The launch of Art Basel Miami Beach a decade ago was the genesis of a creative frenzy that includes dozens of activities attracting tens of thousands of people.
What’s remarkable about this mid-winter phenomenon is the way it is suddenly sprouting this year, after not having done so for almost a half-century.
The ancestor of all Presidents’ Day weekend events in Miami, the Coconut Grove Arts Festival, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. It takes place February 16-18 and could attract more than a quarter of a million people to the streets of Miami’s Coconut Grove neighborhood. The crowds will explore nearly a mile of artists’ booths along McFarlane Road, South Bayshore Drive, and Pan American Drive.
The three-day festival is considered the top fine art event in the history of Sunshine Artist Magazine’s 200 Best. It showcases the works of more than 350 artists and craftsmen, selected by a jury of experts from among more than 1,200 applicants who submit samples in digital art, claywork, fiber, glass, jewelry and metalwork, mixed media, painting, photography, printmaking and drawing, sculpture, watercolor, and wood.
Joining the party
A quarter-century ago, the parishioners of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church at 2750 McFarlane Road, near the south end of the Coconut Grove festival, decided to join the party by setting up a hot dog and refreshment stand on the church grounds.
It evolved into St. Stephen’s Art Show, a well-regarded outdoor arts and fine crafts festival that was recently ranked eighth in the country in Sunshine Artist Magazine’s Best 200 Fine Art Shows.
The St. Stephen’s show features the work of more than 160 artists, an international food court, a children’s activity area, an authentic English tea room, and musical entertainment.
Art Wynwood and more
More recently, the folks who present Art Miami each December in Midtown to run concurrently with Art Basel Miami Beach noticed that a somewhat different audience was attracted to the Presidents’ Day art fairs in Coconut Grove, and decided to capitalize on their presence. The result was the inaugural 2012 Art Wynwood,which attracted more than 60,000 attendees.
The 2013 edition may do even better, especially if a predicted weekend of rain and cold makes the Coconut Grove events – which are vulnerable to the elements – less appealing than the tents sheltering Art Wynwood.
Adding to the excitement, various galleries and institutions have scheduled special events. The list that follows may not be comprehensive, but it suggests the possibilities and the potential for even more art-centric Presidents’ Day weekend events in future years.
Mayflower to Miami
Joan Cobb Marsh, a painter whose ancestors came to American on the Mayflower, will open an exhibition of her recent work entitled “Places and People Much Loved” at the Williams McCall Gallery South of Fifth, 110 Washington Ave., Miami Beach. An artist reception is scheduled from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, February 16. The exhibit will be on display until March 8.
In the warmer months, Marsh paints in her third floor studio in Provincetown, Massachusetts, overlooking the harbor in the home she and her husband converted from her grandfather's boathouse. Marsh's grandfather and great-grandfather were sea captains in Provincetown. “My grandfather had a fishing boat, the Betsy Ross,” she says. “He was John Kelly Cobb of Irish-Scottish descent.”
In the winter, Marsh paints on South Beach, where her subject matter includes series of works with Port of Miami, South Pointe Park, Florida View, South Beach, and Everglades themes.
The exhibit also will include two new works depicting the Twin Towers in New York City. In 2000, Marsh received a residency sponsored by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council for the Arts. In her studio on the 108th floor of the Twin Towers, she painted many works depicting the spectacular views, three of which were lost in the 9/11 tragedy.
Africa in Cuba
An exhibit of Afro-Cuban art, the first of its kind in South Florida, will open at the University of Miami with a reception from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.on Sunday, February 17. The exhibit will showcase the wide range of artistic expression by African descendant people from Cuba and the Afro-Cuban Diaspora.
Sponsored by UM’s Department of Art & Art History and Africana Studies, the exhibit celebrates Black History Month. It features the works of Afro-Cuban artists Tomas Esson, Armando Marino, Nicholas Guillien Landrian, Duwane Coates, Manuel Mendive, Lupe Lawrence, and Africana Studies Professor Patti Rose; and film screenings by Afro-Cuban film makers Nicholas Guillen, Sergio Geral, and Gloria Rolando.
The show is in UM’s College of Arts & Sciences Gallery, located in the Wesley Foundation building at 1210 Stanford Drive, Coral Gables. It will run through March 5.
Pan Am exhibit
Pan Am & First Flight Out, an air-travel-inspired retail store in CocoWalk, at 3015 Grand Ave. in Coconut Grove, will hold its grand opening from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday, February 17.
In the store is an exhibit of original Pan Am equipment, including first-class lounges where you can watch a Pan Am documentary, window panels, complete galleys, and cowlings from jet engines. Memorabilia such as rare stewardess dolls, playing cards, authentic uniforms, postcards, menus, and photos are displayed throughout the store.
Pan Am & First Flight Out is in an appropriate location, because less than a mile away was one of the original Pan American World Airways bases (now Miami City Hall). From 1930 to 1945, Pan Am’s Flying Clippers linked that terminal with destinations in the Central and South America and the Caribbean.
Park, Ride, and View
Traffic congestion can be fierce and parking scarce in the immediate vicinity of the Coconut Grove and St. Stephen’s art fairs. To help you cope, Coconut Grove Gallery & Interiors, a venerable vendor of art and interior design about a mile away, wants you to park without charge at its gallery at 2884 Bird Avenue (on a space-available basis) and accept a free ride to and from the shows.
While you’re at CGGI, stop to visit the works of award-winning artist Paulina Troncoso. If you arrive early enough, brunch with the artist is available from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, February 16, and Sunday, February 17.
In addition, CGGI has a trunk show featuring gypsy jewelry and Oriental rugs from Saturday, February 16, through Monday, February 18.
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