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Creating community through art


South Florida is going through an arts renaissance, and we’re all reaping the benefits. Obviously, we have Art Basel. We also have theater and literature and sometimes a combination of both. And, we have a champion of all the arts: The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Eight years ago, I founded Lip Service, which is theater and literature combined. Every quarter, Lip Service collects true, personal stories. Anyone can submit a story. We pick eight stories from the hundreds we receive. And then each storyteller tells his or her story in front of an audience. The stories are sometimes heart-wrenching, sometimes funny. They’re about coming to Miami on a shrimp boat from Cuba; losing a wig during sex after chemo; pondering the linearity of time after the death of a daughter. Everyone has a story.

I grew up in Miami, but moved away for almost 20 years. Eight years ago, I moved back from Los Angeles because this is my home. I’m a storyteller and I love stories and theater. I was afraid, I’ll admit, that I was leaving a cultural mecca for a cultural wasteland, but instead I found an eagerness to create and share through art.

Lip Service started as a free show at Books & Books. We soon got too big for Books & Books and now we play to 600 people at the Miracle Theater in Coral Gables.

It costs money to produce art and theater. Lip Service applied for a Knight Arts Challenge grant and we won. The Knight Foundation cares about creating community through the art of storytelling. With its help, Lip Service has reached millions through collaborations with WPBT2 and WLRN. We’ve also been able to collaborate with community groups such as the Miami Rescue Mission and The Women’s Fund to tell stories that would otherwise not have easy access to the stage.

Our next show is April 5 in Coral Gables. We’re also bringing the show to Cinema Paradiso in Broward, April 12. Tickets are on sale at

The deadline for a Knight Arts Challenge grant is Feb. 24. You don’t have to be an organization to win. You just have to have a great art idea. Guidelines can be found at

Andrea Askowitz, co-creator, Lip Service, Miami

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