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Coconut Grove Arts Festival gets new look

Built on decades of local participation, the annual Coconut Grove Arts Festival has long been imbued with the strong cultural identity of the Grove.

Even as it has grown to garner nationwide interest, the outdoor festival always reflected the Grove’s somewhat bohemian heritage.

But now, as an influx of high-end development moves into the Grove, the fair is also updating its offerings and its brand.

When the three-day festival opens Saturday for its 52nd year, some 100,000 showgoers will find a more sophisticated approach to food and live music. They’ll also find a new look created by Miami-based República, which has created the with the acronym CGAF.

“We are appealing to a wider market and hopefully into the Spanish market,” said Monty Trainer, festival president. “República is bringing us to a different level as far as we are promoting, developing and progressing.”

For the República team, the challenge was capturing the Grove’s rich history as well as acknowledging the ways Miami has become more multicultural and vibrant.

“We wanted to embrace all the true assets of the Grove and the festival, but also how it’s evolving,” said Luis Casamayor, República’s chief creative officer.

Banners along Coconut Grove’s South Bayshore Drive, where the festival is held, flaunt the campaign’s new CGAF logo. The updated logo features clean typography and an A that takes the shape of a sail — a nod to the Biscayne Bay sailboats that provide a backdrop to the festival.

A culinary pavilion will showcase acclaimed South Florida chefs, including Giorgio Rapicavoli of Coral Gables’ Eating House and celebrity chef Richard Ingraham, who currently works for the Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade.

Organizers also have invited more young artists to show their work though the emerging arts program, where they pair the artists with mentors who advise them on how to present their booths. There are 10 young artists in program this year, compared to five artists last year when it began.

And for the first time, the festival has partnered with the Miami New Times to curate live music acts. Headlining this weekend is the one-man band Zach Deputy and psychedelic southern rock group Bright Light Social Hour.

“We have a lot of national touring acts that will appeal to a younger audience than we have before,” Trainer said. “We are going to cultivate new music acts and hopefully bring a new crowd. And maybe they’ll come for the entertainment and then stay for the art.”

For years, the festival was at the core of the Miami arts scene. The advent of Art Basel Miami Beach in 2002 and the rise of Wynwood Arts District has brought attention from young art enthusiasts and international collectors. CGAF organizers realized it could reach out to those new audiences.

“It has energized a young audience,” Trainer said. “There are more affluent young professionals that are exposing themselves to art.”

“I welcome the competition. It is a further realization of what kind of impact art can have and how art is a great economic engine,” he said.

CGAF drove an interactive truck around Basel events to promote the festival. The truck, which had glass sides, allowed art-goers to climb into the mobile gallery to get a better view of the artworks.

Casamayor believes that even as the local arts scene continues to burgeon, CGAF will be a mainstay.

“Lincoln Road is over the top,” Casamayor said. “For Basel, you need to have a million dollars in your pocket to even look at art. And you need to be trendy and in-the-know for Wynwood. Coconut Grove is the place that is really authentic.”

Casamyor believes CGAF can become a launchpad for new products or brands in the way that Austin’s South by Southwest festival has for technology. A film component is also under consideration.

“Miami has a great vibe if someone wants to emerge in a market or introduce something new with their brand,” Casamayor said. “There is the Latin American, international appeal here, and it really is a multicultural, multisensory environment.”

Transforming that vision to reality may take a few years, he says. “The sponsors really need to feel the energy changing,” he said.

For Trainer, the festival’s future is straightforward.

“Every year, we just try to embellish on what we are already doing,” Trainer said.

If you go

What: Coconut Grove Arts Festival

When: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday-Monday

Where: The festival runs along runs along McFarlane Road, South Bayshore Drive and Pan American Drive.

Admission: Tickets are $15 per day. Residents of the 33133 ZIP Code pay $5 with a valid state-issued ID. The festival is free for children under 12, Metrorail Gold Passport and Patriot Passport holders.

Info: visit www.cgaf.com.

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