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A New Beginning

Miami art doyenne Bonnie Clearwater takes her talents north.

Clearwater's Hots: Dinner with my husband, morning runs, printed newspapers, community pride
Clearwater's Nots: Traffic, loud music at restaurants, negativity, insincerity

After 18 years as the executive director of MOCA in North Miami, Bonnie Clearwater is doing her curating north of the county line these days. The celebrated tour de force of the arts world has decamped to the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale with barely a day of rest between gigs. “I jumped right in,” she says. “I’ve always been a multitasker.”

And even though there’s been no break in her stride, Clearwater has definitely had to hit the ground running. Even though it houses a collection of more than 6,000 works, MOAFL’s struggle to find an identity was no secret. Four years ago, when the museum merged with Nova Southeastern University, Clearwater says, “There was the question of how you integrate the two institutions.” The museum’s chairman of the board, David Horvitz, and University President Dr. George Hanbury decided Clearwater was the answer. “They conspired to twist my arm and drag me up here,” she says. “They were quite determined about what the museum needed and decided it was me.” She had never even considered leaving MOCA, but when she realized she had brought it to a point where it could survive without her, she saw the Broward art institution as a fresh opportunity and seized it.

In the few months she’s been there, Clearwater has already put two new programs in place: a networking group for students age 18 and older called The JETS, which launched the night before Thanksgiving and exposes members to events, activities and performances, and provides a shuttle to and from campus; and Cobra Circle, a more sophisticated, by-invitation-only group with its own committee that participates in dinners, discussions and the like—a sort of “SoHo House Lounge” for what the new MOAFL director calls “the next generation of leaders for the museum.”

Clearwater is happily embracing the challenges that await her, and in the meantime, finding that the city just 30 minutes from her hometown of Miami holds a host of charms of which she hadn’t been aware. “I don’t know,” she says with a laugh, “but I’m actually thinking it might be time to look at condos up here.”