ARTLURKER

A Miami based contemporary art newsletter / blog

Miami’s extracurricular community

Image courtesy of Robbietoons

Amidst the doldrums of last February a small group of like minded folks deeply entrenched in the Miami arts community began to meet every Tuesday to talk about current events, critical texts and theory. Instigated and to a large extent organized by then Miami newcomer Ruba Katrib, Assistant curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, the weekly evening, informally referred to as Theory Night, quickly became a popular event among other various art-insider ‘nights’ that occurred such as Wednesday’s Film Night at Bas Fisher Invitational and Thursday’s Poker Night whose myriad locations and sporadic participants will for obvious reasons remain a secret.

As the first anniversary of Theory Night approaches and its new blog www.activitiesandassignments.wordpress.com, which opens up the various discussions to the wider world launches, it seems pertinent to draw focus on the many changes that have happened within Miami’s art community over the course of the last year and examine the pertinent impact of Theory Night’s momentum…

Despite Miami’s abundance of art venues there is (or perhaps was a year ago) very little in the way of other culture (excluding for the sake of argument sports and Miami’s rich Latin flavor). One reason for such an imbalance could be said to rest on the fact that it was the vast amounts of money generated by the real estate business, and little else, that first gave art a home here. Time however is finally bringing about a change in the wind and Miami is thankfully responding well to various bar-raising educational disciplines blowing in belatedly from the North.

Conceived to keep minds occupied during the slow periods of this very seasonal city, initiatives like Theory Night enjoy long and prosperous terms before breaking briefly as the [art] season picks up. Before Theory Night adjourned in preparation for Art Basel Miami Beach 2008, its attendance was sufficient to attract the attention of Craig Robins—a real-estate entrepreneur passionately driven by cultural commerce—who propositioned the group to abandon their previous locations of Boteca, artist studios, Sweat Records, Canela and the News Café on NE 4th Court in favor of Brosia, a restaurant in the heart of the Miami’s Design District, an area that Robins is famously invested in.

Having survived the typically stifling reaction of Miami to exonerate beyond all consideration for longevity those events or individuals who might secure the city wider attention, Theory Night, currently held at Bas Fisher Invitational, across the road from Brosia, provides the café culture that Miami was clearly so anxious for. And without the usual coda attached to it concerning Miami’s ‘on the brink of importance’ status, it offers a refreshing and serious opportunity to learn.

Attendants at The University of Wynwood’s first lecture on January 10th. Courtesy UW

In response to the shift in gears evidenced by Theory Night’s success a number of other edifying initiatives have recently surfaced. In addition to galleries like Wolfgang Roth and Partners Fine Art, who unlike so many new galleries seem to be keeping their promises of visiting artist and curator talks and art investment lectures, Dorsch Gallery who recently ran a series of lectures called “Classroom” and the great events at MOCA North Miami, there are notably also The Anaphriel Foundation and The University of Wynwood.

Founded by Craig Robins in 2005, The Anaphiel Foundation began by conducting a series of symposiums. Having initially brought together nearly eighty prominent international artists, designers, architects, writers, art educators, and technologists, they explored major issues surrounding art education. These discussions led to the conception of Art + Research, a two-year educational residency program that will operate under the aegis of the University of Miami. Promising to open in 2009 the residency is billed as having a host of exciting Directors including John Baldessari, Bonnie Clearwater, Samuel Keller, David A. Ross and Robins himself.

The University of Wynwood’s seal with text.

More recently and operating at a slightly faster pace than The Anaphiel Foundation (but not quite as fast as Theory Night), The University of Wynwood (UW) has appeared on the scene with an initial series of monthly lectures scheduled for the spring. The first lecture (pictured) given by Lauren “Lolo” Reskin happened this past Saturday. Next month they will risk an odd break for Valentines Day, but will return hopefully with renewed gusto on March 14th with three speakers from Miami World Cinema Center. Future speakers include Director of Locust Projects, Claire Breukel and Associate Curator of Miami Art Museum, Rene Morales.

UW states: “Our approach will be non-comparative and mostly ineffectual. A quiz precedes every lecture, which is further preceded, and punctuated throughout by, the drinking of free bad wine. Grades are based on top-secret Scientological principles and in no way reflect performance or attendance.”

Apart from its oddly familiar appearance the University held at the Brikolodge, Miami’s first co-working office, on the whole makes a poor first impression. Opting for a humorous but ultimately facile mission statement over frankness and integrity and with slogans such as “Sic Transit Gloria” (Glory Fades) and “Miami’s Only Fully Discredited University” it would appear that the organizers unfortunately have yet to take themselves and their potential seriously. Nevertheless, as anyone knows, many who now command credence fell foul of flippancy as budding greats. Although superficially somewhat annoying, The University of Wynwood which takes its lead from the Cedar Tavern, an unconventional creative hang out on New York’s Lower East Side that was torn down in 1954, is naturally worthy of much patience by the community it is striving to serve.

Attendants at The University of Wynwood’s first lecture on January 10th. Courtesy UW

Despite our pride in the recent accomplishments and progresses, we Miamians know full well that in order for the city to survive as a cultural center it needs more than money, galleries/collections and the pull of tropical weather to hold the interests of the art world’s movers and shakers. In order for Miami to continue to be taken seriously it has to up its game. Thanks to motivators like Ruba Katrib and her current legacy of Theory Night and a great program of lectures at MOCA, North Miami, we are embarking on the first tentative steps toward a viable and sustainable future [.]

Links:

For Theory Night: www.activitiesandassignments.wordpress.com

For The University of Wynwood: www.universityofwynwood.com

For The Anaphiel Foundation: www.anaphiel.org

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5 Comments

  • P. Scott

    Thank you for mentioning the University of Wynwood in your newsletter alongside Theory Night, a great event we attend whenever we can. My wife has accused me of releasing too little information about UW on the website, and, until now, I didn’t think it mattered. That’s me in the yellow shirt, laughing with Lolo and Federico Nessi, a great Miami artist that I’d never met until I started a lecture series and booked his best friend to speak. And that’s pretty much why the UW exists, as an excuse for people to get together and share experiences under a slightly formal umbrella that I find makes conversation a little more heartfelt (as opposed to just meeting in a bar, or, worse, in a blog). UW wasn’t founded to help Miami “survive as a cultural center”, be taken seriously, or “up its game.” We think Miami’s game is just fine, in addition to believing that “frankness and integrity” are not mutually exclusive with humor (the one cultural resource that perhaps Miami is lacking in). Perhaps, as you say, we occasionally fall foul of flippancy but we never waste our allotment of alliteration on argumentum ad hominem. (Or is it ad internetem?)

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Miami’s extracurricular community