It's exciting to raise kids in Miami. Sure, we have our share of crime, craziness and plastic consumption, but the cultures and languages that Miami children learn to traverse are so rich and challenging, they're bound to force young minds to think outside the box.
I was euphoric last week, when Miami-raised Richard Blanco, 44, was tapped as the inaugural poet – not just because he's the first gay and Latin poet to be asked to deliver a poem for the President's Inauguration, but because his success further proves my theory.
Here are other rising talents that help make my case (and Miami's growing reputation) as a fount of creativity.
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Tarell Alvin McCraney, 32: The Liberty City-raised playwright and actor took off after graduating from New World School of the Arts (NWSA), making his way through the Yale School of Drama's playwriting program, membership in the Steppenwolf Theatre Co. and a residency at the Royal Shakespeare Co. in London. His Brother/Sister trilogy is set in the Louisiana Projects and explores Yoruba mythology. Wig Out, set in New York drag clubs, explores his experiences as a gay black man. His latest project, a 90-minute adaptation of Hamlet, will run Jan. 12-Feb. 10 at GableStage.
Karen Russell, 31: Raised in Coconut Grove, the Coral Gables High grad is a rising literary star. Her debut novel, Swamplandia!, was a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Her stories have been featured in The Best American Short Stories, Granta, The New Yorker and Oxford American. She was named a National Book Foundation "5 Under 35" young writer honoree in 2009 for her first book of short stories, St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves.
Hernan Bas, 34: Another NWSA grad, he's an artist whose work is included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, LA's Museum of Contemporary Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami, following a debut in Miami at The Rubell Family Collection in 2007. Louis Vuitton hired him to create a sculpture and video installation in the brand's Aventura Mall store last year.
Tramar Lacel Dillard, 33: We know him now as Flo Rida, but back in Carol City, where he was born and raised, he started out in ninth grade with a group of friends who called themselves GroundHoggz. The rapper and singer-songwriter released his debut album, Mail on Sunday, in March 2008. His debut single "Low," featuring T-Pain, was a No. 1 hit for ten weeks in the U.S. in early 2009. He's sold well over 20 million digital downloads, including his latest singles "Club Can't Handle Me" and "Whistle."
Phil Lord, 35: The Ransom Everglades School grad turned a development deal with Disney and his short-lived "Clone High" MTV series into a Hollywood career with business partner (and former Dartmouth roommate) Chris Miller that includes co-directing "Cloudy with a Chance Meatballs," "21 Jump Street" and the upcoming "LEGO: The Piece of Resistance." They've also written and produced some of the episodes for the TV show "How I Met Your Mother."
Robert Battle, 40: The Liberty City native and NWSA grad became Artistic Director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 2011, after being selected by Judith Jamison, making him only the third person to head the company since it was founded in 1958. He was honored as one of the "Masters of African-American Choreography" by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 2005.