Vox Student Blog

Aimee Zuniga: Miami as Text

Aimee taking a mirror selfie. Photo taken by Aimee Zuniga

Hello peers, My name is Aimee Zuniga . I am a junior hoping to graduate by spring 2021 or summer 2021. I am an organizational communications student. Once I get my bachelors in communications I plan on continuing my education and getting a masters in International Business. My hobbies consist of film photography, music, and nature. I shoot 35 mm film, develop, and scan my own photos at home. My favorite thing to capture is the local music scene of Miami. Before the pandemic, I was going to shows every week capturing and fully immersing myself in the local music scene. Another one of my favorite things to capture are nature spots. I love nature and I try to spend most of my time outdoors. That is one reason I chose this class. I also chose this class because I was born and raised in Miami and I want to learn about the real culture and history of my city.

Deering as text

By Aimee Zuniga of FIU at Deering Estate , 2 September 2020

Aimee Holding Tequesta tools at Deering Estate. Photo taken by Aimee Zuniga

The hike at Deering Estate was a journey through the past. The area where Deering Estate is located was the land of the Tequesta’s which were a group of Native Americans that lived in the area that we know as Miami. I was astonished while hiking because I was walking through the land the Tequestas once roamed.  While walking through the trail I was picturing the life of the Tequesta’s. The history and the story of the Tequestas was my favorite thing about this Deering estate trip. Finding tools left behind by the Tequestas blew my mind, I never thought I would come across tools left behind by my geographical ancestors. When I picked up the tools from the ground I couldn’t believe what I was doing. Professor Bailly showed us how a specific tool was used, it was very interesting. We also came across Tequesta burial grounds that were surrounded by the tree of life. The tree was large and beautiful.  This was a spiritual experience for me. Professor Bailey told us the stories of the burials while I was mesmerized by the beauty of the tree. It felt like I was being fully immersed into the life of the Tequestas. I chose this photo because holding those tools made me feel like I was holding a piece of real Miami and this was an experience I am truly grateful for. 

South Beach as Text

By Aimee Zuniga of FIU at South Beach , 16 September 2020

Art Deco building on South Beach. Photo taken by Aimee Zuniga

South Beach is one of the most visited places in the world. People from all over the world come and visit South Beach for the culture. There is a lot history and culture in South Beach. What really interested me about our class at South beach was the architecture. The architecture of South Beach has always interested me, but I learned so much about it during this class. I learned that there are three forms of architecture in the buildings you see on South Beach. Neo Mediterranean, Art Deco and Mimo. My favorite of the three is art deco. Art deco consist of pastel colors that blend into the environment, rounded corners, and neon lights at night.  It is my favorite because the pastel colors have always caught my attention ever since I was a little kid.  I find the pastel art deco buildings of South beach aesthetically pleasing. During our South Beach walk we passed by the building where one of the most famous Miami movies was filmed, Scarface. The building where the chainsaw massacre scene takes place was shot on Ocean Drive. The building is located next to the Colony hotel and it is now a CVS. This was a very cool aspect of the class because Scarface is one of my favorite movies. The entire time during our walk I was in awe of the beauty on South Beach , I’m grateful I got to see and learn about the culture of this part of Miami. 

Downtown Miami as text

By Aimee Zuniga of FIU at Downtown Miami , 30 September 2020

Piece of the Berlin Wall. Photo taken by Aimee Zuniga
Photo taken by Aimee Zuniga

Downtown Miami is full of so much culture and history. Before our class in Downtown I wasn’t aware of all the history that is in Downtown. I have been coming to Downtown my entire life and I wasn’t aware of any of the history I learned during class. I learned about Fort Dallas and the plantation slave quarters, Major Dade, Henry Flagler, The Tequestas , the Brickells and the freedom tower.  There is so much history behind Miami, all the information that I learned in this class blew my mind. Something that really stuck with me was the Miami Circle. While standing on the circle I felt the same feelings I felt while at Deering estate. I felt the same spiritual feeling I felt at the burial grounds at Deering estate. While standing on the Miami circle and looking out to the water I felt myself being immersed into the life of the Tequestas once again. 

Another real cool aspect of the class at downtown was looking at a piece of the Berlin wall. The history of the Berlin wall and Ronald Reagan’s presidency has always been one of my favorite things to learn about. I had no idea there was a piece of it here in my city, when I saw the piece, I felt the urge to touch it (but I didn’t)because I was in awe of the history I was looking at. 

Chicken Key as Text

By Aimee Zuniga of FIU at Chicken Key , 14 October 2020

Photo of trash collected , taken by Aimee Zuniga

Chicken Key is an island a mile from Deering estate. We canoed a mile over there on a beautiful sunny Florida day. We paddled all the way to this island to clean up trash on the Island. Doing beach clean ups has always been one of my favorite things to do. It upsets me to see trash in nature. Cleaning up trash at chicken key was my favorite thing we did as a class. It feels good to clean up trash and it feels good to help your environment. I ended up collecting three whole bags worth of trash. While picking up trash, it made me sad to look at all the trash that was scattered on the island. I saw and collected things like shoes, glass bottles, plastic spoons, plastic bottles and much more. Most of it was plastic.  This overall experience will stay in my brain forever, it was such a perfect day. While canoeing to the island the view was spectacular, I couldn’t get over the beauty of our view.  Paddling to and from the island was a great workout, I was sore the next day. I’m very grateful I had the opportunity to see this side of Miami. I never would have thought I’d ever canoe to an island to pick up trash, but this class made that possible. I chose the photo of all the trash we collected because it is something we accomplished after a whole day of hard work and fun. Seeing the pile of trash at the end of the day put a smile on my face. 

Bakehouse As Text

By Aimee Zuniga of FIU at Bakehouse Art Complex , 28 October 2020

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Photo taken by Aimee Zuniga at Bakehouse

My first experience at the Bakehouse art complex in Wynwood was spectacular. I had a great time contributing to my community by helping out a local artist with an important project. Lauren Shapiro, a local artist whom I met at the Bakehouse art complex is working on a project called Future pacific. The project is about coral reefs and how they are dying. Lauren uses clay and lets it air dry instead of cooking it inside a kiln. The purpose of this is so that the clay deteriorates and represents how our coral reefs are dying.  I walked into this art complex not knowing what exactly I will be working on but when I was told about Lauren’s project, I was amazed and fell in love with it. An environmental project like this one has the potential to impact the community which is why this is an important project; it addresses a very important environmental issue. This project can teach the community about this environmental issue through art, this aspect made me fall in love with it.  

 Lauren Shapiro’s project made me want to start volunteering at these workshops to help out local artist. Art projects like hers are a great way to spread awareness about an issue that affects our oceans while at the same time enjoying the art culture. I look forward to seeing the finished project and I will be back to the Bakehouse to see the exhibit once it is finished. Thanks to this experience I will now look for more similar opportunities to volunteer in the art community as well as being more aware of what is happening in our oceans. 

Rubell As Text

By Aimee Zuniga of FIU at Rubell Museum , 18 November 2020

Photo of Infinity mirrored room taken by Aimee Zuniga
Photo of Keith Haring Painting taken by Aimee Zuniga

The class at the Rubell Museum really took me by surprise. Prior to this class I did not do any research on the Rubell Museum . So I showed up to class not knowing what to expect. This class was full of surprises for me. First thing we saw as a class was the Infinity Mirrored room by Japanese Artist Yahoo Kusama. This room was absolutely beautiful . It was a room full of mirrors and mirrored balls. Before walking in I didn’t know what I was about to walk into , once I did I was mind blown. This room was my favorite thing about the the Rubell Museum. I have never seen anything like that room and the memory I have of being in there will stay with me forever. As we kept walking as a class , we walked into a Keith Haring exhibit. This is something else I was not expecting. Keith Haring is one of my favorite artist and has been since I was in high school. I have never seen his artwork in person before so this was very cool. I have shirts and books of his art but to see an exhibit with his art here in my hometown of Miami blew my mind. This exhibit made me incredibly happy , looking at Haring’s art in person put a smile on my face. After class , I went back to the exhibit alone to fully immerse myself into his art. After these overwhelming surprises , I thought that was it but it wasn’t . We also came across a piece by Jean Michell Basquiat , another one of my favorite artist. It was very crazy to me that I saw art from two very important artist of the 1980s in one day here in Miami. I left the museum feeling very refreshed , that is what this class always makes me feel. You never know what you are going to experience in a Miami in Miami class. That is what I love about this class, it is full of surprises and full of learning.

Everglades as Text

By Aimee Zuniga of FIU at Everglades National Park, 20 January 2021

Photo of Alligator hole taken by Aimee Zuniga

“Slogging through the swamp”

I like to say I was raised in the swamp and I joke to my friends explaining to them that I live that “swamp life”. Being born and raised in Dade – county, I grew up going to the Everglades. I spend a lot of my free time exploring the Everglades whether it’d be kayaking Hell’s bay, fishing in Tamiami Trail, biking 15 miles in Shark Valley or my favorite Everglades activity driving down loop road. I consider the Everglades my backyard, because of this class I was able to experience slough slogging. An activity I never saw myself doing, but this class made that possible. Slogging through the Everglades with my class and a very kind park ranger was a one of a kind life experience.  I learned so much about the living organisms in this ecosystem. The photo I chose is of an alligator hole. An alligator hole is a hole formed by alligators by digging substrate and vegetation. During our slough slogging adventure, we came across alligator holes. When I took this photo, I was with our professor and some of my peers, we went out to look for the alligator hole and some gators. Although we didn’t find any gators on that little adventure, it was very memorable. I was terrified of being attacked by a gator but the peaceful environment and the people I was surrounded by allowed me to stay brave. I am very grateful I got to experience this side of the Everglades while having half my body underwater. This was truly an experience, the information gathered, and the memories made will stay with me forever. 

Wynwood As Text

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Photo of Swing with gold flakes taken by Aimee Zuniga of FIU

“A Day Full of Gold”

By Aimee Zuniga of FIU at Locust Projects, 3 February 2021

 At Locust projects an instillation piece by Danish artist Mette Tommerup made me feel like I was in a different world. As I walked into her instillation, I see gold flakes on the floor that make my eyes glow with excitement. I continue walking and I see swings across the room. I come across this swing with gold flakes as shown in the photo above and I smile. The gold flakes and the swinging made me forget about the external world and its problem.  There was something about swinging from side to side while being surrounded by gold and paintings that makes you feel as though everything will be alright. When Mette Tommerup spoke about where her idea came from, she mentioned how she wanted people to come into her installation and feel a sense of hope after everything we as individuals have been through with the pandemic. Being in her instillation definitely gives you a sense of hope. As a class, we had the opportunity to be covered in gold flakes. This experience was definitely the highlight of my experience in Tommerup’s instillation. There were two other rooms in the space at Locust that were showcasing two different pieces. One of them showcased a video of a man covered in honey tumbling in circles. It was supposed to represent motion in utero. The other room showcased two videos, one showcased a confederate stature coming down and the other showcased an artist dancing on top of where the stature had been. Both rooms had powerful pieces of art. While being in Locust Projects you are engaging yourself with the local art community, an act that is very heartwarming and educational. 

Bill Baggs As Text

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Photo of Bill Baggs Lighthouse taken by Aimee Zuniga

“The Lighthouse” 

By Aimee Zuniga of FIU at Bill Baggs State Park

            Bill Baggs State Park is a staple in any Miami native’s memories coming to be known as the beach with “el farito”. Although my family and I have been coming to this beach since before I can even remember, never was I aware of the rich history surrounding the park and its lighthouse. Although I was aware of the history of slavery in Florida, I did not know that here in Cape Florida runaway slaves would be transported to the Bahamas to escape from their masters. While walking around anywhere rich in history, I like to meditate on my surroundings and entertain the idea of being where our ancestors were and what it must’ve been like at the time. While being in the park I could not help but think about the fear and tragedy of what happened here hundreds of years ago and how it became what it is today. Slaves were not the only ones to come onto this Island but also the Tequestas and Seminoles. Before Key Biscayne was even taken by the Spaniards, it was inhabited by early natives that were eventually driven out of the area. Fast forward a couple hundred years and it is now one of many of Florida’s State Parks which host’s thousands of people a year for its beautiful water, soft sand, and beautiful landscapes. 

Aside from learning the history of the park and lighthouse, another thing we did during the class was assist park rangers with shoveling sand and coquina. Coquina is a sedimentary rock which is made up of mostly sand and shells which if not attended to, can become a danger with the high tide. 

The trip to Bill Baggs State Park ended up being another fun experience to be shared with my class as it ended with us being able to stay for the rest of the day and soak up the sun and some ocean water. The information provided to us was not only interesting, but it helped to see the park in a new light and appreciate its beauty more. 

River of Grass as Text 

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Photo of solution hole taken by Aimee Zuniga

“The Hole”

By Aimee Zuniga of FIU at Everglades National Park ,3rd March 2021

As a class we had an excellent second trip to the Everglades and started off the day by going to the solution holes. These holes are filled with rainwater as well as water from underneath the limestone which is connected through channels spanning all over the Everglades. These solution holes are formed by the chemical erosion of carbonate rocks. After being told how these are formed by the Park Ranger, we went to something called the Nike Missile Site which is located within the Everglades National Park. This site was an old Army missile base dating back to the Cold War. It was completed in 1964 following the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was built here because it is approximately 160 miles from Cuba and its purpose was to be an anti-aircraft missile site. Walking around the missile was astonishing because of its size and comparing oneself to it. It was a great experience because although being a Miami native, I was not aware that there was an old Army base located within the park. 

            The second part of this Everglades trip was the wet hike deep in the river of grass where we looked for a species of bird called Wood Stork. They are large white wading birds. While walking really deep in the Everglades we came across a large flock of Wood Storks taking off. It was a really beautiful and peaceful experience to hear nothing but the sound of birds out in the middle of South Florida’s unique nature. I’m glad we got a chance to see the real South Florida for a second chance. These trips to the Everglades has definitely given me inspiration to visit it more on my own time.

Frost as Text

“A very artsy day at FIU”

By Aimee Zuniga of FIU at the Frost Museum , 17 March 2021

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Photo of Carlos Alfonzo Mural at Fiu taken by Aimee Zuniga

Photo of Carlos Alfonzo mural at FIU taken by Aimee Zuniga

At Frost we came across an exhibition that contained some of Venezuelan artist Roberto Obregón’s archives. What you’re walking into when walking into this exhibition is an obsession. You are walking into Obregón’s obsession with rose pedals. His obsession was very scientific. He set up samples of rose pedals and observed their decay over time. So being in his exhibition almost feels like you are in some sort of scientific lab.  The exhibition consists of sketches, photographs, drawings and collages.  

Aside from having this wonderful Obregón exhibition, The Frost museum also currently has an instillation created by artist Pepe Mar that consist of the museum’s collection. This exhibition showcases all kinds of art. Pepe wanted to show people art from Africa, Asia, the Americas, Australia and Europe. The exhibition had a mixture of everything, it was so overwhelming.  Some pieces that stood out to me were two of Cuban Artist Carlos Alfonzo’s pieces. They were two untitled pieces that looked very similar to each other. We were told the story of how he came to America in the Mariel boatlift and how he passed away of aids in Miami. Learning this information while being a Miami native was emotionally touching. It was very refreshing walking out of this exhibit because of all the culture that we were surrounded by as a class.  Leaving the museum, we walked across the campus to go see a mural made by Alfonzo. This shocked me because I have been walking past that mural for three years as an FIU student without even knowing what it was or who painted it. Going in depth with the history of this mural made me feel like I was connected to Carlos Alfonzo. Knowing that this mural went through hurricane Andrew and knowing that people put back the pieces together shows me that Alfonzo was a significant Miami artist who will never be forgotten. As an FIU student, I am very grateful that we have a huge Alfonzo piece on campus that I can casually appreciate whenever I am on campus. 

Coral Gables as text 

“The Gables”

By Aimee Zuniga of FIU at Coral Gables, 31st March 2021

Photo of the Biltmore hotel taken by Aimee Zuniga

 The city of Coral Gables is an area of Miami with rich history dating all the way back to the Great Depression. The founder of the city is named George Merrick, who was raised in a family of farmers and grew up to become a real estate developer. As a child, it is said that he had envisioned building a city that would become a great American suburb. Along with being responsible for the city itself, he was partly responsible for the construction of the Tamiami trail, US-1, and the University of Miami. The museum also had an in-depth explanation of how Coral Gables grew to be the city it is now and mentioned how George Merrick held auctions for the housing in the area.

            During our trip we also explored Miracle Mile which is now a hub for shopping, restaurants, and entertainment. Today, it contains approximately 150 ground floor shopping stores. After WWII, the economy was doing well enough to where most people had money to spend and thus the business on Miracle Mile was booming. While walking down the strip, we entered a historic hotel named Hotel Colonnade. It was extremely elegant with its large staircase, marble floors, detailed walls, and large fountain under a dome painted as the sky. Shortly after we drove to the Biltmore which is a very famous and fancy hotel with a structure inspired by the Giralda Tower in Spain. The architectural team was the same as the ones responsible for constructing the Freedom Tower in Downtown Miami, which explains why they look so similar. The hotel was constructed 95 years ago and when it was completed, it held the title of being the tallest building in Florida.  As we continue to progress as a society, Coral Gables has kept much of its rich history intact. Thanks to the museum, tourists and locals can learn more about the city to truly appreciate its beauty and elegancy. George Merrick will always be remembered as the founder of one of Miami’s most up-scale and historic cities.

Leonella Santillan: Miami as Text

Description. Photo by NAME (CC BY 4.0)

Hello everyone! My name is Leonella Santillan and I was born and raised in Ecuador, I moved to Miami, Florida 6 years ago. I am an international student at Florida International University pursuing a bachelor’s degree in International Business. After I graduate I will be going to Law school since I want to become an attorney of the state of Florida, since I was little I always tried to argue my way out of things and defend my point of view. I am so blessed to be in this country and try to obtain as many as opportunities I could obtain. One of my desires is to become a professional and be able to help those who need starting a foundation. One of the reasons I took this class is because I would like to learn more about Miami since I love where I live.

Deering Estate as Text 

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The Deering Estate is a protected environmental and historical preserve located on the edge of Biscayne which you have the everglades on your left side and on your right side the Atlantic Ocean merged with the Caribbean Sea. Visiting this environmental preserve, I felt very relaxed and connected with nature something I haven’t felt for a while due to the pandemic going on. This treasure of land has a different type of ecosystems around which you felt like you were in three or four different places as the walk goes by, my favorite parts during this amazing trip were when crossed over the water to go back to the entrance, the water felt so refreshing and pure. Another favorite moment was that we got to see the cultivation of each tree such as pinecones, avocados, and many more. One of the moments I also enjoyed it was when we got to see wildlife species such as birds, butterflies, and spiders. This rich land also has a history behind it I remember the professor talking about an ancient burial that on top of it there was an oak white tree. I enjoyed visiting this place I got to experience the wonderful things that the world provides.

South Beach as Text

Rooms full of neon lights

By Leonella Santillan of FIU at South Beach, 16th September 2020

When most people come to Miami, they want to go to South Beach because of its beautiful sand, water, views, architecture, and museums, etc.  Choosing Miami In Miami honors class was the best decision of my life since I have been living in Miami for six years and I have never visited or got to experience knowing South Beach. Professor John Bailly taught us everything that we could obtain knowledge from the beautiful place called South Beach that is located due east of Miami city proper between Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Visiting this part of Miami felt kind of strange like if something was missing and what it was missing is that south beach was empty, usually is always packed with full of tourists but this time was empty and the reason why this beautiful place that is always has been full of tourists or residents is that due to the coronavirus. A lot of restaurants were either closed down, out of business, or desperate for clients to come in and enjoy a tasty plate of food, and even giving discounts or promotions for people to come in. 

During this excursion, I learned how Miami Beach or South Beach holds such an amazing culture, history, and architecture. As we were walking professor Bailly explained to us what type of architecture ocean drive or south beach holds, this beautiful two-way street it obtains one of the largest Art Deco collection in the world, and is easily identifiable by its bright, retro color schemes and Egyptian influence. Hotels are inspired by MiMo and Mediterranean Revival. I fell in love with South Beach since is such a magnificent place where you could enjoy the architecture and have the beach next to it. During this excursion, I also felt like if I was in a movie since some movies are filmed in South Beach.

Downtown Miami as Text

Area full of long tall buildings

By Leonella Santillan of FIU at Downtown Miami, 30th September 2020

Downtown Miami is an area full of skyscrapers, malls, cultural institutions, sweeping bay views, and hidden places that tourists or residents could explore. Downtown Miami is Miami’s epicenter since you have access to the beach, airport, malls, and many more. Tourists all over the world come to Miami Downtown since is rich in a diverse and variety of cultures. Downtown Miami consisted of the middle class, and wealthy neighborhoods. This area of Miami is a mix between luxury and urban architecture and that is the reason why a lot of people are interested. 

Downtown Miami is always going to be full of residents and tourists since it is a place where people work, visit, or plan activities. This area of Miami is full of buildings where you can be impacted through their history, architecture, food, recitals, concerts, and many more. Professor Bailly took us to see the Adrienne Arsht Center, which is a performing arts center that hosts concerts, recitals, operas, and shows. Another location that we were able to experience was Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum, this is a science museum with an observatory and planetarium. The last place that I fell in love with was the History Miami this is a museum where it has a huge collection full of exhibits of art. 

Downtown Miami is one the places which I fell in love with the first time I came to Miami, I remember the lights of the buildings, the bridges of the turnpike, and those enormous skyscrapers. Living in Miami has been an amazing experience because there still too much history, activities, architecture, gallery exhibitions where you could learn from or feel inspired.

Deering Estate – Chicken Key as Text

Living Waters

By Leonella Santillan of FIU at Deering Estate, 14th October 2020

Living all these six years in Miami I have felt like an unknown resident of this wonderful land, today I have experienced something magical and special during this cleanup I had time to connect with my wonderful classmates and make memorable experiences for life. By being on this island it made me reflect on how one should be able to enjoy life, I felt so connected with nature and got over my fears of something that I have never experienced in my life. This magical land full of mangroves and species was so wonderful, one of my favorite moments was when all of my classmates were swimming and connecting. I got to experience and to see a hermit crab for the first time in my whole life, I felt so grateful to be alive by being on this island the waters were full of life, peace, and love.

This cleanup made me realize how nature is so important and to take care of it, to try not to contaminate since that is a gift that has been given to us but for us to enjoy it, we must take care of it before it is too late. Humans have been come so careless when it comes to nature when it should be the opposite, this land was full of plastic and trash because we humans contaminate the earth instead of recycling or reuse the plastic or glass, this little excursion opened my eyes to how we should care about the earth and take care of it so our future generations could experience these moments that I got to experience or witnessed.  

Bakehouse as Text

“Body of clay mold of life”

By Leonella Santillan of FIU at Bakehouse, 28th October 2020

The Bakehouse Art Complex is a nonprofit organization that supports and values the artist’s perspectives on how to perceive, reflect, and make an impact on the community. Being in the complex inspired, encouraged, and taught me how the world can be united by art. This project of art made of clay was meant for people to support, help each other, and to bring awareness to the destruction of the coral reefs life on the sea. This art project is conducted by Lauren Shapiro a local artist and was funded by grants or organizations.

This art consisted of putting a layer of clay into molds made of coral reefs such as shells, clams, or snails but before inputting the lay of clay into the mold we would have to spray some vegetable oil into the mold for the clay not to stick into the coral mold. After, when we have a bunch of models, we will have to paste it in the shape surface, and we will have a piece of art.

In my opinion towards this project, I felt very connected to mother earth meanwhile molding the clay since the clay comes directly from the earth. Molding these pieces of clay felt peaceful and distracted from the noisy world, I am grateful that I had to be a part of an amazing project that is going to make a positive impact on the world or the community.

Rubell as Text

 “The way to the heart is with art”

By Leonella Santillan of FIU at Rubell Museum, 18th November 2020

 Rubell Museum is one of the biggest private contemporary art collections in North America located in Miami, Florida. These magnificent pieces are full of history, meaning, and emotions. Visiting this museum, I felt as I was back in time experiencing and reliving those periods of moments, these arts make you feel that you are in a travel machine going back through time and you try to understand how was the artist feeling, concerned, or going through.  This museum holds famous pieces because the Rubell’s were scooping pioneering works from the likes of Keith Haring, Cindy Sherman, Richard Prince, and Jeff Koons.  The Rubell Museum exhibits paintings, sculptures, photographs, videos, and rooms that have an environment full of art such as The Infinity Room which is one of the many Yayoi Kusama’s works.

            I admire the work of these artists that made such delightful and meaningful pieces, some of them were even restricted from doing art, other needed to show the pain or the feelings that they were going through and some of them also felt the need to express how some races were perceived or portrayed in society. With some pieces, I felt connected or inspire but in others it just made me feel sadness or pain. One of the works that inspired me and made feel connected was the Infinity Room by Yayoi Kusama, this piece of work amazed me by how the mirrors and the balls can make you see through another dimension. Since because of the pandemic situation we could only admire the room for 30 seconds and then exit, I desired that I would have stayed longer for me to experience the meaning of the artist and what she was thinking when she created this marvelous art.

Wynwood as Text

Art that is full of Gold

By Leonella Santillan of FIU at Wynwood, 3rd February 2020.

Wynwood is a trendy, free, and artistic neighborhood located in Miami, Florida. Wynwood is most known for being an entertainment district, with artwork, restaurants, bars, clothing stores, dance venues, among other retail options. This neighborhood of Miami welcomes people from all ages, classes and races.  It was once dominated by the garment district and crime in the 80’s, but remerge into an oasis for the young, creative, and innovative minds of tomorrow. All residents, tourists can enjoy some of the best bites at the wonderful restaurants in the Wynwood Art District like Wynwood Diner. There are also tons of art galleries and street art to admire and photograph to capture memories of your visit.

Professor John Bailey took us to Mette and Locus Projects this localization is a sanctuary for artist to develop ideas freely and give them the time and the space and funds to push their idea to their fullest capacity. In this sanctuary the artist Mette Tommerup spoke about her new large-scale installations, made by dusk that she felt inspired by the Nordic Goddess, Freya, the untamed goddess of love, war, beauty, gold and transformation. These exhibitions reflect an atmosphere of warm glittering golds evoking diminishing rays of sunlight and smoky grays as the infiltrating night. The artist was trying to provide experiences of reflection, connection, and restoration where visitors can avail themselves of the healing potential. 

Bill Baggs as Text

Land filled with histories

By Leonella Santillan of FIU at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, 17th February 2021

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park is an important beautiful historical land that is located in Key Biscayne, Florida. This park was designated as a National Underground Railroad Network Freedom Site, as runaway slaves within the 1800s met on the confidential island waiting to board ships to require them to safety within the British Bahamas. In 1825, a lighthouse was built, today the oldest standing structure in Miami-Dade County. This lighthouse’s purpose was to serve as a navigational aid. To arrive at the top of this lighthouse you will need to take 109 steps, but this is a climb that is worthy of your time since it will reward you with a beautiful breathtaking view. This park was named after the nominated Novel Prize, an advocator for the preservation of natural landscapes which is Bill Baggs. This powerful citizen left a mark by becoming an early opponent of the Vietnam War, by restoring many landscapes, and by being one of the newspaper editors who campaigned for civil rights for African Americans during the 1950s to 1960s. 

            Bill Baggs State Park contains a lot of recreational activities that tourists and residents can do such as snorkeling, fishing, swimming, hiking, kayaking, bicycling, boating, and wildlife viewing. I enjoyed visiting this park and one of my favorite moments was when my classmates and I sat down on the concrete by the ocean to enjoy and eat our lunch. The ocean breeze immersed me with its purity, relaxed, calm atmosphere which was something unexpected but very much needed it. I also got the opportunity to connect with the wildlife, there were raccoons and we got the chance to feed them. My classmates and I also connected with the rangers that preserve the park, the rangers told us how they love to work in this preserved land and how it has allowed them to work with something they love which is nature. 

            In other words, this trip was an amazing opportunity for me since I got the opportunity to perform or do activities I have never done in my life. I felt like nature was fulfilling some empty spaces that needed to be filled inside my soul. This historic land tells you who are the real heroes, fighters, and survivors even though some of them have been forgotten but let’s remind one and another since they have given their whole life to protect one and another, and the ones that preserve this natural magical land.

River of Grass as Text

Carpe Diem

By Leonella Santillan of FIU at Everglades National Park, 4th March 2021

 The Everglades National Park welcomes us again to learn more about the history of the everglades, this will be the second time I have visited this rich land. Never in my life, I would think that I would be experiencing the everglades, these experiences that I have lived are memorable for the rest of my life. 

At the beginning of this field trip ranger Dillion and professor, John Bailly took my classmates and me to a solution hole. Solution holes are pits in karst that formed in the past when sea level and the water table were lower than present levels. Solutions holes provide winter dry-season refuge for aquatic animals and provide repopulation source for species upon reflooding of the marsh during the following summer wet season. In one solution hole, I saw a different kind of species of fishes and a diversity of animals. Ranger Dillion also explained how the everglades used to be an agricultural site that farmers would grow Brazilian pepper, tomatoes and how they used to struggle growing vegetables in that type of rocky soil. Brazilian pepper is one of the most widespread and powerful invasive species in the Florida everglades. On the everglades, there was also a military installation where the missiles would be kept for self-defense and emergency situations to protect our beautiful nation. At the end of our journey professor, Bailly took us to see Florida wetlands in the everglades, these wetlands felt like moist soil, slimy and gooey mud.

 This was such as scary experience but at the same time it was such an enjoyable moment, I have been living in Miami for six years and I never got the time to experience it. This class has taught me how Miami can have so much history, and how many activities you can do or go to. I have felt connected with nature since the beginning of this class, and it has made me be more “Carpe Diem” of how you only live once, how you should live life to the fullest, and try to enjoy it as much as you can.

Frost as Text

Inspirational Rooms

By Leonella Santillan of FIU at the Frost Art Museum FIU, 17th March 2021

The Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum is a museum located at Florida International University on the Modesto Maidique Campus. The building has nine galleries which five of which use natural light, a museum shop and café, art storage, a lecture hall, and public spaces.  It exhibits work from the university’s permanent collection, temporary exhibitions, and current educational programs.

 The museum footprint and massing have a geometric response to the L-shaped site. Framing the university’s Avenue of the arts, the building is angled around a lake and preserves an oversized Ficus tree. The solid type of angles and curves is clad in a very pink-gray Chinese granite that glistens within the Florida sunlight. A three-story glass atrium forms a transparent gate between the campus and the lake.

 The galleries are grouped in threes, giving curators flexibility in the display, lighting, and scheduling. within the five galleries with skylights, the museum can exhibit works in UV-filtered daylight. An array of enormous, custom-designed “petals” control light levels and a variety of colors, preferentially scattering natural light to display walls. All exhibition spaces, archives, art storage, and mechanical equipment are above the bottom floor, protected against flooding, and able to withstand hurricane-force winds.

I am amazed at how FIU students have a museum within their campus, this university has given us many opportunities to grow as human beings, opened many doors to students to become professional, and to be able to obtain a degree. I am proud to say that I am a student at Florida International University, and it has been an honor to be able to study at this amazing, and flourishing university.

Kathalinna Zuniga: Miami as Text

Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science, 2019. Photo by Pamela Zuniga.

Hello everyone! Welcome to my Miami in Miami blog! My name is Kathalinna Zuniga, I was born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia and I moved to Florida almost five years ago. I am a senior, double majoring in International Relations and Political Science at Florida International University. Before moving to Florida, I lived in Ottawa, Canada for about a year. Canada’s demographic diversity awakened my passion about different cultures, languages, religions and customs, reason why I have decided to take the Miami in Miami class because I want to learn more about this beautiful city.

Deering as Text

Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga/CC BY 4.0
“A Hike to the Past”

By Kathalinna Zuniga of FIU at Deering Estate, 2 September 2020.

    I found the Deering Estate a fascinating place to visit! When thinking about Miami people usually imagine stunning infrastructures, beautiful beaches, fashion, culture, and art. Indeed, Miami is all that, however, on my visit to the Deering Estate I found a side of the city that I have never known. In fact, I was amazed by the incredible ecosystem that resides there; the marine life, migratory birds, coyotes, racoons, tortoise, snakes, frogs, and the incredible variety of plants and trees. On our hike I even got to see a Pomacea, also known as apple snail, which is considered an invasive species (see photo attached).

However, what stood to me the most was the history that we found there. For once, I felt connected to this country. The Tequestas were a Native American Indian tribe that occupied this area of Florida. In fact, there is evidence of their presence at the Deering Estate grounds. On our hike, we saw their burial mound, where a massive tree has grown and will forever be the undeniable memory of the past and the ancestors that were once living in this territory. Surely, the Deering Estate is the perfect place to connect with nature and Miami’s ancestors. 

South Beach as Text

Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga/CC BY 4.0
“South Beach: History, Architecture and Art”

By Kathalinna Zuniga of FIU at South Beach, 16 September 2020.

The class at South Beach was an incredible combination of history, architecture and art. I felt for a moment that I was living again the time of segregation, when Carl Fisher was refusing to sell property to Jews, and darker skin Americans and Bahamians could not live anymore on the island they have built with so much effort. It is simply horrible to think that human beings were treated that way, but have things really changed? have we learned from our history? Those were the questions that were stuck in my head after hearing the history of Fisher Island.

     Nonetheless, South Beach is a now a place where people enjoy the freedom of expressing themselves without being judged, regardless of their race, ethnicity or sexuality, in fact, this neighborhood of Miami is a magnet for tourists. Therefore, this all ends up adding more to the culture, traditions and uniqueness of the area. 

     On the other hand, as we continued our walk, I was amazed by the beautiful architecture that characterizes South Beach. For example, Art Deco is a neoclassical type of architecture with rounded corners, pastel colors, “eyebrows shades” and neon lighting. Additionally, we were able to see Miami Modern/MIMO infrastructures, which are characterized for having geometric and marine designs, different textures and open spaces. 

     Finally, to conclude this post, I had to comment on how COVID has affected South Beach. While we walked through this beautiful area of Miami, we saw empty and isolated restaurants, and desperate employees that were even offering free stuff just to attracted customers. Sadly, this panorama is seen in many more places, where multiple sectors of the economy are suffering.

Downtown Miami as Text

Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga/CC BY 4.0
“(Un)Forgotten Past”

By Kathalinna Zuniga of FIU at Downtown Miami.

Downtown Miami has an interesting and contrasting unforgotten but forgotten past. In places such as the Lummus Park, the William Wagner House reminded us of one of the first permanent residents of South Florida, a US veteran, who was originally from Germany and was married to a Creole lady. In fact, this couple is a clear example of the cultural diversity that characterizes Miami today. On the other hand, in this location, we could also find the Fort Dallas, which went from slave quarters to soldier barracks and finally to a post office, a courthouse, and a tea restaurant.

Additionally, Miami has monuments such as the one of Henry Morrison Flagler that exalts his ambition and effort to build what is now Downtown Miami. In fact, he gave birth to the new identity of the city with the tourism industry. However, many people forget at what cost this urban city was built. Indeed, Flagler contributed to the segregation of that time while pushing black communities to live in a set-aside town. Not only that, but Flagler decided to build his luxurious hotel on a Tequesta burial mound, erasing part of Miami’s history.

Even though it seems that the legacy and history of our ancestors have been wanted to be erased by many, it is our duty to protect these places, and give them the significance they hold. Undeniably, we have to make sure that these treasures survive development as they are an important piece of the essence of this city.

Other than that, downtown Miami preserves well portions of history with part of the Berlin Wall, the Gesu Catholic Church, the monument of a walking immigrant located next to the Museum of Art and Design, among many others. Certainly, Miami is a beautiful and unstoppable city that holds much more history than what we can imagine.

Chicken Key as Text

Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga/CC BY 4.0
“Canoes and Cleanups”

By Kathalinna Zuniga of FIU at Chicken Key, 14 October 2020.

The class spent at Chicken Key was a blast. I think it was a gratifying and amazing opportunity to learn and discover new places, connect with people, overcome fears, and help the ecosystem. It was nice to have once again a different perceptive of Miami while having the chance to see the beauties of the city from a canoe. This class had something special, not only because we were engaging in a new activity in which we were all stepping out of our comfort zone during a pandemic, but also because we were meeting as a whole group for the first time. I am glad we got to meet each other and explore Chicken Key together. 

It was fascinating to see all the marine life; the small fishes, crabs, and stingrays. Nonetheless, at the same time, it was sad to see all the trash that opaque this “isolated” island. All the plastic bottles and bags, glass, shoes, and even containers were an eye-opening that let us realize that we have a long way to go in terms of preserving the ecosystem. I believe is extremely important to teach society the value of these places; habitats that are being constantly affected by our pollution. Thus, in my opinion, by doing these cleanups we are setting an example to future generations, while also motivating others to do similar activities. 

In conclusion, this has been one of the most amazing and unique experiences I have lived since I moved to Florida. Nonetheless, what paid off the mile canoeing was not only the fact that we filled six canoes with trash but, also, I was able to go with Esmeralda, Nicole, and Komila to a beautiful hided passage were freshwater combines with salt-water and creates a unique and beautiful environment where the water looked clean and clear.

Bakehouse as Text

The “Future Pacific” by Lauren Shapiro. Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga/CC BY 4.0.

“Ocean Gems”

By Kathalinna Zuniga of FIU at Bakehouse Art Complex, 1 November 2020.

Last class we had the opportunity to help Lauren Shapiro with her project called “Future Pacific”, this exhibition seeks to raise awareness about endangered marine ecosystems while encouraging and providing researches with a platform to work with. Additionally, Shapiro is motivating the community to help and be part of her project. Therefore, during our class, we worked with unfired clay and molds that resemble coral reefs. 

     I have never worked with clay before and it was an amazing and enriching experience, not only because I got to learn new things but because I actually realized the vital role that coral reefs play in our ecosystem. Indeed, coral reefs provide habitats for multiple marine species, nonetheless, pollution, climate change, and overfishing are killing these ocean gems. As an example, the Great Barrier Reef located on the northeast coast of Australia has lost over half of its coral, and this is by no doubt an alarming situation that should concern us all! 

     On the other hand, I really like the metaphor of the unfired clay, which at the end of the exhibition will dry, lose its color, and crack, creating then the effect of a real coral reef that loses its bright colors, turns pale and dies. Thus, I hope this project will not only incentivize people to learn more about art but also to appreciate the hard work that undergoes these projects and the message it wants to send to the community.

Rubell as Text

 LET’S SURVIVE FOREVER, Yayoi Kusama. Against All Odds, Keith Haring. Sleep, Kehinde Wiley. Untitled, Anselm Kiefer. Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga/CC BY 4.0

“Filling my Cup”

By Kathalinna Zuniga of FIU at Rubell Museum, 18 November 2020.

This class along with places such as the Rubell Museum have awakened a side of me that loves art and appreciates the story, beauty, and details behind every artwork. I have discovered that this class is what “fills my cup”, what gives me energy, and what I enjoy doing. After going to the museum, I was amazed by the art of Yayoi Kusama, Kehinde Wiley, Keith Haring, Anselm Kiefer, Liu Wei among many others. I was so intrigued by everything I saw that when the class finished I did some research on the museum because I wanted to learn more about the exhibitions and the artists. 

     Thus, I learned that Yayoi Kusama’s art involves dots because the hallucinations she had when she was a child were about fields of dots. Also, now I understand more the work of Kehinde Wiley and how he wants to portray or challenge the concept of masculinity, especially among black and brown men. Besides, I now pay more attention to the visual language that is behind art pieces such as the ones of Keith Haring. On the other hand, I have learned the importance of history when dealing with the past, and how an artwork might bring awareness of what once happened in the world and what those events represent in the present, as it is the case of the powerful art of Anselm Kiefer. 

     To conclude, I enjoyed our visit to the museum, and I hope to find more spaces where I can feel connected, recharged, and happy. I am sure my visits to the museum will become a regular routine. Finally, I am excited to learn more and explore that side of me that loves art, appreciate outdoor activities, and enjoy new adventures. 

Everglades as Text

Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga/CC BY 4.0

“A Subtropical Wilderness”

By Kathalinna Zuniga of FIU at Everglades National Park, 20 January 2021.

Last Wednesday we had an amazing experience going to the Everglades. I have been living in Florida for almost five years and I have never been there, all this time without knowing the beauty that this place holds. When telling people, I went slough slogging in the Everglades they reaction is surprising. Most of them are just scared of the “stories”, “the things that have happened” or simply the things they imagined could happen, but nobody really knows what it is like to experience it.

I would like to break that misconception they have of this place because it is beautiful. We should instead appreciate the fascinating ecosystem we have in our backyards while taking full advantage of it. The connection we felt; hearing the birds and animals, watching the little fishes and plants, exploring the alligator hole, and not having signal, make this an unforgettable trip. Stepping out of the comfort zone and forgetting about the monotony that sometimes overwhelms us is amazing and this is the perfect place to do that.

It was really nice understanding more the ecosystem while listening to Ranger Dylann telling us about this awesome place. She said that there is a female and a male alligator that live there, as well as multiple snakes and different types of animals, sadly or luckily, we did not get to see any, but we did have the chance to see two gators while walking along one of the trails. Something that also caught my attention is the fact that the Everglades is an untouched world treasure as it is the largest subtropical ecosystem in the United States.

I wish more people would take the time to go out and explore the Everglades!

Wynwood as Text

Made by Dusk, Mette Tommerup. Photo by Roger Masson/CC BY 4.0

“What is art?”

By Kathalinna Zuniga of FIU at Locust Projects , 3 February 2021.

I was never a person that knew much about art before taking Professor Bailly’s class. However, now it is something I like and appreciate. This class has awaken that side of me, the one that enjoys going to museums and art installations, the one that stares a little longer to “understand” the idea, the one that tries to look at it with a different perspective. When we went to Mette’s art exhibition called Made by Dusk this is what I felt. I was amazed by everything, and then I understood that art is not only for the ones that know about it, neither it is a traditional painting or the object that is being displayed. Art is an experience, an idea, it has the magic to transport you to a different environment, it is interacting with the space and things. 

It was really nice knowing more about Mette’s art, about Freyja, goddess of love, fertility, battle and death. I enjoyed watching the video that shows the process of her art. I like how everything was displayed, and I could not stop thinking about how big those canvases where, and how long it took her to finish the installation. I also enjoyed how she was explaining the idea and concepts of her artwork and the gold shower we had afterwards. I was wrong because I thought that by not having enough context or knowledge, I was not going to enjoy this class, but it was quite the opposite.

Bill Baggs as Text

Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga CC/BY 4.0

“Back Then”

By Kathalinna Zuniga of FIU at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, 17 February 2021.

When thinking about Key Biscayne I used to only imagine the lighthouse and the beautiful, clear beach. However, the history that this place holds is simply incredible, and it is sad that not too many people know about it. Key Biscayne is the perfect spot to relax, have a date, bring family from overseas and show them how beautiful Miami is. Nonetheless, this has not always been like that, in the time of the Tequesta, mosquitos would have made these activities of relaxation almost impossible. 

While we were there, I was trying to picture how life was at that time, was it difficult to have people coming to your land trying to impose their beliefs and rules? Indeed, the first legal claim of this land was made by Ponce DeLeon, who first called Key Biscayne Santa Marta. Yet, it is fascinating to imagine the life of the Tequesta, how they would catch whales and collect wood using their “boats”, how they would trade with the Spaniards, how some member of the Tequesta would travel to Spain, or how some Spaniards would learn Tequesta to be able to communicate. So many questions that could only be answered with imagination. Indeed, I felt transported to a different place that day, while trying to imagine life at that time. 

On the other hand, the lighthouse is also a very important structure that has “survived” multiple events throughout history. In fact, the lighthouse has recovered from attacks by the Seminoles, who assassinated Carter, one of the lighthouse keepers, and left John Thompson badly injured. It has also resisted the Confederate attacks and dangerous tropical storms. After our visit to the Big Baggs Cape Florida State Park, next time somebody mentions Key Biscayne I will definitely think about the unforgettable history that surrounds this place and not only about its beautiful beach.

River of Grass as Text

Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga CC/BY 4.0

“Our Soldiers”

By Kathalinna Zuniga of FIU at Everglades National Park, 7 March 2021

The Everglades is such an amazing place that few people visit, yet it holds the most amazing ecosystem and history relics. Every visit to the Everglades is memorable, however, I felt the most connected last time we were there. When we were visiting the Nike Missile Base, I could not stop thinking about the soldiers that once stood to fight for their country in that same place. I could not stop thinking about my father and how a few years back he fought for his country, Colombia, ending with a broken spine, and with almost no chances to walk again. I could not stop thinking about Rahjanni’s husband, a friend of mine, who committed suicide after being deployed in the Middle East multiple times. He could not deal with the traumas that those places have left. It is sad how we sometimes take for granted the sacrifices that others have made for our freedom and peace.

I hope that visit reminded us of the 200 million people that lost their lives during that war. I hope it remined us of their hours of trainings, their uncertainty, fear, pain, all the difficulties they lived, their families, and the heartbreaking moment of receiving the flag of the country, as a sign that you loved one have died defending the country. I hope after that visit we take a minute to think about them, and how they put at risk their lives and health for us. I hope after that visit we think about the millions of soldiers that are far from home, fighting for this country.

Frost as Text

Accumulate, Classify, Preserve, Display, Roberto Obregon. Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga CC/BY 4.0


By Kathalinna Zuniga of FIU at Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum, 17 March 2021

Obregon’s work has been one of my favorites, the delicacy and preservation of the rose petals is impressive. However, what I like the most is that his work touches upon multiple aspects such as scientific classification and human interaction. Hence, Obregon’s artwork could be interpreted in different ways.

When we first walked to the exhibition, I did not understand the purpose of Obregon’s work or what he wanted to portray in all those glued and watercolor petals arrangements. Nonetheless, as I immersed myself in the exhibition, thinking, touching, and watching everything, I started linking those things to my personal experiences. First, I started to look at the petals in a more geographical way, thus, to me, their shape resembles countries. Additionally, after watching the silhouettes of people and petals that are displayed in a wall that looks like a board game (see photo attached) I thought about politicians playing with the faith and welfare of each of those countries (the silhouettes of people being politicians, and the petals being countries). 

On the other hand, something that grabbed my attention was the sick rose. Petals that were eaten by bugs and look significantly different from the other ones. When I saw those petals, I thought about countries that are not in a good position right now and resemble that damaged petal. In addition, Obregon organized each one of the petals he collected by numbers, numbers in which we also classified countries, according to their economic, military, and political power. 

It is incredible how you can connect Obregon’s artwork with things that are of your interest. In my opinion that is the magic of his art. Obregon was able to dissect those roses and erase, at least for some time, the idea or connection we have created between roses and love, romanticism, feminism, and even death. Therefore, I was able to interpret his art in my own way, while thinking about world politics.

Coral Gables as Text

Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga CC/BY 4.0


By Kathalinna Zuniga of FIU at Coral Gables, 21 March 2021

Once again on our visit to Coral Gables we got to see a place that does not look anything like Miami, or at least to the idea that the media has created of this beautiful place. The misconception that often links Miami to beaches and nightclubs starts to shade away as we walk through the streets of Coral Gables.

When walking inside the Biltmore Hotel, for example, you feel like you are multiple years back in time when this historic gem was first built, or even better you feel as if you are in the Giralda. It is fascinating to think that the Biltmore hotel went from having the largest pool in the world and being the tallest building in Florida, to a World War II hospital, and finally, to the amazing place that welcomes tourists and locals today.

On the other hand, the architecture of the city is beautiful. The Mediterranean Revival style that predominates in the area is inspired by both Spain and the Mediterranean. Hence, the city has a cohesive identity that is related to its architecture. Nonetheless, we can now see how some enormous buildings start to overshadow the traditional ones. Despite that, places such as the Venetian Pool, the Miracle Theatre, among others make this city a historic relic.

In addition, all the pictures and images that we saw at the museum are amazing. It is hard to imagine that the city was once a subtropical hardwood forest that looked nothing like it does today. Oftentimes, when thinking about the construction of Coral Gables, the first name that comes to mind is George Merrick. However, as we have seen in past lectures, African Americans and Bahamians are the ones that have put in the hard work to build all those beautiful cities. Indeed, there is a lot of people that helped to build Coral Gables.

Brittney Sanchez: Miami as Text

Photo taken of Brittney Sanchez in 2019. Photo by Cristina Martinez/ CC BY 4.0

Hello! My name is Brittney Sanchez and I was born and raised in the beautiful city of Miami, Florida. I was homeschooled all throughout my life until I graduated high school and attended Miami Dade College to obtain my AA degree in Pre-Recreational Therapy. This year I transferred into the Honors program at Florida International University to pursue a bachelors degree in Physical Education: Sports and Fitness. I am passionate about helping people with disabilities, and want to pursue a career that allows me to combine my passion of helping others and my love of fitness and nutrition. I love finding joy in the little things in life like dancing, listening to music, getting to know new people, seeing people smile, learning unique hobbies, and watching the sunset.

Deering as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU in Deering Estate. Photo by Brittney Sanchez/ CC BY 4.0

“A Blast into our Geographic Past”

by Brittney Sanchez of FIU at Deering Estate, 2 September 2020

On September 2nd, we immersed ourselves into an unforgettable hike surrounded by awe-inspiring oak trees and chilling spider webs. We were no longer staring at the busy streets of Miami. Instead, our class took place in the serenity of the Deering Estate. It was not just a lovely sight to see; it was the melting pot of many diverse cultures, an archeological wonderland, a wide array of unique plants, and a wildlife environment which one cannot experience on a typical day in Miami. As I embarked on this journey, I was welcomed by coffee plants, oak trees, strangler figs, and most importantly the untouchable poison ivy.  
The most fascinating part of the Deering Estate, in my opinion, was the influence of the Tequestas. Although the Tequestas inhabited Miami in the 1500’s and are now extinct, I could just imagine them using their shell tools and intermingling with each other as I stood in the Tequesta Cutler Burial Mound. I personally had not heard of the Tequestas until Professor Bailly introduced me to their rich past and unique tools. As I examined the shells which the Tequestas used as tools in the palm of my hand, I could see that each shell served a different purpose. For example, I personally held one that was used as a drill to dig into the dirt. The history that surrounded me in Deering Estate’s nature preserve was an unforgettable experience. Something as simple as holding a tiny tool in my hand, made me feel connected to my geographic past.

South Beach as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU in South Beach. Photo by Brittney Sanchez/ CC BY 4.0

“Not Your Typical Eyebrows”

by Brittney Sanchez of FIU at South Beach, 16 September 2020

On September 16th, we walked down Ocean Drive with a completely different outlook. Although I had been to South Beach’s Art Deco neighborhood countless times, for the first time ever, I got to walk down Ocean Drive without the tourist filled sidewalks and crowded streets. Because of the pandemic, this usually highly populated road was completely empty. This allowed us to have a new sense of appreciation for the architectural history and cultural heritage which makes Ocean Drive such a popular tourist attraction today. In fact, buildings in the Art Deco play such a significant role in our cultural history, that they are not allowed to be destroyed or significantly modified.
South Beach is known for being a prime location for music videos, delicious restaurants, and beautiful sandy beaches. However, most people do not know that the buildings surrounding Ocean Drive encompass a wide variety of aesthetic characteristics and architectural styles that date back to the early twentieth century and the influence of machines and appliances. As I made my way down the street, I looked up at these fascinating structures with their futuristic styles and linear components, and I immediately pictured myself in the Jetsons cartoon. The most fascinating qualities shared by these buildings are the “eyebrows.” Although it might seem like the architect may have forgotten to finish the balcony, these ledges immediately draw you in with their perplexity. Speaking of perplexing forms of art, many of these buildings also display a variety of contrasting relief art. These art pieces can range anywhere from natural elements to erotic displays. I believe each work of art perfectly accentuates the architectural characteristics and cultural heritage displayed throughout the buildings and they each play a vital role in telling their own story.

Downtown as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU in Downtown. Photo by Brittney Sanchez/ CC BY 4.0

“The Influence of the Catholic Church”

by Brittney Sanchez of FIU at Downtown, 30 September 2020

On September 30th, we walked around Downtown Miami and learned about the spread of Catholicism and the substantial influence the Catholic church has had on the world. It is crazy to think that there were no Catholics in the western hemisphere in 1492 and, according to Will Worley, Christianity is the most popular religion in the western hemisphere today. As we ended our walk down 2nd Street, we climbed the steps to what seemed like an ordinary, peach building. Although it might look like a simple building to passersby, once I stepped into Gesu Catholic Church, I was reminded of its beauty. There was a high domed ceiling, countless pews, tall stained glass windows, gold accents adorning the altar, and many saint sculptures around the church. Although many different people from around the world came to America with new religions and ideologies, the Catholic faith remained and flourished quickly.

The reason for the vast spread of the Catholic faith can be accredited to the missionaries in the late 1500s. Catholics believe they are called to spread the good news of Christ and these missionaries did exactly that. They went around towns and started converting the slaves and indigenous people living throughout the area. Jesus’ call to missionaries is presented many times throughout the Bible, which is the sacred scripture in the Catholic faith, for example in Luke 10:1-2 where it states, “After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go” (“Jesus Sends out the Seventy-Two”). Although “the first Catholic presence in Miami was in 1567 when Jesuit missionaries arrived with the Spanish settlement founded by Don Pedro Menendez de Avila at the mouth of the Miami River,” (“History”) this church continues to have multiple Masses on the weekends and confessions held throughout the week. It is evident that the Catholic Church has made a significant impact on today’s world, and Gesu is a great reminder of that.

Works Cited

Biblegateway. “Jesus Sends out the Seventy-Two.” 2011. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke%2010%3A1-23&version=NIV
ECatholic. “History.” GESÙ CATHOLIC CHURCH was founded as a Church in 1896. https://gesuchurch.org/history
Worley, Will. “What are the largest religious groups around the world, and where are they?” The distribution of religions across the world, 13 April 2016. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/what-are-largest-religious-groups-around-world-and-where-are-they-a6982706.html

Chicken Key as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU in Chicken Key. Photo by Brittney Sanchez/ CC BY 4.0

“We are the World”

by Brittney Sanchez of FIU at Chicken Key, 14 October 2020

On October 14th, we made a difference. “The numbers are staggering: There are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean. Of that mass, 269,000 tons float on the surface, while some four billion plastic microfibers per square kilometer litter the deep sea” (Parker, 2015). It is no secret that our earth is filled with marine debris; however, there are moments like these that make the unthinkable facts come to life right in front of your eyes. This opportunity let me take part in making our earth a safer place for wildlife and marine animals so they could live peacefully without being threatened by trash in the bay. You might think to yourself, what difference can one person really make on such an expansive earth like this? Well, on October 14th I learned that a small group of us from the Honors College can make a major difference in just a matter of hours.

It was a bright and windy day in Biscayne Bay. We packed up our lunch, prepared the canoes, grabbed some paddles and life vests, and finally distributed sand bags to collect the debris. Although the water had been completely serene in the morning, by the time we set out to Chicken Key, the water hit the sides of our canoes, furiously dragging us further away as we tried to paddle to the island. To our surprise, our cleanup started even before landing on the designated area on the island when we found a huge barrel which we mounted onto our canoe. Once we landed, we found debris laying near the coastline and on the island. These pieces varied anywhere from hundreds of bottle caps, to large gasoline tanks. After a long day, we collected 6 canoes worth of marine debris. Learning about the effects of trash on the environment and the creatures abiding in it should be important to everyone. We must make a conscious effort to clean up and reserve these beautiful habitats for years to come.

Works Cited

Parker, Laura. “Ocean Trash: 5.25 Trillion Pieces and Counting, but Big Questions Remain.” The numbers add up to trouble for the oceans, wildlife, and us, but scientists are struggling to understand how. National Geographic, 2015. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2015/1/150109-oceans-plastic-sea-trash-science-marine-debris/

Bakehouse as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU in Bakehouse Art Complex. The “Future Pacific” by Lauren Shapiro. Photo by Komila Kholmatova/ CC BY 4.0

“Combining Science and Art”

by Brittney Sanchez of FIU at Bakehouse Art Complex, 28 October 2020

On October 28th, we took part in the creation of a contemporary art piece to bring awareness to such an eye opening installation made by artist Lauren Shapiro and marine ecologist Dr. Nyssa Silbiger. They’re combined knowledge and creativity made this engaging environmental art installation possible. Yet simple in nature, this work of art mixes technology, reusable resources, ceramics, and scientific research to bring attention to the coral reefs like I have never seen before. These large wooden structures are covered by many hundreds of intricate coral ceramics that have been installed by the local community alongside the artists in the Bakehouse. These eye catching structures showcase a wide range of different textures, colors, and intricate details.

Although there is many distinct details in each and every structure, there is something they all have in common. They each take part in a grander project, to bring awareness to the frailty of coral reefs all over the worlds oceans. The room is filled with some bright and colorful shells, while other shells are faded, dried, and cracked. This shift is made possible because of the way these corals were made with unfired clay material. This material is used to demonstrate the decay of the coral reefs and the affect we have on them. Shapiro does an excellent job in creating a contemporary work of art while engaging the local community in a unique artistic experience. This abstract art installation is an important representation of engagement, community, involvement, and awareness.

Rubell as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU in Rubell Museum. Photo of Two Cells with Circulating Conduit by Peter Hall. Photo by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

“Think Outside the Box”

by Brittney Sanchez of FIU at Rubell Museum, 18 November 2020

On November 18th, we were face to face with multicultural, contemporary works of art. These thought-provoking installations, sculptures, and paintings pushed me outside of my comfort zone. I saw myself examining and interpreting art in a completely new way. To be completely honest, I am guilty of going to contemporary art museums and thinking to myself, how is this in an art museum if I could easily do this at home? However, this experience was unlike any other, it compelled me to think unconventionally.

The painting above, Two Cells with Circulating Conduit by Peter Halley, might look simple by nature to many people, but I believe it is a minimalistic work of art which uniquely combines culture and art. It is also important to understand that this type of art is left completely to the interpretation of the spectator. Typically I would have quickly passed by this painting in a museum, but as I stood in front of this work of art, it transported me into a whirlwind of imagination.

Although this painting was made in 1987, it lead me to ponder our current situation in 2020. Many of us feel trapped in our homes because of this pandemic. We are told to stay 6 feet apart from each other, we are strongly encouraged to stay home, and constantly wear masks, while living in fear of contracting this virus. With all the restrictions and conditions, this virus has taken away our first form of communication, human touch. It has caused many people to feel as if they are reliving the same day over and over again. The painting is a reflection of society, the squares represent this constant routine we find ourselves in. However, this abstract painting of geometric squares connected within a larger square gives me a sense of hope. Although we may feel as if 2020 cannot get any better, I see the larger square as a sign that there is a grander plan, something greater to come.

Everglades as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU at the Everglades National Park. Photo by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

“Into the Unknown”

by Brittney Sanchez of FIU at the Everglades, 20 January 2021

On January 20th we got to explore one of the most unique wetlands in the world, the Florida Everglades. We experienced a different side of Miami that is not often seen by tourists or even locals. Although people might call the Florida Everglades a swamp, it is actually a slow moving river that covers millions of acres. We went slough slogging through the murky waters during the ‘dry season’ in the Everglades. Because of the dry season, there weren’t as many mosquitos and we weren’t suffering from the usual Miami heat. “South Florida’s subtropical to tropical climate has a seven month long “wet season” from April through October. Only a quarter of yearly rainfall takes place during the “dry season” (November-March)” (Field School, 2013). The park is widely recognized for being a Unesca World Heritage Site and Wetland of International Importance. It is also home to many different plant and animal species. Whether you are looking for a thrill-seeking adventure, or a relaxing escape from the busyness of everyday life, the Florida Everglades is a unique experience for all who are brave enough to step into the “River of Grass.”

One of my favorite parts of the experience was standing in the silence, completely surrounded by nature, consciously trying to listen to the sounds around us. It reminded me that we need to take time in our lives to truly be grateful for what is around us and view things with a different perspective. I truly hope that this subtropical wilderness will be protected and further researched for our future generations to enjoy as much as I did.

Works Cited

Field School. (2013). Everglades Seasons: Wet and Dry. https://www.getintothefield.com/blog/everglades-seasons-wet-and-dry

Wynwood as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU in the Locust Projects. “Made by Dusk” by Mette Tommerup. Photo by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

“The Conversation Starter”

By Brittney Sanchez of FIU at the Locust Projects, 3 February 2021

On February 3rd, we were introduced to an inspiring female artist named, Mette Tommerup. Through her story, I grew a new sense of appreciation for the grit that artists embody throughout their professional careers. She is a painter and storyteller from Denmark who made a unique installation called, Made by Dusk. She challenges the art market by creating a space that perfectly combines mythology, modern topics, sounds, textures, interactive objects, tapestry, and more in an unimaginable way. It is immediately captivating from the moment you step into the gallery. Her message is not clearly written in black and white, instead, the audience is encouraged to reflect on the display and discuss their perspectives. This immersive installation gives society a platform to discuss pre-existing sensitive topics, such as feminism. She personally describes it as,”‘an opportunity to build a forum for a dialogue for how women can be the catalyst for transformative change in the world today'” (Mette Tommerup, 2020).

Tommerup explains that it is a liberating work of art, and I sensed this liberation through the videos projected onto the walls. To the left, she is seen picking up a large, heavy piece of tapestry which she pulls up into the roof. To the right, the video shows her dropping it from the roof. The video is perfectly laid on top of a textured style on the wall, which makes it an unique visual experience. Tommerup completely reimagined the world of art for me with this piece. I highly recommend it for anyone who would like to be blown away by her talent.

Works Cited

Mette Tommerup. (2020). New Major Immersive Installation by Mette Tommerup Creates an Otherworldly Luminous Space for Reflection and Transformation [Press Release]. From http://www.locustprojects.org/exhibitions/main-gallery/made-by-dusk.html.

Bill Baggs as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. Photo by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

Searching for the Truth

By Brittney Sanchez of FIU at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, 17 February 2021

On February 17th, we explored a barrier island. Although it is commonly known for being part of the Florida Keys, Key Biscayne is geologically part of the coastline of Florida. It is home to the famous Cape Florida lighthouse, many land and sea animals, and an array of tropical foliage. The most fascinating aspect of Bill Baggs and the Cape Florida lighthouse, is the history that lies within the island. Whether it be that Marjory Stoneman Douglas skinny dipped with her friends on the island, or the importance of the lighthouse throughout the years. Through this class, I have learned that history needs to be well researched, because a good majority of it can be one-sided. We must acknowledge all the different stories that can be found in the history of Bill Baggs, especially the role that the lighthouse has played in it. For example, its relation with the underground railroads, its aid in navigation, and lastly its impact on the Seminole wars.

Among these stories is the spread of Christianity on the island through the Jesuit missionary, Francisco Villareal. He sought to convert the Tequestas, but the Tequestas did not appreciate these new religious teachings by the Jesuits. I found this interesting because of the way it showcases the difference between the inhabitants of the island and the mission of the Jesuits. They both had very different mindsets and motives. While the Tequestas just wanted to find ways to survive by simply converting to Christianity if it was to their convenience, Villareal vigorously sought to convert them into Christianity and was oblivious to their motives. He was so fascinated by the Tequestas eagerness to learn about the faith, that he even reported his situation in a letter that was later discovered and found in the Vatican Archives.

River of Grass as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU at the Everglades National Park. Photo by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0 

Exploring the Everglades

By Brittney Sanchez of FIU at the Everglades National Park, 5 March 2021

On March 5th, we learned about the biodiversity present in the Everglades. First, we explored it on a dry hike lead by ranger Dylann. We learned human’s effect on the Everglades and the history of the national park. The importance of the Everglades cannot go unmentioned. It is pivotal to the unique culture and heritage of South Florida. Also, the diversity among the animals makes it such a unique ecosystem. Although the land had been used for many different things, today it is covered by pine and rock lands, and it is home to extraordinary wildlife. You must live the Everglades to truly understand it – seeing it through pictures does not do it justice. Rare species like the Dinosaur Birds and Roseate Spoonbills can be seen here, among many others. Each animal serves a purpose – even predators. In fact, our class lecture started off by ranger Dylann speaking to us about a bird that flies up to 250 mph and eats other birds that can even be larger in size.

Next, we went to the Nike Missile Site. As I stood under the looming shadow of the Nike Hercules Missile, which dates back to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, it reminded me of my Cuban-American roots. Although it was renovated and inactive, I felt as if I was transported back in time to the Cold War and it was a completely eye opening experience. I stood in this missile site, absorbing all the information and imagining how different history would have been if the nuclear warheads killed millions of people in the United States. It blew my mind that I was only 160 miles from Cuba, and that I was standing amongst many historical relics of the Cold War.

Frost as Text


By Brittney Sanchez of FIU at the Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum, 17 March 2021

On March 17th, we toured many of the 6500 works at the Frost Museum. Among these works was the thought provoking exhibit by Roberto Obregón. He had an obsession with the dissection of the rose. He only worked with a certain number of roses, and everyone who has the opportunity to tour this exhibit can quickly sense his obsession with the uniqueness of the petals. As I toured Obregón’s exhibit, I was immediately captivated by a specific piece called the “Sick Rose,” or “Rosa Enferma” in Spanish. In the picture to the left, I noticed a rose which seemed to be untouched by humanity nor by harmful creatures. It was delicate, yet full of life. As I stood in front of this painting, I thought to myself, why is this beautiful flower named “the Sick Rose”? Then, I turned to my left and saw that this flower that was once so full of life, was taken apart petal by petal and laid out into a different frame with some writings on it. The very detailed note recounts the day that Obregón’s friend, Salmerón, gifted him this flower. This piece pays homage to Salmerón, who died a few years later from AIDS.

Although the rose had many meanings throughout the exhibit, I felt as if this rose could connect to many of its viewers, especially now during the corona pandemic. For me, it was a reminder that life is fragile, but it is also worth living. We all experience birth, development, and death. We do not know when our time will come, and this pandemic has made this clear to everyone. We are susceptible to many types of external factors such as diseases, infections, and natural disasters, but instead of living in fear, this flower should remind us to care and love for one another in a deeper and meaningful way. 

Coral Gables as Text

Be Our Guest

By Brittney Sanchez of FIU at the Biltmore Hotel, 31 March 2021

On March 31st we explored many tourist attractions in Coral Gables, such as the Coral Gables museum, Miracle Mile, and the Biltmore Hotel. As we entered the Coral Gables museum we were quickly transported to the early 1900s and the Great Depression. The tour combined local history, architecture, segregation, visionaries, and the overall development of Coral Gables. The uprising can be accredited to the founder and developer, George Merrick. His success story started as a young boy who tended his family farm filled with guava trees. He worked tirelessly and had a vivid dream of creating a city based on Spaniard architectural styles. Our tour guide gave us a thorough depiction of the history that lies within the city and the role Merrick played in making it such a successful city. Although it’s rise to fame is worth noting, one cannot push aside the intense segregation that lie in Miami at the time. We saw this immediately as we walked into the first room, the court house and the jail cells. They were separated into four different cells. White men, black men, and white women, and black women. The white men and women had the nicer cells facing a window, while the others had the dark, cold rooms. Much like any museum you visit, you need to create your own opinion. Having a critical mindset is pivotal. There will always be great success stories, but one must look at all the angles to fully understand the complex history.

Shortly after visiting the Coral Gables museum, we drove to the Biltmore Hotel which had a success story of its own. Although it was a military hospital during WWII, architects Shultz and Weaver renovated it in only 11 months. It became a beautiful hotel that combined Mediterranean revival and Miami Mediterranean styles with many geometric patterns and building styles that resembled Cuba. It was a place where many famous people visited, such as Desi Arnaz, and many galas, golf tournaments, and water shows were held. Today, it is a beautiful vacation spot for many locals and tourists from around the world!

Lukas Stump: Miami as Text

Photo taken by Lukas Stump in New York October 12, 2020

My name is Lukas Stump. I was born in Germany but grew up in Panama City, Panama (Central America) my whole life. I came to the United States to study, and have been in Miami for a year now. I am currently studying computer engineering at FIU. What I plan to do with my major is to help expand Panama technologically and help us to continue progressing as a country. Although we are still developing as a nation we are the most advanced country in Central America.

I chose to take Miami in Miami because since I’ve been here I haven’t really been able to experience much, it pretty much has been work and study. With this class I am hoping to broaden my knowledge and gain experience here in Miami.

Deering as Text

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is deering-estate-mim-2.jpeg
Photo taken by Lukas Stump at the Deering Estate Miami, FL. September 2, 2020

“Untouched Miami”

By Lukas Stump of FIU at the Deering Estate September 2, 2020

A year and a couple days ago I was looking for somewhere to study and I chose Miami because it was the place that reminded me of home the most. As I shuffled through many photos and videos describing life here there was no mention of a place like the Deering Estate. The videos were more about what you could do in the city and at the beach. Thanks to my professor in the Miami in Miami class I was able to get a taste of Miami’s roots. The Deering Estate was the closest I felt to home than I have in a while. It reminded me of many places in Panama City, Panama. The scenery was breathtaking and the environment rich. From tropical forests to pine rocklands and water caves the Deering Estate allowed us to get into touch with mother nature.

Our tour began walking down the original old Cutler road, which led us to a small boat basin where we saw manatees hanging out. Our next adventure began in the tropical forest where the native Tequestas were from. We were able to see first hand what they ate and the tools they made. On the ground we saw a bunch of shells and conchs that were used as tools by them. As we continued our journey we stumbled across a huge oak tree on a mound. The oak tree was surrounded by a family that were buried there. Finally, we ended our excursion through the forest by visiting a plane crash cite that was suspected to have been flown by cocaine drug mules.

Next, we visited a pine rocklands biome. There we walked through crystal clear water and over huge boulders that have been there for years. Over time the water cut through the the rock creating caves off all sizes

For those of you who are interested in learning and experiencing what Miami originally looked like at the turn of the 20th century, I recommend you visit the Deering Estate.

Pro tip: bring water, sunscreen, bug spray, and get ready to walk and get wet.

South Beach as text

Photo taken by Lukas Stump at South Beach Miami, FL. September 16, 2020

“A trip to the past at South Beach”

By Lukas Stump of FIU at South Beach September 16, 2020

Going to South Beach, especially ocean drive was like stepping back into time and living in the 20th century. We started our journey on South Point Peer which stretched over the beautiful crystal blue ocean. It was sunny out and you could not ask for better weather.

I learned how Fischer made what is known today as South Beach. Its history is both incredible, sad, and should never be forgotten. The South Beach we all know and love today was built by the Bohemians. These people were treated unfairly due to the color of their skin and the time in which they lived in. Believe it or not, Fischer Island, which is now very exclusive, used to be the beach were the Afro Americans who built it would swim. After a while Fischer was able to acquire it and send them off t0 another beach.

After the peer, we walked down Ocean Drive. This was the highlight of the trip in my eyes because we were able to all the different type of art-deco buildings that have not been changed for years. There is a law that prohibits the modification of these buildings if they do not follow that style. The key features to this style of building were the colors and the shapes they used in their designs for example, the colors were pastel and every building either had eyelashes, rocket shapes, and boar windows. It is amazing to see how well preserved these buildings are and I hope they remain like this for ever.

Downtown Miami as Text

Photo taken by Lukas Stump, Downtown Miami September 30, 2020

“Culturally Mixed”

By Lukas Stump of FIU at the Downtown Miami September 30, 2020

            Miami is a very culturally mixed city with its population being from across the world. This wasn’t any different before it became the Miami we all know and love today. In a park by the government center sits the oldest house in Miami which belonged to a German man and his bride, a Native American woman. As you go deeper into downtown Miami you can the skyscrapers that sit along the Miami River. In the heart of the city on the mouth of the river, there is a burial site which is believed to be the spot where the Tequestas saw the Spanish conquers coming on their ships.

In the heart of Downtown Miami lies the heart and center of Miami. During my trip there I was able to stand in the middle of Zero Street or Calle Zero. Not to far from there, there was a draw bridge that opened on either side to let large boats go through. This was an immediate flash back for me because back home the canal did the same thing.

Towards the end of my trip to Downtown Miami I was able to see where the Liberty Tower was. This tower was used to process the peter pan kids from Cuba. It also was used to process many Latin’s that wanted to enter the United States through Miami. It now functions as a display museum owned by Miami Dade College. Overall, Downtown Miami was a very beautiful place full of diversity and people form different places.

P.S our very own Miami Heat play in the Triple A arena. Go heat!!!

Chicken Key as Text

Photo taken by John Bailly at Chicken Key, FL. October 14, 2020

“Leave no trace”

By Lukas Stump of FIU at the Chicken Key September 2, 2020

Our trip to chicken key is by far my most memorable experience I have had in Miami. Being able to group up with everyone from the class and help the environment by picking up trash. It was also the first time I have swam in Biscayne Bay. The paddle out was beautiful, and the conditions could not have been more perfect. They ocean was a crystal clear blue and the perfect temperature. It was astonishing how shallow it was 1 mile out from the shore, on the way back it was shin deep.

The amount of trash we found on the island was not a sight for sore eyes. I was disappointed with humans after finding the amount of trash we did. After seeing so much trash, especially plastic, I thought back and realized that I could do so much more to help the environment.

On our way back we all experienced the rough wind and the current of the ocean pulling us away from the Deering Estate marina. It felt as if we were on a treadmill not progressing anywhere. Once we made it back, I was able to see how much trash we really picked up as we threw it into the dumpster. At the end of the day this was an amazing experiencing full of surprises and fun!!   

Bakehouse as text

Photo taken by Lukas Stump at The Bakehouse Art Complex 28 October 2020 cc

“Saving our Reefs”

By Lukas Stump of FIU at Rubell Museum, 22 November 2020

This past Wednesday I was able to help save our reefs by participating in an art project in The Bakehouse art Complex that is trying to raise money and awareness. Before we began to help, we were given a brief explanation on what is going on with our reefs today and how important they are to sustain human life. Reefs are like the cities of the ocean. All sorts of aquatic species gather there and benefit from it, whether its for food, nesting, or living. Without reefs our way of life is at threat. As our professor put it, removing reefs form our oceans is like not having insects to spread pollen. It is hard to believe how molding clay and pasting it to large structures can help save our reefs, it is the little things that help the most­­. The structures spread across the room are meant to represent the reefs around the world. Over time the clay dries and cracks and looses its colors. This is meant to show how reefs look like and it represents how they are dying every day.

In the end, I was truly blessed to be a part of something this great. The work those artists are doing is really inspiring. A couple years from now I can look back and say that I took part in something bigger than myself. Gratefully, I was able to stay longer and help during both class sessions and what I saw was beautiful. We all came together to help save our reefs. Wednesday October 28, 2020 is a day I will never forget.

Rubell as Text

Photo taken by Lukas Stump at the Rubell Museum in Miami, Florida November 22, 2020, Art by Yayoi Kusama

“Thinking the Contemporary way”

By Lukas Stump of FIU at Rubell Museum, 22 November 2020

When it comes to understanding contemporary art, you need to open your mind and just accept the fact that what your looking at is art. In the past I have visited contemporary art exhibits and say to myself “if that’s what they are calling art I should be a millionaire” and things like “wow I could do that.” All of this changed on the 18th of November 2020. My professor took us to the Rubell Museum and showed me that what was on display was in fact art. One of the pieces was a 20th century vacuum in a clear plex glass siting on LED fluorescent lights. At first, I was stubborn an began to think in the closed-minded manor I used to, but after hearing the explanation the professor gave I could not unsee it, it was art!!

The highlight of the day was our first exhibit, the Infinity Mirrored Room by Yayoi Kusama. We owe a special thanks to the manager of the museum Juan for allowing us access to it. What impacted me the most about this piece was when I first stepped in and saw many of my reflections I thought “am I the best version of myself?” This allowed me to reflect on my self and see that some aspects of my life needed changing. Another exhibit I enjoyed was the black family embracing each other. It represented the injustice black citizens face every day in America.

Overall, our trip to the Rubell museum was educational, inspiring, and a whole lot of fun. Not only did we learn to interpret contemporary art but also learned messages from the art itself.  

Victoria Jackson: Miami as Text

Photo taken of Victoria Jackson in 2020. Photo by Nigel Courtney/ CC BY 4.0

Hello Everyone! My name is Victoria Jackson and I was born and raised in Miami Florida. I am junior in the Honors College at Florida International University studying English-Education. Outside of school I love travelling, reading and dancing. I am looking forward to exploring the place I have called home, seeing and experiencing the different wonders Miami has to offer and creating memories with the rest of my classmates.

Deering as Text

Photo by Victoria Jackson/ CC BY 4.0

“A Trickle in Time”


From the moment you enter the grounds of the Deering Estate, you feel as if you are being far removed from society and entering a world from another time. We stepped into and gazed at a true Miami that was untouched and uncultivated. We were greeted by a variety of plants, an untamed wildlife environment and a rich history.

While hiking we explored the limited history of the Tequesta people, a tribe of people who existed and inhabited the land before us. Having a glimpse of their life and holding the tools they used was such a memorable experience. During our journey we came across one of their last surviving burial mounds. They were buried face down with their heads together and on top of their remains rested a large tree. We were told that it is said that their life force flows from them into the tree, providing it with life and the ability to grow to new heights.

I truly felt it. I felt not only the energy going into the tree but intertwining and exuding into the vast surrounding nature. Seeping into the soil and providing a strong foundation for the flora and fauna to thrive off of. I felt completely as one and surrounded by the spirits of our geographical ancestors. Surrounded by the spirits of the people who once occupied the land that we know today. Surrounded by the spirits whose names we do not know, whose appearance we are unaware of and whose tribe was decimated, still helping to enrich the land, and helping life to continue on. Time has continued on and their people are no more but as my mud-covered shoes hit the same trail that they walked all those many years ago I felt connected.

South Beach as Text

Photo by Victoria Jackson/ CC BY 4.0

“A Reflection of a Shinning City”


Millions of tourists flock to the beautiful icon and staple of Miami that lies on the south part of Miami Beach. They come to immerse themselves in a community with different people and styles. They come to take part in the action on Ocean Drive and experience all the sights, sounds and smells that the area comes with. To experience this wonderful blend of art, history, and cultural heritage. An experience that a lot of us who live here in Miami take for granted.

While walking with the class I felt like I had a special lens on that was allowing me to see the streets I have traveled a couple of times before in a new and clearer way. Many people wish they could revisit something for the first time again and feel the same amazement, admiration, curiosity, and excitement as they did initially. As we went on with our journey, I felt like I was getting a chance to experience this wish. That I was seeing and experiencing South Beach for the first time through a whole different perspective.

We learned about the amazing inspirations and ideas that formed the wonderful architecture that adds to the unique culture of Miami. Viewing the great Miami Modern, MiMo, architecture and its geometric style, nautical theme, curved and open court characteristics. Looking at the beautiful and scenic concentration of Art Deco buildings graced with symmetrical and repetitive patterns of natural elements, neon colors, pastel highlights and shaped by dreams and ideas of the future.

As we continued to make our way, I could not help but think back to what we learned about the great and beneficial yet awful, segregated, and dehumanized foundation of the neighborhood that we have come to know. I was shocked that not only had it happened but also that it was information that was not well known. When I recounted the details to some family and friends they were just as taken aback as I was. It upset me that these things are not being discussed leading to not only more ignorance but a lack of honor to the individuals who built and did so much for the area without getting recognition. While we can see how times have evolved and how South Beach has become a place for acceptance for all types of people, it is instances like these that show how many steps Miami has taken in terms of justice, honor and accountability.

The idea of viewing this community from a new perspective was amplified when we saw the impact that the Coronavirus is having on the area. While it was unique opportunity to walk through the streets without much car or foot traffic and have a glimpse into a more peaceful atmosphere like how it was in the 80’s, we were brought back and given a harsh reminder of the direct results of the pandemic and collapse of the economy. Where there was so much life end energy flowing through and around every shop and restaurant is now vacant.

Downtown as Text

Phot by Victoria Jackson/ CC By 4.0

“A Paradox”


While it contains a beautiful mixture of cultures that has existed for years, Downtown Miami is no stranger to the inequality, prejudice and racism that was once ran widespread and unrestrained. The remnants and long-lasting effects can be still be seen throughout the area.

One of the places that we visited was the Miami Dade County Courthouse. A building that is supposed to endorse and represent justice and impartiality but is actually a constant reminder of the discrimination against individuals who lived here long ago. When approaching the front of the building people are greeted by a statue of Henry Flagler who helped make Miami what it is today but also utilized and then discarded and segregated individuals when they were no longer useful just because of the color of their skin. While we cannot ignore the great benefactions that Flagler provided for the development of Miami, to remain unknowledgeable about the history would be a big dishonor and disservice to the many hands who also had an important role in building the Miami that we love.

 People are also greeted by a plaque adorning the wall at the front that uses the derogatory term “negroes” to refer to some of its citizens. Greeted by its looming and intimidating structure the courthouse can already make someone who is going there unnerved, but having the statue and plaque placed proudly at the front of the building can deter anyone looking for a fighting chance. This building was built on and continues to highlight its own contradicting message of equality and representation of the innocent.

Our present system illuminates and prides itself on being a free, diverse, and progressive land that caters to its citizens and provides them with opportunity, chance, and justice. This blinding message truly blinds some into thinking that no effects of the past are present today when that is not the case. Just walking through the neighborhood, you could see such a stark contrast in the livelihood of its citizens. Many homeless people, predominantly people of color, roam the streets passing by established buildings. The wounds are still present. Yes, they have healed for those who have been privileged and provided with opportunity but for others the wounds are still raw and serve as a constant everyday reminder. These things need to be addressed and changed.

Chicken Key as Text

Photo by Victoria Jackson/ CC By 4.0

“A Veiled, Harsh Truth”


Exploring Chicken Key was truly an experience I would not change for the world. Visiting the small island in Biscayne Bay off the coast of Miami Dade County was an experience unlike anything I have done before. While throughout day we had some challenging moments that we had to work through, what we were able to accomplish as a class was truly amazing.

Along with the bustling schools of fish and the scuttling hermit crabs that greeted us as we parked our canoes and made our way on the island we were also greeted by the harsh reality of our actions. Pieces of glass, rope and strings, sections of shoes and other discarded objects littered the floor. As we explored and went deeper into the heart of the island the waste was not only becoming larger but was also becoming more prominent.

Looking at all of our canoes steadily pile up with trash saddened and angered me because I know that this land is an exceedingly small reflection of the many polluted areas across our planet. Just viewing the island at face value, it would be hard to believe that behind the scenic beauty would lie so much trash and waste. It makes me wonder why as a society we do not do more and push the conservation conversation to the forefront.

As we paddled away from the island it was a very bittersweet time. While we were not able to collect everything, we did feel good that we were able to make a dent in the growing mound of trash. The whole experience was extra special because it was our first time being together as a whole class. Though we were going to be separated again during our next meeting, we could hold onto this precious moment and use it influence our future choices.

Bakehouse as Text

Photo By Victoria Jackson/ CC By 4.0

“An Intersecting Medium”


Art is able to transcend so many barriers and serve as an amazing language of its own that has the ability to spread messages, prompt feelings, and evoke emotions. Visiting the Bakehouse Art Complex in Wynwood served as an important reminder that individual efforts can lead to an increasing and powerful collective.

The arts have been a passion of mine from since I was smaller, specifically in dance. I loved being able to shape and mold myself as part of an ensemble to visually represent a bigger picture. While I have always held great admiration for art, I have not been given many opportunities to utilize it as a form, so getting a chance to explore the same concept through a different medium was extremely exciting.

Using a silicon-based stencil to create clay models, in a variety of colors and shapes, we were able to create, form and display a representation of the continuous problems happening to coral reefs due to climate change. Lauren Shapiro, the principal artist, does an amazing job of blending science, art, and technology to generate and produce more environmental awareness within our community and create a platform for additional information to be spread by scientists and researchers.

This was a wonderful representation of how the smallest contribution could affect the overall picture. From many different conversations I have had had with my peers, a lot of them wonder and have some degree of disbelief regarding how much of their individual effort could make a difference. It is so important to know that the little things that we do everyday can have a large impact. With amazing projects like this we were not only able to feel accomplished working as a group to help and exhibit a powerful message, but it also made us mindful of doing our own parts as we go forward.

Rubell as Text

Photo by Ahdriana Amandi/ CC By 4.0

“Comfort in the Uncomfortable”


The Rubell Art Museum is an amazing space that leaves the floor open to many hidden as well as upcoming artists to display their messages and ideas. Though I was not able to able to be there physically, I could sense the amount of feelings and emotions it prompted from my classmates while discussing the trip with them.

The museum is home to pieces by artists from all around the world spanning different eras. The artists they chose to shine a light on are overlooked and on the rise thus providing them with a larger audience to display and promote their amalgam of thoughts and ideas. Leaving their art up for interpretation while also demonstrating different things in our current society. Making visitors think beyond normal confines and venturing into topics that some people may view as unconventional and unorthodox.

Viewing the different pieces elicited such a powerful response from me. A piece by Mickalene Thomas called Mama Bush ll, Keep the Home Fires Burnin’, really stuck out to me. The piece depicts a woman who is naked and completely owning her own. There is such a push for women to step away from the roles that have been set for them and to embrace themselves but if people were to look at a painting like this, they would refer to it as too revealing, and it would serve as a tendentious topic. A picture like this would be over-sexualized instead of focusing on the empowerment of the individual. This serves as a great reminder that as a society we still have so far to go to get to the point where a woman is not put into a biased and prejudiced category based on their race and approach of sexuality.

Changing perspectives, morphing ideology and an abundant number of stories and experiences opens the floor to visitors to question the way they think. Opening up important conversations that need to be held and challenging them to deliberate. I hope in the future I am able to go visit so that I can fully immerse myself into this collective, open, inspiring, and free-thinking space. To look and take in the different textures, angles, lightings and see how they contribute to the larger narratives. To ask myself questions and to challenge my way of thinking.

Everglades as Text

Photo By Victoria Jackson/ CC By 4.0

“Moment of Stillness”


Stepping into the clear and frigid water felt like walking into a new world entirely. The hairs on my body were rising, my senses were amplified, and each step I took away from the main road brought me closer to exploring and contemplating a different existence. While I was stepping in and peering into this space that was unknown to me, it gave me a refreshing feeling. Guided by our amazing ranger, we were greeted by the many lichen decorated cypress trees, shoals of mosquito fish, and hanging spider webs along with the salutations of other animals who were a distance away.

At one point in the trip, we branched off from one another, closed our eyes and just let ourselves be immersed in the sounds of nature. Listening to the leaves shifting under the wind and the movement of the trees. Hearing the distant chirping of the birds and the croaks of frogs. Allowing ourselves to get lost in this wonderful world that was untouched by man was one of my favorite moments. For this very brief period of time, I was able to just escape all of my current thoughts and feel fully submerged in this one-of-a-kind and treasured landscape.

This reflection caused me to pause and analyze things from a new perspective. It was a great reminder that this environment has not only shaped the livelihood of the flora and fauna immediately present but has also shaped the culture and economy of all of the citizens living in Florida. It was a reminder to not overlook this amazing world in our backyard but to really analyze and deeply appreciate the beauty of this environment. It was a reminder that we should be working toward more conservation efforts to preserve this beautiful and unique place where different walks of life are intertwined.

Locust Projects as Text

Photo By Victoria Jackson/ CC BY 4.0

“A Fleeting Moment of Gold”


Our conversation held at dusk at the Locust Projects was an overture to revision, rebuilding, and rebirth. Mette Tommerup, a wonderful creator and narrator from Denmark, has carefully interwoven the many threads of this immersive installation where creation and product are able to come together to form a glorious space called “Made by Dusk”.

In this fleeting moment of gold, we were able to encounter a lasting significance. Compilation contemplation, communication, and connection are brightly illuminated. It was so easy to be captivated by the perfect merging of audio and video, tangible textures, interactive pieces, current subject matters, and mythology. It is an open space serving as a protest of power that gives society a platform to comfortably discuss a wide array of more sensitive topics like commercialism, gender, and race representation through history. The floor is open and encourages a variety of discussion to take place that reflect the displays.

While we are currently facing our own pause and separation from this world, this space provides a pause where an individual can find solace, support, and peace. Where we have been devoid of touch, we can now revel in the tactile element of the space. Where it feels like communication has been impaired, we can build up the conversation. This is where salvation, healing, and liberation for both the artist and the spectators can be found. While my eyes glazed over the canvas covered walls, the video of Mette Tommerup repeatedly tossing a large tapestry off of a roof, the gold covered floor, large structure, and uneven swings, I saw not only the beginning and the ending but the whole journey. The ambiance of the room outshone the black and white of the outside world to formulate a new visceral vision and feeling.

Esmeralda Iyescas: Miami as Text

Esmeralda Iyescas in front of the Brouwerij ‘t IJ brewery windmill in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Photo by E Iyescas/Iyescas Media

Esmeralda Iyescas is a senior at Florida International University (FIU) and is working on finishing a Bachelor’s Degree in Information Technology. She recently transferred from Miami Dade College and joined the Honors College at FIU. Ideally, she would like to continue studying for her Master’s Degree and upon finishing, would like to leave to France to internship or work in the cybersecurity sector. Academics aside, Esmeralda loves acquiring new hobbies but her favorites remain: painting, embroidering, swimming, biking, fishing, and traveling. She is very excited to further knowledge of Miami and learn about the treasures this beauty holds.

Deering as Text

Photo by Esmeralda Iyescas/CC BY 4.0

“The beauty hidden in the city”

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at Deering Estate, 2 September 2020

The Deering Estate located in Cutler Bay was a park I was familiar with because I had visited the park several times before. The times that I have visited the Estate, I would come with a friend to appreciate the natural scenery and get inspiration for our paintings, or to simply enjoy the outdoor environment.

Professor Bailly started to unravel the history that lied where I was standing and soon after revealed the beauty the hid behind the locked gates. Upon entering the gates, I quickly came to realize that I never truthfully knew The Deering Estate. This includes but is not limited to: the native trees, such as the Gumbo Limbo, different types of plants found on the premises, the use for the shells and the importance it held to the native folks in the past.

 I would like to consider myself as an “outdoorsy” kind of person, but after walking through the Estate, it felt as if we had walked out of Miami. As we hiked through the nature trail and learned about the area, I began to realize this was no ordinary hike. Being that Professor Bailly is an artist, he sees the world much different than the ordinary person. He shared with us his creative insights and many I found to be very creative. There was one of his comments that particularly resonated with me. It was a large piece of limestone that was sticking out from one of the sides. This particular formation of limestone seemed to be eroded from the bottom, so it was slightly hovering over the water, and on the top was little tree stems beginning to grow. I remember Professor Bailly pointing out this structure and commenting how he perceived it almost like table and sitting on top was the little plant.

This comment made me think back to all my past painting dates and how there was a time where I, similarly, saw the world with a more creative perspective but seemed to have lost it with time. In addition, to being very meaningful to me, it made me want to gain back this creative vision I seem to have forgotten.

South Beach as Text

Photos by Esmeralda Iyescas/CC BY 4.0

“Ignorance: Bliss or destruction? ”

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at South Beach, 16 September 2020

South Beach to most is simply the area where the beach is located, and where the city comes to life at night with all the neon lights. This is not false, though there is so much more to be appreciated about South Beach than the superficial façade that is made up bars and restaurants that line up against strip or the artificial sand everyone believes to be natural.

South Beach, otherwise, originally known as Ocean Beach, is culturally diverse and this is displayed all throughout the area. The first hotel, Browns Hotel, was built in 1915 and preserved its original all-American Wild West style. On the other hand, we have a more modern style, Miami Modern Architecture (MiMo), which consists of playful, glamours, repetitive designs that do not always make sense. MiMo plays with Bauhaus elements and use different tiles, textures, materials, and concepts to create a fun and unique style for building structures. The next style is very common and popular among the Miami culture, Mediterranean Revival. These influences are seen across neighborhoods and are currently being implemented into modern living. This style is a mélange of Spanish, French, Italian, and Arabic architecture. There are two very famous monuments that brought Mediterranean revival into South Beach: Espanola Way, and The Villa Casa Casuarina (AKA Versace Mansion).  Lasty, Art Deco, the style of architecture that is most associated with Miami Beach. Art Deco is short for Art Decoratifs, a primarily a French style of art. Art Deco uses natural elements to create designs using industrial materials. Buildings resemble that of a toaster or a microwave, mixed with natural and flora elements, and additionally adopted influences from around the world. The influences that are often recognized are Egyptian, consisting of the flat topology and 2-D reliefs, and the use geometric shapes and pastel hues. Art Deco admired the Mayan and used ziggurats on the top of buildings, giving it a staircase apperance. The Egyptian and Greco-Romans also used geometric shapes and reliefs to embellish the buildings which is similarly seen among the Art Deco structures in South Beach.

I have been to South Beach more times than I can count, and I never once noticed these diverse cultural elements on the Art Deco structures. Many of these buildings and monuments I had briefly looked at but never gave them second thoughts. After learning about the different styles and cultures, it brought a deeper appreciation for the area and the preservation of history. South Beach is full of rich history that is presented right in front of us, but the lack of education and curiosity allows us to live in ignorance. There are uneducated people who do not care to preserve South Beach’s history, this ignorance is destructive and dangerous to the culture, art, and history of the city. Fortunately, there were people like Barbara Baer Capitman who fought to support the preservation South Beach’s history, those are the true heroes allowing me to share my discovery today.

Downtown Miami as Text

Photos by Esmeralda Iyescas/CC BY 4.0

Dade – A dark past”

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at Downtown, 30 September 2020

Dade County, also more commonly known as Miami-Dade County. I have lived in Miami-Dade County for over 21 years and having received education from Miami-Dade public schools system all my life, I was never taught the significance of the name Dade and why we name an entire county after this person. If we named our entire county in honour of this man, why had I never heard of it earlier?

American Army Major Francis Langhorne Dade partook and was one of the men who lead an important battle in south Florida. This battle was against the native people of the area, the Seminoles. The battle was also known as the “Dade Massacre.” Dade’s ultimate goal was to arrest and kill as many Seminole’s as possible in order to take over ownership of the land, what we present day call Miami. Dade attempted to kill the Seminole Indians but instead was ambushed; the majority of the soldiers he led into battle we killed, including himself. They began to see his actions as heroic and honored him by naming this county after him.
When I heard of this story, it absolutely baffled me how quickly they were willing to honor a man that tried to exterminate the native Americas of their land. I truly appreciate and love this county, and have volunteered and dedicated time, effort, and care to preserving it. After finding out the true history that behind the name Dade, I feel a bit disappointed how this man was praised over his inhumane actions.
Miami-Dade used to symbolize a name of safety, love, and most importantly a sense of home and community. But now as I walk around Miami, continue to see Dade stamped on all public schools, transportation means, buildings, ect,
I now see a county that terrorized the native Seminole Indian’s home in attempt to claim ownership of the land. Miami is one of the most culturally diverse cities I know. Having spent the entirety of my life here, I know that Miami accepts everyone and invites them to share their cultural differences. It is ironic that Miami’s largest and Florida’s third largest county is named after a man who was supporting and leading a genocide, when the majority of Miami’s population are immigrants. How the times really do change.

Chicken Key as Text

Photos by Esmeralda Iyescas/CC BY 4.0

“Cleaning up our beaches – A global effort”

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at Chicken Key, 14th October 2020

The cinematic industry has explored the idea of “What if a person arrived to a remote island?” The famous movie Cast Away and TV series Lost, have both explored this idea extensively. Wednesday morning, our class took canoes from the Deering Estate and paddled to the remote island off the peninsula called Chicken Key. One thing I found to be inaccurate about these movies was how clean and well-kept the islands were always portrayed in the cinema.

As my partner and I were paddling towards Chicken Key, the view was particularly admirable. The mangroves surrounding the island were thriving and full of life, the seabed was filled with its natural flora, and there was an abundance of sea animals in the vicinity. I imagined that is what Miami originally looked like to Carl Fisher before he remodeled the area and wiped it of its natural beauty. As we approached our destination, we could not help but notice all the trash that surrounded the key and has accumulated over time. It was heartbreaking to see how our lack of care for the environmental is having secondary effects on the surrounding areas. Though the island is remote and is not visited very frequently, it is indirectly being polluted from the trash that escapes In order to remedy our inconsideration for the environment, we had made it our goal to fill our canoes with as much trash as possible, and dispose of it appropriately.

After a couple of hours of being on the island and appreciating what the land had to offer, we started to collect trash, and the canoes filled up much quicker than I would have expected. Though we removed a significant amount of trash from the island, there was still an astounding amount that remained there.

I am very proud of my classmates and myself for the effort we made that day to remove trash from Chicken Key. It was a collaborative effort that could not have been as successful alone. We all were able to appreciate the key and learn from this experience. The environment needs to be treasured and treated with respect in order to maintain and preserve the area.

Bakehouse as Text

Photo by Esmeralda Iyescas/CC BY 4.0

“Art that resembles reality”

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at Bakehouse Art Complex, 28th October 2020

Bakehouse Art Complex used to legitimately be a bakery back in the 1980’s. Since then, the complex space was repurposed as a studio for local artists. One of the local artist who occupies the space is Lauren Shapiro. This young local artist is currently working on an art project whose main goal is to bring awareness on the destruction of our natural coral reefs.

Lauren Shapiro’s art project is consisted of layering clay molds of coral reefs and other natural life that is found on or around the reefs. Even though she will be using clay as the medium for the project, she will not be cooking the clay like traditional methods. Instead, she plans on letting the clay air dry. There are two main reasons for not cooking the clay. When cooking clay, carbon is being emitted into the environment, which is a major factor in global warming. Lauren explained that there as different methods of cooking clay, but all result in the release of carbon emissions. Secondly, when clay is not cooked, it falls apart by breaking down into smaller pieces and eventually turning into dust. This is what makes her art conceptually beautiful, like the air-dried clay, the literal coral reefs are falling apart and dying. Through her art, she is able to show her audience what is literally happening to our coral reefs and the effects that we have had on the environment. Her art project speaks in volumes and is conceptually a very important subject.

I have a lot of appreciation for this art project and for Ms. Shapiro because she has received help from her community in order to complete this project for her art exhibition. She explained to me that as an artist it is really hard to let go of control. There is a level of meticulousness and strive for perfection that cannot be achieve when not being fully in control and contribution help from other people. Nonetheless, she was able to put those feelings aside and embrace the help and the specs of individualism each person adds to the artwork. Like the community contribution Lauren has received, global warming is a change that affects every individual on this planet and will require a group effort in order to make positive change and reverse some of the negative effects.

Rubell as Text

Artwork: Two Cells with Circulating Conduit by Peter Halley at Rubell Museum
Photo by Esmeralda Iyescas/CC BY 4.0

“How artists communicate through art”

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at Rubell Museum, 18th November 2020

Located close to the center of Allapattah, there is a quite new contemporary museum that houses many thought provoking artworks. Myself and several people close to me were surprised to find a museum in Allapattah. Nonetheless, the museum is located in a warehouse but has been decorated and remodeled to give it a very eloquent and prestigious feel.

As we were beginning our tour of the museum, I remember Professor Bailly saying along the lines of “art should send a message not simply took beautiful. Art should be judged on how well the message is being communicated rather than its appearance and that contemporary art sends a plethora of messages to the viewer.” I kept thinking about this throughout our walk because people are usually taught to appreciate art for its appearance, not for the meaning behind the art work.

As I keep Professor Bailly’s words close, I see a painting that really captured my undivided attention, Two Cells with Circulating Conduit by Peter Halley. The painting is nothing more than a few geometric shapes on a canvas, but symbolically, the painting is much more complex. Professor Bailly explained that the artist, Peter Halley, wanted to represent the New York lifestyle in a painting. The way he chose to express this was with two squares on either end of the canvas and a circulating conduit connecting the two squares or “cells.” Through this simple painting, Halley wanted to show depict life, how we are naturally creatures of habit and always find ourselves in this endless routine. We rarely ever deviate from our routines which consist of moving from one cell to the other, endlessly.

I found that particular piece to be almost poetic, to the naked eye, it seems like a nontechnical almost boring painting, but after learning about the artist and the message he was trying to communicate, the symbolism is represented beautifully.

Another artist who was present at Rubell and does a phenomenal job at sending messages through their art is Keith Harring and Tschabalala Self. Both artists use their platform to be able to spread positive or eye-opening and thought provoking truths.

All in all, the Rubell Museum houses many art pieces that forces people to think about the reality we live in. Some art pieces present a more negative message than others, but nonetheless, they are truths we are must accept. I have to admit, the Rubell Museum is by far my new favorite Museum in Miami. I am very thankful for the Rubell’s for sharing their private art collection with the public because I was introduced to many new artists that I have a newfound admiration for.

Everglades as Text

Photos by Esmeralda Iyescas/CC BY 4.0

“The Everglades is not a swamp”

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at Everglades National Park, 20th January 2021

On Wednesday January 20th, 2021, Professor Bailly teamed up with Park Ranger Dillion to take us through the Everglades. Whenever I mention to my family or friends that I was going to be slogging, they asked curiously if I was going to pick up and collect slugs. I quickly realized this is not an activity that is often done regardless whether you’ve been born and raised in Miami or you’re visiting for the first time. In addition people have this instilled fear that going into the water at the Everglades is equivalent to a death sentence (asking to be attacked by a gator.) The experience could not be further from the opposite of their exceptions. 

The Everglades National Park is an area I am very familiar with but this experience allowed me to experience the park in a whole new and unique way. Upon going into the water and adjusting quickly to the chilled water, it was quite exciting. We followed Ranger Dillion and Professor Bailly for most of the trip. There was a brief portion where I deviated from the rest to explore the uncharted territory and experience the slogging for myself. I found myself absolutely loving the peace and calmness. The water was stunning, reflecting the nature around it, I couldn’t believe how clear and mirror-like the water was! There were moments where I was surround by the water, entirely alone, but silence was hard to find. You could faintly hear the bird and other animals that inhabited the area (no gators unfortunately). For a very short moment, I was a state of complete and utter tranquility.

I found the whole trip to be very humbling. We were so insignificant to the vast space that surrounded us! I also realized during the trip how much I changed from when I first took this class until now. I have gained a new perspective on so many parts of Miami (including the Everglades) which has allowed me to embrace everything around me.

Wynwood as Text

Artwork: Geheimnis der Farne by Anselm Kiefer at The Margulies Collection at the WAREhOUSE
Photos by Esmeralda Iyescas/CC BY 4.0

“The Theory of Alchemy: Lead will turn into gold”

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at The Margulies Collection at the WAREhOUSE, 3rd February 2021

Wynwood is an area in northern Miami that has been immersed to a lot of cultural changes. Martin Z. Margulies is one of the first to have his private collection of art on display for the public in this area. He and many others who followed, revitalized the contemporary art movement, and allowed for art to be exposed and been seen by the public. 

The Margulies Collection is a host of many different genres of art and is displayed in a fashion that is interactive with the visitor. He began his tour with Suga, a Japanese’s artist that inspired the Mono-ha art movement, which was radical at the time because it was about impermanence. The art was primarily based on feeling, how one felt towards the object, versus the object itself. I found this style of art to be very impactful because it reminded me much of conceptual art which is one of my preferred.

 Mr. Margulies introduced us to his vast Anselm Kiefer collection which was utterly astonishing. Considering how recognized and decorated Kiefer is in the art community, it was shocking to see so many of his installations and art pieces in one gallery. “Die Erdzeitalder”, Ages of the Word, is the name of one of two the art works that resonated with me from Kiefer because he made the sculpture from old canvases, dead sunflowers, lead books, and rubble. The artwork is said to feel dystopian and post-apocalyptic, yet I felt the complete opposite. I found hope in his art sculpture because of the old and never finished canvases he used. I used to paint quite frequently myself, and I too have many old and never finished pieces of art that I consider trash, but Kiefer allowed me to reflect on those never finished pieces and see that perhaps they are not trash though they may feel like so. He turned old, weathered down art materials into a powerful and conceptual sculpture that is admired by the millions of fans.

Lastly, the second Kiefer work that took my breath away was his “Geheimnis der Farne” or The Secret of the Ferns. The installation is comprised of 48 paintings and 2 concrete structures each weighing about 45-50 thousand pounds! Mr. Margulies explained that Kiefer grew up in Germany post-WW2, therefore, the country that he was raised in was all rubble and destruction. His artworks reflect the decimated landscape and the loneliness that followed the war. Nevertheless, he knew that with time the ferns would blossom again. In his paintings, we see the use of broken terra cotta to represent the broken land and the withered down concrete structures were symbolic of the breakage of the playgrounds he never had. I found this aspect of his work to be very deep and absolutely beautiful. The theme that is constantly displayed in his artworks, is the theory of alchemy. Alchemy is the idea that there will be change and transformation of matter. Mr. Margulies said it best, “Lead will turn into gold or silver, at least in his mind,” this quote stayed with me throughout the remainder of the tour because the depth and emotion that can be felt through Anselm Kiefer’s work is entirely profound and personal.

Bill Baggs as Text

Photos by Esmeralda Iyescas/CC BY 4.0

Bill Baggs: Savior of the barrier island known as Key Biscayne

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, 17th February 2021

Bill Baggs State Park, a place that holds many of my fondest memories, I was sadden realize I was compeletely uneducated on the hsitory that the island holds. As we started walking through Avenue of the Palms, it was clear to me, I really did not know this park at all.

Bill Baggs was a very influential man who worked for the Miami Newspaper, served in the WWII and was nominated for Nobel Prize for his efforts to stop the Vietnam War, and advocated for the preservation of natural landscapes. With his efforts to save Key Biscayne, he got Elena Santeiro Garcia to purchase the land and allowed for restoration of the park. This was the start of many other restoration projects that took place in Bill Baggs.

One restoration project that stood out to me in particular took place in 1992 right after Hurricane Andrew wiped the island of all the invasive Australian Pine Trees. They took advantage of the situation and decided to remove any exotic and invasive plants and trees and replace with native ones. This restoration project would permit the island to return to its original natural vegetative state. Though coconut palm trees can still be found around of the island and is an iconic staple to Miami’s image, I was surprised to learn that the coconut palm tree is in fact not native to Miami at all. The coconut palm tree is actually native to the Indian ocean and not the Atlantic ocean. Similarly, the citrus trees are a product from the Caribbean Islands. Bahamians brought them to Miami to plant and harvest when ready. Ironic how some of the major icons of Miami are not even native to its location.

This trip, like most of the ones I have taken in this class, taught me about the true history of Miami. I have come to notice that the majority of the history that is taught is whitewashed and always portray the wrong people as heroes. Time and time again, the original founders and inhabitants of the land get stripped of their rights and territory, while portraying them in history as the criminals. I deeply admire Bill Baggs State Park for their informational panels that are located around the park describing history as it happened, not encouraging the distribution of misinformation.

River of Grass as Text

Photos by John Bailly/CC BY 4.0

Carpe diem

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at Everglades National Park, 4th March 2021

This is our second time going attending class at the Everglades National Park, but I have visited the park dozens of times on my spare time. I will say, this most recent experience at the Everglades really left me in awe.

Ranger Dillion and Professor Bailly began by educating us on the history of the Everglades and the drastic changes it has gone through throughout the span of five thousands of years. It was shocking to me that the Everglades was once all pine but with the sea level rise, the ecosystem transformed and adapted to the changes. Next, farmers attempted to use the land for farming, but the conditions did not permit for this venture to be successful. Later, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Everglades was used as a military installation where the missiles would be housed as a first line of defense to protect our capital.

Though learning about the in-depth history of the Everglades was very interesting, what I found to be so exciting was hiking though the water that was about knee level and finding ourselves completely alone in the acres of land. It was so peaceful to not hear the constant honking and blaring of cars. The only noises you could hear were from the birds and the slashing of water. It truly felt like we had time traveled and we were able to experience Miami in its original from. We were able to see wood storks, turkey vultures, American white ibis, and several other birds, which was truly a sight like no other.

The journey was not done yet and the best was yet to come. A couple of us were able to experience the sunset in the middle of the Everglades. I had never seen a more beautiful sunset in my life! The way the colors changed as the sun progressively descended were surreal, it seemed like a painting from a world-renowned artist. At that moment, it felt almost euphoric, as if I were on top of the world! I am grateful I was able to take this class, but more so, during this pandemic. Professor Bailly said it best, during this pandemic, it seems like we have forgotten the concept of time since we are locked indoors, but if we make the most of our time, we can create unforgettable memories that will be forever cherished.

Frost as Text

Artwork: Chronicle of a Flower num.6 by Roberto Obregón at the Frost Art Museum FIU
Photos by Esmeralda Iyescas/CC BY 4.0

A man and his rose

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at the Patricia & Philip Frost Art Museum FIU, 17th March 2021

Before attending this class session, I was unfamiliar with the Frost Museum at FIU. Though the museum is relatively small and located on campus, it houses over 6,500 pieces of art. Since the museums is located on a state campus, the art is more conservative and encounters more conflict with balancing subjects and controversies that will attract students and handing the artistic controversies appropriately. The exhibitions we visited we not controversial but nonetheless, very interesting. My personal favorite was the Roberto Obregon Archive exhibition because it gave me a whole new perspective to museum and the importance of curation.

Roberto Obregon was a Venezuelan artist who truly loved and appreciated very aspect of the rose. He would “dissect” or remove the petals and take the rose entirely apart and intensely study each individual piece. He would study and keep notes of his rose observations because this would turn out to be a 30-year project. What I appreciated about Obregon’s was that he would only work with a specific set number of roses and instead focus on the process of repetition. The reason for the repetition and the dissection was because he compared uniqueness of each petal like a fingerprint. Every single petal independent from each other but together come in unison to form a beautiful flower.

I truly felt enrapture by Roberto Obregon’s exhibition, I imagined if I were in his position and a curator organized an exhibition without me being able to have any say. I have visited many different exhibitions in the past, but I never thought about the relationship between the artist and the curator. For example, when attended class at the Locust Project, a local Art gallery, and met with the artist Mette Tommerup where she was able to curate her own exhibition. For that reason, she was in total control of how the art is arranged, therefore, she decided what message her exhibition would to portray to the public. Personally, I would feel very uncomfortable being a late artist and having a curator arrange an exhibition for my work. As I mentioned, I was enraptured by exhibition, but I felt this deep connection with his work of art, beyond anything what words can describe. And I had never heard of Obregon or seen his art before our class, but that connection gave me an intuition that perhaps this was not how he would have wanted his art to be displayed. Nonetheless, the curators organized the exhibition in a manner that exemplified his passion for the rose beautifully.

I really appreciated this exhibition because I was able learn about a new artist but also learned about museum curation and the impact it has on the art displayed. This class outing gave me a new found the hard work that goes into museum curation.  

Coral Gables as Text

Photos by Esmeralda Iyescas/CC BY 4.0

It only takes a man with a plan

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at the Biltmore Hotel Miami Coral Gables, 28th March 2021

Considering I once used to live in the area and have spent a lot of my time visiting and getting to know the city, I was never aware of the history. I have come to realize that most people who live in the area and in overall Miami, are also not educated on the history. Nevertheless, there is a museum in Coral Gables dedicated to educating the residents and visitors of the history of how this city came to be. During our visit, I learned about the significance of the Merrick family and their contributions to the development of the area.  

Coral Gables has a rich history because the development and vision came from a very important man, George Merrick.  Merrick poured his heart and soul into the vision and development of Coral Gables because he literally turned a plot of land into the beautiful Mediterranean styled city. Ironically, he did not visit any of the Mediterranean countries, but instead was inspired by writing and by his single visit to Mexico. The Merrick Family was considerably wealthy at the time and started using the local resources to create more income. They began buying land that was originally the back country of Coconut Grove and started creating a small empire.

When George Merrick started envisioning Coral Gables, he was greatly inspired by the Mediterranean Revival styled architecture. That is one of the biggest implementations that is still clearly visible today. He also loved the grand entrances that are found in Europe, therefore, he incorporated four of them with the coral rock. They are located on Ponce, Alhambra, Granada, and El Prado. Another implementation that Merrick had created was having no building structure higher than 3 stories. Unfortunately, commercial buildings have disregarded his visions and created sky scrappers which is detrimental and problematic to preserving the identity and culture heritage he created. Fortunately, today we can still see many of the original buildings and great architectural landmarks. Perhaps the most recognized building created by the Merrick’s would have to be the Biltmore Hotel.

The Biltmore Hotel is grandiose in every aspect and every square in of the hotel is breathtaking. George Merrick incorporated Mediterranean Revival, Romanesque, Moorish, and Rococo aesthetics while balancing it with tropical styles, permitting for the vision to fit the Miami lifestyle perfectly. The diversity reflected is timeless and represents well the history of Miami.

Vivian Acosta: Miami as Text

Photo by Anthony Velasquez CC BY 4.0

Vivian Acosta is a senior at Florida International University majoring in psychology. She has always been passionate about highlighting the importance of mental health and other’s well-being. After exploring different psychology areas, she discovered that helping organizations create a healthy environment for their employees is what she wanted to devote her time to; therefore, she is specializing in industrial-organizational psychology.
During her free time, she likes to spend quality time with her family and friends or playing sports. She also visits her home country, Honduras, often and plans to expand her vacation destinations.
Vivian enjoys learning about different cultures, history, and societal issues. She believes that all of these topics merge through art, so she decided to enroll in the Art Society and Conflict course thought by the French American artist John Bailly.
Below you can find Vivian’s reflections.

Deering As Text

Photos by Vivian Acosta CC BY 4.0

“Pieces of Miami” By Vivian Acosta of FIU At Deering Estate on september 9th, 2020.

A hidden treasure is in Cutler Bay, treasuring unique gems: nature, art, architecture, and history. Undisturbed mangroves, trees, and animals guard the land, bodies, and remains of the Tequesta, one of Miami’s first inhabitants. In there, we get to see a different side of Miami, a lot simpler one. 

Charles Deering’s Spanish Villa, the Stone House, and his winter home, the Richmond Cottage, face Biscayne Bay. Manatees and fish visit the boat basin regularly—if I could, I would too—such a tranquil and breezy place. As I stood there, I paused and contemplated the view while the wind caressed my face. 

The Richmond Cottage was an inn about 100 years ago. Then, it became Charles’ self-sufficient winter home. The Richmond Cottage has a pioneer home design and is currently one of the oldest structures in Cutler bay (Historic Structures).

The Stone House is a three-story house with a Mediterranean revival design. The arched-shaped windows inspired by Islamic architecture give the place a dramatic yet elegant look. Throughout the house, I got to appreciate a diversity of adornments, designs, and architectural styles from all over the world: some contemporary and some historical ones.

A French gate hugged by vines and colorful flowers watch one of the rooms. The gate looked delicate and romantic; I could visualize Cinderella twirling in that room. I also got to cross Charles’ Chinese Bridge. This bridge allowed Charles to cross Cutler Creek. Unique art decorates the house, but my favorite piece was a mosaic made from pieces of Miami. Hundreds of small seashells, rocks, corals, sticks, and starfish assembled to form a unique shape decorate a ceiling. I never expected to see that above me. An Islamic design created by Afro-bohemian men on a Spanish Villa out of Miamian pieces. What an original work of art. It holds the essence of Miami: the diversity and rich culture that makes the city unique.

Photo by Vivian Acosta CC BY 4.0

Even though there were various styles and designs within the house, they fit in perfectly—just like us, Miamians.  During my Deering Estate visit, I discovered a little more of Miami through its landscape, early architecture influence, and historical figures, which translated to the Miami we know today.

South Beach as Text

Photos by Vivian Acosta CC BY 4.0

“The Beautiful and The Ugly” By Vivian Acosta of FIU at South Beach on September 23, 2020

About 100 years ago, South Beach was a barrier island enriched with mangroves, marine life, and mosquitoes. People occasionally visited to spend a day at the beach. This changed when Carl Fisher decided that the island covered with mangroves should become an independent city where tourists could visit regularly. Carl Fisher accomplished his vision, scaring the environment, and Bahamian workers, physically, emotionally, and historically. The same figures who cleared thousands of mangrove trees were eventually banned from the land they helped building. They were used. They couldn’t enjoy the results of their hard work. Fortunately, South Beach has evolved over the years. The city welcomes everyone, and anyone and differences are celebrated. The atmosphere encourages people to show their true selves. The festive atmosphere and vivacious people match the unique scenery.

Walking down Ocean Drive, I came across different architectural styles. Pastel-colored buildings, European-looking structures, and contemporary designs. The style that matched South Beach the most, without a doubt, was Art Deco. Warm hues, neon-lights, and unique structures. An authentic combination that sets a tropical yet lively mood.

A diverse color palette, unique geometric ornamentations, and asymmetrical buildings are connected by the buildings’ horizontal detailing, guiding one’s eyes down Ocean Drive. These buildings match the beach, the weather, and the people. South Beach has the world’s most extensive collection of Art Deco buildings, which were once in danger of being demolished. Developers wanted to destroy the buildings to then build contemporary structures. Years of history, rich heritage, and the cultural essence of South Beach could have been deliberately whipped out if it were not for a visionary, persistent woman, community activist, Barbara Capitman. Capitman brought together a group of like-minded, conscious people, and prevented that disaster from happening. Today, the city conserves the iconic architecture that characterizes South Beach.

I realized that many important details go unnoticed due to our lack of information. If we perceive something, and we are uninterested–  either because it doesn’t make sense, we don’t understand it, or it looks ordinary– our brains ignore it, which prevents us from fully appreciating our surroundings. Things don’t stand out until we learn what they are and what they mean. When we finally learn the symbolic representation of things, we begin to “unlock” details that we didn’t pick up before from our surroundings. I experienced this during our visit to South Beach. I have been to South Beach countless times, but how didn’t I notice the piano keys painted on the sidewalk of Lincoln Road before? They were just a pattern of black & white rectangles on the ground before Professor Bailly pointed out the architect’s intention. H&M never had a metallic sign with the words “Lincoln Theater” with neon lights, and I could have sworn the ziggurat roof and low relief decorations on the Guess store had just been added on that day. “Ocean Beach Park”—”a play of words” I thought.  WRONG! South Beach was originally called “Ocean Beach” before it was turned into the vacation destination it is today. This is a worthy detail of South Beach’s history that everyone should know. The numerous coconut trees decorating the city? They are remains from the Lum brothers’ failed coconut plantation. Just because we are looking does not mean we are noticing everything around us, and the more we learn, the more we open our eyes to the beauty and the ugly: the truth of our surroundings.

Bakehouse as Text

Photos by Vivian Acosta CC BY 4.0

“One Change at a Time” by Vivian Acosta of FIU at Bakehouse on October 7th, 2020

Coral Reefs are beautiful structures under the ocean. They are home to millions of species, and they also protect our coastlines from storms. They are essential for the survival of many species, including ours. As rational beings, it should be common sense to protect them; however, we have been doing the opposite, and they are dying faster and faster. Irregular changes in their ecosystems’ temperature, pollution, and intentional removal of corals are just some causes of this species’ disappearance.

Scientists have highlighted this issue for a significant amount of time, but somehow, we overlook it and consciously keep on causing harm. Why do we insist on harming something so precious and vital? Perhaps the way the information is shared does not catch our attention, or we just fail to connect with the issue. Maybe if we all got to see the greatness of these structures, the unique and diverse fauna, and this ecosystem’s importance, we would have the drive to save them! Articles, news, and different initiatives worldwide are doing what they can to spread awareness on this issue, but nothing seems to change! We all need to come together to make a change, and for the majority of people to just ignore issues because it does not affect their present, it sparks a combination of frustration and helplessness in me.

Through Lauren Shapiro’s Future Pacific Project, I learned that change starts somewhere, and it does not happen overnight. My hopes went up, and I realized that we only control our actions and that sharing the message little by little adds up. Years of research, articles, news, and different projects have sparked initiatives little by little. These initiatives attract people from all around the world, who are willing to make a change, change that begins with the individual, and has a collective impact.

Future Pacific uses a unique technique to spread awareness of this issue. The project spreads science knowledge through the voice of art– a beautiful, creative, unique, subjective voice. The intended message, or the idea, is there, but everybody will perceive it in a unique, personal way, and that’s the beauty of it.

I had the unique opportunity of creating corals out of clay—this is part of Lauren Shapiro’s project. Some figures were small, while others were big, but what amazed me was the final result. Hundreds of coral forms made one by one added on to a huge coral mountain, just like those in the ocean. It was breathtaking. Helping create such structures ignited a unique connection and responsibility between me, the project, and the project’s intent: making a change to save the corals. I can say that I was part of the project, and now, that project is a part of me!

Rubell Museum as Text

Photos by Jennifer Quintero CC BY 4.0

“Appreciating the Unknown” by Vivian Acosta of FIU at the Rubell Museum on October 21st, 2020

The Rubell Museum is a contemporary art museum where Mr. and Mrs. Rubell’s precious art collection is shared with the public. Mr. and Mrs. Rubell have been collecting art for about 54 years. Their collection includes pieces by various artists with different styles; therefore, at their museum, you can encounter a diversity of works–from minimalistic canvases to breathtaking, realistic portraits. Contemporary art is unlike any other art style. There is a lot more freedom in the themes, mediums, and rules; therefore, this museum is filled with unique aesthetics, ideas, and experiences. 

The erroneous belief about art is that art should be aesthetically pleasing, but that is not necessarily what art is. Art is anything that one creates with the intent to express one’s ideas. Art is not mainly about aesthetics but about artists’ creativity when expressing their thoughts through their artwork. That is why, at times, many people fail to appreciate art, including myself– especially with a style that gives artists more freedom to express themselves like contemporary art. Some pieces’ intended message can be obvious, while others are open-ended or even unknown.

Mr. and Mrs. Rubell mentioned that they choose pieces that speak to them to add to their collection. Quite frankly, I did not understand what that meant. I realized that I was trying to understand art too hard. When visiting a museum, we should go in with an open mind. Things do not have to make sense necessarily. We have to appreciate the ambiguity, enjoy the experience, and allow ourselves to come up with our own interpretations. When you are able to engage with the art piece and enjoy the expression, that’s when the artwork speaks to you. If nothing of that happens, then move on to the next work, or simply stop trying to make sense of everything. Art is subjective—while one person can feel moved by an art piece, another person could think it’s boring. I realized that loosening up and being curious and open-minded was what I needed to experience the unknown.

Deering Hike as Text 

Photos by Vivian Acosta CC BY 4.0

“Where it All Began” by Vivian Acosta of FIU at the Deering Hike on November 4th, 2020

Miles away from the city’s commotion rests a spot that preserves a piece of Miami’s history. A natural preserve protecting acres of nature, history, and beauty lies in Deering Estate. Pure fauna and flora take us back to enjoy what Miami’s ecosystem was like before conquerors, before industrialization, and before the city was in a rush. The vivid greenery covers the path that Native Americans, such as the Tequesta, and native species once walked in. Different shades of green guide the way in this vivid place. In this natural preserve, it is difficult not to get lost physically, but it’s easy to find inner peace, harmony, and become mindful. Without the unavoidable disturbances we face daily, getting in touch with nature, ourselves, and our past is inevitable. Visiting a place like this hidden gem allows us to create a connection with our history, a much simpler time, where it all began.

Walking in the natural preserve, you will encounter mangroves, tropical hardwood hammocks, the Miami Rock Ridge, solution holes, a crashed airplane, and the Tequesta mound. My favorite part in this hidden gem is a hidden treasure, the Tequesta burial mound. Approximately 12-18 Tequesta buried, and an approximately 500-year-old oak tree is growing over the mound. I like to believe that the tree protects the bodies of the Tequesta. In the past, mounds have been disrespectfully uncovered since they’re “in the way” of “developments.” Nowadays, superficial things are valued more than history, or perhaps this part of history is purposely ignored by some.

Native Americans deserve more respect and more recognition. They inhabited Miami before anyone else, and outsiders came and took over. After that, Native Americans were basically pushed out of their home. Our history is told from the conquerors’ perspective, leaving Natives out of the picture for the most part. History should be told exactly how it happened, not how it’s more convenient. Deering Estate highlights Miami’s pioneer inhabitants’ truth and protects and preserves their land, our land, a piece of Miami, the unbothered Miami.

Downtown Miami as Text

Photo1 by Vivian Acosta and Photo2 by Lorena Cuenca CC BY 4.0

“Hidden Historical Figures” By Vivian Acosta of FIU at Downtown Miami on November 25th, 2020

Our geographical ancestors used to settle in places where there was a source of water supply nearby. The Miami River was used by the Tequesta and other Native Americans. Many Tequesta settled near the mouth of this body of water. Today, the Miami River is highly polluted, and it is home to several businesses. The Tequesta left behind several mounds along the Miami River. However, none of them remain since they were in the way of developers’ plans. Only a handful of mounds have survived urbanization. I do not understand how something so significant to Miami’s history can be consciously destroyed. On the other hand, there are countless memorials, statues, and streets to commemorate conquerors and developers.

A little after Ponce de Leon’s arrival in Miami, Native Americans were pushed out of their land, and some of them died as a result of diseases brought by Europeans. Europeans “conquered” the land of the Tequesta; however, I would use a different choice of words when referring to stealing land and harming locals. The Tequesta’s history has been marginalized along with other Miami pioneers’.

Julia Tuttle, a Miamian businesswoman, noticed Miami’s potential in being a prosperous city, so she encouraged Henry Flagler to extend his railroad to here. Since then, Miami began to grow exponentially. I have always learned about Flagler, but the first time I heard Julia Tuttle’s name was recent. I never knew that it was a woman’s initiative to develop Miami. Instead, all the credit has been attributed to a wealthy man, Henry Flagler.

Fort Dallas is a historic structure located in Lummus Park, Downtown, Miami. This building served several purposes over the years, including Julia Tuttle’s property, a military base, and a slave porter. Slaves built many of Miami’s structures, and they were also taken advantage of, discriminated against, and dehumanized. This part of our history is not highlighted; however, centuries later, racist attitudes are still prevalent.

The stories about our history are carefully selected, so ideals remain consistent over the years; however, these modified stories do more harm than good– they reinforce negative perspectives. Native Americans, Slaves, and women in our history deserve more credit and appreciation than what they are receiving. The truth of Miami’s history should be told, and the sacrifices people made should be highlighted, not only the wins of the historical figures we hear of today. The losses people had in order for “powerful” men to achieve their ambitions should also be known.

Everglades as Text

Photo by Vivian Acosta CC BY 4.0

“a Magical place” By Vivian Acosta of fiu at everglades national park on january 13th, 2021

Approximately an hour away from Downtown Miami’s commotion lies a parallel natural environment. The atmosphere is nothing like “current Miami’s,” but definitely like the one Miamian pioneers explored. You can find numerous ecosystems, habitats, animals, and organisms in the Everglades National Park. 1.5 million miles covered with sawgrass, pine trees, cypress trees, mangroves, and water. The park is inhabited by a diversity of birds and other animals including reptiles, and the Florida Panther.

Standing in the middle of a slough and being welcomed to wildlife’s habitat was a unique experience. It is human to feel scared, especially since we are so fond of being in control– in here, Mother Nature rules. Away from our hectic routines, unavoidable distractions, and rushed pace, time slows down a little, and one finally has the liberty to celebrate life—not only our lives but also the lives of the thousands of species populating the Everglades.  I rarely take a minute out of my day to admire the beauty in my surroundings, but in this River of Grass, it is inevitable not to notice. Thousands of creatures co-existing harmoniously. “Where is north? Where is south? What’s underneath?”, one wonders while being surrounded by tall grasses and trees.

Without my mind on what’s next on my to-do list and my phone blowing up, I got to acknowledge how magical nature is. How are we impressed by human-made objects, but not by other living things and how their environments work? Different, unique, natural systems contribute to nature’s collective wellbeing. Different species play unique and significant roles in their ecosystems! In the Everglades, algae and bacteria absorb contaminants to clean the water, similar to how we use filters to make water clean and safe to drink. I also found it interesting how tiny needles of cypress trees fall into the water, eventually decomposing, leaving acid behind: this eats away the limestone on the bottom, causing solution holes to deepen. These solution holes become home to alligators! It is incredible how nature works, how everything is connected, including us. However, this could be a double-edged sword; we have to be cautious because a small change could throw off nature’s incredible equilibrium. We have the power to destroy gems like this one, and with our selfish actions, we already are! Exposing ourselves to these kinds of experiences in which we are present and involved is crucial to learning about our environment and contributing to its preservation.

Wynwood As Text

Photos by Vivian Acosta CC BY 4.0

“This is Art” by Vivian Acosta of FIU at The Margulies Collection on January 27th, 2021

In Miami’s art hotspot, Wynwood, lies the Margulies Collection. One of the most famous art collection in Miami. This museum stores unique contemporary art. Do not expect to find portraits or realistic paintings because contemporary art breaks traditional art ideals. Contemporary art is more like a pile of paper with wings, senior superheroes, or hanging spices. Expect works that break the barriers we have forced upon our creativity– expect the unexpected.

The more I expose myself to art, the more I learn its real purpose, and the more I learn about a wide variety of topics. I would’ve never thought that one learns far more than merely technique through art: history, memoirs, nature, and societal issues are just some of the themes expressed through artworks. Mr. Margulies’ mission is to share his unique collection with the public and educate others through his collection. I am amazed by how artworks are thought-provoking, they spark discussions, and they trigger feelings.

If you had asked me a couple of years ago what art is, my response would’ve had something to do with aesthetics. In reality, that is not the case. I believe that this flawed idea is prevalent. Yes, art is often beautiful, but beauty can also be found within. An art piece can have a flawless technique, while the idea of another one can be brilliant. These two pieces would probably be very different, but they would be beautiful in their own way; they provoke different reactions in us– and that’s the beauty of it.

As we stood in front of Hurma by Magdalena Abakanowicz, we could feel the metaphor behind the headless bodies. It was very gloomy, scary even. This piece reflected on how people were dehumanized– their thoughts, ideas, beliefs, desires, qualities, values, and rights were taken from them. Hurma’s beauty lies deeper than in its appearance.

The talking woman’s head stuck under a mattress also caught our attention. “What was she saying? What was she referring to? What are her emotions?” we all wondered. We were confused. We were trying to imagine what she was admiring, or maybe she was scared? We had different things in mind, and we all experienced the piece uniquely. We were all eagerly trying to figure out the piece’s intent as if it were a riddle; however, now that I think about it—that was exactly it.

One of my favorite works was Blind Eye by Jennifer Steinkamp. A projection of Trees going through different seasons. Something that we can see outside, taken out of context, being highlighted and acknowledged, made me realize how beauty is even in ordinary things, but we fail to admire them when they are in their place.

This is what art is. The idea. The medium. The technique. The context. The thoughts. The emotions. The discussions.

Bill Baggs as Text

Photo by Vivian Acosta CC By 4.0

“History on the Beach” by Vivian Acosta of FIU at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park on February 10th, 2021

My class and I attempted to clean Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park—it was challenging. The amount of trash was unbelievable! I had never been to a beach where it was easier to find seashells and pretty balloon-like Man-Of-War creatures than garbage. “Where is all the trash?” I wondered. Surprisingly, it is all deposited where it belongs, in trashcans and not the ocean, nor the sand, and neither in bushes. I am so used to seeing beautiful landscapes, natural environments, and any other place with at least candy wrappers that it seemed unreal to have trouble finding garbage on such a popular beach. Whenever I found a tiny remnant of paper or plastic after long periods of walking and digging, it felt like I had found the hidden treasure—Eureka!!

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park is located on the southern tip of Key Biscayne. Here, you can find a breathtaking, calm, and clean beach, a historic lighthouse, biking and hiking trails, etc. The beach has been ranked as one of the top ten nicest beaches in the United States. How couldn’t it be? It is rich in beauty, history, and biodiversity.

The Cape Florida Lighthouse is the oldest structure in Miami Dade. The Lighthouse was built to warn seamen about shallow water and reefs—essentially, to prevent accidents and save lives. This island was also a port for runaway slaves. A spot where individuals took off in search of their freedom, leaving their enslaved lives deprived of their liberty and rights. Today, people visit Bill Baggs Park to relax, enjoy the water, the scenery, and the history to have fun! To recharge and cleanse themselves from their everyday tension, to learn and educate themselves—which also saves lives!

During the second Seminole war, Seminoles attacked the Lighthouse. This act has been frowned upon to the point that Seminoles were seen as “savages”; however, their homes, farms, and villages were also being attacked and destroyed as a tactic to force them out of their land. The Seminoles fighting back was not an act of “savagery,” but an action of defense, a response to the unjust doing to their tribe.

The Tequesta were the first to inhabit the land. Key Biscayne had freshwater, making it an ideal spot for the Tequesta to meet their needs. Today, pieces of pottery, shells, and tools are often found here. These souvenirs of our past are priceless and unique. Each piece of evidence of our ancestors we find is special.  Unfortunately, throughout the development of Key Biscayne, artifacts have been unappreciated, destroyed, and lost. Some of the remains found may have been sacred belongings of past residents or just remains of the tools they used. Whatever the tiny pieces were used for, there is one thing for sure: they come from the land’s past, and we cannot go back; therefore, they should have been conserved and protected. Sadly, not every part of our history is appreciated, just a convenient selection of events.

River of Grass as Text

Photo by Vivian Acosta CC by 4.0

“Easter Eggs” by Vivian Acosta of FIU At The River of Grass on February 24, 2021

We got to explore the Everglades National Park once again, but this time, we saw more than what’s currently there— we explored its past. There is so much to see, learn, discover, and experience that visiting a couple of times is not enough. Think about the amount of history this place holds. I wonder what it looked like back then—there was probably a variety of fauna, flora, and beauty just like today! However, considering how the climate has changed over the years, I’m probably wrong.

Approximately 15,000 years ago, when humans came to Florida, the environment was different. There were arid landscapes where Paleo-Indians hunted large animals such as giant sloths and saber-toothed cats. Over the years, the climate changed, and the terrain got wetter. Inhabitants adapted, and large animals became extinct. The subtropical wetland became home to two major tribes, the Calusa and the Tequesta.

Fast-forwarding to the 19th Century, parts of the Everglades were used as farmland. Sugarcane and tomatoes were grown here. I would have never imagined crops in the middle of an ecological gem –nor a hidden missile site, but hey, this place is packed with easter eggs! Altering the land and adding chemicals to the environment when cultivating crops would throw off the ecosystem’s balance with no doubt. Unfortunately, back then, most people thought a piece of land was insignificant and useless unless it was used for something they could profit from, so why consider the consequences of development and agriculture? Developers were trying to basically destroy the wildlife’s environment and replace it with buildings and businesses. Luckily, Marjory Stoneman Douglas magnified the beauty that was here, and that people were choosing not to see. She also highlighted the importance of this natural wonder and saved the Everglades.

Photo by Vivian Acosta CC BY 4.0

I got to experience the beauty and greatness of nature once again, just as Marjory Stoneman Douglas describes it in her book “The Everglades: River of Grass.” I was mesmerized by solution holes. Solution holes are a wonder. Small, natural pools for animals–and humans.. or maybe not. Holes in the middle of a dry landscape where animals refresh themselves from Florida’s high temperatures. I also enjoyed watching a bird I had never seen before, the Roseate Spoonbill, a great pink bird who was posing for us and welcoming us to its home.

We also came across the Brazilian Peppertree, a small tree with red berries. These trees can be found in the Everglades, but they are originally from South America. They were brought to Florida in the mid-1800s to use as decoration for homes and gardens. Because their berries are bright red and the leaves are green, they are the perfect ornaments for the holidays. However, this tree is an invasive non-indigenous pest plant in Florida. These trees produce a dense canopy that prevents sunlight from reaching other plants; therefore, the habitat becomes unsuitable for native species.

Just like the Native species were colonized by invasive species, so were the Calusa and the Tequesta. These two tribes occupied this region; however, soon after the Spanish explorers arrived, the Calusa began to vanish. The Tequesta and the Calusa’s habitats were no longer safe for them. Their home was invaded, taken over, and infected with diseases. Unfortunately, the Brazilian peppertree prevailed in this metaphor, ending with native species, their beauty, diversity, and culture.

Frost as Text

Photo by Vivian Acosta CC BY 4.0

“What Hides Behind the Masks?” By Vivian Acosta of FIU at The Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum on March 10, 2021

“Multiple Personalities” is one of the exhibits at The Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum at FIU. This exhibit aims to display “similar items,” in this case, masks, and allow the viewer to find connections between these elements. Several masks are grouped together on a wall, and paintings by Carlos Alfonzo stand on each side of the masked wall. This exhibit’s name implies that each mask represents a unique sense of self; it embodies a unique persona; however, I believe that these masks’ meanings go farther than that. These masks were meant to be appreciated, conserved, and even honored— romanticizing them does not feel right.

“Where are these masks from? What were they used for? How were they acquired?” I kept on asking myself. Masks are often used for several cultural practices around the world. They are used during religious ceremonies, for fertility and funerary rituals, and to honor gods and deceased family members. They are reserved for special occasions; therefore, they are respected and honored. Are they still being honored and respected when they are hung on a wall with no context? Here, to me, it just looks like a group of random masks put together to fulfill the artist’s idea. In my view, they seem like another piece of material used to display a concept. The cultural significance is taken away from the masks, and a mundane mask is left.  I feel like these masks are not receiving the honor or appreciation they deserve.

Should they be at an art museum at all? I do not see an issue with this idea, as long as the mask receives the respect and recognition it deserves and its group’s story is shared. I find it difficult to really appreciate something if I am ignorant of its origin and its significance. I begin to question myself on the meaning, the intent, the process, etc. If there isn’t a real meaning, then I just go with how the piece makes me feel. This piece did evoke some curiosity in me, but not the kind that allows your imagination to open up and expand the artwork in one’s mind, but the kind that makes you doubt and feel uncertain.

I find the name of the piece somewhat problematic also. I do not see these masks as personalities; I see them as various, unique cultures, beliefs, and practices. We use masks to disguise ourselves, and we use masks to protect ourselves; however, the masks that are displayed on this artwork did not serve this purpose. I understand that metaphorically, we change between numerous masks throughout the day depending on the situations we are in. We don’t show our true selves to everyone. We often exaggerate traits that we believe are desirable and hide the unliked ones; however, I do not feel like this piece is an adequate representation of our “multiple personalities” or multiple facades.

I would appreciate this exhibit much more if I learned the story of each mask or each “persona” as the artists refers to it.

Coral Gables as Text

Photos by Vivian Acosta CC BY 4.0

“The Castles From Spain” By Vivian Acosta Of FIU At Coral Gables On March 24th, 2021

It was difficult not to admire my surroundings when driving through Coral Gables. The architecture is so much different from the rest of Miami’s. I noticed a pattern, arches, columns, red roofs, and warm hues. The city looks clean, organized, and overall elegant. I later learned that the city has to follow strict regulations regarding architectural designs, which is the main contributor to the city’s harmonious aesthetic. Most of the buildings have a Mediterranean Revival Style. A design inspired by European buildings.

This was George Merrick’s vision, “a place where your castles in Spain are made real.” A city built with the City Beautiful concept. Merrick was devoted to including key details that would make this city stand out, and he succeeded. The town was carefully planned to be pedestrian friendly. Businesses are nearby, sidewalks are wide, and there are lush trees along sidewalks. The atmosphere is so calm, yet everyone looks so productive marching around to get to their destinations.

Mr. Merrick also designed small villages inspired by international architectural styles. It is usual of us to get inspiration from outside. We do not look into our past or our history, Miami’s true origin, nor highlight it with pride. It is almost as if we are trying to hide it at all costs by burring it with foreign influences. The perfect rationale for this is “to make tourists feel like home,” but I’m pretty sure that tourists would love to experience novelties and authentic places, not scenes they’re used to. We have many unique aspects that characterize our past, but we’ve tried so hard to erase them. Developers have always been so focused in making Miami attractive for outsiders, without considering its residents needs or desires..

Nevertheless, Merrick’s project remains a success. It really shows how careful planning can make a difference. There are cities in Miami that don’t even have sidewalks for pedestrians to walk on, businesses are far, and traffic is not pedestrian-friendly– or friendly at all.

Today, there are many historical landmarks at Coral Gables, such as the Coral Gables Congregational Church, Coral Gables Elementary, Coral Gables Police and Fire Station (currently Coral Gables Museum), and the Biltmore Hotel. The city has done an excellent job preserving these historical gems, and Merrick’s vision is still considered as the city continues to develop.

Vizcaya as Text

Photos by Vivian Acosta CC By 4.0

“Let there be Vizcaya” by Vivian Acosta of FIU at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens on April 7th, 2021.

Driving through the lush trees and plants, one would never imagine what awaits on the other side. The canopy of the trees creates a natural arch that guides us directly to the entrance of what was once James Deering’s home. A Mediterranean Revival mansion painted with a pale tone of pink peaks at the end of the road. Multiple gardens adorn the exterior space of the house. Right at the house entrance, a sculpture of a naked guy with a grape crown who is pouring wine into a bathtub welcomes us, making it clear what the house characterizes—abundance, pleasure, and fecundity.  As he pours the wine, he is inviting his guests to take a sip of the home’s essence– joy, celebration, and festivity. The second one steps into the house, we become part of the lavish show. Renaissance elements here, baroque architecture there, rococo rooms, every single detail adds to the extravagant yet elegant house of Mr. Deering.

Photos by Vivian Acosta CC BY 4.0

He was a wealthy man able to manipulate anything and everything he desired. Whatever he dreamed of, he would make a reality. “J’ai dit,” he proudly claims on the stained-glass door through which light glimmers. This French phrase translates to “I said”—he was a man aware of his power who played God in his heavenly mansion. A European Villa in the middle of the mangroves of Miami? –On it! Cutting a classic art piece by half and disregarding the ethos of the artwork he acquired so that it would fit his idea was not an issue for him. He had a pass to overlook cultural norms and societal rules. He brought components of different art styles and architecture inspired by different regions across Europe to his home. Several rooms of the house were built for specific items, such as roofs or furniture Mr. Deering purchased on his shopping sprees across Europe. James Deering’s precious collection of antiques and art remain at his house.

This mansion that embodies pleasure and ecstasy was built by Bahamian workers who were marginalized and punished for no acceptable reason. Banned from enjoying their creations, trapped in angst and uncertainty, but dedicated their lives to the development of grandiose places like Vizcaya.  Unfortunately, this is the reality of many places in Miami. I wish there were sculptures to commemorate those who built this city’s foundation, just like there are of those who colonized it. Bahamians contributed significantly to our development. Without their labor, monuments like Vizcaya would only be fantasies.

Andrea Sofia R. Matos: Miami as Text

Photograph taken by Gabriela Del Monte/CC by 4.0

Andrea Sofia R. 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.

Deering as Text

“To Belong,” by Andrea S. Rodriguez Matos of FIU at Deering Estate on September 9, 2020.

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

Every generation is tackled with the exhausting question of identity, communal belonging to specific coordinates. Most of our life, we are told to affirm with conviction the “inherent” character of the spiritual practice, class, and community we are linked to. As we navigated through the outdoors of the estate, I found myself wondering how one could possibly engage the idea of identity in a land of so many. This terrain saw Paleo-Indian’s hunt. It observed how the Tequesta created tools and pottery and witnessed Seminole blood spilled in a gruesome war. These acres watched as European colonizers settled, as runaway slaves of the Caribbean took shelter, and as it was later purchased by the Richmond and Deering families.

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

To further layer the identity question to this experience, we made our way into the structures located on-site. We paced towards a Spanish inspired villa through roman archways with decorated capitals of distinctive tropical animals whose exterior holds beautifully sculpted Islamic arches. We find ourselves in a room with a checkered floor and a high ceiling, the very room which once hung paintings by Rembrandt and El Greco in its walls. As we continued the tour of this magical space, we were guided into a dark room with French-inspired catholic mosaics—these lit up the room just enough to see the Chinese artifacts in the adjacent wall. 

The director of the Deering Estate, Jennifer Tisthammer, invited us to the rooftop that oversees a fantastic view of the estate and Biscayne Bay. She asks us another question I don’t have the answer to, the problem of preservation. Who decides what’s important enough to conserve and what is not? Who are we to say markings found on red ceramic roof tiles aren’t just as important as paintings only a floor below?

Failing to fathom how such a wide range of cultures, histories, and ideas have met within the 18-inch poured concrete walls, we sneak into the second structure. This wooden cottage breathes every time you take a step within it. One can almost hear the footsteps of the hundreds of travelers looking for comfort some 90 years ago. Science and religion coexist once we walk through a narrow hallway filled with botanical drawings of native plants that leads us to the kitchen. And right in the middle, the kitchen keeps a framed white and blue Spanish tile mosaic.

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

Eventually, I can process some of the information as we make our way to our destination, a Chinese bridge built by Afro-Bahamian workers. Only to remember that in an explosion gone wrong at the People’s Dock just south of the Estate, six of these very workers died, which nobody chose to recognize or honor. I stood still in the middle of the colorful bridge piecing the experience, the histories, and the cultures together little by little as we stared into the wilderness. 

Yet, the question stands, who are we amidst this cultural fusion? Can anybody belong in the very soil who remembers Paleo-Indians hunting and the Tequesta gathering? It’s amidst this identity crisis where the answer lies. It’s the freedom our young bodies feel when we parade through these paths without fully grasping the absurdity of this terrain’s massive historical exchange. In a land so diverse, we all belong. 

South Beach as Text

“The Glamour Facade”, by Andrea S. Rodriguez Matos of FIU at South Beach Walking Tour on September 23, 2020. 

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

When they teach us about segregation, they often talk about the subject as if it happened in a time far from our own. Little emphasis is given to the closeness of the “Black Codes” and “Jim Crow” laws —which existed for about 100 years, from the post-Civil War era until 1968, only 52 years ago—that openly discriminated African Americans and other nonwhite groups. It is uncommon to sit through a lecture that explicitly informs us of the policies that ensured black people and their fellow third-class citizens could not achieve the progress they were promised and would not benefit from the “American dream.”

This deliberate ignorance has blinded us from the contemporary violations of civic rights and the microaggressions that continue to haunt the marginalized groups in our society. We often forget that through the exploitation and underpaid labor of black and brown bodies, the very cities and attractions we now enjoy were built.

The City of Miami Beach is home to various cultural and artistic attractions such as museums, artist residencies, Art Basel, and Art Deco architecture’s most extensive collection globally. Its vibrant nightlife, with regularly packed live music venues, restaurants, and bars only steps away from the beach, makes this city one of the most visited destinations. However, concealed behind its flashy neon signs and liberal flags is a long and repulsive history of discrimination. 

Destroyed of its original blooming ecosystem of sandbars and mangroves lead by white upper-class businessmen with a god complex, Miami Beach is a perfect example of a city that was never meant to be. Laborers worked under severe conditions to clear the mangroves, deepen the water channels surrounding it and fill the area with sand and soil found elsewhere. This brief recollection helps us understand the lengths the ambitions of men will go to ensure a life of glamor, even at the expense of its community and environment. 

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

Ever since the first constructions begun in Miami Beach, segregation laws permitted African Americans’ expulsion from its borders. African Americans could only enter in two conditions: as a worker or entertainer, and even then, they were not allowed to live in the municipality. Black tourists could not stay at the hotels on the beach and would only be permitted on specific beaches and others only on Mondays. Jews were another marginalized group that suffered maltreatment. Their skin color allowed them access to buy properties and visit beaches, hotels, restaurants, and other venues but restricted them doing so only south of 5th street. 

Recent events in our sociopolitical climate have unearthed that racism and xenophobia are issues that haven’t been appropriately solved or given the necessary attention. To this day, north of 5th street continues to be an area privileged by the presence of heavily guarded police and many active maintenance and custodian teams, more so than in the south. So, as we paraded through the empty streets of Ocean Drive, it was evident that even 52 years after the end of Jim Crow, we still have a long way to go and a lot of work to do.

Bakehouse as Text

“The Parallels of Art and Science” by Andrea S. Rodriguez Matos of FIU at Bakehouse Art Complex on October 7, 2020.

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

The minute we walked into the gallery, we came across giant wooden structures scattered all around the space. This site-specific installation, titled “Future Pacific,” is a work in-the-making by Miami-based artist Lauren Shapiro housed in the Bakehouse Art Complex. Shapiro’s project develops as a collaboration with the research of marine ecologist Dr. Nyssa Silbiger, whose objective is to create urgency for preserving the coral reef’s essential role for the environment. Academia often makes science and art into diametrical oppositions, but Shapiro and Silbiger are looking to enhance each other’s practice to preserve the most important aquatic species.

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

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. Typically, museums and gallery spaces prohibit physical interaction with any exhibition or artwork, yet here we are encouraged to participate and get our hands dirty. There were no restrictions; we were free to explore the different possibilities the materials allow us. Our job was to press the clay into the silicone molds of coral skeletons and reef animal bones to adhere to the big wooden structures that, when finished, will transform into an artistic representation of a fossilized coral reef.

Shapiro invited us to view her studio where buckets of new and old clay filled the entirety of the space. It was interesting to see her whole process, from making the clay to the final product of 100% recycled material. Moreover, it allowed us to immerse ourselves personally, not just in the artmaking, but also in the artist’s daily routine. 

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

We conversed about the oceans’ importance and the harmful impact our everyday activities cause during our time there. I distinctively remember Professor Bailly tells us: “If trees are the lungs of the earth, coral reefs are the lungs of the ocean,” this statement got me thinking about the issue of deforestation and how we are doing the same to our oceans.  We live in a connected world, yet we have chosen to disassociate and ignore the damage we have caused. I am proud to have been part of a project that asked of its participants to be more conscious of the environment and demanded us to do introspection in how we contribute to the destruction of our marine ecosystems.  

Rubell as Text

“Museum Magic,” by Andrea S. Rodriguez Matos of FIU at Rubell Museum on October 21, 2020.

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

The art world is like the human body, where different parts with different functions ultimately come together to experience life. Similarly, the art world is an industry that divides itself into three major components: the art market, art institutions (both private and public), and academia. People often like to keep these three sections separate, unable to coexist, yet most don’t understand that, like the body, they collaborate to perform as efficiently as possible.

The formerly called Rubell Family Collection is a private art collection located in Miami, Florida, that began with the joined efforts of Don and Mera Rubell 54 years ago. The Rubell Museum is one of the world’s most significant contemporary art collections and a first-rate example of synthesizing the three major components within the art world.  The Rubell’s acquire the artworks through the private art market, which gives them the freedom to display and champion artists they believe in and are seminal to the city’s cultural development and the world. To emphasize their public mission, the museum has implemented programs that invite local students to engage with the art and artists. It welcomes art historians, curators, and artists to participate in their internships and artists’ residencies. I believe it is through this fusion that the Rubell Museum succeeds.

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

The museum’s diverse and generous selection of artists from different countries and ethnic backgrounds was one of the most impressive things to behold. Given the grandeur of the 36 galleries within the museum, it’s not a surprise that the collection houses grand installations and hundred-foot paintings. Never shying from a controversial topic, the museum holds many shocking pieces that would not be viewed elsewhere if it were not for the private acquisition.

Since our lives became consumed by the pandemic, I had not visited a museum, and, as a regular museum-goer, this was an emotional trip. As cliché, as it sounds art, has always been an encouraging force throughout my life, and in these months of isolation, I had forgotten just how much life art grants me. Walking through the carefully curated walls is magical to me; it transports me to another universe. At that moment, the museum becomes the gatekeeper to different worlds, where numerous stories are allowed space for others to see, and that, to me, is the power of art.

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

Deering Hike as Text

“A Breath of the Wild,” by Andrea S. Rodríguez Matos of FIU at Deering Estate on November 3, 2020.

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

On Wednesday morning, I woke up with many worries on my mind and found it hard to breathe. Crumbling anxiety from the United States Presidential Election and the coronavirus pandemic’s months-long concerns invaded my mind restlessly. Once I was able to catch my breath I realized it was finally the day I would venture through the Deering Estate’s magical ecosystems.

We often forget that the ground we walk on has been touched by thousands, if not millions of people, from the Paleo-Indians to the Afro-Bahamians to the tourist escaping the north’s cold weather. It is rare that within a metropolis as young as Miami, we find spaces that can transport us to a time 10,000 years back. We traveled through mangroves, pine rocklands, meadows, and hardwood hammocks as our geographical ancestors once did to find various ecosystems working together to survive.

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

As we trekked on through the wilderness, the fact that we were still in Miami and that we hadn’t crossed an invisible portal to another world was unfathomable. It was hard not to be consumed by the beauty of nature in its most natural state. I was mesmerized by the beautiful patterns created by the light escaping through the interconnected web of tree branches and firmly rooted mangroves.

As we continued to explore, I forced myself to imagine what life was like for the people before me thousands of years ago. I could imagine them walking side by side, finding the tools they would need to hunt, drill, and dig. I could visualize them gathering plants and the food necessary for their survival. And I could envision them bathing and drinking from the pools of freshwater and using the variety of trees to build their homes, canoes, and tools. I couldn’t help but ask myself what would’ve become such a complex society had it not been from their annihilation.

Once we reached the Tequesta Burial Mound, the energy shifted. Combatant feelings of joy and sadness made their way into my mind. This place was only a reminder of the massacre our most ancient ancestors suffered upon the arrival of greedy men looking to colonize and exterminate anyone who stood in their way. As I reached the closest I could be to the burial site, I realized that sitting on top of this mound, of 18 Tequesta burials, is an enormous oak tree that I choose to believe carries, in its roots and branches, the very souls of the Tequesta live on. And I could breathe with ease again.

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

Everglades as Text

“Nature’s Mosaic,” by Andrea S. Rodríguez Matos of FIU at Everglades National Park on January 13, 2021.

After a tumultuous year riddled with a global pandemic, political dilemmas, ecological disasters, and social upheaval, a trip to the Everglades seemed like a wonderful opportunity to start a new year right. Away from the Miamian metropolis’ bustling streets lies thousands of acres of land dedicated to preserving the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States.

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

As we immersed ourselves into the wilderness, becoming one with nature, slogging through the towering cypress trees made everyday worries seem ridiculous and foolish. So much time of our lives is wasted in reminiscing the past and anxiously planning our future that we forget there’s nothing like living in the present. There’s nothing that makes one more present than smelling the fresh air, feeling the wind on your face, and hearing the birds sing. It serves almost as a reminder to take a breath, to look up at the sky, and rejoice in the fact that there’s life at its purest when you’re surrounded by water and earth. The crystal water was a testament that even the muddiest of environments hold balance and beauty.

Perhaps my favorite part of this unforgettable day was when our guide and park ranger Dylann Turffs, made us quietly stand still where no cars could be heard to fully appreciate the space we were exploring. She then read us a poem by Anne McCrary Sullivan that validated the feelings I had when standing still in the middle of the cypress.

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

“[…] I am inconsequential here

I am inconsequential everywhere

but here I have no illusions

whatever dies dies

whatever gets devoured gets devoured

waters rise and fall clouds move,

the buzzing profusion continues […]”

In a land so close to our homes is an oasis of raw nature. A dynamic variety of ecosystems makes the Everglades one of nature’s most impressive mosaics. There is something otherworldly about the artworks one finds in nature. No man, despite ability and drive, can replicate the complexity of patterns, colors, lines, and forms magically given to us through the environment’s imagination. There’s no limit to what this complex ecological system can provide us, and it is why it’s so important we make an effort to care for this world’s life source.

Wynwood as Text

“New Perspectives,” by Andrea S. Rodríguez Matos of FIU at The Margulies Collection and Locust Projects on January 27, 2021.

Our first stop of the day was the Margulies Collection in Wynwood, and I was excited as ever to finally visit one of the most talked-about private collections in Miami. This excellent warehouse houses an exciting range of contemporary art worldwide, but perhaps their most impressive feature is the massive photographic collection at their disposal. The photographs take a unique space within the warehouse and are displayed salon-style along a long hallway, and it was this impressive display of the photographs that consumed me, I was in awe.

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

During our time in the Locust Projects to view their newest exhibition/installation titled “Made by Dusk”, we met Mette Tommerup, the artist. This exhibition is the third installment of an exhibition trilogy where she transforms the space and calls for a state of ethereal stillness and reflection. The spiritual informs the installation as Tommerup draws inspiration from Freya, the Nordic Goddess of love, war, and transformation.

Top left photograph taken by Skyler Hayman. The remaining photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

As a person who has been acquainted with art and its history since high school, every time I venture into a new museum, exhibition, or collection, I find myself looking for technical and artistic clues that indicate the piece’s intention. I pay attention to the artwork’s context regarding the time it was produced and the visual composition, and the elements and materials that merge into the work before me.  I am not an expert at observing art, but I am passionate about what I am looking at. However, when one studies art history, it is easier to be consumed by the technicalities and academic aspects of viewing art rather than entering an exhibition and letting my mind wander. During our time in Margulies Collection and Locust Projects, my classmates reminded me of the importance of the raw and emotional connection with art. Their instinctive reactions, whether it was love, hate, or disregard for the pieces within these collections, made my understanding of them all the better. A few of my classmates showed powerful feelings about the value of an artwork, the artist’s intention and application, and the final product itself that made the conversations more exciting and thought provoking. I appreciated and questioned the works around me from a new perspective through them.  More often than not, the reaction of someone not as educated in the arts is more impressive than those who have spent their whole lives immersed in it.

Bill Baggs as Text

“New Lessons,” by Andrea S. Rodríguez Matos of FIU at Bill Baggs State Park on February 10, 2021.

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

Our experience at Bill Baggs State Park did not disappoint. Ranger Shane Zigler was a great addition to our time there as he provided interesting insights about the history of Key Biscayne and the Lighthouse. Professor Bailly helped us put things in a global perspective and gain context on Key Biscayne’s importance from its first settlers, the Tequesta, to the Spaniards who settled and the modernization efforts that began after Florida became part of the United States of America. As we walked the path that lay in front of us, I always wondered how this piece of land could have looked like when the Tequesta were here. It is their stories I long to hear and record in my mind forever. Yet when many people think of the Tequesta about Key Biscayne, they only focus on the famous incident known as the attack on July 23, 1836, during the Seminole Wars, in which they (Tequesta) took the lighthouse. However, it is essential to remember that this event did not happen without cause.  The Tequesta decided to take this course of action because they were being massacred all over the South and kept being pushed down further and further every time. It then became clear they could either fight or be exterminated. To say that the Tequesta were treated poorly is to oversimplify this situation’s gravity. This is the reason I sympathized when they attacked the lighthouse; they were sending a message of resilience and defiance. It’s a victory nobody will ever be able to take away from them.

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

Since I first moved to South Florida three years ago from Puerto Rico, I have to admit that I underwent tremendous struggle to adapt to life here. I was quick to judge a big city because of the culture shock I experienced and the bubble of my everyday life. The months turned into years of me judging a place I knew absolutely nothing about; then, I took this class that explores the real Miami, and I am left utterly speechless. Through these immersive lectures, I reflect on how wrong I was about South Florida. I let my ignorance and lack of experience taint the beauty of a land so rich in history and culture.

River of Grass as Text

“No Man’s Land,” by Andrea S. Rodríguez Matos of FIU at Everglades National Park on February 24, 2021.

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

 For a second time this semester, we went to explore the Everglades National Park. Having only ventured through a small portion of this ecosystem, we uncovered new spaces of this wonderful wilderness. This time around, we focused on the Everglades’ human history, from the man-made disasters to the preservation efforts that others have started to reverse the damage done. The whole day I was going back and forth in history, trying to wrap my head around the hardships the land I was happily exploring had gone through. 

As we have learned throughout the semester, humans have lived in the Florida Everglades as far back as 15,000 years ago. The two major tribes that were living as hunter-gatherers were the Calusa and the Tequesta. The Everglades had remained untouched 300 years after the first Spaniard arrived in Florida until the State decided they could begin selling their “worthless swampland” for profit. Among the industrialist responsible for the quick deterioration of the Everglades was Hamilton Disston, Henry Flagler, and Richard J. Bolles. All of which have been praised in one way or another for Florida’s development, yet little is said about the natural and human impact of their so-called “vision”. The same vision that led them to declare a war against nature and Florida’s native inhabitants, all to begin converting the northern Everglades into suburbs, and sugar plantations. Through it all it has been mostly women, like Marjory Stoneman Douglas and others who led the most radical groups of preservation and restoration of the land in South Florida. These women were the ones who knew the true ecological value of the Everglades and decided to make awareness of the damage done.

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

It is overwhelming to learn how ambitious man’s greed is to get to the point of such an ecological disaster. And to make matters worse on the very land that had been cared for hundreds of years before by the Native Americans. These tribes whose members were brutally murdered by the first Spanish and English conquistadors and by the Americans years later were the ones who held the true vision and the answers to natural harmony. By eradicating them and erasing any contribution, or role played in Florida’s history was how these developers could implement their business models and how they got awarded with the titles of “pioneers.” This disconnection from nature, separating humans from the natural world, has lasted to this very day and comes from the obliteration of the Native Americans that have survived from the political and socioeconomic institutions.

When researching erasure and ownership, I came across several accounts of different Native American tribes that understood and continue to affirm that nature provides all that we need to survive. Oren Lyons, Faithkeeper of the Wolf Clan of the Seneca Nation of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy explains that the earth is our mother, and the plants and animals are our relatives. When asked about ownership he recalls when the first colonizers arrived, how the chiefs of the time laughed when asked about the ownership of the land saying, “How can you buy land?” For its their belief that land cannot be owned, dominated or possessed, simply put the earth was only under their care and protection. I long to see what Florida would have looked like had we treated the inhabitants of this land with humanity. What would our mindset and our life be like had we just sat down and listened to their divine instructions to respect life, above everything else.

Frost Art Museum as Text

“Decolonizing our Museum,” by Andrea S. Rodríguez Matos of FIU at The Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum on March 12, 2021.

Our society is filled with racist and misogynistic institutions that have never felt the pressure to change because white supremacy has made consistent efforts to keep minority groups from climbing up the ranks to the change-making positions that could begin to change this narrative. Museums as cultural institutions have always been seen as holy temples and societal change leaders where artists could present their controversial and modern ideas. However, throughout history, the artists allowed in those rooms and allowed to voice those opinions were white men and never women, people of colors, or any who didn’t fit in the Anglo-Saxon and heteronormative norm. The administration of these institutions isn’t the only thing that is being done wrong in museums; there is still a huge representation problem. The modern museum is unquestionably intertwined with the history of colonization, specifically since these collections were started by wealthy collectors who traveled extensively and brought back artifacts from third-world countries and displayed them in their homes.

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

An interesting conversation that popped up during our visit to the Frost Art Museum was in Pepe Mar’s “Tesoro”, an exhibition that in its core seeks to recontextualize artworks and artifacts from the museum’s permanent collection, was the placement and intention behind a group of artifacts and masks. In one of its sections, an installation features many masks from different cultures, all for them to be dumped in an explosive and colorful wallpaper, which begs the question if these masks are thrown to be just that, decorative wallpaper which perpetuates a larger colonial mindset. In many cases, museums tend to lose the human connection these works may have had at one beginning. On this wall, masks of various indigenous cultures are displayed side by side. Even though Pepe Mar intends to “come together” and surpass our differences, I think his curatorial choice of placing the masks leaves a wide door open to the wrong type of interpretation. Of not giving these artifacts the dignity they deserve. Like how in oceanic cultures, masks are used at different times of the year to honor their spirits and ancestors.

With an increasing consciousness of the oppressive, racist, and misogynistic tendencies being practiced in these institutions, more leadership roles within cultural and artistic organizations have been given to women and people of color. In recent years, museum workers and museum-goers have an abundance of initiatives to “decolonize” the museum. Decolonizing the museum is a new movement that forces these institutions to take drastic measures to change the way they present artwork, curate and diversify their collections and exhibitions. This new movement seeks to ask these museums to listen to the underrepresented communities and move their colonial mindset of privilege and authority to provide a platform for horizontal and equitable conversations.

Overall, the Frost has always been an institution that engages in controversial conversations and champions underrepresented artists and regions such as the Caribbean and Latin American, and the Latinx diasporic community.

Coral Gables as Text

“The Racist Fairyland,” by Andrea S. Rodríguez Matos of FIU at the City Coral Gables on March 24, 2021.

As a person who comes from very humble beginnings, when I walk or drive through Coral Gables, I always feel out of place. The wealthy neighborhoods with big houses, ample roads, and freshly cut grass are just a few of the undeniable opulence indicators compared to its bordering cities. And although the idea of “The Gables” came from a man of modest upbringing, the city itself was always meant to be what it is today, very rich, prosperous, and extremely out of touch with the rest of its southern Floridian reality. As can be expected of a city built entirely on a dream, a utopia of sorts, where he could convert all the fantastical things he read into his reality. When planning what he sought to accomplish, George Merrick once wrote:

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

“I dream of the home of the Fairies and Fays,
on the isles of the calm southern sky,
Of the fanciful turrets and towers ablaze
In the flood of the rays from on high…”

During the Florida land boom of the 1920s, Merrick began the project that had resided in the depths of his imagination since he was a boy, making one of the first planned communities that we know now as Coral Gables. He sought collaborators to help him develop the city’s signature architecture style called Mediterranean Revival to resemble Southern Spain built by the Moors. Like much of South Florida, pioneers and visionaries are always credited for creating a city, but little is said about the people who literally built it. The development and building of Coral Gables are owed to the labor of Bahamian immigrants to South Florida. These workers were incredibly proficient in making coral rock into a malleable material and converting the rocky country into rich farmland. Merrick was right, but shouldn’t be praised, to credit their expertise. He once explained, “In the Bahamas, there is the same coral rock; and the Bahamians knew how to plant on it, and how to use it, and they knew too that all kinds of tropical trees would grow and thrive on this rock. They, too, had a vital influence upon our civilization in bringing in their own commonly used trees, vegetables, and fruits.”

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

However lovely the sentiment to credit them as they are not acknowledged further than a few lines on a piece of paper. To this day, Coral Gables has never been a neighborhood that openly welcomes non-whites, with a population of 91.85% White/White Hispanic, as reported on the 2020 US Census. “The Gables” and its founder never meant to welcome a non-white population. Merrick is explicitly known to have made racist segregationist beliefs and advocated for racist policies throughout his career as a developer and his role as head of the Miami-Dade Planning Board. He went as far as saying before a Miami Board of Realtors meeting that the “removal of Black residents [is] fundamental in achieving the goals for the rest of Miami.” What is most shocking about all of this is how it is an issue that persists today, visible for all to see the moment anyone passes the city lines into Coral Gables.

Vizcaya as Text

“Our last visit: Vizcaya,” by Andrea S. Rodríguez Matos of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens on April 7th, 2021.

Involving nearly a tenth of Miami’s population in its construction, Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is one of the most significant projects and legacies of one James Deering. Known for his role as the treasurer and then vice-president of the Deering Harvester Company was a man whose love for European culture and antiquities characterized his vision for his landmark Vizcaya. In 1912 Deering acquired the land from Mary Brickell as a somewhat retired bachelor and set out to build his dream home in South Florida’s jungle hammock. With the help of Paul Chalfin, Burrall Hoffman, and Diego Suarez and thousands of Bahamian stonemasons and workers, a lavish Italian-Mediterranean revival waterfront villa with spacious Renaissance revival gardens and a detail-oriented architectural interior full of European, Asian, and American furnishing, art, and antiquities that go back thousands of years. He was part of the out-of-touch elite who romanticized the colonization of the Americas and Europeans’ expeditions.

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

Utilizing his incredible wealth, he had access to travel extensively through Europe. He collected the highest forms of art he desired, and, in a way, it provided him the ability to borrow culture without question. The furnishings and decors themselves are priceless items such as a rug that belonged to King Ferdinand of Spain’s grandfather and the base of a table from Pompeii’s ruins. Besides these wonders from old European culture, he included modern features such as elevators, a modern phone system, fire control, and central heating. With this combination of the old and the new, he added illusion and mystery to his story, creating a façade of sorts, all within the norms of his extravagant and lavish lifestyle present in the statement that was Vizcaya. Just like in his interior, Deering wanted in his garden the presence of both Europe and Miami. This is why even in his garden, he made sure to infuse classical Italian and French design mixed into the subtropical flora. His use of stone and his interest in the light’s modulation also showcase his need to create an environment that welcomed his passion for Europe and his love of Miami.

All photographs taken and edited by Andrea Sofia R. Matos/CC BY 4.0

An interesting quote that I found when researching Vizcaya and Deering further was Kathryn Chapman Harwood, writer of “The Lives of Vizcaya: Annals of a Great House,” who says that “Although Vizcaya speaks of the 16th, the 17th, and the 18th centuries, of the Renaissance, baroque, rococo, neoclassic, there still hangs in the air, in the manner of living the house illustrates so well, the most fascinating memory of all. There is the still intact vision of a whole social class just moments before its familiar world shattered.” Her book focuses on the recently found priceless documents and records that were evidence of the lost stories of the people who worked there and an agonizing tale of its complex conception for the short five years; Deering was able to enjoy it. I will say, I have a love and hate relationship with Mr. James Deering but will always acknowledge him as being one of the people who truly set-in stone (literally) and somehow predicted what Miami would become a hundred years later.

Trent Martino: Miami as Text


Me with my first electric guitar that I got during Summer 2020

Hello Everyone! My name is Trent, and I am a student at Florida International University, and I am taking John Bailley’s 2020-2021 Art Society Conflict course. My major is Electrical Engineering, but I’d say that my interests are far greater than just math and science. Ever since I was a young child, I was in love with just about everything related to the arts. My notebooks were filled with doodles of action heroes, obscure vehicles and of course, some of my favorite animals. When I was in middle school, I played violin in our school orchestra at Southwood Middle School. I’d say that while the violin was not necessarily my passion, I definitely developed a love for playing and making music. Now, as a hobby I am trying to learn to play the guitar. Middle school was also where I got in to skateboarding, which has been a passion of mine since.

As I got older, I started to become more interested in politics and the way people operate, and how we got to where we are. I am excited to learn in this class not only how people think, but how they express what they think through art and how these two things shape my home city of Miami.

Deering as Text

“Miami’s Home of History” by Trent Martino of FIU at Deering Estate

September 9, 2020

Your first impressions of the Deering Estate might be misleading if you have never been there before. The drive to the property will take you through some very modern neighborhoods, and in particular Miami fashion, none of the houses seem to belong next to each other, and they all creep right up to this historic site. However, once you step on to the property you will get to experience how breath-taking it is.

Our class as we walk through the entrance of the Deering Estate

The history at the Deering Estate begins many years before John Deering ever stepped foot on the property. The original inhabitants of this land was a tribe of indigenous people known as the Tequesta. Inside the Richmond cottage, there is a display of some of the artifacts and tools that were made and used by the Tequesta’s.

The older of the two houses on the property, the Richmond Cottage, was originally constructed in 1896 by S. H. Richmond, and was reconstructed by his wife Edith Richmond in 1900. 16 years before Charles Deering purchased the property. After Edith did some renovations to the property, the Richmond Cottage acted as the southernmost hospitality resource in the United States. The docks right behind the cottage made it an ideal spot for wealthy travelers looking for a tropical get-away along the Atlantic coast.

The other main building on the property is the Stone House. The stone house was build after Charles Deering purchased the property. Construction began in 1922 and took about a year to complete. This house served as the primary residency of Charles Deering and his family when they were in South Florida.

A view of the western side of the Stone House
A view from the top of the Stone House, looking northeast towards the coast

The architecture of the Stone House is probably the best physical representation of Miami that you can find. It was designed by Charles Deering, who was a European white guy from Maine, and much of the construction on the Stone House was done by One of his inspirations for the building came from Islamic architecture, which can be seen from the pointed and onion-shaped arches along the outside of the building. What is even more fascinating is that this building, designed by a white man, inspired by Islamic architecture, was built by a ton of other ethnic minorities from around the area.

I believe that the construction of the Stone House points to an amazing quality of Miami: a bunch of cultures and ethnic groups coming together in one giant melting pot, forever living with each other, giving and taking influence, so much so until original ideas are hard to pinpoint as they mesh together.

South Beach as Text

“Strip of History” by Trent Martino of FIU in South Beach

September 23, 2020

This week, Professor Bailley took us on a trip around South Beach in Miami. As a South Florida native, I have been to South Beach many times in my life, and to be quite honest, I was not excited for this trip at first. I think that since I have lived in such close proximity to the area my whole life, I had become jaded to what the atmosphere of South Beach was. To me, it was just crowded beaches with weird building and over-priced food. But I put my trust in Professor Bailly to show me something new. In all honesty, he blew my mind. He was able to introduce me to so many amazing and interesting things about Miami, and I am so glad that I was able to take this tour with him. I now have a much deeper appreciation for South Beach, and Miami as a whole.

I used to think that the architecture on South Beach was just a random mess of strange buildings with no rhyme or reason to them. While this may be true for some, I now understand that the style of South Beach is totally unique, and each building is essentially a piece of fine art. The reason why it looks so disorganized is because each person who wanted to make a building had their own vision in mind for the architectural style, and walking down the street is like walking through time, seeing how ideas and tastes change as Miami developed. Professor Bailley informed us on the major design styles: “Mediterranean revival,” “Miami Modern” or “MiMo,” “Art Deco,” and while this is not necessarily a style, there are some old western style building along South Beach as well. I think that out of all of them, my favorite design styles are MiMo and Art Deco. Those two look extremely unique, and I don’t think that I have seen those design styles any where else. But to be honest, I never took the time to appreciate them until now.

I like how Miami is very different from other places. While I still think that it’s “messy” in terms of its style, I now appreciate that mess as people trying to experiment with different things, and to express themselves through the designs of their businesses. And in the end, I think that is what South Beach is all about: expression and freedom.

I think another aspect of this trip that made this trip especially interested is that we went during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, South Beach was pretty much vacant. While there were some people there, it was absolutely nothing like a typical day in Miami. A lot of the famous businesses were closed to the public and even some public facilities were as well. While this may seem like a bummer, I think it really gave us an opportunity to see and appreciate everything without the added stress of trying to navigate around crowds of pedestrians.

Here you can see just how empty South Beach was during our trip. Compared to a normal day, this makes South Beach look like a total ghost town. Even the restaurants were almost begging for our business as we were passing by.

Bakehouse as Text

“Repurpose for a Purpose” by Trent Martino of FIU at the Bakehouse Art Complex

October 7, 2020

The Bakehouse in Wynwood is currently working on a fantastic exhibit that is using art to teach the public about an extremely important scientific issue. The leading artist, Lauren Shapiro, is working with environmental scientists to create an exhibit that is going to show people the damage that we are doing to the Earth’s coral reefs.

Coral reefs are a vital part of our ecosystem, and without them, tons of ocean life will perish, and consequently, much of the life on land will follow with it, since so much of the two environments depend on each other. There are many ways we pollute the ocean, including trash that escapes into the ocean, runoff from farmland, construction along the coast, over fishing, and much much more. All of these things can cause the coral to go through a process called “coral bleaching,” which is where they lose their color as they die. Lauren Shapiro and the artists she works with are using clay to demonstrate this process. Lauren worked with a group of scientists that create realistic 3D models of coral, and she used those to make molds out of a silicone-based substance. She then uses those molds to make clay versions of those different pieces of coral. They also built these massive wooden structures that the clay gets placed on. Over time, the clay will dry up, becoming pale and cracked, and also fall off of the wood, to visually simulate what happens to our coral reefs due to our negligence.

The silicone molds that Lauren made using 3D models of coral reefs from researchers
Some of the clay models that were made using the silicone molds

I think that the best part of this exhibit is that it beautifully combines a scientific issue with an artist application. I think that the hardest part of conveying a message as important as climate is that the information and the consequences can be difficult to explain with words alone. In order to show people the real consequences, we need artists that can think of amazing ideas like this that will really resonate with people. I hope that more artists get the opportunity to make informational exhibits like this, and I hope more scientists are open to doing the same.

Rubell as Text

“Private Ownership for Public Benefit” by Trent Martino of FIU at Rubell Family Collection Art Museum

October 21, 2020

The Rubell Museum is a fantastic and beautiful gem within Miami. I have never been to an art museum like it before, and Professor Bailey was able to explain to me why that is, and why it is so important.

The Rubell Museum is privately owned by the Rubell family. It is, in every sense, their own personal art collection that the family opens up to the public. Since it is a privately-owned museum, they are allowed to display whatever they want to. A lot of artwork in their museum could be considered controversial. There are many sexually-explicit pieces of art here. It is quite shocking if you are not used to see this type of stuff in a professional setting (well, an art museum is considered to be “professional” to me), but to be honest, it was very refreshing and enlightening. It was not disturbing, but just surprising. Being exposed to how vulnerable many of these artists can be when they express their art really changed my perspective on what art can be. If this were not a private collection, and was instead operated by as a government entity, they would never have shown the type of artwork that is currently in the Rubell Museum.

Let me be clear that the Rubell Museum contains a lot more than just sexually-explicit art. They have an expansive collection of contemporary art (all of the pictures that I took at the museum are some examples of the kind of artwork that can be found here at the Rubell Museum. I just think that being able to display artwork that is controversial is important. Professor Bailly made the point that artwork as explicit as the pieces displayed at the Rubell Museum would never be allowed to be put up at any government-owned facility, such as the Frost Art Museum at FIU. I do not think that this is necessarily a bad thing that FIU would not put up this type of art, I just believe that everything needs its place, and the Rubell Museum has the freedom to display what other institutions cannot.

I know that these revelations may seem trivial to others, but these are things that I never really considered before. This trip allowed me to learn more about the world of contemporary art, and how much it matters.

Deering Hike as Text

“Authentic Miami” by Trent Martino of FIU at Deering Estate

November 4, 2020

Today, we went on a special hike through the Deering Estate that is not normally open to the public. On this hike, we got to see what Miami was originally like, with all of the natural habitats still (barely) untouched by modern development.

Through the Deering Estate, there are many natural areas that seem vastly different, but coexist right next to each other naturally. There is a grove of mangroves, sitting on top of the water, right next to a dessert-like field of pine trees. This is the most beautiful site I have ever seen in South Florida. I think it is amazing that the Deering Estate has preserved these natural areas. I am a huge fan of maintaining nature, and I think that every effort that humans make to destroy or alter natural habitats is a crime against the Earth, so seeing such a beautiful place being preserved is a very comforting thing.

One of the coolest things that I saw during the whole hike are these massive chunks of limestone (although Professor Bailley called it by a different name, I cannot think of it at the moment) that have been cut into and formed by the water that flows through and around it. There are even caves made from this naturally-cut limestone, and it blows my mind when you think about how long these rocks and these waters must have been here for these sights to have been formed.

Not only has the nature of the Deering Estate been protected, but relics of the native population have also been kept intact. Throughout the site, you can find the tools that were used by the native people who originally lived here, and they are made out of shells! These tools can be found all over the place, hidden in the muddy waters around the mangroves. You can see how the shells were broken and sharpened into tools such as knives and digging tools. Professor Bailly was willing to show us these tools, and holding them was a cool experience to see how innovative the native people were. What is even more amazing is that all of these small tools remained in the area after all these years of urban development and massive storms.

Downtown Miami as Text

“Miami: Conflicting History; Contradictory Values” by Trent Martino of FIU in Downtown Miami

November 25, 2020

For this days lecture, Professor Bailly took us on a walk around Downtown Miami. We got to see some historical sights and learn more about the city. From this trip, I learned more about how Miami became a city and its early days of being incorporated.

The first house built in Miami, which belonged to an interracial couple

Before Miami was a city, it was used as farmland by some of the first big investors in the area. In one of the parks within the city, there are two historic buildings (however, this is not their original location, this is where the local government decided to place them as a way to preserve them). One of them is the first house ever built in the Miami area, which was made by a German immigrant who married a black woman who already had children from a previous marriage. So this is a white man who has a black wife and black stepchildren, and to make it even better, he would later befriend native people in the area and would have them over for dinner. This really is a great story of how Miami is, a diverse group of people from different backgrounds coming to sit at a table together.

The other historic building does not have as happy of a story, but it is still very important and very interesting. It was a small hut-like building, which was built by and used to house slaves. However, it did not remain that way. Throughout Miami’s history, it took on many roles as community buildings, even serving as a courthouse, where actual trials took place!

Plaque commemorating Major Dade outside of the Miami Dade Courthouse

When Americans wanted to colonize the original area of Miami, it was inhabited by Seminoles, which was a group mixed of displaced natives and escaped slaves. One of the American military groups that was coming to attack the Seminoles was lead by Major Francis Langhorne Dade. He led 117 men down through South Florida and was ambushed by around 200 Seminoles, and Major Dade and all of his men perished. Learning this, I think it’s weird that we deiced to name our county after a man who died trying to kill another group of people for the sake of colonization. What’s even more bizarre is the plaque that’s on the Miami Dade Courthouse, with its description of the events that occurred. I’ll leave it here for you to discover.

Statue of Henry Flagler that can be seen outside of the courthouse in Downtown Miami

When Miami was about to become a city, the residents in the area had to vote to determine whether or not to incorporate the area as a city. Henry Flagler was a major proponent for making Miami a city, and argued that his workers should have the right to vote since they worked and lived on the land. He was able to get his workers the ability to vote, and Miami became incorporated as a city. Afterwards, Flagler kicked out 300 of his black workers, and then segregated them into a town that he designated as Colored Town, which is now Overtown. I understand that Flager was extremely important to the development of Miami, but I still think that it is important that everyone living here learns about the bad things that he did as well. As professor Bailly put it, “He brought the railroads to Miami, but he also brought segregation.” On that note, I think it is inappropriate that, right in front of the plaque commemorating Major Dade in front of the Miami-Dade Courthouse, a building that is supposed to represent unbiased justice, there is a statue of Henry Flagler.

Exploding bowl of oranges and orange peels
Graffiti under bridge going over the Miami river

Even though Miami has a pretty rough history, it is still worth mentioning that it is a great hub of art and culture. On just our little walk, I was able to see two great pieces of public art. One of them is a broken statue of a bowl of oranges, exploding with pieces of the bowl and parts of the orange flying everywhere, which is next to the Government Center Station for the Metro Mover. The other piece is some street art found under one of the bridges going over the Miami river. This is a good reminder of how Miami can be really ugly from one perspective, with its gentrification and class segregation, but it can also be really beautiful with its dedication to art.

Margulies Collection as Text

By Trent Martino of FIU at the Margulies Collection

January 27, 2020

The Margulies Collection is a nice little spot in the Wynwood area of Miami, tucked right up next to I-95. On the outside it may not seem that interesting. A big, gray block in a town filled with bright graffiti and colorful in-your-face buildings with massive murals on them might make it seem boring. But that is because this building doesn’t need to use art on the outside to get your attention. It’s what’s on the inside that matters, and it houses an amazing contemporary art collection.

Photo taken by Trent Martino/ CC BY 4.0

As soon as you walk in, you are greeted with very interesting pieces of artwork, however, if you visit in the future, you may be greeted by something else, as the museum rotates its collections quite regularly. However, when I came, you get smacked in the face with some deeply emotional stuff. To your right there is (currently) a massive collection of figures made out of what appears to be burlap sacks, but with their heads missing. From what the museum employee told us about the artist and this piece in particular, it sounded to me like she was describing how situations in life can lead us to dehumanize other people.

Photo taken by Trent Martino/ CC BY 4.0

To the opposite wall of where you can find the piece above, there is a wall of some abstract art where the artist was turning the idea of a canvas and make that the focus of this collection. There are many different ways the artist took the idea of a canvas and distorted it and rearranged the components of it to make them look like completely different things. I think this is a good example of how art can be anything, you just need to find something that inspires you and then make it yours. I am particularly fond of the small blue one with the wooden cross in it. It looks like he took the canvas and almost inverted it, taking the outer edges and putting them into the center of the artwork.

Photo taken by Trent Martino/ CC BY 4.0

One of the most interesting pieces in the entire collection is this bizarre display of a woman’s face being projected onto a doll that has its head buried under a mattress. The woman whose face was on the doll was talking sporadically, with many displays of rapid changes from happiness to deep despair, almost as if she were representing a mental patient or someone on some serious psychedelics. It was definitely one of the strangest things that I have ever seen, and the medium of the art was also incredibly unique compared to everything that I have ever seen before. Clearly my classmates must have been entranced by it as well, since it was the one we spent the most time staring at and talking about. One thing that this piece had me thinking about was how technology used in art is a medium that is in a particularly unique type of danger. As technology advances, we stop producing old versions of what we once had. One day, the light bulb in that projector will die out, or the laser for reading the DVD in this DVD player will burn out, or even the disk itself will no longer be usable. What will happen to this artwork then, when we run out of these components that are left over? If we replace the projector with more modern one, will the piece of art still be the same? I think these are incredibly interesting questions that the art world, and quite frankly even the world of science and technology, have to consider.

Overall, I believe that the Margulies Collection is a really unique spot to check out. There are many, many different collections and displays that I have not talked about, and i think that everyone who visits Miami should come take a look at what they have on display. It is worth mentioning that all Florida students can get into the museum for free when they show the staff their student ID card. If you can, I highly recommend you go check it out.

River of Grass as Text

By Trent Martino of FIU at Everglades National Park

Every time Professor Bailly takes us to the Everglades I find a new thing to love about them. It is really amazing at how much freedom visitors have when they come to this national park. Out of all of the times I visited as a younger child, I would have never thought to just start walking into the various fields that surround you. As a matter of fact, I almost instinctively thought that the only places you were allowed to go were the paths and walking trails. However, according to the park ranger reassured me that just about every bit of the everglades was open to the public (minus, of course, areas that are roped off and have signs that say otherwise). If you manage to get to the Everglades, I encourage you to walk off the trails as we did. Here are some of the things that you may be able to see.

Solution holes

Photo taken by Trent Martino / CC BY 4.0
Photo taken by Trent Martino / CC BY 4.0
Photo taken by Trent Martino / CC BY 4.0
Photo taken by John Bailly / CC BY 4.0
Photo taken by John Bailly / CC BY 4.0
Walking through the marshes

Well, I suppose some people might disagree with me calling these areas “marshes,” but I had a hard time finding a term that can accurately encompass the land that we walked through. The Everglades is such a diverse ecosystem that you truly can completely change your surroundings just by walking a few yards.

I must admit that I was too afraid to bring my phone through the wetlands, so pretty much all of the pictures from here on out were taken by my fantastic classmates, who were braver than I was.

The view right next to the solution hole that we visited. Normally the land is covered in water, but due to the specific weather conditions that occurred in the area, the land is bone dry, covered in dirt and rocks.
Photo taken by Trent Martino / CC BY 4.0
Our class walking off-trail
Photo Taken by Jennifer Quintero / CC BY 4.0

BEHOLD! The oldest standing structure in Miami!
Photo taken by Jennifer Quintero / CC BY 4.0

This was a great reminder of just how beautiful South Florida really is. It has a unique blend of organisms that grow together like nowhere else. The unfortunate part is, this area is in great danger from the effects of climate change. If we are not careful, then I feat that we will lose this beautiful landscape. I hope that everyone can see just how important this really is, and choose to act on it.

Frost as Text

by Trent Martino of FIU at the Frost Art Museum at FIU

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

For this class visit, we went to the First Art Museum. We visited two of the museum exhibits. One of them was a collection from a Venezuelan artist who was obsessed with roses, and the other was a collection of different artworks that were in the museums storage, arranged by a curator who worked at the museum. Although these two exhibits were vastly different in their content and the way they came to the musuem, they both had one thing in common, which is that they are both heavily dependent on the way they were curated.

The first collection that we visited is titled “Accumulate, Classify, Preserve, Display.” It is filled entirely with works from a Venezuelan artist named Roberto Obregon. Obregon was a man who was absolutely obsessed with roses. Through a period of 30 years, he took apart, cataloged and observed three dozen roses. He has sketches of roses, outlines of their petals, and even samples of petals that have been attacked by bugs. Everything in this collection is really bizarre and amazing. The one striking thing about this collection, though, is that Obregon had no involvement in its layout. Instead, what happened was, a group of artists got access to his collection works, were able to take them, and make all of the displays for his work. I think that this is extremely interesting. Here, we have a collection of a featured artist, where the artist had no involvement in how their work is being show to and shared with other people.

The other part of the museum that we visited is basically a curators playhouse. From what I understand, the curator goes through pieces of art in the museums storage vault, finds some that have a common theme, and then makes a display out of them. This one is made by Pepe Mar, and he calls it “Tesoro.” One of these rooms is called the “Cabinet of Curiosities.” An actual cabinet of curiosities is one where that a person will build as they travel and collect little nick knacks and whatnots from the places that they visited. Here, the curator tried to amplify that idea by placing a bunch of art pieces from different cultural regions in one room, all over the place. This lead to an interesting discussion with Professor Bailly about this specific piece, which contains several masks from different parts of the world, all hung up together with a playful background. The conversation that this sparked was around the question: “Is this offensive?” I think it definitely is. To me, it looks like it’s just a messy arrangement of items that represent different peoples cultural roots. To me, I think that they deserve more respect than just becoming someone’s art project. What also got me bothered was the fact that on the collections page on the First website, the curator is described as caring about the cultures that the artworks come from. I believe that if they truly cared, then they may find a way to at least incorporate some way for visitors to learn where they come from.

Photo taken by Trent Martino CC/ BY 4.0

From both of these exhibits, it got me to think about something: “Are curators artists?” When I think about this question, I want to say no. To me,a curator is just a person who organizes art, but are themselves not really artists. They’re almost just fancy interior designers. They are also not necessarily making anything, they are just taking what someone else made, and are putting their own spin on it. However, I do think that there are some important differences. The Obregon collection is a group of people organizing a collection in honor of the artist. The Tesoro one, on the other hand, is an artist looking at works that other people made, and just arranging them as they please with seemingly no regard for who made them, and then placing their name on it. The latter case, to me, makes curating seem like a fancy term for appropriating. Of course, I do not believe that the artist had any ill intent, nor do I believe that the Frost museum did, but I still that that this is interesting to think about.

Coral Gables as Text

by Trent Martino of FIU in Coral Gables and at the Biltmore Hotel

Wednesday March 24, 2021

This trip was split into two different events. For the first part, we had a tour of the Coral Gables Museum and then had a walking tour around the area, getting a historical perspective on the city and the area. The second part of the days trip was spent on an extensive tour of the Biltmore hotel, which has a lot of history in it itself.

Before this class I had no idea how much history Coral Gables really held. As it turns out, it is a fairly old city. In the early 1900s, the United States government installed a program to fund cities to make them more attractive, and to increase the population and the number of visitors. Fortunately for Coral Gables (and South Florida at large), they were selected as one of the cities for this project. These investments lead to the city prospering, allowing it to become what it is today.

During the second part of the days class, we got a tour of the Biltmore Hotel. The lady who gave us the tour was incredibly knowledgeable on the history of the building, and to be honest, it was a lot more interesting that I originally thought it would be. The Biltmore is a building that holds a lot of history. Since it was built in 1926. I think that the most interesting moment in the hotels history was when it was converted into an impromptu military base during World War II. During this time, it was used as a military hospital, and much of the original interior design was covered or altered according to government and military regulations for such a facility. The original flooring was covered with linoleum, the windows were sealed shut, and many of the rooms were sectioned off or split up. Even after the war, it was still used as a hospital for Veterans Affairs, and was even used to house the medical school for the University of Miami. Eventually a new VA hospital was built, and the hotel was abandoned for several years. Then through.a government program to maintain historic landmarks, they gave the city of Coral Gables full ownership of the hotel, and it was then restored. You can still see some of the scars from the way out was converted into a military base, but for the most part it seems to be in pretty good standing.