Community Voices

Black in Time: Art Basel allowed spotlight to shine on artists from African diaspora

From left: Carl Craig, a 2015 artist and workshop facilitator; Urgent interns David Santana, Daijah Sutton, Clara Mareus, Anais Richardson, Rachel Greig; architect Neil Hall, Art Africa Miami Fair producer and creator of The Urban Collective; and intern Skyler Cunningham, in background.
From left: Carl Craig, a 2015 artist and workshop facilitator; Urgent interns David Santana, Daijah Sutton, Clara Mareus, Anais Richardson, Rachel Greig; architect Neil Hall, Art Africa Miami Fair producer and creator of The Urban Collective; and intern Skyler Cunningham, in background.

Art Basel is a big deal. Branded as the world’s premier 20th and 21st centuries fine arts show, it takes place annually on three continents: Europe in June in Basel, Switzerland; North America in December in Miami Beach; and Asia in March in Hong Kong. Art collectors and curators attend these fairs to discover new artists and new galleries. They generate sales and encourage collectors and curators to follow the activities of their favorite artists and to discover new ones.

By all accounts the 2015 Art Basel Miami Beach Dec. 1 to 6 was a success. Galleries large and small exhibited the fine arts of traditional and emerging artists in grand style. Contemporary and vintage paintings and sculptures were viewed and purchased. Celebrities, artists, curators, visitors and residents networked in galleries and at parties for nearly a week in an art-filled festive environment.

Numerous established galleries from New York, Chicago and London exhibited works by national and international black artists in Miami Beach and at satellite fairs. Miami-based Prizm Museum showcased works of international contemporary artists from the African diaspora and emerging markets. The Prizm Art Fair in Miami, temporarily located at 7300 Biscayne Blvd., is open through Sunday. Visit www.Prizmartfair.com.

Several miles west of Prizm is the Yeelen Gallery, permanently located at 294 NW 54th St. in Little Haiti. Its Art Basel show, titled “what’s INSIDE HER never dies…a Black Woman’s Legacy,” continues through Feb. 28, 2016. This gallery is owned and operated by a black woman, Karla Ferguson. Visit www.yeelenart.com.

Satellite exhibitions created in emerging neighborhoods were installed in community galleries including the Ward Rooming House and The Black Archives Lyric Theater Cultural Complex. Art of Black Miami, a platform featuring the fine arts of local, national and international aspiring black artists, was introduced in 2014. An initiative of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, it celebrates the artistic diversity within Miami’s mosaic neighborhoods and historic communities. Participating heritage communities include but are not limited to Little Haiti, Coconut Grove, Liberty City, Opa-locka, historic Overtown, Wynwood, MiMo District, downtown and other areas where artists will exhibit and display their artistic talents. www.miamiandbeaches.com/events/art-of-black.

The schedule for Art of Black Miami was published in the 2015/2016 Art Circuits Miami Guide & Maps, Gold Edition and the MIA magazine, an independent supplement by MIA Media & Communications Group to the Miami Herald. MIA magazine is the official publication for Art of Black Miami.

In Little Haiti, the pulse and flavor of Haiti was showcased with Haitian artists and artists from around the world. Branded with Art Beat Miami, for six days the Fine Arts exhibition showcased paintings, sculptures, drawings and photographs at the Caribbean Marketplace. The Little Haiti Art Basel Guide listed 16 art galleries and exhibitions. Visit www.littlehaiticulturalcenter.com.

Trolley hopping from stops in Little Haiti, Midtown, the MiMo District, Wynwood and Overtown added to the experience of visiting the satellite fairs.

In the heart of Coconut Grove on Grand Avenue, KROMA, a new collective art space, was established. This affordable contemporary art space is for artists to create, present and sell their work. It provides opportunities for artists to enrich the lives of the community through workshops and classes focusing on the Fine Arts. Visit http://kroma.com/.

Florida Memorial University’s School of Arts and Sciences in partnership with the Contemporary African Diaspora Art Conversations presented the sixth annual Art Basel panel on Contemporary African Diaspora Art. The discussion, “Why Black Art Matters,” was moderated by curator and CADA Managing Director Ludlow Bailey and held on campus at The Nathan W. Collier Library. The panelists were Ethiopian-based curator Dr. Desta Meghoo; Nigerian artist Dr. Ugochukwu Smooth-Nwezi, curator of African art, Hood Museum, Dartmouth College; African-American artist Bernard Williams; and cultural writer Julie Walker from The Root.com.

At the opening of the Historic Overtown Soul Basel reception in District 5, Miami Commission Vice Chairman Keon Hardemon said: “Art and entertainment are at the cornerstone of the Historic Overtown community. It is our mission to enhance the quality of life of our residents. Showcases such as the annual Art Africa Miami Arts Fair attract visitors into the community while highlighting the ongoing wave of redevelopment that is taking place.”

Hardemon is also chairman of the Southeast Overtown Park West Community Redevelopment Area (SEOPW CRA).

Advancing Hardemon’s endorsement, SEOPW CRA Executive Director Clarence Woods said: “We are excited about the return of Art Africa Miami to Historic Overtown and the appeal it brings to Art Basel Patrons. We believe this year’s exhibit was exceptionally strong at the Historic Lyric Theater, and it provided the SEOPW CRA with the opportunity to showcase the redevelopment area.”

Art is authentically a part of Overtown’s soul. It has a history of contributions from artists like Purvis Young, Gene Tinney, Addonis Parker and others who continue to create energy for the #HistoricOvertown community. With the generous support of the SEOPW CRA, the fifth annual Art Africa Miami Arts Fair was held in Overtown.

Architect and thought leader behind the AAMAF, Neil Hall, a registered architect, continues in the forefront nurturing the narrative that “art and culture are the vital resources to transform the Overtown community.” The Art Africa Miami Arts Fair is a juried, multidisciplinary exhibition of fine contemporary art from the Global African Diaspora. The gallery commentary was produced by Carole Boyce Davies, professor of English and Africana Studies, Cornell University. The website provides a front row seat to the exhibition: Visit www.artafricamiamifair.com.

According to Hall, the community is experiencing a timely and well-deserved renaissance. “Art Africa Miami is a catalyst of this renaissance, and I am happy that so many are experiencing the rebirth through art, architecture and design.”

The AAMAF is a part of the Soul Basel and Art of Black Miami marketing vehicle that brings awareness of black art for all perspectives including African-American, Latin, Afro-Cuban and Caribbean, as well as African artistic and cultural exhibitions and programming.

The Urban Collective (TUC) is dedicated to inspiring the youth of Overtown to serve as agents of change within the arts arena. The Urban Collective Art Youth Insider workshop provided students of the Overtown Youth and Children Coalition opportunities to explore the areas of art and design, street art, mural art and fine art.

Dorothy Jenkins Fields, PhD, is a historian and founder of the Black Archives, History and Research Foundation of South Florida Inc. Send feedback to djf@bellsouth.net.

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