Miami’s distinct cultural Milieu is not defined by any one idea or person. Like the rest of the city, our arts scene is the result of different sensibilities and endeavors coming together to create a rather diverse identity. Just as interesting are the individuals behind these efforts. They are forward-thinkers, entrepreneurs and tastemakers who simply dared to dream... and then did something about it.
In his successful run as Miami-Dade Public Schools Superintendent, Alberto Carvalho has been recognized first and foremost as an expert on school reform and finance. But he’s just as passionate about arts education as a crucial component of every student’s academic life. That’s because Carvalho believes that values should never be defined by a budget, but that the budget must adapt itself to an institution’s values. “We’ve long been supporters of arts in education—they’ve been proven to increase achievement, develop problem-solving skills and encourage creative thinking,” he says. “To succeed, we have to make sure the arts are part of every student’s education.” As a testimonial to Carvalho’s beliefs, Miami-Dade—the fourth-largest school district in the country—has never opted for a reduction in the arts budget; in fact, over the past five years, arts programs have been expanded under his auspices. That’s because Miami-Dade, unlike many other districts, takes a student-centric approach. “The problem in other districts is that, faced with draconian reductions and the implosion of the housing market, they decided to protect reading-writing-’rithmetic…because they’re more concerned about testing results than effective teaching,” Carvalho explains. “But arts in education is not a luxury. It’s a necessity.” Carvalho’s passion has not gone unnoticed. This past October, he was one of six recipients of the 2013 National Arts Award from Americans for the Arts. “I’m very proud to be honored alongside one of my favorites—BB King!—and the others; it’s really a thrill,” he says. And he’s just as animated when talking about Art Basel. That’s because this year, Carvalho is co-hosting an event at The Betsy hotel with his friend, the entrepreneur and philanthropist Eli Broad, that will allow students to perform in the hotel lounge. Says Carvalho, “Because of that, this year’s fair is going to be extra special.”
After 12 years as the director of New York’s prestigious contemporary and modern art fair The Armory Show, Katelijne De Backer is in our midst. And the new director of exhibitor relations for SCOPE Miami Beach—she was named to her post in September—is already following a well-laid plan. “My first order of business is to travel and meet young galleries who are dynamic and enthusiastic,” says the Belgium native. “I really want to create something different. What I’m excited about are the smaller, more local fairs, to see galleries everywhere and how they are thinking today. I’m not going to change things overnight, but this is my long-term plan.” This year, De Backer says, SCOPE will offer exposure to the types of artists that in the past may have been shut out because their work didn’t appeal to what she calls “the elitist art world—rich collectors,” such as street artists. “They may never be showing at the main fair at Basel, but we want to give them a platform as long as the work really means something.” To track down such talent, she is traveling as much as possible and scoping out fairs all over the world. Since De Backer hasn’t been to Art Basel since 2010, she’s eager to see how the fair has evolved over the past three years and particularly jazzed about the new beachside location for SCOPE. “I can’t wait to see what’s new,” she says. As for being immersed in the glitziness of Miami after her tenure with The Armory, De Backer remarks, “Miami is Miami, and the fact that the art world molds the fair to how Miami works is not a bad thing. It just means more glamour.”
When New Yorker JeanPaul Mallozzi relocated to Miami eight years ago, he did so without visiting the city previously. “I wanted a change of perspective,” says the graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design. “I had no idea what the arts scene was like.” Today, the 31-year-old artist has garnered critical praise for his signature detailed graphite renderings of figures with one or more elements splotched with a blast of color, usually the eyes or the head. In Mallozzi’s work, colors often signify emotions or moods—sadness, elation, or anger, for example. “The idea came to me while I was trying to create a small body of work in a short period of time,” he explains. “I literally cried, got pissed, and giggled within a minute. I had to interpret that because it was hysterical.” Though he considered it “terrifying” at the time to meticulously draw a black figure on a stark white background and then smear the color on top, the gallery’s curator predicted that those who saw the works would be captivated. And she was right. Last year, at a showing, Mallozzi was approached by artist agency owner Michael Margulies, who was interested in representing him. “Right after I agreed, he got me 5,000 square feet to go crazy in and fill up with work—and that’s what pushed everything over the edge.” This year, Mallozzi’s latest oil painting, “It’s on Shuffle,” of a zoned-out girl wearing earphones, will be exhibited at Wynwood’s Harold Golen Gallery. “It’s part of a series regarding emotions and technology,” says the artist, who does his creating at his studio in the Art Center/South Florida. “Technology is incredible to bridge gaps, but, at the same time, people are more plugged into themselves, so they miss a lot of things in life. And that’s what this work is about.”
Since 1998, Cathy Leff has been steering The Wolfsonian-FIU into the future. So how does an institution that exists as a tribute to history—it houses more than 100,000 art and architectural objects, books and archives from the late 19th to mid-20th centuries—remain so relevant in a city that thrives on all things new and next? “If you’re interested in the present, you have to know what led up to it,” says Leff. “This collection is the history of mankind.” The past 12 months have been a banner year for The Wolfsonian: Last December, it received a $5 million grant from the Knight Foundation to support programs that will allow more public access to the museum’s collections, not just in person but also online. Then, in addition to the original Wolfsonian, three full floors of the Mitchell Wolfson Jr. Study Centre downtown were donated to FIU as well. “Eventually they will be made public, but, right now, they’re being used for classes for students and scholars,” says Leff. “It will be open for public tours, but first we need to sit down and develop a plan.” To close the year during Art Basel, The Wolfsonian will host Rebirth of Rome, a series of exhibitions that examine the aesthetics of art and design in Italy under Benito Mussolini. “It’s the year of Italian culture in the United States, and we have a large Italian collection,” adds Leff. “No one will find anything like it at any of the fairs or other institutions.” Despite all she has done for The Wolfsonian, Leff is quick to credit her staff with the museum’s successes. “I hire really smart people,” she says. “I recognize that I have visibility, but the people who work here are doing the heavy lifting. They respond to our mission. One person does not create an institution.”
Lara Rosenbaum was just 22 when she opened her gallery, Rosenbaum Contemporary, at The St. Regis in Bal Harbour last year. It’s something she always knew she wanted to do—from the time she was a child traveling to studios, museums and art fairs around the world with her father, Howard Rosenbaum, owner of Boca Raton’s Rosenbaum Contemporary, one of South Florida’s most esteemed galleries. With a collection made up of modern, post-war and contemporary artworks, as well as photography, RC is more than a traditional gallery space; it’s also an art advisory that helps major clients in the art world build and manage their collections. “It was challenging to open a boutique-style gallery space in under 400 square feet,” says Rosenbaum. “We display a wide selection of large-scale pieces in the space, which is hard to imagine, but we made it work well.” Over the summer, she hosted a large-scale art event with Interview magazine in the Hamptons for one of her artists, Raphael Mazzucco, in keeping with her idea of what younger generations are looking to take away from the art experience. “I’d like to continue to grow my vision of marketing artists’ work in an entertaining way and host more non-traditional art events,” she says. In addition to her participation at Art Miami this month, Rosenbaum will be curating an exhibition of works by Mazzucco, who mixes painting with photography and collage, at the Delano Hotel, during Art Week. “Once you have been exposed to the art world, you become absolutely absorbed in it,” says Rosenbaum. “The excitement is constantly rising and the passion is always there.”
DACRA CEO and president—and captain of industry—Craig Robins has been fostering the growth of Miami’s Design District for the past two decades, a time during which the area has evolved from decorators’ stomping ground to the city’s most dynamic art-fashion-design-dining enclave. And the makeover keeps going. “I look at the neighborhood as Miami’s creative laboratory,” says Robins. “The different disciplines are what make it such an interesting place, but art is a key component of what makes this place exciting.” The District is not the first area Robins has had a hand in shaping. He was famously instrumental in the early transformation of South Beach in the early ’90s, and admits that the District was heavily inspired by his efforts in that zip code. But, he adds, “The difference is that South Beach was more hedonistic, while the District is more sophisticated.” Indeed it is, with blue-chip brands like Cartier, Prada, Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Céline and (most recently) Rolex, taking up residence and embracing the artistic element. “Look at some of the collaborations and you can really have an art conversation,” says Robins. “When Louis Vuitton opened, they had Retna do a mural. It gives the brands an opportunity to think differently.” Indeed, art pervades the neighborhood, and more is on the way, from the likes of Zaha Hadid, Marc Newson and John Baldessari, through a number of DACRA-led initiatives. And, in true Robins fashion, there are always additional plans in the horizon (and, we’re certain, even more brewing inside that head of his). “People will see the transformation as it’s happening,” he adds. At the same time, the plan is for the District’s metamorphosis to take place organically. “This is not some fabricated destination that happens all at once,” he adds. “This is not the Disney model.”