Since 1973, Miami-Dade County has run what’s considered one of the most successful Art in Public Places programs in the country, placing hundreds of sculptures, installations, murals, paintings and photographs at sites ranging from Miami International Airport to PortMiami, transit stations, libraries, housing developments and parks.
Now the city of Miami, whose own public-art program has been dormant for years, wants to revive and expand it, joining other municipalies such as Miami Beach and Coral Gables who do their own. On Thursday, the city commission will consider a plan that would require private developers to set aside 1 percent to 1.25 percent of the budget of projects over $1 million towards the commissioning or acquisition of art to be installed on site, or to be paid into a city art fund.
The county program, which sets aside a percent of public project budgets to underwrite public art, has produced some of the most familiar, and in some cases iconic, works of art across Miami-Dade — though the sometimes envelope-pushing choices of the independent panel that selects artists and artworks are not always instantly popular, and sometimes remain the subject of public debate, even distate, for years.
The county collection includes the cherished but temporarily extinguished Miami Line by Rockne Krebs, a string of colored neon that spans the Metrorail bridge over the Miami River, and is being gradually restored using more durable LEDs. It also includes work by art world giants such as Isamu Noguchi (a stonework spiral slide in Bayfront Park, which he also designed), Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen (shards of a dropped bowl with orange slices and peels outside County Hall), as well as young Miami artists such as Bhakti Baxter (booths at PortMiami covered in intensely colorful images of coral life).
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Then there’s the goofily fun home-run sculpture at Marlins Park by another renown artist, Red Grooms, which is reviled by some baseball fans but has gained its fans as time moves on.
In Coral Gables, meanwhile, a pair of exuberant, colorful sculptures of passionflowers by famed sculptor Alice Aycock, commissined by the city's art in public places program and now being installed in traffic circles near downtown, are giving some residents conniptions fits even though they're not finished.