Miami’s Pérez Art Museum Miami focuses on visual arts. But it was Aja Monet’s performance of her poems “My Mother was a Freedom Fighter” and “This is Black Joy” that left the crowd of 700 cheering.
Monet capped the fourth annual gathering Tuesday of the museum’s Ambassadors for African American Art, where PAMM director Franklin Sirmans announced two significant donations — one for $5,000 by Chicago artist Theaster Gates, and a $100,000 gift by museum trustee, FirstCap Advisors Managing Partner Dorothy A. Terrell. Both gifts qualify for a $200,000 challenge grant announced Tuesday by the Knight Foundation, which will provide a dollar-for-dollar match for gifts to the PAMM Fund for African American Art.
Toni and Carl Randolph also donated “Blue and Flame: 2001,” a relief work by Sam Gilliam. Museum trustees Debi and Larry Hoffman donated Gates’ 2010 work, “Breathing.”
Launched by museum namesake Jorge Pérez and the Knight Foundation, the fund is used to purchase major works by African American artists including Gates, Faith Ringgold, Ed Clark, Juana Valdes and Martine Syms. The evening has become a signal arts gathering of Miami’s black professional community.
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Monet, a poet, performer and civic activist, moved to Miami from New York two years ago to join partner Umi Selah, co founder of the activist Dream Defenders. The couple has founded Smoke Signals Studio, a community music space in Little Haiti. Monet was awarded a $25,000 Knight Arts Challenge grant for a program to bring poetry workshop to grassroots leaders involved in social justice issues.