Miami the Magic City

by Sara Ypsilanti


Angel Lauren Garcia, Tarot, handmade tarot deck in 20/20: twenty artists/twenty hours, Locust Projects, 2018


In recent years, Miami has become famous for Art Basel and Miami Art Week, both of which occur in December, but our city flourishes with wildly diverse contemporary artists year-round.  Art lovers, intellectuals, and collectors will be happy to know that Miami is fluent in cultivating – and delivering – boundless and inclusive artistry.


The 777 International Mall is located in the heart of Downtown Miami at 145 East Flagler Street. At first glance, you would think that it is just another antiquated outlet mall. Circa 1948, this burgeoning artists’ hub was originally the Miami Theatre; the building is still shrouded in mystery and glamour. In the last few years, Mana Contemporary Miami has been using this movie-theatre-turned-outlet-plaza to house artists in residency programs. The 777 International Mall is home to Borscht Corp, O, Miami, the Bas Fisher Invitational, Dale Zine, and residents LizBo. In September, Mana hosted Downtown Art Days at 777, a comprehensive weekend of performances, workshops, and other cultural programming. The Bas Fisher Invitational showcased X,X,X, which takes a minimalist approach to furniture and a utilitarian approach to how we interact with, and in, space; it was performed by NUN (a collaborative design practice between Deon Rubi and Jessica Martin) and Liony Garcia.


In Miami’s Design District, the Locust Project just celebrated their 20th anniversary. On September 7th, 20 artists presented 20 projects, in 20 hours, for this non-profit exhibition space, which is focused on providing educational programming for the community and emerging artists. Locust Projects has been hosting Angel Lauren Garcia, a native Miami artist, for their Practice and Process sessions. Garcia invites the community to join her in building a working archive of contemporary art and mysticism, a subject to which Miami is no stranger. On September 26th, Garcia engaged in a discussion with Monica Uszerowicz, local Miami writer and photographer, on their collective research and observations of intuition and the obscure.


In Miami, drag queens and kings have evolved as contemporary conceptual performance artists. This has been an evolution from divas performing at local dive bars to queer conceptual artists gaining platforms, residencies, and grants from institutions like the Knight Foundation and the Perez Art Museum Miami. The short film Emergence, by Karli Evans and Cassandra Keith, is a grass-roots documentation of the Miami-Dade queer performance scene. Many of the performers showcased in Emergence have cross-over artistry in their lives, such as Queef Latina, Kunst, and Ded Cooter, to name a few. Out of drag, Queef Latina is known as Antonio Méndez and is a resident with Mana Contemporary Miami.


Ded Cooter, also known as Cara Dodge, performed on November 2nd at the Bakehouse Art Complex in Quinn Harrelson’s curated show Collectivity. In response to the season slipping from summer to fall and the call to Bakehouse residents from Harrelson aiming to examine the fine line between individual and collective experience, Dodge guided viewers through a haunted house. Dodge, a local Miami performing artists and Bakehouse resident, encouraged participants to revel in their fears of death and illusion in this unique yet shared experience.


If you find yourself in the Magic City, I urge you to venture beyond South Beach and Wynwood, because although these hotspots are famous for their international art, the rest of the city is thrumming with a variety of talent.


Sara Ypsilanti is a Key Largo native, and a current Miami resident. She has her B.A. in Art and Art History, from Florida International University, and studied with the Wolfsonian Collection in Genoa, Italy.