Vox Student Blog

Andrea Sofía Rodríguez Matos: See Miami Project, Fall 2020

Photograph taken by Gabriela Del Monte CC by 4.0

STUDENT BIO

Andrea Sofia Rodriguez Matos is a junior majoring in Art History with a minor in Photography at Florida International University. Passionate for the art and culture of the Caribbean, Latin America, and the African Diaspora, she aspires to be a curator. As part of Art Society Conflict, Andrea desires to expand her knowledge in art and the history of Florida’s most vibrant city.

GEOGRAPHY
Describe where is the art institution located. Explore the relationship to the surrounding community.

HISTORY
Provide a thorough, researched, and cited history of the art institution.

MISSION
Reproduce and explain the mission of the institution.

ACCESS
How accessible is the institution? Are there discounts for students? residents? What are the benefits of membership?

COLLECTION
Highlight and describe the major works of the permanent collection of the institution. Highlight three artworks.

EXHIBITIONS
List and describe temporary exhibitions of the institution.

SPECIAL PROGRAMS
List and describe events organized by the institution.

VISITOR
Interview a visitor to the institution.

PORTRAIT
This is an interview with Emily Afre, the Education Specialist at the Frost Art Museum. This interview was done virtually, a few days after my museum visit, given the complexities of the pandemic.

Can you briefly tell me how you got the job at the museum? What was your job when you started and what is your current job?

I was enrolled in your same class with John Bailey and participated in Aesthetics & Values 2017. My group worked with local artist, Felicia Chizuko Carlisle, where Carlisle performed an experimental sound piece on a sculpture she created, the night of the opening reception. I am a musician and found great interest in Carlisle’s sound performances. I then gave several tours of the exhibition and found myself interning as a docent/Gallery Guide for the museum. In a way, giving tours was like a performance and I enjoyed connecting with people in a conversation about art. During this time, I held the position as Traffic & Training Manager and on-air DJ at WRGP FIU Student-Radio where my primary responsibility was to ensure all staff followed FCC guidelines. Since graduating in 2017, I have served as the Frost’s Education Specialist.

Can you expand on what your job is and what functions, projects or department(s) you oversee?

As Education Specialist I research exhibitions, manage the student Gallery Guide Program, and develop student programming. I also give tours to K-12, University, and community members. I work closely with Director of Education, Miriam Machado. We develop our programs with museum trends and social issues in mind.

As we’re growing up, we always get asked what we want to be when we grow up. Was working in a museum ever in the list of careers you wanted to explore? Did you ever see it as a possibility?

I’ve been involved in the arts my entire life. I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember. I do not thrive in stagnant environments and the museum setting allows me to remain creative. I am currently working towards building a career in music as an independent artist.

Have you been able to create any programs or projects within your department? If so, what has been your proudest moment?

A main focus of my job as Education Specialist is on student engagement. I am proud of our DEAI initiatives (Diversity, Equity, Accessibility and Inclusion, from the American Alliance of Museums Plan). It is important to me that the museum is a safe space for all students. This approach to programming has even extended to educating our staff on LGBTQ+, race, gender, and accessibility.

Since you started working at the museum, which exhibition has been your favorite? And why?

My favorite exhibition so far would have to be Artist as Mystic: Rafael Soriano. This was a retrospective of a Cuban painter whose early work of geometric abstraction morphed into dark surrealism as a direct response to the Cuban Revolution. He managed to achieve a brilliant luminosity in his paintings while using oil paint, which is typically quite dense. That requires a lot of skill! His work gives form to the subconscious and I found myself really encompassed by this. I like to think Soriano’s later work embodies the music of Cocteau Twins, my favorite band.

Can you mention an artist or artwork within the museum’s permanent collection that has a special connection with you either personally or professionally?

I really love Alameda Black (1981) by Richard Serra. It was the first work I would discuss on a tour of the permanent collection and for good reason. At first glance, you’d think you were looking at a black square, but then you start to see texture and its relationship to space. I’d ask people what their impressions were, if it looked like anything familiar to them, how it made them feel – even if “nothing” was an answer. Richard Serra used black oil paint sticks and melted them over a sheet of aluminum; the texture is a consequence of the paint not having been dried completely. This fascinated people – they couldn’t understand how the paint had not dried if the work was created in the early 80s. The aluminum, a non-porous material, does not allow the oil paint to dry as quickly as it would, if it were on a surface like canvas, for example. So in a way, the work is never quite the same at any given moment. To see how this changed the perspective most people had on abstract art was really interesting for me to experience.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your job and the museum in general?

I have been working remotely since March and it’s only recently that the museum has reopened to the public. Now I come in to the office once a week and continue to work from home. I feel extremely grateful that I have had the opportunity to continue working considering the overwhelming amount of individuals who have been unemployed or furloughed because of the pandemic. I miss engaging with classes in the galleries – the energy is not the same via ZOOM, but we make it work!

Taking reference to the exhibitions that have been up this semester “House to House,” “Otros Lados,” and Pepe Mar’s “Tesoro”, I would argue the museum is actively working on showcasing the diversity of Miami while also connecting to the bigger conversations our nation’s dealing with such as gender inequality, racism and lgbtqia+ representation. Was this a decision the museum took given the country’s political climate? Or has the museum always been battling these topics one way or another. Could you elaborate?

As a public institution and university museum, it is our responsibility to educate and inspire the community. In the last few years, the museum has been focusing on efforts to be more diverse and inclusive and this mission is represented in the exhibitions and programming. Art can sometimes serve as a vessel for artists to either respond to these big conversations or encourage dialogue among the viewer, in the hopes of not only bringing awareness to these issues but to motivate others to build a more just world. Exhibitions are usually planned years in advance, House to House was meant to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of women gaining the right to vote. The exhibition is now on view and considering the context of the time, we are not only looking at the centennial of the 19th amendment, but also acknowledging the slow progress our country has made as we elect the first woman of color as Vice President. We would have never known the current state of our country then, but it is necessary to change with the times while remaining open to learn and unlearn. When developing student programming, I feel it is crucial that I think about what conversations we should be having with our students. If we can do this through art, then all the better!

In recent years museum workers, all over the country have been speaking out about unfair wages, inequality and even institutionalized racism. Personally, I have found myself working with cultural organizations and art institutions where I am the minority. Do you think the museum is actively trying to battle these situations, whether it’s through the hiring process, the artists that get chosen or the exhibition selection?

FIU has always been an inherently diverse place to work in. As a university-museum, we welcome students and community members from all walks of life. This has always been at the heart of our goals as an institution. Now we are doing what we can to become more educated on current issues related to DEAI like attending trainings, workshops, and amplifying unheard voices through our programming and exhibitions.

Many people often think the museum as a place solely for admiring works of art on a wall. However, many don’t know how much effort the museum goes to create programs and events that interact with the community and the students at the university. Knowing that you worked before at The Roar, the FIU radio station, and have created events that merge both; Would you say collaboration is an important part of the museum experience? Have you been able to see the change in people’s minds about the museum once they have attended one of these events?

Collaboration is key!! When it comes to events and programs, you need to understand your target audience. Once you do, the idea is to build your audience and sometimes this is done as a result of collaborating with other groups and organizations. Most organizations on campus are student-run and everyone deserves to be supported. Art is often a reflection of the people who make it and at the end of the day, we all relate to one another in some capacity. We’ve hosted drag performances, film screenings, and even invited local bands to play, in efforts to connect students to the art in unique or unconventional ways.

Finally, what is your advice for students looking to work within a museum? Is there any particular way to begin this journey?

My advice is to go for it! Lose the self-doubt and apply for opportunities, even if you feel like you may not have enough experience. If you are motivated and willing to learn it will be evident. Sometimes, networking can feel disingenuous or, for a more introverted person like myself, a little difficult. Just remember you are as much of a person as the one you are talking to, so don’t be afraid to be yourself. Feel free to explore different options and once you land an opportunity, decide what it is you hope to learn and set out to achieve those things. I recommend volunteering and/or interning to get a feel for how a museum operates. Internships are a good way to build professional relationships, they give you the room to grow, and offer the chance to test out the waters. I am currently seeking interns for Spring 2021, so if any students would like to apply to the Gallery Guide Program at the Frost Art Museum, please send them my way! 

SUMMARY
Assess the institution. What works? What doesn’t?


CITATIONS

Andrea Sofía Rodríguez Matos: Art Service Project, Fall 2020

Photograph taken by Gabriela Del Monte CC by 4.0

STUDENT BIO
Andrea Sofia Rodriguez Matos is a junior majoring in Art History with a minor in Photography at Florida International University. Passionate for the art and culture of the Caribbean, Latin America, and the African Diaspora, she aspires to be a curator. As part of Art Society Conflict, Andrea desires to expand her knowledge in art and the history of Florida’s most vibrant city.

WHO
The Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum is a museum whose focus is to showcase Miami’s diverse population while presenting to the public compelling works of art that break barriers across cultures, disciplines, and genres. Located on Florida International University’s Modesto A. Maidique campus, what began in a small space in the Primera Casa building in 1978 is currently a 46,000 square foot building. The museum houses over 6,000 works of art from pre-columbian objects to contemporary photographs.

WHY
As an art history major it is very important for me to have experiences in as much cultural and artistic institutions I am able to explore. A museum is a very specific machine that operates in particular ways, thus the knowledge of how a museum works as an institution must be gained by actively participating within it. One of my very specific goals after completing a higher education is working as a curator in a museum, therefore knowing how exhibitions are made and collections are gained is essential to my professional development.

Another side of why I chose the Frost Art Museum is because it provided the option to do remote volunteering during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the university museum, I was intrigued as to how they worked with the students and how many opportunities they provided.

HOW
During the surge of the coronavirus pandemic I became unemployed. The months in isolation and without a job started getting to me so I figured I needed to go back to working creatively as soon as possible. I began searching for jobs and internships within the arts I saw an open call for a Gallery Guide Program. I applied and in less than couple of hours, I had received an email to schedule an interview which I had a few days later. Emily Afre, the Education Specialist, is the supervisor of the program and my closest connection within the museum.

WHERE & WHAT

October

November


Describe specifically what you did and on which days. This should read as a personal and academic diary. Include photographs documenting your experience from start to end.

WHEN

SUMMARY
Assess your experience. What worked? What didn’t?


CITATIONS

MIM Service Project Fall 2020: Brittney Sanchez

Photo taken of Brittney Sanchez canoeing on September 19 2020. Photo by Carolina Garcia/ CC BY 4.0

Hello! My name is Brittney Sanchez. I am a junior at Florida International University in the beautiful city of Miami, Florida. I have an Associate in Arts degree in Pre-Recreational Therapy and I am currently in the Honors College pursuing a bachelors degree in Physical Education: Sports and Fitness.

Who?

I volunteered for the International Coastal Cleanup at the Biscayne National Park and the Deering Estate. This institution provides volunteers with a great opportunity to learn about the actual amount of trash that lies in our very own coastlines and waterways. Volunteers not only have the opportunity to engage in this eye opening experience, they also take part in an even greater global science project. The International Coastal Cleanup, or ICC, volunteers remove the marine debris and document everything that is collected so that the ICC can have a better idea of what kind of trash lay in the shorelines. It is important to identify how much trash, what kind of trash, and where this trash is located so that they can have a global snapshot and provide a better environment for marine life as well as our own lives. Lastly, my last costal cleanup was at Chicken Key as part of Professor Bailly’s classes.

Why?

I am blessed to have had the opportunity to engage in many volunteering opportunities throughout my life. I love helping those around me, and each one of these experiences has filled me with a greater sense of awareness and fulfillment. I strongly believe that a good life is a life lived selflessly and for the good of others. I truly look up to my parents and grandparents for showing me what it is to be selfless and generous. Although I have volunteered in many different places, I wanted to engage in a completely different experience this time around. I wanted to step outside of my comfort zone and volunteer for the International Coastal Cleanup. I had been wanting to do a beach cleanup for a while, and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to do so due to the Covid situation. After my first cleanup at the Biscayne National Park, I wanted to continue helping in many more ways. I knew that no matter how small my effort was, at least it would make a change. So, I chose to do my own pop-up clean up at the Deering Estate with the help of some friends. I came to the ICC wanting to learn more about the environment. I wanted to expand my knowledge on the effects of marine debris on the world, and my experiences definitely exceeded these expectations.

How?

Biscayne National Park: 

Finding volunteering opportunities during the pandemic was no easy task. However, my classmates sent multiple links to volunteering opportunities in Miami and it lead me to a website called, volunteercleanup.org. I immediately input my zip code and it redirected me to coastal cleanups around my area. After some research, I signed up for a cleanup on September 19th with my cousin. A few days later I received an email from the event coordinator, Ana Zangroniz the Florida Sea Grant Extension Agent, stating that this cleanup was already too filled up. They were not allowing any more people to take part in the cleanup because of the new Covid guidelines, and they were going to have to move the volunteers to the next weekend. I replied to her email saying that I was not going to be able to make it to the next cleanup, but I asked her to keep in touch with me for any other upcoming volunteering opportunities. To my surprise she replied in a few minutes saying that she was going to allow us to take part in this cleanup because I had responded so fast!  

Deering Estate: 

The week after my first coastal cleanup, some of my classmates sent information regarding volunteer opportunities in the Deering Estate and it lead me to the same website. I emailed the event coordinator, David Lotker the Recreation Leader at the Deering Estate, and I made the arrangements to clean the coastline at Deering Point on October 5th. I asked my friends if they were available that weekend so that they could join me, and they both agreed to help me clean up at Deering Point. I sent the signed volunteer forms to the event coordinator and we were set to go! 

Chicken Key:

On October 14th many students from Bailly’s Miami in Miami Honors class and I set out from the Deering Estate to Chicken Key to clean up marine debris. Professor John W. Bailly was able to get canoes as well as bags for the whole class to canoe out to the island to pick up trash.

Where and What?

– Biscayne National Park: 

At 8 am on September 19th, my cousin Caro and I met up with the event coordinator and a few other people at the dock at Biscayne National Park. As soon as everyone got there, Ana went over the instructions and safety guidelines. As we kayaked through the Mowry canal, we saw some trash laying on the coastline a few miles away and we decided to stop there. We got off our kayaks and headed to the coastline with our trash bags, gloves, buckets, data collection cards, and trash pickers. We worked in teams; one of us would pick up the trash and the other person would write down the type of trash we would pick up and document it on the sheet. 

Photo taken of Brittney Sanchez and Carolina Garcia cleaning up trash. Photo by Ana Zangroniz / CC BY 4.0

After a couple of hours we finally loaded the kayaks to head back to the dock. On our way back, we found some plastic chairs and pieces of a tent, so we stopped and loaded them on the kayaks. When we arrived at the dock, we weighed each trash bag and item.

Photo taken of Brittney Sanchez and Carolina Garcia weighing the trash bags. Photo by Elizabeth Strom / CC BY 4.0

After weighing everything, cleaning the kayaks, and transporting the trash into huge trash containers, we thanked everyone for the opportunity and left to get some milkshakes. To our surprise, Ana emailed us to tell us that the grand total of debris by weight was 68 pounds!

– Deering Estate: 

At 11 am on October 4th, my friends Summer, Anoud, and I went to the Deering Estate to volunteer at the popup coastal cleanup. The faculty at the Deering Estate was very disorganized and did not know where to send us to volunteer. After about 45 minutes of going back and forth, we were finally helped by someone named Jared. He lead us to Deering Point and gave us instructions. Two of us cleaned up trash while one of us documented what type of trash we picked up on the Cleanswell app. This app made it much easier to document the type of trash we collected rather than using a pencil and data collection card to write down the information, which was very time consuming.

Screenshot taken of the Cleanswell app on October 4 2020. Photo by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0  

We cleaned for a few hours and we found that the most prominent pieces of trash in that area were articles of clothing and many bottle caps. Jared was very helpful and he even gave us some of his own trash that he decided to clean up. When we finished cleaning up the area, we gave the trash bags over to Jared and he discarded them for us.

Photo taken of Brittney Sanchez with a trash bag at Deering Point on October 4 2020. Photo by Anoud Aljamal / CC BY 4.0

– Chicken Key:

At 9:30 am on October 14th, I got to the Deering Estate to help Professor Bailly and the staff of the Deering Estate load life jackets unto a golf cart to transport them to the docking area. As soon as the whole class got there, we set out in pairs of twos to Chicken Key, I went with my classmate Roger. We quickly filled up our canoe with four bags, two wooden slabs, many containers, random small items, and a big blue rainwater collection basin.

Photo taken of Brittney Sanchez and Roger Masson at Chicken Key on October 14 2020. Photo by Nicole Patrick / CC BY 4.0

When we made it back to the Deering Estate we gathered everyones trash and we waited for the staff to help us transport the trash and canoes. We ended up with 6 canoes worth of marine debris. Lastly, we washed off the sand bags and dropped off all of our combined trash.

Photo taken of trash on October 14 2020. Photo by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

When?

Summary:

After every cleanup I learned and implemented many new techniques. For example, at my first cleanup I was very overwhelmed. My cousin would pick up multiple pieces of trash and I had to write them all down on the data sheet as quickly as possible. Since I was not familiar with the items on the sheet, it took me a while to find each item, and I quickly fell behind. We decided to review the sheet together before restarting. Our new technique involved being more specific and identifying the item she was picking up, so that it would make it easier for me to find it faster on the sheet. 

Something else I learned the hard way, was the slipperiness of the rocks near the water. I needed to keep reminding myself that I could not reach every particle of trash that lay in every crevice of the coastline. I tried to find some trash in one of those hard to reach places, and I ended up falling into the water. Needless to say, after this experience I was more careful. 

The greatest piece of advice given to me was the importance of staying hydrated. The miami heat is no joke. Although it might not feel as hot sometimes, the heat can creep up on you during the cleanups. Having our water bottles close by and drinking frequently helped us to stay hydrated and focused on our tasks. As well as this, protecting your skin is very important. After my first experience, I started to wear long sleeved shirts to protect myself against the sun.

In the future, I hope to continue to help protect the beautiful habitats within many more areas, and educate more people on the importance of keeping our earth clean! It is sad to see dead animals wrapped up in trash because of humanities inability to simply throw their trash away. We are all cohabitants of this beautiful earth, and we all need to do our part to keep it this way.

MIM Ineffable Miami FALL 2020: PINECREST by Claudia Martinez

Claudia Martinez pictured at Brickell City Centre/ CC by 4.0

Student Bio

Hi, my name is Claudia Martinez and I am currently an Economics major at FIU. I was born in Venezuela but was raised in Miami, Florida. One of my favorite hobbies is going out and exploring new things including everything that Miami has to offer. Some people remember Miami for its wild party scene but I knew that Miami could not be just limited to that one single stereotype. When I heard of a different type of class, one that would leave the classroom setting and take you out to see the city for yourself, I knew that was going to be the next class I was going to sign up for. Taking the Miami In Miami during Covid-19 challenged me to get out of the comfort of my home and explore the city by going to new places that I would have otherwise not visited. The course is thought provoking and causes you to think outside the box literally and I look forward to seeing this class expand into greater horizons.

Geography

Pinecrest which is also known as Pinecrest village is estimated to have a population of 19,155 people as of 2019. Pinecrest is a suburban village located North of Palmetto bay, South of South Miami and West of the southern part of Coral Gables. Geographically speaking it is coordinated at   25°40′N 80°18′W according to the United States Census Bureau. This suburban village is composed of single family homes and commercial areas. One of the first characteristics that one notices upon entering the area is the high density of trees making its atmosphere feel green and eco-friendly.

History

Demographics

Landmarks

Greenspaces

Transportation

Andrea Sofía Rodríguez Matos: Miami as Video

Andrea Sofia Rodriguez Matos is a junior majoring in Art History with a minor in Photography at Florida International University. Passionate for the art and culture of the Caribbean, Latin America, and the African Diaspora, she aspires to be a curator. She has had the privilege of working with various art institutions in Miami and Puerto Rico, which have challenged her visual literacy and exposed her to the contemporary art scene. As part of Art Society Conflict, Andrea desires to expand her knowledge in art and the history of Florida’s most vibrant city.


I decided to make video chronicles of FIU’s Honors College class ‘Art, Society, Conflict’ with professor and artist John W. Bailly. I thought it would be fun to document this experience as we navigate this “new normal” in-person university classes.

Note: These lectures are full of rich explanations of history and culture of the sites we explore. However, because we are outdoors regularly, hiking and walking for long periods of time, it is hard to record good audio. Hopefully the visuals will do them some type of justice.

Deering Estate

In this first video we are met with the vibrant outdoors of the Deering Estate and it’s compelling structures. Here we were very lucky to have met Jennifer Tisthammer, it’s director, who asked us a questions on the topic of cultural preservation. Who chooses what is important to preserve and what is not important enough? 

Video was shot and edited by Andrea Sofia Rodriguez Matos.

South Beach

In the second video we are strolling through a very hot and a never before seen, empty Miami Beach. Unique to this location is the beautiful and elegant Art Deco architecture amidst a chaotic city. However, this piece of land was not always the vibrant cultural hotspot, originally Miami Beach was a rich ecosystem of sandbars and mangroves.

Video was shot and edited by Andrea Sofia Rodriguez Matos.

Bakehouse Art Complex

For our third class, we assisted Miami-based artist Lauren Shapiro on her current project titled “Future Pacific” at the Bakehouse Art Complex. Shapiro’s practice focuses on viewing the parallels of art and science to create an interactive exhibition that enhances the environmental literacy of the community. Through a collaboration with scientists and researchers, this project aims to preserve and protect the endangered marine ecosystem. We helped make the clay models of coral reefs and applied them to structures in the gallery. 

Video was shot and edited by Andrea Sofia Rodriguez Matos.

The Rubell Museum

In this fourth episode we visited the Rubell Museum one of the most significant and diverse contemporary private art collections in the world.

Video was shot and edited by Andrea Sofia Rodriguez Matos.

Deering Estate Hike

We visited the Deering Estate for our fifth class, but this time, we went back in time when the Tequesta were still here hunting and gathering in the wilderness. Because it was the day after the United States election, this immersion into nature was one of the most therapeutic experiences I’ve had throughout the pandemic.

Video was shot and edited by Andrea Sofia Rodriguez Matos.

Luzmariana Iacono: Miami as Text

Luzmariana Iacono in Doral, Florida, 2020

Luzmariana Iacono is a driven individual in her junior year at the honors College in Florida International University. She is double majoring in Marketing and International Business and is passionate about the entrepreneurial aspect of business. Artistic by nature, Luzmariana recently started her own career in the beauty industry as a professional Makeup Artist with a specialisation in Editorial and Avant-Garde makeup. She is trilingual and even if she has been living in Miami for less than a decade, she enjoys the culturally mixed environment and hopes to learn more about its history and hidden beauties through this course.   

Deering as Text

Image Taken and Edited by Luzmariana Iacono (CC by 4.0)
“Culturally Mixed”

By Luzmariana Iacono of FIU at Deering Estate, 9 September 2020

The Deering Estate narrates the story of a culturally mixed past through its two building structures and captivating surroundings. Charles Deering was a wealthy industrialist who, alongside his brother, remained stuck in the United States during World War I without any economic power over their family company. 

A lonely mind and soul becomes creative, so he decided to replicate his adventures in Europe by including bits and pieces of culture in every detail of the two buildings. Initially, Samuel H.Richmond had built a pioneer home for his family, but in 1900 an addition to the home was built and open to the public – “The Richmond Hotel” became the first hotel between Coconut Grove and Key West (Deering Foundation Inc). In 1922, Charles Deering decided to let his melancholic state of mind flow by constructing the Mediterranean revival-style Stone House (Deering Foundation Inc). The Spanish villa with Islamic influence was the beginning of Miami. The domes were of islamic influence, the replication of a Spanish mosaic using shells and ocean elements were beautifully placed in the ceiling outside the villa. The intricate details of serpents, seahorse, amongst other creatures in the capitals give off the Mediterranean feeling. 

From the outside, these buildings transport you to another era, and once you enter an overwhelming feeling of calmness mixed with mischief narrate the story of Charles Deering. There is a sense of tranquility once you enter the Christian room where two beautiful stained glasses illuminated from behind depict the history of Jesus – back then churches were the only place that were clean and pure enough to transmit peace among the chaos and illnesses that took place in Spain. Regardless of his religious inclinations shown throughout the villa, there was a hidden liquor storage room that smelled like danger – remember the Prohibition era? Well they survived it by illegally storing and drinking alcohol in the basement. Only after the passing of hurricane Andrew, people were able to discover this hidden treasure. Behind those walls and immense garden, between the Chinese panels and furnitures, the steel work on the doors, and the Islamic inspired domes, a story of art and culture is written. 

Works Cited 

“Deering Estate History: Historic Miami Mansion & Gardens.” Deering Estate, 26 Mar. 2020, deeringestate.org/history/.

South Beach as Text

Image Taken and Edited by Luzmariana Iacono (CC by 4.0)
“Beautiful, Dark Secret”

By Luzmariana Iacono of FIU at South Beach, 23 September 2020

Miami Beach, as beautifully seen in the movies and a dreamed vacation by many, is the place where people go to disconnect from the daily worries and connect to their fun, young-like attitude and enjoy the beauty that surrounds them. No one would guess that the way Miami Beach was born would create such disparity between the initial inhabitants of the land with those pioneers, like Carl Fisher and John Collins, who came to revolutionize everything. 

Carl Fisher discovered what he named Miami Beach (originally Ocean Beach) in 1910 in the form of a wasteland, full of mangroves and palmettos. He saw the economic potential of the area, and alongside John Collins, they began transforming it into a tourist resort by substituting the mangroves with buildings and bridges. However, in order to achieve this, they needed laborers and black people – yes, racism was palpable – just to shut them out right after all the hotels and restaurants were built. Segregation between black and white Americans was so strict that there was even a specific beach (Virginia Key beach) for them to go to since they were shunned from the rest. When Jews began settling in the area in the 19th century, they were also discriminated against as they were only allowed to live in the South side of 5th street; they even had to live with the reality that restaurants and hotels had signs such as “Gentiles Only” prohibiting their entrance. 

Out of this dark historical past filled with racism, discrimination, and exploitation we can now admire different art styles in the juxtaposing buildings. There is a mix between Mediterranean revival, MiMo architectural style, and Art Deco and they would not be able to be admired now if it were not for the activist and preservationist Barbara Baer Capitman. “South Beach’s Art Deco neighborhood was the nation’s first 20th century National Historic District” (Professor Bailly, 2020, https://johnwbailly.com/lectures/south-beach-walking-tour/). In the 1980’s, artists, activists, and preservationists fought in order to prevent money-driven business people and visionaries from erasing years of art and culture from the land with more skyscrapers.  

Art Deco is such a unique style because it was the first architectural movement that tried to resemble machines due to the curved edges and geometric figures. Buildings follow a pattern of three, as they have lines in their facade that give a sense of order and fresh outlook. Not only are these lines highlighted by stronger colors (such as dark blue in resemblance of the ocean), but the buildings also have “eyebrows” that give them a sense of three-dimensionality. Lastly, nothing screams Art Deco more than some vibrant neon lights that would make every tourist and resident feel like they are in another dimension – a fun, carefree view of reality. 

Miami needed places where people can just share unique moments by walking around, eating, and admiring artistic buildings and stores. Deep down there is a longing for the European lifestyle where people have places to enjoy the outdoors and socialize in pedestrian zones, which is why places like Lincoln Road and Espanola Way are usually crowded and lively. What once was a simple desolated area with small streets, cheap dining rooms, and stores later became a classy, enthusiastic, and inspiring place.

Works Cited

Bailly, John William. “South Beach Walking Tour.” John William Bailly – Art Society Conflict Lecture, 3 Apr. 2020, johnwbailly.com/lectures/south-beach-walking-tour/.

Bakehouse as Text

Biggest image taken by Andrea Sofia, smaller two images on the side taken by Luzmariana Iacono. Collage edited by Luzmariana Iacono (CC by 4.0)

“Art is Science’s translator” 

 by Luzmariana Iacono of FIU at Bakehouse, October 7th, 2020

When people think of Art, they almost immediately assume that it has nothing to do with the factual evidence that science can provide; but it has everything to do with emotions and the representation of an abstract reality. Meanwhile this can be up for debate, we know with certainty that art is much more than some paintings and sculptures. Art is a language, it has its own voice, and it can be the worldwide translator for Earth’s cry for help.

When visiting the Bakehouse Art Complex, located in Wynwood, my mind was blown at the fact that through clay we could communicate the ongoing problem occurring to Coral Reefs around the world. Lauren Shapiro is the leading artist collaborating with scientists to raise awareness to the environmental issues that are affecting coral reefs: climate change, and ocean acidification being the main factors. When participating in this project, it is inevitable to question “How can we solve this?” and just by asking the question our minds are already open to change.

The project itself consists of molding clay in the form of corals by utilizing silicon-based stencils from real, desiccated corals (which died a natural death and were not extracted for the sole purpose of art). We could incorporate color to our preference, and to create movement in the art piece we could make some pieces taller than the others. However, the best part of this project is when we place all of the corals into a wooden mural, juxtaposing their colors and shapes. Unfortunately due to Covid-19 the project slowed down in its process, but if enough people from the community sign up for their free workshops, the exhibition should take place in November 2020. It is an amazing experience that not only relaxes your mind and body when molding the clay, working it with your hands while listening to nature’s sounds, but it is also informative.

Rubell as Text

Images Taken and Edited by Luzmariana Iacono (CC by 4.0)

“Contemporary art – Can you handle it?”

 by Luzmariana Iacono of FIU at Rubell Museum, October 21st, 2020

Imagine waking up one day, deciding with your couple that you want to collect art and make a statement about social changes throughout the years, and stereotypical issues that have been affecting the American culture all these years. After collecting art pieces for over 50 years, that’s what the Rubell family had envisioned: a contemporary art museum that would attract tourism and celebrate Miami-based artists as well. There are 40 galleries filled with 300 works by 100 artists (Carway-Carlton, 2020 https://www.miamiandbeaches.com/things-to-do/arts-culture/museums/the-rubell-museum) and through each artist a different, uncomfortable story is showcased.

When entering the museum the first controversial topic that arises is “how does the American perfect family really live when no one is watching?”  Paul McCarthy is an American artist that often utilizes American myths and icons to tell a story, a satire, and utilizes the human body and animalistic figures to portray his message. His work is often seen as disturbing because imagine entering an Art museum and seeing a father next to a son humping a deer. Shocking right? His performance art is considered modern gothic. 

Another American artist that creates art out of the chaotic, distracted, and mundane american lifestyle is Purvis Young. He began drawing and later painting when serving his time in jail, he was convicted for a felony, and what makes him special is the fact that nothing and no one could stop his imaginative flow. He would paint with an idea in mind, but not an exact sketch, and his usual themes were pregnant women, angels (regular people), boat people (refugees), and funerals. He narrates the story of African Americans in the South during times of war, the Great Depression, and societal conflicts. His portraits do not represent the standard of “beautiful art” that people look for, but they make you feel something – confusion, pain, a sense of nostalgia – and not everyone is capable of appreciating that, as they feel something better could have been done to portray the same idea. 

Our society is so outspoken about giving women the power they deserve, trying to flee away from the patriarchal viewpoints that have ruled us in the past, and reinventing societal “roles.” But where are the actions that bring forth this thinking process? Where are we truly making the difference? if even a painting of a naked woman is too controversial for some. In the Rubell Museum, visitors are challenged to see how society unjustly classifies women based on their race and their attitude towards sexuality. They can admire the works of Tschabalala Self, Two Girls and Milk Chocolate, where women are posing naked as if to question the audience “Is this what you think of me? Is my body a sexual object to you?” Race and sexualisation of the feminine body are topics that are rarely given the proper importance because our society is so used to over-sexualising everything that we turn people into objects of desire. Another artist that stirs a conversation about women’ values being connected to their sexuality is Marlene Dumas. Her painting Miss January depicts a woman in a power pose position, standing tall, looking straight at you and not with a submissive look. She’s naked, she’s embracing her Diva role freely. But why is this so revolutionary and controversial? Because in the past women have always been painted (and treated as) the weaker sex, with an obedient look, almost inferior to men. Even if things began changing, this painting was the first one created by a woman and not a man, representing female empowerment and equality by a simple pose. 

The Rubell Museum showcases the works of multiple artists, conglomerating multicultural ideas into contemporary American art. All of these works tell a story, whether it be social inequality, women and their sexuality, the LGBTQ community, oppression, and economic changes. Art is not always meant to be beautiful, but it has to make you feel something, and it is usually the simplest statements that will get people to discuss them (like when the artist Maurizio Cattelan taped a banana in the wall at Art Basel in Miami Beach). As a famous quote states, beauty is in the eye of the beholder – so what do you see? 

Works Cited

Caraway-Carlton, Angela. Rubell Family Museum, 29 Apr. 2020, http://www.miamiandbeaches.com/things-to-do/arts-culture/museums/the-rubell-museum.

Deering Hike as Text

Image Taken and Edited by Luzmariana Iacono (CC by 4.0)

“Hiking through Time”

 by Luzmariana Iacono of FIU at Deering Estate, November 4th, 2020

Entering the Deering Estate is an out of this world experience – imagine escaping the traffic, the chaotic life in Miami to go on a trip with the past? Hiking through the Deering estate means going from one scenario to another, seeing pine trees in one area, and going through a swamp in the other just to continue the journey. The exposed roots in the swamp were there to make you trip as a way of saying “stop and remember who inhabited this place before” in fact, the Tekesta touched this soil before us and left their imprints. Some natural rocks can be found if looking attentively, they are shaped like leafs and if held correctly the thumb fits perfectly and they become a weapon. Given the lack of modern gear, those natural objects were used as knives to either cut branches, kill the prey, and excavate. It is also essential to notice how shells were found with two parallel holes where a branch could fit perfectly, and suddenly, these shells were another tool to excavate through the soil. 

Continuing through what looks like an eternal jungle, with the entrance similar to the one described by Dante’s Inferno, the life of Freemasons is documented through their carved symbol inside a water well. This mysterious well adorned by climbing plants makes you question what was once there, were dead bodies hidden there? Or was it used for their sacred rituals? Following through similar tracks, history narrates that under a majestic Oak tree lies the tombs of ancestors. The Oak tree is symbolic of life, so it is impressive to see the poetry of life and death in one place. 

During the hike it is important to recognize some important trees and plants, including the Gumbo Limbo tree recognizable by its red and peeling bark. This tree can cure you from poison and if one of its branches falls, another tree can spring from it. There is also an area covered by Pine trees that immediately transports you to Christmas time. However, while walking through those grandiose trees one needs to watch out for Poison Ivy as it will leave a rash (it can be recognized by its 3 leaflets). 

There are two different areas where it is important to let go of the fear of insects and submerge yourself in the swamp to learn more about Miami’s history. In one place, a crashed airplane can be noticed and learning its history, one will be surprised to discover that it was never reported. Luckily, everyone survived the plane crash but one can speculate that the reason why the incident was not reported was because the plane was transporting cocaine or any other illegal drug. In another area, while admiring the work done by acid that corroded the porous limestone (solution holes), there is a pipeline trail that tells the story of ancient civilizations in Miami. 

The Deering Estate is an environmental, archeological, and historical preserve that allows tourists to learn more about Miami’s history – the beginning of it. Cutler road alone goes back to 10,000 years of history! Hiking through this place is like going back to history and coming back anew. 

Monica Barletta: Miami as Text

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, spending time with friends, and watching movies.

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”

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.

Sources

“A Historical Look at the Versace Mansion.” CR Fashion Book, CR Fashion Book, 2 May 2019, http://www.crfashionbook.com/fashion/a27274615/historical-look-versace-mansion/.

Goldberg, Carrie. “You Can Spend a Night In Gianni Versace’s South Beach Mansion.” Harper’s BAZAAR, Harper’s BAZAAR, 28 Mar. 2018, http://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/travel-dining/a14776642/versace-mansion-miami-hotel/.


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.

Sources

“Florida’s Coral Reefs.” Florida Department of Environmental Protection, floridadep.gov/rcp/rcp/content/floridas-coral-reefs.

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, http://www.coris.noaa.gov/portals/florida.html.


Rubell Museum as Text

“A Hidden Meaning”

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 8, 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.

Jennifer Quintero: Miami as Text

Jennifer Quintero where she is happiest, Everglades, 2020

Jennifer Quintero is a Junior at Florida International University currently majoring in Sustainability and the Environment and Public Administration with the goal of working in the public sector as an environmental educator and policy maker. Between studying full time and participating in extracurriculars, she works part-time for Miami-Dade County Parks and Recreation as an environmental educator. During the semester she also works as a naturalist on campus giving tours and leading volunteers on the university’s nature preserve all in the hopes of encouraging a culture of sustainability. When not working she enjoys hiking, kayaking, and learning all there is to know about the outdoors.

Deering as Text

“The Classroom Inside the Hidden Gem”

by @LocalEnvironmentalist of @FIUInstagram at the @DeeringEstate, 13th September 2020

The Stone House Gallery. Photo taken by Jennifer Quintero (CC by 4.0)

My first impression of the Deering Estate was: “Wow, that’s a lot of kids.” Granted I was there for an interview to become an educator while Deering was in the midst of hosting its annual summer camp, so definitely not a typical circumstance. One interview, some bureaucracy, and a phone call later and I found myself as the youngest member in the Learning Department. Now the Deering Estate has a lot of things: a museum, a park, a nature preserve…but its main function is actually that of a classroom. No one goes to the Deering Estate and leaves without learning something, especially me. In the past year of my employment there, I have found myself in each of its ecosystems gawking at the vast biodiversity that hides right along the edge of a mega populated city. I’ve had the privilege of going into its archeological sites and seeing fossilized dire wolf teeth for myself (better perks than any other job I’ve had I’m sure).

Raccoon teeth found on a hike through the Cutler Creek. Photo taken by Jennifer Quintero (CC by 4.0)

The most wonderful thing I’ve had the pleasure of seeing though, is people leaving with something that they didn’t know before. I’ve taken people of all ages through the houses and the hikes, but I think the kids are my favorite because they see the extraordinary in the smallest things. One of my favorite experiences though is when I lead them into the gallery and tell them all to lay down on the floor and look up: The first thing they do is grumble, then they notice the chandeliers, but finally they really look up at all the golden tiles on the ceiling and inside each one they find plants and animals. Nature influences art and vice versa. Deering is one of the places where this bridge is strongly made. This is also where the nature of Charles Deering really shines, he wasn’t just an art collector after all, he was an early preservationist and a lover of nature. The Deering Estate is a place where people can be surprised at how much they didn’t know, from college students like me, to kindergarteners, to seniors, and learn to see nature (and Miami) from a different perspective.

The ceiling of the Stone House gallery. Images taken by Jennifer Quintero (CC by 4.0)

SoBe as Text

“The City That Sits Upon the Sea”

by @LocalEnvironmentalist of @FIUInstagram at South Beach, 23rd September 2020

Natural dunes in South Point Park. Images taken by Jennifer Quintero (CC by 4.0)

The pastels and the lights

In this city at night

would never give it away…

This resort stay, had so much to say

You only had to open your eyes. 

This is a city that rose from the sea

It turned one day and said to me:

“Even the buildings have character”. Images taken by Jennifer Quintero (CC by 4.0)

“This is a place of history 

Where you and I can feel free

Where rainbows fly and people sing 

Where diversity reigns kings

We have food and we have spice

But our history is not so nice…”

“Preservationist: Like Recognizes Like”. Images taken by Jennifer Quintero (CC by 4.0)

“We were built upon a shallow bay 

Where fish and birds all came to stay

dredged out the home they had created 

Saw this beautiful land and manipulated

The narrative, so you would think 

This home to natives was on the brink 

of empty desolation.

But you’d be quite mistaken…”

“On Miami’s shore there were people:

The Tequesta who called this place home.

Then came the Spaniards, who looked all around them

And acted like this land was unknown. 

Before their burial site, stood a barrier island

That was protecting the inland from storm

To a “pioneer” Fisher, it was song of a siren

And his ideas started to form”

“The city became a vacationers dream,

but the people who built it were pushed to the seams

They were not allowed to relish in what they created. 

This is the history of SoBe that goes unstated”

“How a city looms”. Images taken by Jennifer Quintero (CC by 4.0).

But just because this history isn’t pure, 

doesn’t mean that you should be unsure 

about enjoying what makes SoBe grand

Beautiful buildings and soft white sand 

A place where pride flags fly free

The city that sits upon the sea. 

The city from the pier. Images taken by Jennifer Quintero (CC by 4.0)

Bakehouse as Text

“Molding More Than Clay”

by @LocalEnvironmentalist of @FIUInstagram @theBakehouseArtComplex

Reef forms in clay. Images taken by Jennifer Quintero (CC by 4.0)

Right off the coast of Miami Beach is another city. This one isn’t as flashy and if you look out while you’re on the beach sun tanning, you might never even know it’s there. This city, and those like it, are home to a quarter of all life in the big blue and affect us in more ways than we know. The South Florida Reef Tract is many things, a barrier for oncoming storms, a host to biodiversity, and a provider of food and new medicines. This relationship is not one sided though, we also affect the coral reefs in many ways. From dredging to climate change to nutrient run off, we put corals through a lot. I don’t think we do it on purpose, but we fail to be aware of it and as a result, cause more harm than good. It is because of this that becoming aware is the first important step in making a difference in this issue and many others.

The big picture. Images by Jennifer Quintero (CC by 4.0)

ARTivism is the bridge between people and social issues. At the Bakehouse Art Complex, artist Lauren Shapiro is creating Future Pacific: a bridge between people and science. The project is more than just an art piece, it’s a way to engage the community. We got the chance to sit with the artist and talk about the importance of coral reefs and ways we could reduce our impact on the environment all while using clay to mold coral reefs textures and forms. When people are given the chance to do something like this, they’re given more than just the opportunity to mold clay. They’re given the chance to mold the future of the environment and the world. 

Its in your hands. Images by Jennifer Quintero (CC by 4.0)

Rubell as Text

“Eliciting a Reaction”

by @LocalEnvironmentalist of @FIUInstagram @RubellMuseum

They’re like me! Images by Jennifer Quintero (CC by 4.0)

Contemporary art is supposed to comment on the world and start a conversation. That’s what we were told as we walked through the galleries of the Rubell Museum. While I was there, not much was said aloud between our small group, but there was certainly a conversation going on within myself. Browsing through the artwork, I had some pretty strong opinions, and not all of them good. This was pretty conflicting. On one hand I wanted to appreciate ALL of the art, but on the other hand…I saw a neon orange square of popcorn ceiling and a guy photographed with a pig.

Painting or advertisement? Images by Jennifer Quintero (CC by 4.0)

Still, as my blood boiled at these, I realized that this was the point. The art was eliciting a reaction out of me whether I liked it or not. Yes, some of it made me think: “it’s just a bunch of rich people giving social commentary on things they don’t deal with themselves” laced with “you’re missing the point if you just ascribe this to shallow pretentiousness,” but some of it filled me with emotions that were closer to catharsis. Seeing Karon Davis’ sculptures, Kehinde Wileys’ painting, and Keith Haring’s work…I was filled with a certain sadness and awe.

Images by Jennifer Quintero (CC by 4.0)
Images by Jennifer Quintero (CC by 4.0)

They were like looking through a window at someone else’s reality and seeing the difference in each other’s perspectives. In a way, you knew those differences were always there, but through art they’re made apparent and you are forced to face them. They felt genuine in their expressions about our society and ascribed beauty to them. The Rubell Museum in this way felt like a place that said “art isn’t just for rich white dudes to peruse, its a place where bridges between people are made and conversations can start”.

Deering Hike as Text

“Bulldozed, Filled in, and Washed Away: Miami’s History is Underneath Our Feet”

by @LocalEnvironmentalist of @FIUInstagram @DeeringEstate

In our element. Images by Jennifer Quintero (CC by 4.0)

“In Rome you can touch the Colosseum and know that a millennia ago, another human being carved it,” (John Bailly, 2020). Hiking through the Deering Estate, you don’t find a Colosseum, but you do find an equivalent. In the form of the environment, you can find that there is another museum not contained inside the two historic houses. This one is much buggier, more humid, and just as beautiful. Our hike at Deering gave us a look at the hidden history of Miami, one of the Tequesta and the real Old Cutler Road that they once traveled. While at Deering, we walked on this road and got the opportunity to take a look at what the Tequesta left behind from a myriad of tools to one of their Burial Mounds.

Tequesta tool, so cool! Images by Jennifer Quintero (CC by 4.0)

It’s cathartic to think about what lives they led in these ecosystems and how they interacted with them. Learning about how they utilized the plants and animals around, whether its as medicine or tools, makes it more concrete that the environment around us shapes our cultures and connects us. We have severed this connection however. We have cut down the pine rocklands they called home, drained the tropical hardwood hammocks life flourished in, and bulldozed the mangroves that kept the land safe. We have essentially buried our geological heritage underneath our feet. Deering is a time capsule in this sense, its what the Spanish saw when they got here, it’s what we should feel connected to just as much as the Art Deco in Miami Beach. These narratives aren’t separate from one another, they both make up Miami. After all, a plane sits rotting away in the mangroves of the Deering Estate. An old freshwater pipeline runs through it. There’s railroad spikes on the road the Tequesta’s walked. There’s history underneath our feet that connects us, we just need to recognize it.

A plane sits in the mangroves, waiting to be discovered. Images by Jennifer Quintero (CC by 4.0)

Ameenah Aljabry: Miami as Text

Photo taken by Emily Morgan. Edited by Ameenah Aljabry/CC BY 4.0

Hi, I’m Ameenah Aljabry! I’m a student at FIU and am majoring in English and minoring in philosophy. I love spreading happiness and love. If I can put a smile on someone’s face, that will make my day. I specifically have a love for animals. I have loved animals since the age of 5 and continue to widen my horizons in the field of animal science. I currently love my job and get to groom dogs every day but am hoping that in my near future I can and will become a veterinarian and have my own practice. I love the arts as well and as a hobby, I sing. So, if you are ever in a car with me while the radio is blasting, I am sorry in advance. I also dabble in drawing and photography. In my eyes, every day is a new opportunity for me to create something special whether it be a connection with another amazing person, a piece of artwork, or an amazing educational discovery. And I truly believe that this class will allow me to continue living my motto to the fullest.

Deering as Text

“Peaceful Waters,” by Ameenah Aljabry of FIU at Deering Estate on September 9th, 2020.

Photos taken by Ameenah Aljabry. Edited by Ameenah Aljabry/CC BY 4.0

As I look back at my first experience at Deering Estate I honestly can say that my emotions have a conflicting nature to them. First, let me start off by saying that the natural aspects of this estate make you feel one with the earth. It is as if you are entangled within this preserves branches, vines, and trees when walking around. As I peered over the Chinese bridge I looked below to a flowing river of freshwater and all I could think was that I wanted to jump in and how refreshing that would be and that I also found it beautiful and serene. Deering Estate has a way of intriguing its guests with its mystery as well as its vast openness when it comes to its landscape and architecture. As we walked down Old Cutler Road I realized that there was so much more deep within these forests that we had no clue about. Just like when looking out at the dock, you would have no clue that five individuals died while making this estate what it is today. I realized that as we stood in this estate we were coming to understand the roots of Miami and its history. The idea that individuals like Charles Deering were striving and growing their name while others were being put to work and not getting any recognition for it and were not treated correctly is not entirely fair. But, the cultural aspects of these underappreciated individuals still shine through in many of the architectural aspects and artwork seen in both The Stone House and The Richmond Cottage. For example, this amazing and intricate mosaic made by the Bahamians is a piece of art that would not be seen anywhere else. This ceiling mosaic consists of shells, coral, and much other common life found in our Miami waters. This shows how innovative these individuals truly were when they did not have regular materials like colored glass. Instead, they made something of their own.

Photo taken by Ameenah Aljabry. Edited by Ameenah Aljabry/CC BY 4.0

This piece of artwork is ageless and tells us a story of culture and wildlife seen in Miami which can be said about many things seen in Deering Estate. Deering Estate can be a magical place where you experience the quietness and calmness of nature, but at the same time see the cultural struggle and suppression as well. And Miami’s history could not be told without revealing both of those aspects.

South Beach as Text

“The City of Colors” by Ameenah Aljabry of FIU at South Beach on September 23rd, 2020.

Photo taken by Ameenah Aljabry. Edited by Ameenah Aljabry/CC BY 4.0

Many might think that South Beach is just a place to vacation, relax, and let your mind wander while you stare at the crystal clear water. But if you dig deeper, there’s much more that makes this destination amazing and haunting at the same time. South Beach was something that had to be altered; mangroves were torn apart for this beach to exist and to flourish to add new resorts and allow it to become something that was only a dream. As an individual born and raised in Miami, it’s always been important to me to truly understand my home land and it’s roots. And from first glance I would have never expected South Beach to be what it truly was. It all started with a vision that Carl G. Fisher had. A dream that he believed he would profit from for decades. He did not let anything stand in his way. He used Blacks to further his vision through their hard work and then secluded them after he believed that the job was done. Blacks were asked to come and even perform in South Beach but could not stay in any of the hotels due to discrimination at the time. So, they had to commute back home after their performances. These individuals were exploited for their talents and hard work to create something so grand and yet they still were only able to go to one beach: Virginia Key Beach. This fact haunts me because these individuals were investing their talents and hard work and many to this day have no clue they exist in the creation of something this big. Even though South Beach has its dark history, it also has some light to it as well. This can be seen in its intricate artwork, that at first glance some might not notice. But, if you just stop to admire for one second, you will be completely drawn in by it. The Art Deco buildings with their mixture of Mediterranean and Mimo art styles bring a unique vibe to the streets of South Beach adding a little spice that can also be seen in our current population that we call the melting pot due to its large mixture of different cultures and backgrounds.

Photos taken by Ameenah Aljabry. Edited by Ameenah Aljabry/CC BY 4.0

Rubell as Text

“The Meaning Behind the Art” by Ameenah Aljabry of FIU at Rubell Museum on October 21st, 2020.

Photo taken by Ameenah Aljabry/CC BY 4.0. Sleep by Kehinde Wiley.

When I first entered this museum, I could feel the creativity flowing through my veins. Just by looking at all those amazing pieces of artwork, it sparked something inside me that wanted to create. But when I specifically looked at the art piece by Kehinde Wiley called Sleep, I was entirely moved. In the world that we live in, especially in its currently political and social climate, the Black community isn’t brightly represented. Even with the progress we have somewhat made through the Black Lives Matter movement, there are large strides to be made when pertaining to the perception of the Black community. Throughout my life living as a half Black and half Hispanic individual, I honestly did not see much representation of my community in the art or the media. So to be able to stand in a museum and to look up at this amazing piece of artwork that showered the Black community with beauty made me feel so many mixed emotions. Happiness, due to the fact that we could finally be portrayed as something ethereal and beautiful as well as a feeling of sadness in the sense that many truly don’t see us in this light. The best part about this piece of artwork is that it sparks dialogue. Yes it’s most definitely beautiful but it also sends a deep message as well; it does two things that great pieces of artwork are meant to do.

Deering Hike as Text

“Walk with Nature” by Ameenah Aljabry of FIU at Deering Estate on November 4th, 2020.

Photo taken by Ameenah Aljabry. Edited by Ameenah Aljabry/CC BY 4.0

When walking through this hiking trail, you can feel the pieces of ridge below you. You would never know who walked before us, the Tequestas, they knew this land like no one else. Through our hike, we were shown how the tequestas used the resources around them to survive. They were scavengers and were very resourceful. They used shells and rocks in ways many would never think to use objects like that. They used it to make holes and aid them in planting crops. They also used sharp shells to cut through tough materials. In the middle of this trail, you can find history that you wouldn’t find in any other location. Not only is this trail nature enriched with different types of ecosystems like mangroves, forests and moss it’s also enriched with an everlasting history that began with the tequestas and can never be forgotten.

When hiking the feeling of free takes over you and you begin to feel one with nature. There’s the bustling part of Miami filled with buildings, lights and art.

But then there are parts of Miami like the Deering Estate that allow you to go back to our human roots and see how people used to live and survive on the land they were given. Sometimes we all have to stop and appreciate the nature around us and realize how much it truly provides for us. And this hike did that for me. It allowed me to leave my busy life and understand the history I have always been standing on and had no idea about. Always look beneath the surface because you never know what traces were left behind.