New Miami program can make art collectors of us all

Typoe, a Miami-based multidisciplinary artist, is the first to be collectively commissioned through a new art-investment program.
Typoe, a Miami-based multidisciplinary artist, is the first to be collectively commissioned through a new art-investment program. typoe.com
If art is born in the imagination, then making art is an act of radical freedom. Art is, equally, individual expression and a response to society’s ills and transformations. It is both creative outlet and critical response mechanism, personal and political at once.

When arts-based cultural resources are introduced to neighborhoods, it enhances the quality of life. A

study from Nicole Foster and James Murdoch III at the University of Texas at Arlington and Carl Grodach at Queensland University of Technology found that while nonprofit arts organizations are typically “attracted to relatively advantaged neighborhoods with a mix of . . . industries and moderate levels of racial diversity . . . these organizations do the most good in disadvantaged, even more diverse neighborhoods that lack this kind of industry mix.”

Another recent study, by the School of Social Policy & Practice at the University of Pennsylvania, found that “low-and-moderate-income residents in New York City neighborhoods with many cultural resources are healthier, better educated and safer overall than those in similar communities with fewer creative resources.” Some of these cultural resources were bookstores, entertainment venues and artists themselves.

So while art collecting is often exclusive to the affluent, art itself is imperative, and the support of artists who bring vital and beneficial shifts to neighborhoods — a phenomenon particularly visible in Miami — is crucial. In its rising creative economy, Miami is both in need of a reimagined narrative and of systems developed by locals for locals to sustain long-term growth.

Commissioner, a new arts patronage initiative that launched earlier this month, proposes a subscription revenue model to create access and promote arts engagement as a civic contribution. In normalizing support for and investment in the city’s artists, the goal is to change the perception of who typically owns art to one of any enthusiastic person with a genuine interest in building Miami.

Commissioner’s subscription model works to fund the commission and purchase of new work by an emerging or established artist in Miami every three months. Local Collector-level supporters, who pay a quarterly $300 fee, will be connected with artists and their galleries directly; they’ll also participate in programming to learn more about art collecting and making art part of their daily lives. The $50-a-year Patron level enables access to this programming, as well; they, too, can join studio visits, lectures, and other events to help integrate art on a day-to-day level. That Collector-level subscriptions sold out within 12 days of launch — to many customers, by design, who have never purchased contemporary art before — is a positive sign that Miami has the capacity to power its own creative ecosystem.

Collective buying like this isn’t new. Collectors have pooled resources in vehicles of varying levels of formality for years. Commissioner aims to build on this concept to amplify the network effects that help artists develop lasting careers. This subscription model will facilitate a commitment between the collectors and the group of artists commissioned. By linking the artists’ works to the experience of learning about the narratives, methods and concepts behind the work, Commissioner’s concept hopes to turn art enthusiasts into local art advocates who will share the impact of these interactions. In this way, a stronger network of support will become available to the artists themselves, too.

Typoe, a Miami-based multidisciplinary artist, is the first to be commissioned of the program. His immersive installations, inspired by the strange beauty and detritus of the city, have been informed by this tropical place’s aesthetic. He recently collaborated with Brightline, the high-speed train connecting the tri-county area, and opened his solo show, “Tired of Eating Pigeons,” this month.

For decades, curators and leaders in the local art space have been organizing studio visits and exhibitions, helping shape the city’s narrative by highlighting the work that matters. With a range of models, so many of us can fulfill the role of the collector at a price or approach that is aligned with our financial situation, values and aesthetic. The choices are broad, and the decision to support need not be limiting.

Dejha Carrington is the founder of Commissioner (commissioner.us), created in partnership with Rebekah Monson of WhereBy.Us alongside curatorial partner Primary, and supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s Knight Arts Challenge and a Locust Projects WaveMaker grant. Carrington is vice president of external relations and communications for the National YoungArts Foundation. Commissioner will host a registration event for new patrons and collectors from 6-9 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 2, at 49 E. 39th St., Miami.