As the founder of Coral Gables, George Merrick put a great deal of emphasis on aesthetics when it came to city planning.
But Merrick was not the only one in his family who was artistically inclined. When Merrick planned Coral Gables, he relied on the skills of his creative family. He went to his uncle, Denman Fink, to create the original sketches for his layout plans.
Fink, who was a painter, helped Merrick bring his vision into sharper focus and illustrated its beautiful entrance ways and plazas resembling those of Spain.
Merrick’s cousin George Fink, a prolific architect, also contributed to the city’s construction. He designed buildings that corresponded with Denman Fink’s drawings, which included some of the first coral rock homes in Coral Gables.
Merrick’s mother, Althea, a painter, was the one who instilled in him and his brother, Richard, an appreciation for the arts. Richard Merrick later went on to become a professor of art at the University of Miami, whose personal work included paintings, furniture and wood engravings.
To celebrate the various artistic endeavors of the city’s founding family, the Merrick House will be hosting an arts festival this Sunday afternoon.
“Their artistic nature resonates today because their legacy in Coral Gables goes back to that,” said Elizabeth Smith, the co-chair.
The festival will be the sixth event in series of seven hosted by the city of Coral Gables and the Merrick House Governing Board. The monthly series, Sundays on the Porch with George, showcases the Merrick House and gardens at 907 Coral Way.
At the free event, original works of art by Althea Merrick, Richard Merrick and Denman Fink will be on display.
Locally based artists have gotten on board with the festival so guests can explore the different forms of art enjoyed by the Merricks. Landscape painter Erik Speyer, who is known for his Everglades scenes, will set up an easel on the front lawn and hold demonstrations.
Along the veranda of the house, fine art photographer Tom Smith will share some of his local and Spanish images in an exhibit. Photos taken by Ransom Everglades and South Miami Middle and Senior High School students will also be on display.
Ambassadors from the University of Miami will be on hand to take photos of guests with period props on the lawn using their camera phones or digital cameras.
The festival will also celebrate Spain’s influence on Coral Gables’ architecture. Spanish cuisine and complimentary wine will be available.
“George Merrick looked to Spain for his creative and visual inspiration,” Smith said. “He saw a lot of similarities between the two and felt as if they were parallels of one another.”
Inside the home, internationally regarded architect Willy Bermello will recount George Merrick’s vision to recreate Spanish architecture in Coral Gables. The informal salon will be open to a limited number of guests on a first-come basis.
In addition, tours of the main house will be offered for a $5 fee that will go toward the restoration and upkeep of the home.
Co-chair Ana Lam says the series allows the community to get a better understanding of the city’s history.
“Every event has people come out knowing a little more about our community and gives them more of a sense of belonging,” she said.