On Florida’s “Art Coast” | Destination

South Florida: famous for its beaches, its nightlife, its shopping and entertainment. But the stretch of golden coast between Miami and Fort Lauderdale should also be famous for its fabulous art scene and world-class museums, says Samantha Rojas

Street mural in Miami’s Wynwood neighbourhood, home to galleries and design studios. © iStock.com/Brians101The PŽrez Art Museum Miami has a prominent location in the city’s new Museum Park. Photo by Mr Interior/Shutterstock.comThe Indigo Room or Is Memory Water Soluble (2004, mixed media on plexiglass and cast acrylic with assorted objects), a large installation by artist Edouard Duval-Carrié currently on show at the NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale. Photo courtesy Steven BrookeGlimpse into a courtyard in the Wynwood Art District. Photo by Susana Valera/Shutterstock.comThe extensive grounds at the Bonnet House Museum and Gardens. Photo courtesy David WarrenTools of the artist’s trade in Miami’s Wynwood Art District, home to a profusion of colourful outdoor murals. © iStock.com/Boogich

You always remember your first visit to a truly great museum. For me, it was the Museo del Prado in Madrid — where my dad and I dragged ourselves, after a gruelling nine-hour flight, little sleep, and a few too many welcome glasses of wine the night before. It turned out to be a six-hour trek through wide galleries hung with art treasures. I found myself encouraged into a meditative trance — by the works of art, yes, but also by the museum’s grandiose spaces, shrouded in heavy silence.

Years later, and on the other side of the Atlantic, that memory returned as I sat in a cavernous room, taking in the Cuban artist Yoan Capote’s Isla — a monumental work of art created with oil, nails, and fish-hooks, composing the view from the sea wall in Havana, looking north to Miami. It’s currently on display — through April 2018 — at the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM). A visit to this world-class museum on Biscayne Bay — like my experience of the Prado — will also transform your fuzzy head from the night before into a soothed, Zen-like zone.

Before entering PAMM’s caverns, I slumped myself gently into the contemporarily designed yet dramatically comfortable swings on the entrance patio overlooking the bay, letting the wet, hot, breeze waft over me.

Sudden relaxation started in my shoulders and moved down through my legs. Grumpiness was leaving me. Museums are great places to wash away grumpy vibes. They are like spas. And although Miami may be better known for its beaches, upscale shopping, and nightlife, South Florida is also a cultural hotspot, attracting artists and audiences alike from across the world.

 

As a Trini living in South Florida, I invite you to put the temptations of the warm blue Atlantic aside for a moment, along with this gold coast’s twenty-three miles of sand — and have a look at the stimulating sensations that make the region an arts magnet. There’s no shortage of contemporary visual art and local or international theatre, ballet, and opera around the southernmost peninsula of the continental United States.

Bonnie Clearwater, director and chief curator of the NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale, is said to have coined the name “the Art Coast” for the area between Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Designed by leading modernist architect Edward Larrabee Barnes and associated with Nova Southeastern University, the landmark 83,000-square foot museum has important collections of Caribbean art — like Haitian artist Edouard Duval-Carrié’s mixed-media installation, The Indigo Room. The star attraction opening in November is a major retrospective of the American artist Frank Stella, on view through July 2018. One of the exhibition’s highlights is Deauville (1970), a forty-five-foot-long canvas shaped like a thoroughbred racetrack.

Not far away, Bonnet House Museum and Gardens — an artist’s estate on Fort Lauderdale beach — is a mixture of exotic landscape, old Florida décor, eclectic art, and an inside look at the lives of the artist and collector Frederic Clay Bartlett (1873–1953) and his wives Helen (who passed away in 1925) and Evelyn, ex-wife of the millionaire businessman Eli Lilly. This gracious estate includes an art studio, an island theatre, and a famous orchid house, as well as endearing stories about alligators.

For me, a museum is a place where I learn about culture mostly through osmosis. Images of ancient and contemporary stories wash over me, rather than demand I study them. Keepers of art, history, creativity, and talent, the museums of South Florida connect us to the past while enriching our present, creating new spaces within our psyche.

 

Caribbean Airlines operates daily flights to Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Orlando from destinations across the Caribbean