On one of those delicious November evenings in Miami, with a shimmering new skyline casting its magic over a happening stretch of downtown that even a decade ago was unimaginable, a cross section of the local arts community toasted the latest sign of progress for a city making strides toward cultural maturity.
Here they were, three short weeks before the 11th Art Basel Miami Beach, which opens this week at the Miami Beach Convention Center and is a magnet for dozens of other art fairs and glitzy events. Many were slammed with deadlines related to their involvement in some aspect of the contemporary art fair called the most important in the world. But they carved out time to gather on the broad plaza of the historic former Bacardi headquarters to celebrate its planned rebirth as a Frank Gehry-designed campus for the National YoungArts Foundation.
For a city starting to come into its own, the project has the power to be transformational. While the Swiss-run Art Basel has proved a major force in elevating Miamis creative and cultural life, and other outside influences have helped push the city forward over time, the YoungArts announcement highlights Miamis growing maturity as homegrown leaders, cultural institutions and corporations find fresh, vital ways to give back.
The new YoungArts will end up being another Juilliard, says Lourdes Lopez, the Cuban-born former principal dancer for New York City Ballet who was recently named artistic director for Miami City Ballet. I left Miami when I was 14 to dance. I came back regularly to visit family. But when you visit family, youre hanging out at home. It was after I was first approached by the ballet that I came to understand how much Miami had grown culturally. I was floored.
Established in 1981 by Carnival Cruise Lines founder Ted Arison and his wife, Lin, YoungArts has long been a national force for nurturing talented kids who have gone on to be A-list dancers, visual artists, writers, musicians, actors and more. The plan to turn the 3.3-acre Bacardi property at 2100 Biscayne Blvd. into a multi-disciplinary arts campus that will also offer year-round public exhibitions and performances promises to help sew together a swiftly developing urban core.
By next years Art Basel, the Miami Art Museums architecturally acclaimed new home will open 11 blocks south of the Bacardi campus in the 29-acre Museum Park, which will also be the site of the new Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science. Along with its new home, the museum will get a new name, PAMM, Perez Art Museum Miami, in honor of the gift of $35 million in art and cash by real-estate developer Jorge Perez. He, like the Frosts, made much of his fortune in Miami.
PAMM will join downtowns Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, on line since 2006. Nearby stands the historic Freedom Tower, donated by another Cuban-American developer, Terra Groups Pedro Martin, to Miami Dade College in 2005, which has transformed it into a nexus for cultural programming and exhibitions.
On the east side of the bay is the Gehry-designed home for the New World Symphony, an instant landmark for South Beach when it opened in early 2011 (Lin Arison and her late husband, Ted, co-founded the symphony in 1987 with conductor Michael Tilson Thomas; the Arison family was one of the financial forces behind the new center off Lincoln Road).