The VONA/Voices Workshop, Founded by Junot Diaz, Relocates to Miami

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flickr, CC, Jennifer Yin
Inside a VONA/Voices Workshop class, circa 2008

Writers and literary minds, rejoice! Perhaps one of the most prestigious writing workshops in the country is making a move and taking up a permanent residence at the University of Miami. The Voices of our Nations Arts Foundation, better known as VONA, is relocating from the West Coast to our little southern tip.

The VONA/Voices Workshop, founded by writers Elmaz Binader, Junot Diaz, Victor Diaz, and Diem Jones in 1999, is an annual two-week program where emerging writers-of-color are taught and mentored by peers who have found success within their craft.

See also: Pepe Billete: Memories of My Abuela

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Can You Escape the Quest in 60 Minutes or Less?

Categories: Around Town

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Victorious challengers pose after a win.
If you and three friends were trapped in a mental hospital and your only hope for escape was to work together, what three friends could you count on?

If the way out could only be divined from hidden clues and the ability of you and your friends to connect them, would your choice in friends stay the same?

You may feel pretty smart right now, but there's only one way to Escape the Quest, and that's by heading to South Beach with your cleverest pals to face one of its three fun, adventurous, and cognitive challenges head on. Do you dare?

See also: Tiffany Noe Wants to Transform Miami Into an Edible Park

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Free Events This Week in Miami: Stitch 'n' Bitch, Aerial Cuba, and Transportation Talk

Categories: Around Town

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Photo by Elvert Barnes | Flickr CC
Thanks Martin Luther King Jr. In addition to being one of the most inspirational human beings to ever grace the planet, you ensured that the struggle for equal rights will always be commemorated.

In honor of the hero himself, go out and make the most of this free day. And while you're at it, line up a schedule for the rest of the week. We've got plenty of options -- all of which are easy on the wallet.

See also: "Poetry That Breaks Silence" Honors Martin Luther King's Dream

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Jerry Powers Paints to Free Lolita From Miami Seaquarium

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Courtesy of Jerry Powers/Swampspace
Don't confuse Jerry Powers' picture of Lolita with children's pictures of Miami Seaquarium's resident orca.

Instead, his childlike portrait of the whale is part of "Jerry Powers: Saving Lolita," the former media mogul's first solo show, opening tonight at 7 at the Design District's Swampspace. The exhibition is part of a national campaign to improve the conditions of whales in captivity, says Powers, who took up the brush and canvas only two years ago.

The 67-year-old calls his style of painting "neo-pop expressionalism." The bold, primary colors and loose gestural brushstrokes give the impression that his work was created by a much younger hand.

"We all colored when we were kids," observes the founder of Ocean Drive magazine, who sold his glossy publication for $30 million in 2007.

See also: Animal Advocates March for Release of Lolita, Miami Seaquarium's Orca

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The Lion King Cast Talks About Their Animal Transformations

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Courtesy of Broadway Across America/ Joan Marcus
The theater goes dark and suddenly, a heavily adorned tribesperson appears on stage and that familiar tune begins: "Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba!" The chant gets gradually louder as actors costumed as wild animals start filing in through the isles. Soon, the stage is full of creatures all there for the purpose of honoring the new future king of the land.

Just like the 1994 animated Disney film by the same name, The Lion King musical production begins with an energy that stays with the audience throughout the entire show.

The costumes, the puppets, the music -- all have transformative powers that move both audience and cast. While promoting the production, cast members who play Mufasa, Simba, Nala, and a lead ensemble dancer gathered at the Broward Center to talk about the show.

See also: South Floridian Mykal Laury Dances His Way Through Lion King

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What to Check Out at Magic City Comic Con 2015

Categories: Around Town

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Photo via Wikimedia Commons
If you think comic conventions are solely for people into comics, then you're sorely mistaken. In fact, one of the biggest draws lately seems to be all those television stars we so love to hang out with, even if it's just for a few seconds and to snap a wacky picture. But there's a lot for everybody to enjoy at these multi-day events, and Magic City Comic Con is no exception. Taking place over the weekend of Friday, January 16, through Sunday, January 18, the con looks to provide all sorts of entertainment at the Miami Airport Convention Center. We here at the New Times like to think of ourselves as into practically every form of media, so here is what's in store at Magic City Comic Con this year.

See also: Jon Stewart Ripped Into Florida on The Daily Show Last Night

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Wynwood's MVM Boutique and Style Saves Get Fashionable for a Good Cause

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Photo by World Red Eye
While the rest of the nation is still shoveling out snow in puffy, shell jackets, and colossal boots, South Floridians get to enjoy 80-degree sun rays in a perma-paradise. For us, spring and summer come everyday. Well, save for that annual week of cold weather when layering twenty tanks upon countless chiffon blouses passes as "bundling up." And though spring hasn't officially arrived, women's wear boutique MVM in Wynwood thinks we ought to start prepping for its arrival.

On Thursday, January 15, the boutique, devoted to all things contemporary, links up with Ford wardrobe stylist and Style Saves' Rachael Russell, to throw a major trend-forecasting soiree, spring/summer edition.

Adding their two-cents to the do's and don'ts of Spring/Summer 2015, New York personal style bloggers Lainy Hedaya of Haute Inhabit and Charlotte Groenvelde of Fashion Guitar, combine their power of over 184,000 followers to help orchestrate the event.

See also: North Miami's Memo Apparel Turns Selfies Into Socks

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Miami Family Collecting Musical Instruments for Haitian Children

Categories: Around Town

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Courtesy of 1308 Productions
January 12 marked the fifth anniversary of the earthquake that left 220,000 people dead and another 300,000 injured in the Caribbean nation of Haiti. Despite humanitarian aid and efforts to help with rebuilding efforts, the country still faces a host of challenges.

The Novack family of Miami is stepping in to assist Haiti's youngsters with an area of education that's often overlooked, even in American schools: music. They opened their first children's music institution in August of last year, and a second is soon to follow.

Currently, they're collecting instruments to be used for educational purposes, so start rounding up your flutes and guitars for a good cause.

See also: Art Basel in Little Haiti: A Night of Vogue, Zebra Katz, and Endless Mugs (Photos)

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Free Events This Week in Miami: Farmer's Market, Global Warming, and Art Deco Weekend

Categories: Around Town

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Via Art Deco Weekend on Facebook
It's Monday again. The weekend is over, and all of the goodness and joy are gone from the world. So long boats, beaches and bands. Hello traffic, pointless conference calls, and 50 degree offices.

Now that we've thoroughly depressed you, the least we can do is raise your spirits so you don't start your Monday in a funk. Here's a whole host of stuff to do this week, free!

See also: North Miami's Memo Apparel Turns Selfies Into Socks

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Wynwood Art Walk Guide: Painting Rules at January's Hottest Shows

Categories: Around Town, Art

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Courtesy of Mindy Solomon Gallery
Jose Manuel Mesias
Painting. Painting. Painting. 2015's opening edition of the Wynwood Art Walk doles out an irresistible excuse for lovers of the medium to explore plenty of shows devoted to painting in all its forms.

Beginning at 5 p.m. you can catch the works of two young Cuban painters visiting from the island at the Mindy Solomon Gallery to the hyper realist drawings and paintings of Ashley Oubré at the Robert Fontaine Gallery and even a riotously diverse approach to the genre by a group of New York artists at Fredric Snitzer Gallery on the northern fringes of Downtown in what marks the space's return to Second Saturdays after it decamped from Wynwood last year.

At Pan American Art Projects you'll discover a pair of new exhibitions showcasing abstraction, one by a Cuban artist who examines racism in his homeland and the other a group show boasting international names.

Also on tap is the return of a conceptual prankster to Gallery Diet whose humorous works alone demands a visit.

Here's our lineup for what not to miss during this year's inaugural art crawl.

See also: Museum of Fashion's "Made In Miami" On View Tomorrow

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