Miami Artists' Kulturpark Project Revives a Forgotten European Wonderland

Categories: Art
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It sounds like something out of a child's fantasy in a Spielberg movie: An amusement park that's laid abandoned for decades, suddenly rediscovered. Its statues rise above encroaching trees. Greenery grows over the rails of its roller coasters. Modern graffiti covers its retro facades. It's a hidden world just waiting to be explored.

That's the real-life experience you get when you enter Berlin's Kulturpark Plänterwald, says Anthony Spinello, owner of Spinello Projects in Wynwood. "It's very surreal. It feels like a movie set," he explains. "You kinda have to be there to get its entire essence."

That's why he, along with Agustina Woodgate, Stephanie Sherman, George Scheer, and over 30 Berlin-born and -based artists, have launched the Kulturpark project. Its goal: transform the park into a cultural, sustainable playground filled with art of all sorts -- and represent Miami's arts scene in the process.



Spinello and Woodgate first heard about the park in 2007, when two of their collaborators, George Scheer and Stephanie Sherman, returned from Berlin with tales of breaking into a near-magical hidden wonderland. "They jumped the fence; I believe it was on Christmas Day," Spinello remembers. "They spent some time in there, and brought all this excitement back to the U.S. [They said] they were caught by one security guard, who wished them Merry Christmas on the way out in English."

Soon, Spinello and Woodgate had booked a trip to see the space. It was impossible not to be inspired. "[We] fell in love with it like everyone else does... It's almost a like discovery or a dream. The amusement park is a private park inside a public park -- it's a very active area -- but [Kulturpark] is so overgrown that you don't even see the rides."

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And so the Kulturpark project began, announcing a call for submissions from Berlin-based artists, creatives, landscapers, and "anyone who could forsee how this land could be used in the 21st century," Spinello says. One hundred twenty applicants responded. Of them 30 will form a "creative camp," or artists' residency, in the park during the month of June.

Together, they'll transform the park with a diverse array of arts projects. Though nothing's set in stone yet, Spinello says that some artists plan to create "ecological graffiti" with moss; another plans to build bicycles out of the parts of broken-down rides. Music, films, live performances, and food and drink stands are all in the works.

If this were just your average Miami-artists-move-on-to-greener-pastures project, this would be the end of the story. But Spinello and his collaborators, who include Mastermind finalist Agustina Woodgate, made representing the Magic City a priority at Kulturpark. "We realized that all our time and effort was going into another country and another city," Spinello says, noting that he's spent about a third of the past year in Berlin for the project. "Agustina and I felt really concerned, almost like we were cheating on Miami. We've been working for the Miami arts scene since 2004, so it's unusual for us to be doing something in another place."

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So even as they focused on ensuring the project is driven by Berliners -- "We're not just bringing a bunch of Americans into another country to do a project in their land" -- they made sure that their work would benefit the 305, too. A Kultur-Exchange program invites students from South Florida and elsewhere to visit the site for 10 days, engaging in a series of lectures, workshops and other artistic pursuits. They're working with New World to bring students to the site, and has also enlisted Domingo Castillo and Patti Hernandez of The End / SPRING BREAK to create an experimental radio program as part of Radio Espacio Estacion, Woodgate's online radio platform, during the exchange.

"You hear about a lot of artists spending some time in Miami and then leaving, and people get really concerned -- 'How long will the artists be here?' 'Where are they going to go?' But we're really interested in not leaving, and if we do, [we want to] represent Miami in the best way possible."

Kulturpark launched a Kickstarter campaign yesterday, which Spinello says he hopes will raise a quarter of the funds necessary to make the project a reality. (The rest will come from grants and other sources.) You can check it out at www.kickstarter.com; and for more information on the park itself, visit kulturpark.org.

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