She was interested in becoming a teacher and was afraid that just doing printmaking would limit her opportunities to get a teaching job after she would graduate, so she decided to use her elective credit hours for painting. After graduating in 1999, she applied all over Illinois but could not come up with any job except adjunct work. She decided to move to Miami where she began adjunct teaching at the University of Miami and Broward community college and doing work at the Lowe Art Museum and PAMM. Three years later, she got an official position at Miami Dade Community College where she went through a sticky point as she started teaching, where her art production slowed down with being so busy jumping through the hoops of academic life. Once receiving tenure, she applied to the Bakehouse Art Complex where she stayed for 7 years, which ultimately led to her getting signed at the LNS gallery.


            During my interview with Jennifer Basile, she mentioned many stories from her past that helped shape her into the person she is today. Basile has immigrant grandparents on both sides and her parents are American born and raised but are still of Italian heritage. Although she grew up in America, she spent a lot of time with her grandparents having Italian tendencies. She recalled that she would go to school with classic Italian lunches that were completely normal to her but very weird to other kids. Not only would she get picked on for being different, but she described herself as “the nerdy chubby kid” that made the bullying even worse. In high school, this was brought an end in a school fight after a girl picked on her in the cafeteria and she finally decided she had had enough of being run over by other people.

            This had a huge parallel with an experience later in her life that had a huge impact in shaping her as an artist. Threatened by her abilities, the printmaking professor at the university she taught at would not allow her to use the lab. This was heartbreaking because without the lab it would be very difficult to create the prints she was passionate about. Just like how she dealt with the bully in high school, she decided she would not take this and decided to spite him by making a print for the faculty show they would both be in. She made a huge print that was 8 feet tall and 20 feet long which she made by hand at the bakehouse. This was extremely significant in her life because it was his determination to keep her away from printmaking that drove her deeper into it. This was how she introduced herself into the art world as a printmaker, and from that point forward she continued making these large prints that is now considered one of her specialties.

            Her schooling also plays a huge part in her work, especially from her undergraduate career. She mentioned that the University of Miami placed a huge emphasis on the aesthetic beauty of the piece as opposed to the message it is sending. This has manifested itself in her work because she omits things that are not aesthetically pleasing from her art, like garbage, that some other artists probably would have included to raise awareness about pollution, rather she focuses on the beauty of her work to draw people in so she can have conversations with them about the issues at hand.


Jennifer Basile, Muir Woods, 2017, relief print on rice paper, edition 1 of 1 (+ 1 AP), 36” x 50.” Images courtesy of Jennifer Basile and LnS Gallery.

            Living in Miami since a young age, its cultural influences can be seen in Basile’s work as a lot of it is based on the Everglades landscape and the animals that can be found there. Her work is influenced by the artist, Swoon who makes a lot of immersive installations and is very well-known for her large prints. Basile want those who view her art to feel as though they are experiencing these landscapes the way she does and allow them to escape reality in order to inspire them to preserve its natural beauty through her huge prints. She cares deeply about our parks and wants to capture the beauty of the environment before it is changed by human activities.


            Passionate about climate change and deathly afraid of what humans are doing to the environment, all of Basile’s work is inspired by the landscape. She believes that we are behind in our efforts to combat climate change and that this is an issue everyone should be concerned about. She often tells people that “science is not a liberal conspiracy theory, if the science is telling us something is going to happen then we should listen.”

            Due to the fact that certain landscapes are rapidly changing from being destroyed, Basile sees it as a race to get out there and document it. She does this by hiking, kayaking, and camping in national and state parks throughout the United States. She enjoys going on very long hikes that the average American usually would not do, which allows her to see a lot of untouched beauty which she works into her artwork. During these adventures, Basile will heavily photograph her journey and take anywhere from 300 to 400 photographs, of which she will spend the next week weeding through to find the pictures that perfectly emulate the space she was in and highlight the natural beauty of the area.

            Her work is quite successful in bringing about awareness to the issue of climate change, but not in the “beat you over the head” with these issues’ kind-of-way that most other environmentalist artists would use. Instead, she uses a different approach in which she just strives to bring about conversation with her pieces in the same way that we were having a discussion about these issues during this interview.

            Basile does accomplish this task well as she connects to people through her art, but she does not think her art alone would project this viewpoint of hers. She has never been interested in making landscape artwork based on things that we actually see like some artists do when they want to make a point about how trash is ruining the beauty of the environment. Instead, she will omit these details in her pieces to focus more on the aesthetic beauty of the landscape.

            Basile does not want people to look at her work and think it’s the work of an environmentalist, but the work of a landscape artist. She does not want to hammer the message into people but rather wants to give the person looking at the artwork room to bring their own ideas and thoughts to it. The art works to strike conversations so she can mention the problems in real life conversations, which she believes works better than just forcing one to see things in the same light she does.


            When I asked about her creative process, she mentioned that this process includes both planned out and calculated methods in some aspects, but she is a little more spontaneous in other areas. As mentioned before, her process includes going to parks, taking many pictures, and then sorting through those pictures until she finds the one that perfectly captures the beauty of the area. She takes this image and makes a drawing onto linoleum or a woodblock using graffiti markers. Using the graffiti markers is purposeful in her work because she likes to highlight the mark making, not just the imagery and importance of landscape, but how the marks are being made.

            During her process, she will delete, omit, add things, and change it up a little. While most printmakers will take the image and put it exactly the way it is and cut it that way, she has painter tendencies where she changes her mind frequently throughout the process. This is why she says it is both very planned out and spontaneous at the same time, because she often changes her mind as she draws or even as she is cutting the block.


WELCOME TO THE WILD WEST: Drawings from the 1000 Acres Series. Images courtesy of Jennifer Basile and LnS Gallery.

            Jennifer Basile has exhibited her work in many places: the LnS gallery, Art Basel, Deering Estate, the Bakehouse Art Complex just to name a few. Of those places that have exhibited her work the most important was at the Bakehouse Art Complex, where she met the owner Bernice Steinbaum who she wanted to get in front of for years. She was so nervous to show Steinbaum her work, but when they finally met, Basile recalls that she looked at her and then the huge print she was working on and told Basile that nobody else in Miami is doing what she is and encouraged her to continue her monochromatic work. As they got to know each other better, Steinbaum began to exhibit her work with other artists and even invited her to do an installation in her own home. She was so nervous and did not even know if she could accomplish it, but told me she said yes because, “whenever someone asks you if you can do it, you just say yes and figure it out.” This installation was very important in her career as it led to her getting signed at the LnS gallery after the owners of the gallery were blown away by that piece.



Jennifer Basile
“Stanley” the Great Blue Heron, 2018 relief print on rice paper edition 1 of 1 (+ 1 AP) 24 x 48 inches Images courtesy of Jennifer Basile and LnS Gallery.

          I chose Jennifer Basile as the center for my project after researching local South Florida artists and falling in love with her work and the message she was spreading through her art. Her art prints immediately caught my attention with their beauty, and I felt like they transported me to the landscapes which she based her pieces off of.

            One of the things that drew me to her work was that I love how her art is based entirely on the landscape in order to bring attention to the problems that these parks are facing. I thought the way she uses a different approach than most other artists trying to bring awareness was interesting, by wanting viewers to derive their own feelings and connectivity to the piece rather than having the art direct your thoughts. After thinking about what she said for a while I realized that this method unconsciously worked for me as well, because by falling in love with the work and making my own connection to it, it did get me to worry more about the problems our park is facing and wonder how I can help. When she was discussing how the garbage was ruining our parks, it got me to care more about it as opposed to if someone was trying to hammer the idea into me and force me to care about it.


Jennifer_basile. (2021, February 20). Retrieved April 25, 2021, from

Jennifer_basile. (2021, February 20). Retrieved April 25, 2021, from

Monica Barletta: Art Service 2021

Student Bio

Photo taken by Jorge Villareal

Monica Barletta is a sophomore in the Honors College at Florida International University. She is currently a Biology major on the Pre-med track and hopes to attend the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine. Outside of school, she enjoys creating art and spending time with her friends and family.


Photo taken by Monica Barletta

This volunteer opportunity was organized by John Bailly on behalf of the Deering Estate. The Deering Estate is a 444-acre plot of land that has a very rich history behind it. On the property, there are multiple hiking trails each containing beautiful unique sights, as well as two houses that contain some of Miami’s oldest pieces of history that are still on display today. This estate’s background dates back to the late 19th century when the first house on the property was built by the Richmond family and later turned into an inn for travelers until 1915 when it was purchased by Charles Deering of the International Harvester Company. The Deering family has had such a huge impact on the development of Miami and being able to see the home of such an influential man is a unique opportunity that South Florida residents get to enjoy. Not only does the Deering Estate serve as a museum, but it supports local artists by employing many of them as residents, including the lead organizer of the cleanup: John Bailly. This museum also hosts so many events for the people of Miami; The Deering Estate gives back so much to the community that it is only right that we as a community give back to this place as well, volunteering to clean up one of its islands is just one of many ways to help support this place.


Photo taken by Monica Barletta

 I chose to participate in this specific volunteer opportunity because I feel it is our responsibility to clean up after ourselves and leave the world a better place than we found it. Mangrove forests are gorgeous ecosystems that provide habitats to many different organisms and are of great importance to communities along the coastline. Trash washes up on these mangrove islands and can disrupt marine life cycles or even kill many of these animals. Although this is an issue everyone should care about, I feel as if it does connect with me specifically because I am a biology major, so I have taken many classes that made me realize how detrimental plastic pollution is to many ecosystems.


I found out about this trip through my Art Society Conflict professor, John Bailly. This cleanup is a popular volunteer opportunity among the Honors College at FIU and something I have wanted to do since my freshman year. A message was sent out in the class group chat that there were a few spots open for the cleanup and, as this is a trip I have been wanting to do for a while, I immediately responded. Due to COVID restrictions, the excursion was limited to 18 people and people were accepted on a first come-first serve basis.

Where and What

This cleanup took place the Saturday morning of April 17. We all met up at the back of the Deering Estate by its boat basin at 9:30 AM, where we would depart on the two-person canoes after pairing up. The Chicken Key is a seven-acre mangrove island about one mile away from our departure point. We spent about 30 minutes paddling our way to the island, stopping once to take pictures and admire a path that went through the mangroves.

Once we made it to the island, we tied up our canoes and took a quick dip in the water to cool off before we got to work. We spent the next few hours walking around the island picking up whatever garbage we could find and putting them in trash bags we would later haul back to the estate to throw away. We found a surprising amount of trash and even things like a mattress that I am still wondering how they washed up onto the island. After collecting trash for a few hours, we all bonded by sitting around the campfire grounds together and eating lunch. While the trash was being loaded onto the canoes, we jumped back into the water to enjoy the water at high tide.

Photo taken by Jennifer Quintero

The canoe ride back was so much harder because of how much trash was collected. Despite the wind blowing against us and having to haul the extremely heavy trash, I still had so much fun paddling back with everyone. Once we got back to the estate, we unloaded the trash from the canoes and brought it to the dumpster in the back.

All in all, I had an amazing time volunteering; this was an amazing experience that I would love to have again. Just because we had to work doesn’t mean we didn’t find ways to have a great time with it.



The Deering Estate is a historic landmark that has so much significance not only in supporting our present-day community, but also by containing so much of South Florida’s history within its walls. It is critical for us to work to protect this site because of how important it is to the local community. I chose to volunteer at the estate to help preserve the history and to protect the ecosystems that are so important to my home. Everyone should do their part to help clean up after themselves and keep our waters clean, but sadly many people do not which leads to trash piling onto the island.

This has been an activity that I have been wanting to participate in for a while but COVID made it very difficult, we got around this by making sure to wear our masks and social distance so everything could run smoothly. This trip was very eye-opening as it made me realized just how much trash washes up onto the island. I was able to see old pictures of the island from before the cleanups started and there was so much garbage that it was almost unrecognizable. It is clear the cleanups have made a tremendous difference in the few short years since they began by bringing back so much life and beauty to the island. Although there has been a huge amount of progress, there is still work to be done with trash washing up on shore every day. 

Photo taken by John Bailly


Biscayne Bay – Chicken key in Florida. (n.d.). Retrieved April 20, 2021, from—chicken-key-florida

Charles Deering. (2021, April 10). Retrieved April 20, 2021, from

Endangered species International. (n.d.). Retrieved April 20, 2021, from,of%20the%20world’s%20mangrove%20forests.&text=Endangered%20Species%20International%20focuses%20its,restoring%20mangroves%20in%20critical%20areas.

Services, M. (n.d.). Tips to keep Biscayne BAY clean – Miami-Dade County. Retrieved April 20, 2021, from,the%20environment%2C%20especially%20marine%20ecosystems.&text=Impaired%20water%20quality%20can%20trigger,fish%20kills%20in%20Biscayne%20Bay.

Monica Barletta: See Miami 2020


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Monica Barletta at the Artechouse, picture taken by Jorge Villarreal

Monica Barletta is a sophomore in the Honors College at Florida International University. She is currently a Biology major on the Pre-med track and hopes to attend the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine. Outside of school, she enjoys creating art and spending time with her friends and family.

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens


Miami’s Metrorail route, Image taken from the Metrorail’s official website

Located in at 3251 South Miami Avenue in the present-day Coconut Grove neighborhood, The Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is just one of many estates that James Deering had owned throughout Miami. The estate overlooks Biscayne Bay, and is conveniently located just 10 minutes from the Vizcaya station at the Metrorail. Originally 180 acres of shoreline mangrove swamps and tropical forest, the estate now consists of 50 acres composed of the formal gardens and a native “hammock”.

Vizcaya Entrance, Photo taken by Monica Barletta


The Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, formerly known as Villa Vizcaya after the northern Spanish province of Vizcaya (meaning Biscay), features a main house, ten acres of formal gardens, a rockland hammock, and historic village. It was commissioned by James Deering in 1912 to be built as his winter home. Vizcaya was inspired by the baroque Villa Rezzonico-Borella in Bassano del Grappa.

            James Deering (1859-1925) along with his brother, Charles, and his father, William, built one of the largest corporations in American, the International Harvester Company. By the end of the 19th century, the company had grown tremendously in value and turned the Deering family into one of the richest families of the time. James Deering decided to retire and move to South Florida after being diagnosed with pernicious anemia. His doctors recommended sunshine and a warm climate to recover. Deering’s interests included sailing and plant conservation, which greatly contributed to the design of the estate.          

            After being introduced to artistic director Paul Chalfin in 1910, they almost immediately began their plans to construct the European style winter estate. Francis Burral Hoffman, Jr. was hired to be the main architect to design the mansion after one of Deering’s trips to Italy. Diego Suarez was later hired in 1914 to construct Vizcaya’s gardens.

            James Deering died in 1925 on board the steamship SS City of Paris. The Villa Vizcaya was passed onto his two nieces who eventually sold it to Miami-Dade County to be open to the public in 1955.

Photo taken by Monica Barletta


The mission of the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is preserving the former estate of James Deering to engage the local community. The goal of this museum is to educate its visitors on the art, history, and environment within the estate.


Transportation and Parking

            The Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is located at 3251 South Miami Avenue, Miami, FL 33129.

            Free parking is available to all visitors in the two parking lots: the main lot located on the east side of South Miami Avenue and the Vizcaya Village parking lot on the west side of South Miami Avenue.

            As part of Vizcaya’s environmental initiatives, visitors are encouraged to use the following public transportation services:

  • Metrorail
  • Exit at Vizcaya station.
  • Cross US 1 on the pedestrian bridge.
  • Continue in the same direction, along 32nd Road, to South Miami Avenue.
  • Cross SW 32 Road and proceed to the South Miami Avenue crosswalk at Vizcaya’s Entrance Drive.
  • Cross South Miami Avenue and follow pedestrian routes to Vizcaya’s Admission Booth.
  • City of Miami Trolley
  • Using the City of Miami Trolley App, take the Brickell Route to stop #39 on a Northbound trolley, or stop #15 on a Southbound trolley. (If coming NB, cross South Miami Ave). Then follow pedestrian routes from South Miami Avenue to Vizcaya’s Admission Booth.
  • Citi Bike Miami
  • A Citi Bike station is located at Vizcaya at the intersection of South Miami Avenue and SW 32nd Road. 
  • Ride Share Drop-off and Pick-up
  • Ride share drop-off and pick-up should enter the Entrance Drive on South Miami Avenue. Visitors can be dropped off and picked up in the Piazza where Admissions is located. 

COVID-19 Museum Guidelines

Visitors and staff must adhere to the following regulations:

  • Visitors and staff must wear facial coverings at all times. Those without a mask will not be permitted entry, except children under age 2 or those who have trouble breathing due to a chronic health condition.
  • Masks must be tied at the back of the head or looped around the ears.
  • Social distancing of 6’ must be maintained, except for those who self-identify as a family and may visit the property in a group of under 10 people.
  • Frequent touch surfaces will be regularly wiped down throughout the day.
  • Restrooms will be cleaned at least every 2 hours and an attendant will be present who monitors that only individuals or individual family groups use them at a time.
  • Narrow paths in the house and gardens will be restricted to one-way foot traffic.
  • Vizcaya’s Café and Shop is currently closed.
  • The second floor of the main house is currently closed.


Vizcaya is open to the public Thursday through Monday Admission is available from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Visitors may enjoy select areas of the first floor of the Main House until 5:00 p.m. and the gardens until 5:30 p.m.


Due to COVID restrictions, tickets are no longer sold at the door, they must be purchased online.

* On select days, a limited-time discount is offered while the second floor of the Main House remains closed.

Admission prices:                                  Regular Prices      Discounted Pricing*

Adults (13 and over):                                    $22                           $18     

Child (6-12):                                                   $10                            $8

Children (5 and under):                              Free                    Always Free

Visitors using wheelchairs:                      $10                              $8

Military veterans and active duty: Free                      Always Free

Discounts and Partnership

  • Golden Ticket – Vizcaya Museum and Gardens along with the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs offers free tickets to the arts for seniors of Miami-Dade County
  • Culture Shock– Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is a proud partner of the Culture Shock Miami program. With the purchase of one $5 ticket for a 13-22 year old, a second $5 ticket can be purchased for someone of any age to accompany them.


*Member tickets are free with online tickets

Members enjoy exclusive benefits including:

  • Free daily general admission for one year to the Main House, the gardens and special tours of the Vizcaya Village.
  • Discounted daily admission for guests.
  • Complimentary audio and guided tours of the Main House.
  • Exclusive digital announcements and updates.
  • Access to exclusive member events.
  • Discounted admission to special programs throughout the year.

 Membership Levels

  • Individual: $70 for 1 Year or $130 for 2 Years

All the above-listed benefits for one person.

  • Dual: $90 for 1 Year or $170 for 2 Years

All the above-listed benefits for two people.

  • Family: $125 for 1 Year or $240 for 2 Years

All the above-listed benefits of membership for one or two members and up to four children age 17 years and under.

  • Family and Friends: $175 for 1 Year or $340 for 2 Years

All the above-listed benefits of membership for one or two members and up to two guests plus up to 4 children or grandchildren of the member (17 years of age or younger).

  • Preservationist: $250 for 1 Year or $475 for 2 Years

All the above-listed benefits of membership for one or two adults, plus:

  • Two guest passes
  • Preservationist members may opt-in for Family-level benefits to include up to four children age 17 and under.
  • Conservator: $500 for 1 Year or $950 for 2 Years

All the Preservationist-level benefits of membership, plus:

  • Two additional guest passes (four total).
  • Admits two members and two guests, or one member and three guests with each visit to Vizcaya Museum and Gardens during regular operating hours.
  • Conservator members may opt-in for Family-level benefits to include up to four children age 17 and under. 


Vizcaya’s Stone Barge

Stone Barge at Vizcaya, Photo taken by Monica Barletta

One of the most famous works of art in Deering’s collection is the Stone Barge sculpted by Alexander Calder that sits in the water in front of the Main House. This Barge is a breakwater that was designed in the shape of a boat. Mythical Caribbean creatures were carved on the outside of the boat. When it was first completed, it contained fountains, a latticework pavilion, and even trees. Over the years, the Barge has deteriorated, and guests are no longer allowed onto it.

The Statuary Walk Sculptures

Garden Statues at Vizacaya, Photo taken by Monica Barletta

The garden on the estate is filled with many Italian sculptures made from Vicenza and Istrian stones imported from Italy. These statues are from the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Filippo Barigioni, known for creating the fountain in front of the Pantheon in Rome, was the architect that designed some of the statues from Deering’s collection.

The Last Supper

The Last Supper, photo taken from Vizcaya’s Official website

This painting was made by Johan van Collen in the 16th century and depicts Jesus Christ at the Last Supper. This piece is part of a collection acquired from Claire Mendel. Since there is not much known about the provenance of this collection, there is research being done to determine if this piece was stolen during World War II by Nazis. It is currently up for display at the Main House.


The Happy Days in Egypt exhibition, Photo taken from Vizcaya’s official website

The “Happy Days in Egypt” exhibition is currently being displayed in the entrance hall. This exhibition depicts James Deering in several different mythological tales. The exhibition was on display several years ago and has recently been brought back. In 1912, James traveled to Egypt and collected watercolor cards that documented his trip. These cards are believed to be created by his brother, Charles Deering.


The Vizcaya Museum has many new events organized each and every month. Some of the many events that the museum hosts include:

Vizcaya Village Farmers Market: Each Sunday from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm, the Vizcaya Village Farmers Market is open rain or shine. This is a free community event in which visitors can foods and products from local vendors while exploring Vizcaya’s historical farm and village.

Vizcaya Late: The museum hosts certain days in which it stays open for extended hours, closing at 8:00 pm. The event allows visitors to see the Main House and gardens at night and provides activities and experiences that change each month.

Spotlight Discussions: The museum chooses certain works of art to have spotlight discussions on each month in which visitors can chat with staff about the artwork.

VISITOR: Interview with Arlene, a sophomore at Miami- Dade College

Photo of Interviewee Arlene, Photo taken by Monica Barletta

Q: What made you come to Vizcaya today?

A: I’ve never actually been here before and a lot of people have told me good things about this place. My mom took her wedding pictures here and they came out really pretty so I wanted to take some pictures to post on Instagram in the same places.

Q: Did this place live up to your expectations?

A: I think it kind of exceeded my expectations, I had no idea that this place would be so beautiful.

Q: What was your favorite area or piece of art?

A: I would say the fountain out in the garden is my favorite. It has a great view of the garden, it’s just a really nice area to sit and look around. I took some really nice pictures there too.

Q: Would you ever come back?

A: I’m not sure, this place is really beautiful but it’s kind of expensive especially for a college student like me. Maybe I’ll come back in a few years, but I feel like I’ve seen everything I need to see in this visit.

PORTRAIT: Interview with Joseluis, Security/ Ticket check at the front entrance.

Q: When did you start working here?

A: I got this job almost two years ago.

Q: What is your favorite part of the job?

A: I love working here, my favorite part would be that I get to just stand here and look at the art all day. That’s one of the things that drew me into working here, I’ve always thought that this museum was one of the most gorgeous places in Miami.

Q: What was your favorite area or piece of art?

A: My favorite part of this place is probably the inside of the mansion. The whole thing is beautiful, if you haven’t yet I recommend walking down the halls and looking at each of the rooms.

Q: Has COVID affected anything here?

A: Yes, one of the main things is that we do not allow as many people on the property as before that’s why you have to buy your tickets online now. Once the ticket sales have reached a certain point for the day, they don’t sell anymore. I guess it’s a good thing that there are less people. It’s easier to keep an eye on everything that’s going on and for you, you guys can take better pictures.


The Vizcaya Museum and Gardens perfectly preserves Deering’s vast art collection, making it feel as if you are stepping back in time. Deering’s interest in collecting art is what makes the estate such an interesting place to visit, he incorporated so many art styles from different periods into decorating. The museum does well to fulfill its mission to engage and educate its visitors on the art, history, and environment within the estate. The only problem I have with the museum is that the price of admission is expensive and deters many people from coming to visit. Regardless, this museum is one of the most beautiful spots to visit in Miami and is somewhere that every Floridian should visit at least once.


“Happy Days In Egypt.” Vizcaya, 14 Aug. 2020,

“James Deering.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 12 Dec. 2020,

Kidd, Laurence. “A Brief And Fascinating History Of The Vizcaya Villas.” Culture Trip, The Culture Trip, 12 Aug. 2016,

Matt & Andrej Koymasky – Famous GLTB – James Deering,

“Online Catalog.” Vizcaya, 16 Oct. 2019,

“Recovering Lost Nazi-Era Artworks.” Vizcaya, 29 Oct. 2019,

“Statuary Walk Sculptures.” EverGreene, 28 Apr. 2020,

“Vizcaya Museum and Gardens Volunteer Opportunities.” VolunteerMatch,

“Vizcaya Museum and Gardens.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 2 Dec. 2020,

“Who Was James Deering?” Vizcaya, 21 Oct. 2019,

Monica Barletta: Miami Service 2020

Student Bio

Monica Barletta at the Artechouse, picture taken by Jorge Villarreal

Monica Barletta is a sophomore in the Honors College at Florida International University. She is currently a Biology major on the Pre-med track and hopes to attend the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine. Outside of school, she enjoys creating art and spending time with her friends and family.

Using Art To Raise Awareness


The Bakehouse is a studio that houses many different artists, each working on their own projects to improve the community through their art. Among those artists is Lauren Shapiro, who began the art project called “Future Pacific” in order to bring awareness to the dying of coral reef systems. Shapiro, partnered with marine ecologist Dr. Nyssa Silbiger, use the help of the local community to teach them about the importance of coral reefs and how they are impacted by human activity. This semester I decided to complete my service hours at the Bakehouse Art Complex to continue working on Lauren Shapiro’s Future Pacific art installment.


I thought it was important to volunteer in something that I am passionate about. I decided to volunteer in working with Future Pacific because I believe the message Shapiro is communicating through her artwork is something that should reach more people. As a biology major, I have learned about the importance of protecting our planet and this project resonated with me. I have also lived in Florida my entire life, so I know that coral reefs are such a huge part in our economy and even protect against many environmental factors.

Another reason I chose to volunteer with this project is because I have always enjoyed making art, especially creating sculptures. It is something that I take pleasure in whenever I have free time as a way to destress. I thought this would be a cool and unique experience, being part of such a large-scale art project is something that not many people can say they have done.


I learned about this volunteer opportunity through my professor for my Art Society Conflict Honors class, John Bailly. For one of our class meetings, we spent the day working with Shapiro at one of her mold making workshops. I had such a great time working on this project with my peers and looked into signing up to help with this project again one day. Professor Bailly had sent out an announcement that Shapiro was looking for more volunteers on a certain day in order to help with the project and I saw this as the perfect opportunity to complete my art service requirement.


Photo by Monica Barletta

The day our class originally came together for the first mold making workshop was October 7th, we spent about two and a half hours making the coral figures and placing them on the structure. The day I volunteered was a little different than when our class met. I signed up along with two other students from my honors class for the slot on October 29th from 2-6 pm.

We got there a little early and were led to our own table in the studio that had many different coral molds and pounds of clay waiting on it. Shapiro gave us a short explanation to show us the process of how to make the clay sculptures and gave us the freedom to choose the colors and style of coral we wanted to make. We spent about the first 3 hours filling trays with hundreds of the small clay corals we made. As the day went by, we decided to have more fun with it and make it as creative as we could. We spent the last hour placing all of our clay sculptures on the foundational structures and organizing them around each other, so they fit in best. Lauren had given us a bucket filled with a watered-down clay paste to use when attaching the corals which I had gotten all over myself at the end of the day. Although I ended up covered with clay, I really enjoyed myself working on this project, it allowed me to work together and connect with my classmates while learning more about a topic that is very important to me.



In essence, my experience volunteering for the Future Pacific project for Lauren Shapiro was a very unique experience that I’m lucky to have been a part of. Not only did I have a great time creating the clay corals, but I was also able to speak with Shapiro about this art project and she was able to teach me so much more about the reefs. This volunteer opportunity was perfect for me because it mixes together two subjects that I am very passionate about: science and art. This is a great way to educate the local community on the importance of reefs, especially in Florida. This is a topic that I believe more people should inform themselves on, I hope that this project influences others to go out and do their own research like it inspired me to do.

            I thought it was very creative that Shapiro made this a hands-on activity for people to participate in as a way to spread a message and bring awareness to such an important issue. After being inspired to research this topic further, I learned that Coral Reefs are a huge part of the economy and bring in about $3.4 billion each year, as well as support around 36,000 jobs in just Broward and Miami-Dade County. They also act as buffers against storms and floods which is extremely important in Florida to protect us against hurricanes. Human activity has caused our coral reef ecosystems to die at an increasing rate. Climate change, pollution, and physical destruction are the main contributors to their deaths. Learning this information, I was inspired to find ways that I can help protect our reefs and I have tried to incorporate some of the tips to protect them I learned into my life. The loss of these reef systems would be devastating to Florida, which is why we have to be more environmentally conscious and do everything we can to save them.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 674f5893-80a2-41db-802d-ee0922e1c90b_1_105_c.jpeg
Image taken by Monica Barletta


“About Us.” BAC,

“Florida’s Coral Reefs.” Florida Department of Environmental Protection,

“Future Pacific.” Lauren Shapiro,

US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “NOAA CoRIS – Regional Portal – Florida.” NOAA Coral Reef Information System (CoRIS) Home Page, 29 June 2009,

Monica Barletta: Miami as Text 2020-2021

Monica Barletta at the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Monica Barletta is a sophomore in the Honors College at Florida International University. She is currently a Biology major on the Pre-med track, and hopes to attend the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine. Outside of school, she enjoys creating art and spending time with her friends and family.

Monica Barletta at the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Deering as Text

“The Influence of Cultures at Deering”

By Monica Barletta of FIU at the Deering Estate, 9 September 2020

The Deering Estate is a 444-acre plot of land containing some of Miami’s oldest pieces of history that can still be viewed today. This estate’s background dates back to the late 19th century when the first house on the property was built by the Richmond family. The property was later turned into an inn for travelers until 1915 when it was purchased by Charles Deering.

Deering was a very wealthy business owner who made his money from creating farming tools, but more importantly, he was an avid art collector. Deering’s interest in art is what makes this building such an interesting place to visit, as he incorporated art styles from so many different cultures throughout his estate. Built in 1922 from concrete and limestone, the second house on the property became known as the Stone House. This house is what stood out to me the most during my visit because of the way aspects from many different cultures can be found in the art and architecture.

Stone House – Deering Estate, Photo taken by Monica Barletta

The outside of the building is made from limestone, which is found in Florida, but is created in a Spanish style to look similar to his house in Spain. Features of Islamic architecture can also be seen around the house from the dome-like arches of the windows to the sea-shell mural on the ceiling. Inside of the Stone House, Deering’s collection of art is displayed, vases from China, stained glass panels from France, and Catholic statues from Spain are some of the many pieces he acquired from around the world. The way all of these small things are taken from so many cultures and come together is what makes the house so intriguing.

Deering Estate, Photo taken by Monica Barletta

South Beach as Text

The Versace Mansion”

By Monica Barletta of FIU at the South Beach, 23 September 2020

The Iron Gates at the Versace Mansion

Bringing in over 23 million tourists annually, South Beach is considered one of the biggest tourist destinations in the world. Ocean Drive owes its huge success to Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace, who completely redefined this street’s culture.

The history of the Versace Mansion dates back to the 1930s, originally called La Casa Casuarina, it was built for Alden Freeman to be a replica of Christopher Columbus’s son’s house. The house was converted into an apartment building following Freeman’s death and remained that way until Gianni Versace came across the building and immediately fell in love with it. Versace had planned to attend his sister’s boutique opening in Bal Harbour and continue on to Cuba but cancelled his trip after visiting South Beach. He purchased the apartment building along with the properties next door and spent million in renovations, creating the renowned Versace Mansion.

Buildings on Ocean Drive

 Once Versace moved into his new home, tourists and celebrities from all around the world came to Ocean Drive, hoping to catch a glimpse of the designer on his morning walk to the famous News Café. Through the designer’s South Beach inspired clothing collections and photoshoots, the area became famous and transformed from a community of drug addicts and retirees to a huge tourist attraction.

The steps on which Versace was shot

Sadly, in 1997, Versace was shot by the serial killer, Andre Cunanan, on the steps of his home returning from the café. Although Versace only lived in his mansion for a short 5 years, he completely revitalized South Beach and its culture. His influence still remains today, as the Versace Mansion is the third most photographed home in America and the area around it is now known for its accepting and lively environment.


“A Historical Look at the Versace Mansion.” CR Fashion Book, CR Fashion Book, 2 May 2019,

Goldberg, Carrie. “You Can Spend a Night In Gianni Versace’s South Beach Mansion.” Harper’s BAZAAR, Harper’s BAZAAR, 28 Mar. 2018,

Bakehouse as Text

“Using Art to Raise Awareness”

By Monica Barletta of FIU at the Bakehouse, 7 October 2020

Florida is home to many coral reef systems that benefit us in a variety of ways. We depend on our reef systems for income and protection. People come from all over to visit Florida’s reefs as they provide a home for a diversity of beautiful animals and plants. These reefs are a huge part of Florida’s economy, bringing in about $3.4 billion each year and supporting 36,000 jobs in Broward and Miami-Dade County alone.

Clay corals that have been applied to the sculpture

Coral Reefs do more for Florida than just bring in money, they also act as a buffer against storms and floods. For the past few years, coral reefs have been dying at an alarming rate due to climate change, pollution, and physical destruction. The loss of these reef systems would be devastating to Florida, which is why we have to do everything in our power to help protect them.

Art can be used as a way to spread a message and bring awareness to an important issue. Lauren Shapiro at the Bakehouse has been creating an exhibit that allows the local community to engage and learn more about reefs. The workshop involves creating clay structures from silicone molds of coral skeletons and reef animal bones that will be applied to the structure. The artists also give lectures while everyone works in order to educate the participants on why protecting the reefs are so important and how to help protect them.

Lauren Shapiro with her sculpture
Monica Barletta at the Bakehouse workshop

This art project is very unique because it brings together science and art to bring awareness to corals reefs. This topic may not be very interesting to some people but making this a hands-on activity that brings the community together is getting people to understand the importance of reefs.


“Florida’s Coral Reefs.” Florida Department of Environmental Protection,

US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “NOAA CoRIS – Regional Portal – Florida.” NOAA Coral Reef Information System (CoRIS) Home Page, 29 June 2009,

Rubell Museum as Text

“A Hidden Meaning”

By Monica Barletta of FIU at the Rubell Museum, 21 October 2020

Mera Rubell speaking to the morning class

The Rubell Art Museum is home to many beautiful pieces that each tell their own story. One of the paintings that caught my eye was Peter Haalley’s Two Cells with Circulating Conduit. This piece stood out to me because as simple as it is, it has a very deep message that I did not notice until it was pointed out to me.

Two Cells with Circulating Conduit by Peter Halley

While at first glance, it just looks like two squares that are connected at two points, the actual meaning of it is much deeper. The boxes are meant to represent the way everything in life is a repetitive pattern. People fall into familiar routines until life just becomes a repetition of the same events such as constantly taking the same road to work and back home each day. If you take a step back and look at the piece as a whole, the way the boxes connect form what looks to be like a prison and the lines look like the prison bars holding them together.

What is also very interesting to me are the materials used in this painting. The background and lines are painted using acrylic paint, but the orange and black boxes are made of the textured material that make up the popcorn ceiling. The painting was created in 1987, and popcorn ceilings were very popular among American households at the time. At this time, materials like this were considered unorthodox to be used in artwork, but Halley used this in order to represent 1980s culture and the repetitive cycle of urban life.

While usually paintings this simple do not catch my eye, the message the artwork conveys is cleverly portrayed. I was fascinated with how Halley uses simple geometric structures to symbolize the confinement within our own lives to say that we are all trapped in a prison of our own making.

Mirror room at the Rubell Art Museum
Sleep by Kehinde Wiley

Deering Hike as Text

The History Preserved in The Mangroves by Monica Barletta of FIU at Deering Estate on November 4, 2020.

Photo taken by Monica Barletta

Deering Estate is a historic site that is known for the preserved history that it contains. Visiting Deering is like traveling back in time, as the site holds many objects and buildings that are perfectly conserved. Even after already visiting the estate once before, there was still so much more to see going through it a second time. Instead of touring the inside of the Richmond Cottage and Stone House, this time we hiked through the nature trails.

Photo taken by Monica Barletta

Hiking through the Deering Estate is a unique experience because there are many different habitats that one can walk through. In this trip we were able to experience the beautiful tropical forests and pine rock lands, but my favorite part was walking through the mangroves. Besides the fact that it offered us protection from the relentless mosquitos, we came across plenty of cool things that have been preserved for years.   

Before even stepping into the water, we found remnants of shells that could have been used as tools by the Tequesta, which were the Native American tribe that lived there even before any of buildings had been on the property. Seeing these shells was very interesting to me because the same shells we held in our hands could have been used thousands of years ago.

Photo taken by Professor John Bailly

The most fascinating thing we encountered during our trip was the crashed Cocaine Cowboys Plane. The history of the wreck was that a few “cowboys” stole the plane from a nearby airport in order to transport cocaine but encountered difficulties and crash landed. The plane crashed into the mangroves of Deering Estate sometime during the 90s and has been there ever since. I loved being able to see and touch this relic that had the mangroves growing through the plane.

Downtown as Text

“The Miami Circle” by Monica Barletta of FIU at Downtown Miami on November 25, 2020.

ASC class at The Miami Circle taken by John Bailly

Downtown Miami is known to be the heart of the city, containing some of Miami’s most popular destinations from the American Airlines Arena to the Perez Art Museum. Before Miami became the city that it is today, this area was home to the Native American Tribe called the Tequestas.          

There are plenty of structures and artifacts throughout Miami that the Tequestas have left behind, but one of the most notable ones was the Miami Circle. This archaeological site was discovered in 1998, and its approximate age is between 1,700 to 2,000 years old. It is thought to be the capital of the Tequesta civilization, as well as a site for trading and ceremonies. This structure is composed of 24 holes arranged into a perfect circle that have been carved into the limestone ground holding many artifacts from tools to animal bones.

            Despite living in the Downtown area for almost 6 years, I was never taught about the rich history behind the area before this class. While most other history classes would not cover the darker side of Miami’s history, Professor Bailly did not hold back. Attending this lecture made me realize just how much public-school education whitewashes the history of Miami that is being taught to its students. Although there are a few signs placed around the area to indicate the Tequestas had lived in the area first, that is still not enough. Miami Dade’s education system should work better to educate about the true history of the city even before it was colonized by the Europeans.

Sign at the Gesu Church

            The true history of Miami is a lot darker than we learned in history class. Not only was the city built using slave labor, but the Native Americans were run off of their own land and left to die out. This may not be the proudest moment of our history, but that does not mean that we should hide it.

Everglades as Text

“Slogging Through the Everglades” by Monica Barletta of FIU at Everglades National Park on January 13, 2021.

Image taken by Monica Barletta at Everglades National Park

Found on the southern tip of Florida, the Everglades contains 1.5 million acres of wetland preserves and is home to a diverse array of wildlife. Florida is fortunate to contain such a unique ecosystem that people from all over the world come to visit. Despite living in South Florida my entire life, I could still count the number of times I have visited the Everglades on a single hand.

The first class back from winter break was a hike through one of the park’s many trails led by Park Ranger Dylann Turffs. As soon as the entire class was gathered, she gave us a brief lecture on how important the Everglades are to Florida, from providing a huge portion of drinking water to the protection it offers against flooding. After, we all drove deep into the park to get to the trail that went through the mangroves.

Image taken by Monica Barletta at Everglades National Park

My favorite part of the class was the few minutes we were allowed to walk around freely in silence. It was a very unique experience as I got to see and hear all the animals I did not even notice were there before. It felt very surreal as I felt very connected to nature in that moment, especially after listening to the poem the Ranger read aloud right before.

This lecture made me realize that I should take advantage by visiting and supporting this park more often, because not everyone is as lucky to have such a unique environment so close to home. This trip was probably one of my favorites we have had from the class thus far and has given me newfound respect for a place that I have lived so close to my entire life.

Photo taken by Monica Barletta at Everglades National Park

Wynwood as Text

“Redefining Art” By Monica Barletta of FIU at Wynwood on January 27, 2021

From the murals on the walls of its buildings to the pieces contained within the many art galleries, Wynwood has become Miami’s Art District. Wynwood has become increasingly popular in recent years, drawing in many people from all around come to visit. Among the district’s art galleries are The Margulies Collection and The Locust Projects, both of which we were able to visit in our class’s lecture.

These two galleries were very different once you walked through their doors. The Margulies Collection is just what I expected when I was told we were going to visit an art gallery: many pieces of work we would just stare at and move on. There were many “Do Not Touch” signs displayed throughout the museum which is a huge contrast to the Locust Projects. There were swings to sit from, cannons to shoot gold foil from, projections on the wall you could walk through, and even a vending machine to purchase mini art from. It was clearly designed in such a way as to seem warm and inviting. It was a completely different type of art which was made to be interactive with the guests.

Image taken by Professor John Bailly at The Locust Projects

Although I usually would not picture a swing set when someone asks me to imagine a piece of art, the Locust Project’s main display in the gallery were their swings. This made me think of the story Professor Bailly told us during class of Marcel Duchamp, who completely reinvented what art is when he submitted an upside-down urinal in an art contest, making people question what “art” truly is. This class’s lecture made me consider my own definition of art and realize that it can be whatever the artist wants it to be regardless of whether it fits the standards of others. I had never understood the saying, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” as much as I did during this class. It certainly fits this scenario as some may just see this as a playground while others, such as myself, see this as a beautiful work of art.

Image taken by Monica Barletta at The Locust Projects
Image taken by Monica Barletta at The Locust Projects


Bill Baggs as Text

Cleaning Up the Beach” By Monica Barletta of FIU at Bill Baggs State Park on February 10, 2021

Photo taken by Monica Barletta

            While most people sit in a classroom or on zoom to learn, our class spent the day learning at the beach. This week’s lecture took place at Bill Baggs State Park. Located on the island of Key Biscayne, this park holds one of Miami’s oldest standing structure: The Cape Florida Lighthouse. This huge lighthouse has been around since 1825 and has served many purposes throughout history. One of the rangers from the park told us a few of the lighthouse’s most famous stories including when the local Native Americans attacked and set it on fire. This park is a place I have visited many times throughout my life, but I never realized just how much history there was behind it.  

Photo taken by Monica Barletta

            We started off the day with a tour from the ranger, giving us a brief history about the beach and the few buildings that were still standing. I found this discussion very interesting, but my favorite part of the day was definitely the beach cleanup. We walked across the beach picking up the trash left behind on the sand, and later, took a moment to cool off as the class raced into the water together which is really a moment I’ll never forget.

            As much fun as this experience was, it also made me realize how much trash there was on the beach and in the sand. There were some big pieces, but the small microplastics are the issue for animals and they were everywhere. Beach cleanups are something I will definitely consider doing more often on my free time, especially for this beach that I basically grew up visiting and holds such an important place in my life.

Photo taken by Monica Barletta


Frost as Text

The Preservation of Beauty” By Monica Barletta of FIU at The Philip and Patricia Frost Art Museum on March 10, 2021

            Located at Florida International University, the Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum exhibits a variety of work from cultures throughout the world. Although I have passed the Frost Museum countless times on my way to my classes, I had never been inside despite always telling myself I would visit one day. The day luckily came during this class’s lecture as it brought us on a tour inside the museum. We were shown many installations displayed at the Frost Art Museum, but the one that really caught my eye was the work of Roberto Obregón, whose work was centered around roses. 

Photo taken by Monica Barletta

Obregón worked with only 36 roses throughout his career to create many works of art. Hearing that he worked with the same 3 dozen roses caught my attention because of the tradition of giving a dozen roses as a declaration of love. This custom of giving roses in bundles of 12 represents perfection and complete devotion, which I believe is symbolic of his work as well. Seeing perfection in the roses, he devoted his entire life’s work to preserving, photographing, and drawing these flowers. 

Photo taken by Monica Barletta

Obregón’s art is a display of conceptualism that values the meaning of what the art represents over the actual object. The wooden cabinets displaying his work immediately captured my interest as soon as I walked into the room. Although the cabinets were not originally part of his work, they are perfect for displaying his drawings and the preserved roses each drawing was based off of. Working with conceptualism, the concept of organizing and preserving the individual rose petals is more important than the actual rose petals. When looking at this work, I believe that the roses are symbolic of beauty, which decays over time as their colors fade despite his attempt to preserve them.

Photo taken by Monica Barletta

Coral Gables as Text

Hotel, Motel, Holiday Inn” By Monica Barletta of FIU at Coral Gables on March 24, 2021

This week’s class brought us to the city of Coral Gables. Despite coming here countless times, I had never stopped to think about the history behind this city. The Coral Gables Museum gave us a brief background on how the city was formed and how it became so popular. This plot of land was bought by George Merrick in the 1920s, who immediately began construction to make it a suburb after the City Beautification Movement that was popular in the early 20th century.

Photo taken by Monica Barletta

Our class included a tour of one of Coral Gables’ most famous buildings: the world-renowned Biltmore Hotel. Commissioned by George Merrick in 1926, this hotel has hosted presidents, celebrities, and even royalty since its construction. What immediately caught my eye before even entering the hotel is the huge tower at its center. This tower, we later learned, was constructed to look like the Giralda, the bell tower of the Seville Cathedral in Spain.

Photo taken by Monica Barletta

 There was clearly a lot of Spanish and Islamic influence in the construction of the hotel, as it was built in a Spanish Colonial Revival style. This influence can be seen throughout many aspects of the hotel from the tall towers (stemming from Islamic minarets) to the ornamented arches around doorways, but what really drew my attention were the ceilings. Each room had its own unique pattern on the ceiling, each of which had extremely intricate designs. They were all designed with simple Islamic geometric patterns, these patterns are prevalent in Spanish architecture since Spain was conquered by the Moors in 711. It was incredible to learn about the history of this art and architecture, and then be able to see it with my own eyes. This lecture truly opened my eyes as I can now walk through Coral Gables and notice these small design details that I did not pay attention to before.

Photo taken by Monica Barletta

Vizcaya as Text

Miami’s Inspiration” By Monica Barletta of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens on April 7, 2021

Photo taken by Monica Barletta

This week’s class took place at the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. This museum felt like a continuation of the lecture about Coral Gables, as well as the Deering Estate because of the way they are all connected and have influenced each other. Before taking this class, I had no idea how important the Deering Family was to the development of Miami. James Deering was part of the family that owned The Deering Harvester Company that sold agricultural machinery to farmers. This company soon made the family one of America’s wealthiest families and provided James the money to build his Vizcaya estate.

The Villa Vizcaya was the winter estate of James Deering from 1916 until his death in 1925. Before even walking through the doors of the estate, you can tell that Deering spared no expense when it came to building Vizcaya. Every detail inside and out is expensive and grandiose, from the huge stone barge that would have greeted visitors coming from their boats to the decorated Roman triumphal arches that led to the gardens.

Even though there are aspects throughout the estate that incorporate characteristics from many different cultures, the estate was primarily built in the Mediterranean Revival style. This inspired George Merrick as he was designing the rest of Coral Gables to be a suburb in 1926. Deering’s over-the-top style drew people from all around to come visit and served as inspiration for much of South Florida. There is no doubt that the Deering family had a huge impact on the formation and development of Miami.

Photo taken by Monica Barletta
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