Art in Public Places – A Venerable Public Treasure Chest

 

Throughout civilization, works of art and architecture have been commissioned and created that memorialize both a time in history and a style and taste of local cultures.  Italy is an astounding example of a country deeply infused with centuries of public art. From the art of Ancient Rome that proliferated from 750 BC to approximately 400 AD, to such works as Michelangelo’s  David  and the Trevi Fountain, Italy is indelibly enriched.   David, created between 1501 and 1504 and originally commissioned for a different purpose, which was ultimately installed in a public square in Florence; and the Trevi Fountain in Rome (1732-1762, commissioned by Pope Urban Vlll), both exemplify the visual treasure chest of Italy.

 

Miami Beach is a city that is highly committed to art and its future, as demonstrated through its “Art in Public Places” program.  Officially established in 1984, there were already several important works of art on display in the city.  Mermaid, created in 1979 by Roy Lichtenstein (yes, “that Lichtenstein “), is a highly visible and recognizable work of art located at Washington and 17th Street.  Today, there are nineteen unique and original works of art dotting the city like jewels of a crown.

 

The Resources for Public Art

 

In general, public art is installed with the authorization and collaboration of the government. In different municipalities, the government actively encourages the creation of public art by implementing a policy based on a percentage of different funds, often hovering around 1% of given real estate development costs.

 

The City of Miami Art in Public Places Ordinance, has established, 1.5 percent of the cost of city-owned construction projects is set aside for “works of art in public places other than museums which enrich the public environment.” Additionally, the 1.5 percents funding also included renovations of City building requiring compliance with the Florida Building Code fifty percent (50%) rule or, renovation having a value equal to or greater than $500,000, or addition to any city-owned building, facility, or other city-owned property. The definition of city construction project is also deemed to include construction projects that are developed by persons or entities other than the city, but which require the participation of the city as a party to a development agreement or ground lease. Additionally, Construction cost means “hard costs” associated with construction of a city construction project.  .

 

The Selection Process

 

The Art in Public Places program is under the direction of Max Sklar, Director of Tourism and Cultural Development and Dennis Leyva, the Art in Public Places Coordinator for City of Miami Beach.

 

Max Sklar, a Miami-Dade County native, is a graduate of The American University and Florida International University, Business School. He is highly regarded for his direction of the tourist and cultural initiatives of the city, including “Sleepless Nights” held annually on the first week of November.

 

Dennis Leyva, born Cuba and raised in Miami, is a graduate of University of Miami. Some of the most exciting projects of the Art in Public Places program have been completed in the past four years, under the supervision of Mr. Leyva.  They include Urban Deco, 2008, by Garren Owens; Morris’, 2009, by Dan Graham; Tempest, 2010, by Brian Tolle;  Liquid Measures, by Wendy Wischer, 2010; and most recently obstinate lighthouse, by Tobias Rehberger, 2011.

 

In addition to the City of Miami Beach staff resources, seven Miami Beach residents are appointed by the City commission to the Art in Public Places Committee. Each of these individuals is selected based on their competence and experiences in art history, architectural history, sculpture, painting, artistic structure design and other areas of specialization. The current members of the Committee are: Chairperson, Megan Riley; Vice-Chair, Elizabeth Resnick; Lisa Austin; James Lloyd; Rhonda Mitrani; Lisette Olemberg-Goldstein; and Janda Wetherington.

 

Educating the Miami Beach Students – ARTventure

 

Students and teachers throughout Miami Beach now have access to a program that is helping to bring Art in Public Places into the classroom.  As part of the Education Compact, the City has developed the Backyard ARTventure program designed to enhance awareness and appreciation for public artwork throughout the City.  A map and interactive brochure highlight the locations and information on each work of public art throughout Miami Beach (a downloadable version is available on the City of Miami Beach website http://www.miamibeachfl.gov/tcd/aipp).

 

The Future Looks Golden

 

The most recent addition to the portfolio of art work in this program was unveiled during Art Basel  Miami Beach, December 1, 2011.  This project bears indication of continued great works for the program’s future.  Not only is the obstinate lighthouse a monumental, fifty-five feet tall art work, a stunning addition to the pristine South Park, but the caliber of the artist is world class, and highly regarded by critics across the globe.  The winner of the 2009 Venice Biennale’s highest honor, the Golden Lion, Tobias Rehberger and his obstinate lighthouse represents Miami Beach’s serious commitment to significant public art – as is so well deserved for our beautiful city.