If you’ve been to Miami International Airport, chances are, you’ve actually walked on art. Michelle Oka Doner’s piece, A Walk on the Beach is a half-mile long walkway that features cast bronze elements embedded on gray terrazzo, with scatterings of mother of pearl. The concourse’s floor, a true work of art and a stellar installment of the Miami Dade Art in Public Places Program, ornately represents the plants and creatures that inhabit Florida’s coastal waters, took 13 years to complete.
This November, the program celebrated its 40th anniversary. In 1973, an ordinance was passed, which allocated 1.5% of construction costs of new county buildings for the purchase or commission of artworks, educational programs and maintenance of the public art collection.
Oka Doner’s more recent addition to the Miami International Airport, Sargassum, is an elegant hand etched glass ceiling that features free-floating forms that drift through tropical oceans. Located in the Main Throughfare of the Miami Intermodal Center, the striking ceiling casts shadows on those beneath it, mimicking the feeling of being underwater. This piece happens to be one of Brandi Reddick’s favorites.
Reddick, Artists and Communications Manager for Art in Public Places, isn’t originally from Miami. She grew up in Fort Valley, Georgia and, ironically, recalls never really being exposed to the arts. Reddick’s parents always pushed her to explore new worlds, so when her friends decided to attend the University of Georgia, she ventured out to the University of Charleston because she wanted to live by the beach. Until her junior year, Reddick was involved in a pre-med curriculum, but after losing her father to cancer, she decided hospitals were not for her. Her educational focus then took a shift. “I had taken some art history classes, and I started to get very passionate about art, and I didn’t understand it because it wasn’t something I was exposed to growing up,” Reddick recalls. She later went on to attend the Savannah College of Art and Design for graduate school.
In 2001, Reddick relocated in Miami, where she worked in a gallery and taught art history at the University of Miami. Eventually, she ended up with Art in Public Places, where she’s been for the last ten years. In her time with the program, she has noticed a change in focus: art is no longer acquired and then placed on location, artists and architects now work together to ensure cohesiveness.
Reddick works with a wide range of artists, but is passionate about elevating local talent. “In order to be a great city, we have to give our artists the opportunity to be great artists.” Ivan Toth Depeña, an artist that works between Miami and Brooklyn, is the author of Reflect, the interactive art piece, located in the lobby of Stephen P Clark Government Center, Miami Dade County Hall, where Art in Public Places has its headquarter. Reddick has seen, firsthand, how the building’s environment has changed since the installation of the piece. Reflect combines art and technology in a fun work of art, which engages people, using panels that detect motion and turn movements into colorful pixelated images.
With Miami Dade’s Art in Public Places Program, everyone is bound to have a favorite artwork. Daniel Arsham’s A Memorial Bowing, an anagram of “Miami Orange Bowl” is a tribute to the former site of the Miami Hurricanes. Located at the Miami Marlins Ballpark, it playfully and intelligently reconstructs letters, inspired by the old stadium sign, to spell out new words. Likewise, there are hundreds of pieces of public art scattered throughout Miami Dade, which make life in Miami so much more enjoyable. There is something for everyone: sculptures, paintings, installations or even a beautiful floor.
Accessibility and visibility are two components that set this program apart, Reddick says, “ I get to capture that audience that’s never going to set foot inside a museum or gallery, maybe because they’re intimidated, or maybe because they just don’t care. I feel so passionate because we reach everybody. They may not know they’ve experienced art, but they know they’ve experienced something beautiful.”
In about two years, the Program, in partnership with the Opa Locka Community Development Corporation will finish a redevelopment of the Opa Locka triangle neighborhood, one of Miami’s oldest and most notorious neighborhoods. Four artists have been commissioned for this project. Among them, Los Angeles-based artists and designers Jennifer Bonner and Christian Stayner, who are converting and designing single-family homes into small businesses and public amenities that will be run by the neighbors.
This is one program Reddick is particularly enthusiastic about as it works to engage the community and not to displace them. Reddick says, “It has turned out to be the most wonderful and rewarding thing I’ve ever worked on. I get to work in a lot of underserved communities, but a lot of the work is in the airport, in the port, and in other public facilities. This is really the first project that is transformative, it’s going to change people’s lives.” ■