Knight Arts Challenge 2015 Kicked Off This Week at Gramps

Photo by Monica McGivern
Tuesday night in Wynwood, interested possible applicants, proud previous winners, and engaged Miamians gathered at Gramps for the Knight Arts Challenge Kickoff event, sponsored by Infraculture.

A major funding project of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Knight Arts Challenge awarded $2.29 million to 47 projects last year to help grow and improve the arts scene in South Florida.

See also: Knight Arts Challenge Winners Announced: Exile Books, Weird Miami, and More

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Too Late, Obama: Cuban Art Has Been Shown in Miami for Years

Categories: Art

In Miami on April 22, 1988, Manuel Mendive's painting El Pavo Real was set on fire. The Cuban painter's work had been purchased at a fundraising auction for the Cuban Museum of Art and Culture, but its buyers weren't exactly art collectors. Rather, the winners of the auction were members of the Bay of Pigs 2506 Brigade, which paid $500, picked up the artwork, and marched out to the street. There they set Mendive's painting ablaze while the Cuban national anthem blared from a nearby radio.

Two weeks later, the museum was bombed by exile hardliners who claimed it was exhibiting artists sympathetic to the Castro regime. In June 1990, the museum was bombed a second time. More than a dozen trustees resigned and Miami commissioners voted to evict the museum, which never really recovered and dissolved in 1999. Its collection and archive were donated to the Lowe Art Museum at the University of Miami.

These days, Ileana Fuentes, who served as the Cuban Museum's last director in 1995, insists the burning of Mendive's painting planted the seed for new ideas, opening artistic expression in Miami. "Today those protests and tirades against Cubans exhibiting or performing in Miami are ancient history," she says. She adds that although President Barack Obama's recent diplomatic thaw between Cuba and the United States might have heightened expectations for greater cultural exchange, the fact is that Cubans have been showing their work in the Magic City for years.

See also: Rent Debuts in Cuba, First Broadway Musical Staged In 50 Years

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"Impulse, Reason, Sense, Conflict" Exhibition at the Cisneros Fontanals

Categories: Art

Gabriel Sierra
Gabriel Sierra at CiFo
Tucked back from the street and hidden behind bamboo trees, the Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation is a jewel box of a building. Founded in 2002 the CiFo is the personal collection of its namesake, Ella Fontanals-Cisneros, a prolific collector who's amassed a collection of over 2,000 objects. While the focus of Fontanals-Cisernos' obsessive collecting is Latin America, she collects work by artists the globe. And their new exhibition, "Impulse, Reason, Sense, Conflict: Abstract Art From the Ella Fontanals-Cisneros Collection," is drawn entirely from the collection.

According to Jesús Fuenmayor, the Executive Director of CIFO, decided on the exhibition's theme after taking stock of the ever-growing collection. "A simple discovery formed the basis for the exhibition," Fuenmayor writes in the accompanying catalogue, "As we engaged in a retrospective interrogation of the collection...we found...abstraction is at center stage." Composed of 101 pieces which range from the traditional mediums of painting and sculpture to the most modern installation and video, "Impulse, Reason, Sense, Conflict" is an impressive exhibition, both in size and scope. Seventy-two artists are represented in the exhibition, artists from different generations who lived and worked in the farthest corners of the world, artists who approached abstraction with very different motivations and ideas.

See also: Mandy Baca, Author of Discovering Vintage Miami, Talks About the Past

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Jerry Powers Paints to Free Lolita From Miami Seaquarium

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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Classical and Pop with Dash of Broadway -- All Well-Strung

Categories: Art


By Fernando Gonzalez,

We'll never know what Mr. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart would've made of Ms. Kelly Clarkson, but the first movement of "A Little Night Music" flowing into Clarkson's "Since You've Been Gone" certainly makes for a startling mash-up.
Welcome to the world of Well-Strung, a singing string quartet with the looks of a boy band and the flair of a Broadway show.

"My favorite thing right now is that we are trying to really mix classical and pop music in the same piece. That's why this show is called Popsical," says second violinist Chris Marchant, leader and co-founder of the quartet. "And people seem to respond. We kind of give classical music a friendlier approach that maybe makes it easier to discover.
"There is so much of it that people sometimes don't even know where to start and we give them a sampling of music they might like mixed with popular stuff that they know -- and they feel easier about it."

Formed in 2012, the approach of Well-Strung -- Edmund Bagnell, first violin; Marchant, second violin; Daniel Shevlin, cello and Trevor Wadleigh, viola, all classically trained -- suggest not only a blurring of musical styles in which a given program may include pieces by Dvorak, Ravel, Britney Spears and The Black Eyed Peas, but also musical genres in which the traditional, staid presentation of the classical string quartet takes on a cabaret style.

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Miami Artist Magnus Sodamin Is Obsessed With Size

Categories: Art

Photo by Monica Mcgivern
Magnus Sodamin

Miami Artist Magnus Sodamin is obsessed with size. Large canvases, broad brushstrokes, sides of walls, Sodamin's chaotic aesthetic is barely contained by the large surfaces on which he paints. There's nothing too big for Sodamin, in 2014 the artist wrapped an entire roller coaster.

Sodamin debuted his first solo show at Primary Projects in early 2014 to rave reviews. He capped it off by painting his first mural during Art Basel last month.The New Times caught up with him at his studio on the grounds of the Deering Estate, where he is currently in residence. The historic mansion and several smaller cottages, is on one of the only protected natural preserves in the county. The idyllic setting is the perfect contrast for Sodamin's work, dazzling worlds of cosmic chaos ripped from immediate surroundings.

See also: New Downtown Miami Whole Foods to Feature Parking Garage With Curated Murals

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Knight Cities Challenge Announces Nominees, Ten From Miami

Categories: Art

Courtesy of Knight Foundation
A floating sustainable farm, a edible park, and an innovative app meant to fix some of Miami's public transit problems: these are just three of the ten Miami-based finalists of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation's new grant program, the Knight Cities Challenge. There are 126 total finalists drawn from a "national call for new ideas to make the 26 communities where Knight invests more vibrant places to live and work."

The challenge is part of a three-year, $15 million commitment that Knight Foundation announced in the fall of 2014. Winners will be announced in this spring.

See also: ThinkBike 2015 Brings Community Together to Brainstorm Bike Safety Improvements

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Art Miami Expands to New York, Hires New Director

Categories: Art

Courtesy of Art Miami
Art Miami will celebrate its 25th anniversary by expanding to New York. The fair will be the newest addition to Frieze Week, the massive international art show that is generally considered to be one of the more prestigious fairs. Last week, Art Miami named former Armory Show head Katelijne De Backer as its new director.

Art Miami New York will take place May 14-17 on Manhattan's Pier 94. Da Backer has held several high-profile position, including the director of exhibitor relations at Scope. "Art Miami has such a good reputation, and I'm very happy to be involved with them," Da Backer told Artnet. "Starting a new fair is always exciting because it's new," she added.

See also: Dimensions Variable Celebrates Five Years of Unexpected Outsider Art

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

Categories: Around Town, Art

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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Basetrack Live to Tell Veterans' Stories on Stage

Categories: Art

Photo by U.S. Army | Flickr CC
In past generations, conscription meant military service was a collective hardship -- nearly every family understood the difficulties of serving and the horrors of war. Now it's a niche group of Americans who shoulder the burden.

But Miami Dade College's MDC Live Arts, with help from the Knight Foundation, is aiming to make the voices of today's veterans heard.

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

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