DWNTWN Art Days brings cultural awareness to Miami's downtown

“La Bestia” by Isabel Munoz is an exhibition of photos from inside the freight train that illegal immigrants call "The Beast"

You may hear the phrase “cultural renaissance” thrown around as way to describe the growth taking place in Miami’s arts community. Yet the surge in popularity is not necessarily a revival of a scene that was once a fixture in the arts world; it’s more of a cultural awakening as to what’s happening now and what’s to come. With the help of Miami’s most impassioned arts advocates, the city is forging ahead with its new reputation as a year-round home for the arts.

This weekend it is downtown Miami’s turn to give thousands the chance to experience the “new” Miami. Resident arts and cultural institutions are opening their doors to the public for DWNTWN Art Days, a free series of collaborative events strategically placed throughout the urban core.

In partnership with the Miami Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and its Cultural Advisory Group, organizations like the Miami Art Museum, the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation (CIFO), and the Miami Dade College Gallery at the Freedom Tower were encouraged to produce stimulating programming that begins at 9 a.m. Friday and continues straight through Saturday night.

“We’re in our second century as a community. Miami obviously developed much later than other cities up north like New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago,” said Alyce Robertson, executive director of the DDA. “We’re evolving our community through the arts and I think that these Art Days are a tip of the hat to decades of work that has gone into this effort.”

For culture junkies, Art Days weekend is an opportunity to go deep into the thriving metropolis by trolley, foot or by bike. Well, by bike only if you were one of the first people to sign up for Beached Miami’s cleverly curated Art Days Bike Tour. After receiving more than 200 requests for the list in just one day, organizers had to cap the total at 60 riders to ensure safety.

Nevertheless, expect to be fascinated by the walking tours, especially HistoryMiami’s look at the historic Brickell neighborhood and the Miami Circle at 6 p.m. Friday. It’s actually a perfect circle that was once a sacred site for the Tequesta Indians nearly 2,000 years ago. Now, interestingly enough, the ultra-modern Viceroy hotel towers over it.

Take your pick of seven new art exhibits that will be on display at various locations as well as special events and open studios of artists throughout the downtown area.

With all of this stimulation, a proper cocktail may be in order. Stop by The Corner Bar on Friday night for a break and interesting eye candy presented by Southern Most Situations, including performances and installations by musicians and artists in and outside the bar.

There’s also a bit of cinema, including a screening of Gerhard Richter Painting, a film about one of the world’s most celebrated living contemporary artists, a private type who typically shuns the spotlight. It’s scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday at Miami Dade College, courtesy of the Miami International Film Festival.

For something a little less esoteric, head to Bayfront Park for a chance to hang out on South Florida-based artist Misael Soto’s oversized picnic blanket with a few hundred of your closest friends from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday. Organizers encourage people to eat and play on the 60- by 60-foot installation.

In preparation for your next visit to the Arsht Center, you can teach your budding arts lovers theater-going etiquette with family-friendly classes called “Feeling at Home in the House” at 11 a.m., . noon and 1 p.m. Saturday.

The DWNTWN Art Days initiative is anticipated to become an annual program and Robertson hopes it will introduce cultural experiences to downtown Miami residents, a demographic that’s growing by the day.

The Miami DDA says there has never been a greater need or demand for an event of this magnitude in downtown Miami. Since 2000, the area has experienced an 80 percent increase in population, with more than 72,000 people living there as of this time last year, and more than 15,000 more expected to call downtown home in the next few years.


Highlights from this weekend’s Dwntwn Art Days

Miami Art Museum
101 W. Flagler St., Miami
Free entrance to Rashid Johnson exhibit Friday from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Saturday from noon – 5 p.m.

Centro Cultural Español
1490 Biscayne Blvd., Miami
Spanish photographer Isabel Muñoz’s exhibit “La Bestia” (The Beast), Fridayfrom 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Miami Dade College Gallery at the Freedom Tower
600 Biscayne Blvd., Miami
Shutter: Selected photography and film from CINTAS Foundation Fellows Collection, Friday from noon – 5 p.m.

HistoryMiami at Mary Brickell Village
Join tour guide Michael Pearlman on a 90 minute walk through the history of the Brickell area. Meet at the bronze sculpture “The Union of the World” at Brickell Plaza (SE 1Ave.) Friday at 6 p.m.

New World School of the Arts
25 NE 2nd St., Miami
“Exquisite Consequence” exhibition opening Friday, September 7 from 6-9pm

Artist Misael Soto’s “Picnic” performance
301 N. Biscayne Blvd., Miami
Misael Soto will be laying out his oversized picnic blanket at Bayfront Park on Saturday from 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.

DWNTWN Art Windows at Alfred I. Dupont
169 E. Flagler St. #5, Miami
The free public art display is entitled, “Einstein on the Beach (Metropolitan Interlude),” which is a reference to Philip Glass’ musical score and is inspired by themes of storefront advertising.

Southeast Financial Center
200 S. Biscayne Blvd., Miami
Made in Miami Video Art curated by Colin Foord and features Miami’s premier video artists like Justin Long, Coral Morphologic and Jilian Mayer on Downtown’s largest HD video wall Saturday from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Wine by the Bay
888 Biscayne Blvd, #112, Miami
Wine Photo, Editions 2011 and 2012 is an international photo contest sponsored by Balan, Italy. Saturday from noon to 9 p.m.

Miami Dade Public Library Cultural Plaza
101 W. Flagler St., Miami
Jean Chiang: A Journey Called Life Friday from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Saturday from noon – 5 p.m. Inspired by her historical research of The Great Wall of China.


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