Stiltsville Could Become an Artists' Village, With Knight Arts Challenge Support
The problem with hosting an artists' residency aboard a pool noodle in the middle of the ocean is that the sculptors are going to sink and the painters are going to whine about their canvas getting wet.
Photo by Bran F. Call Leshaw House
But if the Stiltsville Trust has its way, the seven remaining houses of the Stiltsville community perched amid Biscayne Bay will become the solution to that problem. The Stiltsville Trust's residency program is one of 66 proposals recently announced as finalists in the Miami Knight Arts Challenge, a list that includes projects by museums, movie houses, an opera company, and even a puppet parade.
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Antoinette Baldwin filed the Knight proposal for the Stiltsville Trust, which helped to preserve the houses and incorporate them into the state holdings that would later became Biscayne National Park.
Photo by Brian F. Call Hicks House
"They have artists-in-residence in many national parks, but Biscayne National Park doesn't have one," she says. "The artists would get to experience Stiltsville and be inspired by it. There will be a traditional residence program and then also weekend or day residencies for artists who have jobs during the week. We may also do something with students, but that's down the line."
And though the houses are protected by a team of caretakers, the residency program isn't as simple as slapping some floaties on an artist and pointing towards the horizon.
"The biggest cost," Antoinette says, "is getting the artists to the place. You have to go by boat. That's the cost, that's what it takes. Putting the program together, there are some hours and there is some coordination. But you can't just drop a person in a house in the middle of the bay and hope they'll be fine."
Antoinette's husband Gail Baldwin is the chair of the Stiltsville Trust. He explains the challenges that face a Stiltsville residency that might not be faced by other similar programs.
"You have to know how to dock a boat, how the tides change and so forth," he tells Cultist. "The big boats that go down through the Biscayne channel create a big wake and, when they hit the house, if the boats aren't docked correctly, it can cause a lot of damage to the boats and the houses. Add to that, that they can't call the police, they can't call the fire department, and you see that you need to know what you're doing."