Art in Public Life

Art in Public Life

Author Vince Beiser gives a lecture about the global sand trade at Sand: Amphitheater, Theater, Arena.

We currently live in a time where the existential threat of climate change and sea level rise is affecting our city and its citizens in ever more challenging ways. These issues require efforts from all avenues, including the speculative, conceptual, and creative. Art in Public Life was conceived as an artistic angle to supplement the local conversations arising from the rapidly changing climate.

Misael Soto joined the city a year ago as the first ever Art in Public Life resident under a collaboration between Oolite Arts and the Environment and Sustainability Department of the City of Miami Beach. The unique residency seats an artist at the municipal table, a space typically unreachable to artists.

One of Misael Soto's "Signs", part of an ongoing series of public engagements.

During Soto’s first year they put together public art moments such as last October’s Sand: Amphitheater, Theater, Arena, which used the ubiquitous natural resource as a literal and metaphorical foundation to explore the city’s history and its ecosystem, and examine how our decisions along the way led us to present day South Florida. Attended by more than 500 residents and visitors over the course of a month, the art installation coordinated with the Parks & Recreation and Public Works departments to create a temporary gathering place to discuss and reflect on the city’s creation, history, and geology. The public art installation in Collins Park employed thousands of pounds of sandbags, specifically 376 cubic yards of sand and 6,000 sandbags,  which were filled and stacked with community volunteers to form a Greco-inspired amphitheater. Misael invited local and nationally recognized artists, writers, poets, scientists, and historians to contribute throughout, some of them creating new artworks in the process.

As we move into the next phase of Art in Public Life, Misael has taken the opportunity to truly dig into the inner workings of the city via the creation of their own parallel department. The Department of Reflection presents a foil (or reflection) of the city while producing creative moments of exchange between the city and its residents. The fictional post-governmental entity is Misael’s answer to the questions and challenges they see the city currently is facing. The Department of Reflection aims to collaborate with city departments, and push and interrogate the direction of the city and the community. Misael hopes the new project will provide some clarity to a conversation that oftentimes excludes the arts, leading to new ways of seeing and perhaps even some solutions.

Learn more: Department of Reflection

Art in Public Life is supported in part by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s Knight Arts Challenge.

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