So far, you readers have gotten a feel for Miami as a hometown and as a buffet of sorts. Now, in my final post about this beloved, sunny city, I want to ponder the dichotomy that exists in some pockets of Miami's art scene. I'm talking about the modern pop-ups and the more historical treasures that populate the city and contribute to it's overall "fusion" vibe.
Miami itself is quite a nascent city - fairly young and skipper as opposed to other cities I have come to think of like home (*cough* Boston, I'm looking at you). This means our history is not as deep rooted, giving us room to blossom with diverse amalgamation. Since this topic is quite broad, if not borderline existential, let me narrow the scope. If we were to think of Miami as this new city, perhaps in its 20's as compared to its wiser and weathered city-peers, it would make sense that Miami is in the phase of reinventing herself. (Yes, Miami is a gal - think bronzed skin, beachy hair, and legs for days). She is trying on all of these different hats and vibes, seeing who she'll become as a result of the lives that dwell within her. Granted this metaphor materializes in highways built, the growth of the tourist economy, and other factors that clearly don't apply to your standard 20 year old. But indulge me.
Before she became the hip, food-truck laden, Art Basel boasting city she is now - she found comfort in the tried and true styles that came before her. Let's use the Viscaya Mansion as an example for this classic period in her life.
The Viscaya Mansion, formerly Villa Viscaya, used to be home to tycoon James Deering, one of three Deering brothers who also planted their mansion seeds along the drive from Viscaya to my old high school. James Deering, a conservationist, built his home with the intention of preserving local mangroves all along his property. In a present day visit to his estate, you can see the flourishing mangroves all along your walk. Upon Deerings death in 1925, his estate was handed to his nieces who couldn't keep up the cost of maintenance, especially with constant hurricanes rattling the property. Eventually, the city of Miami-Dade acquired the property and restored it to the interactive art museum it is today.
In a recent trip my friend Sofia and I made to Viscaya, we were impressed with the lushness of the property, it's beauty, and it's expanse - I'm even remembering a particular tower of flights in the mansion and wondering how fit Deering and his visitors must have been to reach all the floors and corners of his estate.
The mansion itself is roped off in parts like any other living museum. So your dream of seeing if you fit on one of those tiny beds (seriously, was everyone much smaller back in the day?) might not come true on this trip. But you know what dream will come true? You becoming a part of the artwork. Sofi and I could definitely not resist acting out our most statuesque poses in order to "blend" in with Deering's impressive collection.
Sorry, back on topic. Viscaya is actually a very apt vehicle for this overarching metaphor - the one of Miami being a fusion of old and new. The mansion itself was designed with a European theme, borrowing architectural styles from Italy and France, yet constructed using Cuban materials with Floridian coral trimmings and native vegetation - a ~fusion~ in it of itself, right?
As expected, the mansion decor is just as opulent as the nature bathing the property. Though there were plenty of signs saying no photos, I took that to mean no flash... so here all of the out of focus vertical shots are the ones I snagged with my slick iPhone skills.
Overall, my trip to Viscaya helped me transport back to Miami as it was before - as she was before she figured she had to "keep up with the Joneses." (Who is this Jones family and why are they always setting the trends?!)
Anyway, just a few more exits up the highway takes you to the Wynwood Art District, which, as noted in my prior post, is home of Zak the Baker, The Salty Donut, and the seemingly last remainder of a good 'ol Jugofresh now that Whole Foods has swallowed them all up. But, aside from the decadent food coating the area, Wynwood is certainly known for it's eclectic art scene.
For a little background, Wynwood sprouted as an art inspired/tech focused/certifiable melting pot in the mid 2000's. It is recognized mostly by its ever-changing graffiti - think paintings and pieces covering buildings and facilities, "commissioned chaos" one might say. Wynwood is also a bit of an extension of the fashion/design district of Miami, so you'll definitely see people dressed-to-impress in order to satisfy photos in front of the Wynwood Walls (if not because the people who frolic Wynwood are genuinely cooler than the people who visit Viscaya - sorry to all the girls doing their Quinceñera photoshoots the day I visited Viscaya...).
Though countless tourists may now take for granted what negotiations went behind cleaning up this neighborhood and transforming it into a pedestrian gallery, we have Tony Goldman to thank for it all. Goldman, who passed away in 2012, was a property developer who had visions for the potential of areas like this one, and opened up restaurants to encourage traction. He bought up all the properties, comprised mostly of warehouses, since Wynwood used to be a garment district, and figured he could make one of the largest, walking, outdoor galleries if he teamed up with local artists. And that, my friends, is exactly what he did. He had the foresight to turn windowless buildings into actual blank canvases and fostered relationships with the local artists to build respect for these platforms and circumvent vandalism. Given that story, what Wynwood has become today is all the more impressive.
From the Wynwood to the Walls (thank you Lil John and The Eastside Boyz for setting up my pun), this sector of Miami definitely embodies the modern phase of Miami - the phase she, as a city, is definitely vibing since it brings visitors from all over the world to her concrete yard.
So, while Miami from a Birdseye view might seem like a battle between modernity and antiquity, I'd have to disagree. I'd say this artistic conflict is only another materialization of the dichotomies that make Miami the unique city that she is. From the food, to the people, to the culture, to the art, Miami fuses it all and that is yet another reason that I am incredibly proud to call it my home.