Art Talk: Katia Carranza, Principal dancer with Miami City Ballet

We sat down recently to chat with some of the Principal dancers at Miami City Ballet, and got an inside look into their world and activities with the company.

Katia Carranza graduated from the Escuela Superior de Musica y Danza de Monterrey in Mexico in 1996. She then joined Ballet de Monterrey as a soloist. In 1998, she joined Miami City Ballet as a corps de ballet dancer, was promoted to soloist in 2001, principal soloist in 2003 and in 2004 she was promoted to principal dancer. She left after the 2006-07 season to rejoin Ballet de Monterrey as a principal, but continued to dance with MCB as a guest artist for an additional six seasons. Carranza rejoined MCB full-time in 2017 as a principal dancer.

Katia Carranza

Division of Cultural Affairs (DCA): Why did you choose a career in the arts?

Katia: I started this career at a very young age. I didn’t really know that ballet was something I love. Little by little, I became more involved and it brought me so much happiness. I think that being able to do what you love is such a blessing.

DCA: How long have you worked in Florida?

Katia: (Laughs) I came here in August of 1998 for the first time, 23 years ago. I joined Miami City Ballet that year and it changed my life. I am from Monterrey, Mexico. I studied there and danced for one year at Ballet de Monterrey.

During my time there, I had an opportunity to compete in Jackson, Mississippi and that was when Edward Villella hired me, and I was here at MCB until 2007. From 2007 through 2017, I was dancing for both MCB and Monterrey, but I came back to Miami 4 years ago to dance here full-time. I feel like I am from here, and that I really grew as an artist here.

Katia Carranza and Kleber Rebello in NINE SINATRA SONGS© Choreography by Twyla Tharp. Photo © Alexander Iziliaev.

DCA: What is the best part about your job?

Katia: Being on stage, for sure. I enjoy having an opportunity to share what we do with so many people, with the audience. I feel like we can change their lives. I always hope that they leave the theater with a positive experience. That is the best part: sharing what we do.

DCA: Tell us a little bit about your organization. What are you currently working on?

Katia: The most important thing is keeping my body moving, until we can all dance onstage and together again. We normally rehearsed together for 8 hours a day, so it is super important to keep my body moving. It is something my body needs – it gives me energy and makes me happy, and so my body asks me to do it every day. I take different classes by Zoom, such as ballet and resistance training, and I use my pointe shoes a little bit every day. I must continue or else my feet and my ankles will become weak.

Katia leads leads a “Move with MCB” ballet básico class (en Español) on Instagram.

Plus, now that we have more free time, I get to teach, which I enjoy a lot. It’s important to continue to be motivated, for both myself and my students too. We all need to stay motivated so we can be on stage again when the time comes. But for now, I have this chance to teach and share with students in Mexico, Brazil, from all over the world. I love being able to share in this way.

DCA: In your opinion, what is the greatest contribution that your organization makes to your community?

Katia: I believe that the greatest contribution we offer is to the next generation of dancers with the various programs and training Miami City Ballet Company and School offer to children and young people. I believe dance can change lives, because it changed mine.

I think dance makes me a better person and gives me opportunities to learn about things that are important. I believe that dancers touch lives and help others, and that our work can have a positive impact on young people. That is the greatest contribution we give.

Katia Carranza and Renan Cerdeiro Ballet dancers in Stravinsky Violin Concerto. Choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. Photo © Alexander Iziliaev.

DCA: What do you think of when you hear “Culture Builds Florida”? Why are the arts and culture important to our state?

Katia: Florida is a special place because there are so many cultures here, and we are fortunate because we can experience the different cuisine, histories, and many things that are learned through arts and culture. It helps us all to be better people, and it is something we can share together.

This has been part three of a three-part Art Talk feature with some of Miami City Ballet’s Principal dancers. Thank you to Miami City Ballet and the artists for taking the time to share with Culture Builds Florida.

Art Talk: Jennifer Lauren, Principal dancer with Miami City Ballet

We sat down recently to chat with some of the Principal dancers at Miami City Ballet, and got an inside look into their world and activities with the company.

Jennifer Lauren is a native of Tuscaloosa, Ala. She began training in various regional schools and later with Royal Academy of Dance and the Alabama Ballet Pre-Apprentice Program. In 2007, Lauren joined Miami City Ballet as a member of the Corps de Ballet and was promoted to Soloist in 2011. In 2014, she was named one of Dance Magazine’s “Top 25 to Watch.” During her tenure with MCB, Lauren has been featured in principal and soloist roles. In 2017, she was promoted to Principal.

Jennifer Lauren

Division of Cultural Affairs (DCA): Why did you choose a career in the arts?

Jennifer: I really didn’t choose it. I was introduced to dancing when I was young and fell in love with it. Ever since then, I have been hooked! It is all I ever wanted and dreamed about.

Jennifer Lauren in Apollo. Choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. Photo © Alexander Iziliaev.

DCA: How long have you worked in Florida?

Jennifer: I have been with Miami City Ballet for the last 13 years, and I joined the company in 2007.

DCA: What is the best part about your job?

Jennifer: The best part about my job is that I am doing exactly what I love to do. I am sharing my passion with so many people, including my company. Dancers are extremely close, and because we understand each other, there is this rare bond I have with my coworkers.

Jennifer Lauren and Ashley Knox in Symphonic Dances. Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky ©. Photo © Alexander Iziliaev.

DCA: What are you currently working on?

Jennifer: Lately, I have been working on my basic technique skills. With the extra time, it has motivated me to take a closer look at how I execute my work and how I can improve my craft and artistry.

I’ve also been teaching a lot of private lessons to ballet students, which keeps me aware of my own technique. I love sharing my thoughts and ideas with younger dancers. I am always open to accepting anyone who would like private lessons via zoom. 😊

Jennifer leads a “Move with MCB” ballet basics class on Instagram.

DCA: In your opinion, what is the greatest contribution that your organization makes to your community?

Jennifer: Our organization offers a place for people to forget their troubles and enjoy the art of ballet. We create an environment for around 2 hours, in which a person can completely relax and enjoy what they are watching. It stimulates imagination and creativity in people. The school is also an important start for children to begin to see the value of dancing, whether they grow up to be dancers or grow up to admire the art form.

DCA: What do you think of when you hear “Culture Builds Florida”?

Jennifer: Exactly that. Without culture, humans are not inspired. That is why we have the arts.

We all need to be inspired. We need to be moved by multiple forms of art and entertainment. Florida is full of amazing artists and Miami City Ballet is one of its gems.

Miami City Ballet dancers in Symphonic Dances. Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky©. Photo © Alexander Iziliaev.

DCA: Why are the arts and culture important to our state?

Jennifer: Without the arts and culture, we have no color in our lives. We need to be inspired and encouraged to open our minds and see what we can create. Going to see a ballet could inspire the next Barishnikov or Maya Angelou to break through. 

This has been part two of a three-part Art Talk feature with some of Miami City Ballet’s Principal dancers. Tune in tomorrow at 8pm ET for our last candid conversation!

If you are interested to take a private lesson with Jennifer, please contact her on Instagram:

Art Talk: Rainer Krenstetter, Principal dancer with Miami City Ballet

We sat down recently to chat with some of the Principal dancers at Miami City Ballet, and got an inside look into their world and activities with the company.

Rainer Krenstetter was born into a dance family in Vienna where he began his ballet training at the Ballet School of the Vienna State Opera. In 1999, he was accepted into the Royal Ballet School in London and continued his training there until 2000 when he became a corps de ballet member with the Vienna State Opera Ballet. In 2002, he joined the Staatsballett Berlin under the direction of Vladimir Malakhov and went through the ranks up to Principal dancer in 2013. He joined Miami City Ballet as a Principal dancer in November 2014.

Rainer Krenstetter

Division of Cultural Affairs (DCA): Why did you choose a career in the arts?

Rainer: My parents were dancers at the Vienna State Opera in Vienna, Austria, so I grew up in the theater and opera world. As a very young child, I loved going with my parents to spend time backstage — in the dressing room, in the make-up room, the costume department, being around everyone… I just fell in love with the atmosphere of the theater, of the opera.

That was my true passion — the atmosphere of the opera house… the smells, the dust, the different people. I thought, since my parents were dancers, that if I danced I could also be a part of the opera world. So, I danced.

Rainer Krenstetter performs Alexei Ratmansky’s Namouna at Staatsballet Berlin. © Bettina Stob

DCA: Have long have you lived and worked in Florida?

Rainer: I started in November 2014. I remember arriving to Florida the day before I started, on November 1. When I landed at the airport, I was wondering… “What is going on here?”…Halloween is not so celebrated where I am from. Upon arriving at the airport I saw all the flight crew, baggage claim attendants, everyone on Lincoln Road and Miami Beach in these costumes. I thought, what is happening here?? Why is there a carnival? So that was my introduction to Florida.

DCA: What was it that attracted you to the United States, and to join Miami City Ballet?

Rainer: I was dancing in Europe from 2000-2014 with Vienna State Opera Ballet and Staatsballett Berlin. During that time, I was performing all over the world but mostly danced classical ballets such as Romeo and Juliet, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, and Giselle. As an artist, I believe it is important to experience and learn as much as possible. Part of the reason I moved to Florida was to gain new experiences.

Miami City Ballet dancers Tricia Albertson and Rainer Krenstetter performing “Emeralds” from George Balanchine’s Jewels. © Alexander Iziliaev

I have always been interested in the choreography of George Balanchine, but I did not get to dance as much Balanchine in Europe as I wanted to. In Berlin, when our artistic director would ask what works we wanted to perform at our gala, I would always ask to perform works by Balanchine such as Tarantalla, Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux, and Stars and Stripes.

When I found out that Lourdes Lopez, the artistic director of Miami City Ballet, was looking for a male principal dancer, I knew it was time to pack my bags and head to Florida, as I really wanted to learn more about the Balanchine style and have an opportunity to perform more of his works.

DCA: Tell us a little bit about your organization. What are you currently working on?

Rainer: While we wait until it is safe to perform on stage again in front of audiences, I am keeping busy with my classes, and I am doing a lot of teaching. I am also available for private lessons [contact Rainer via Instagram], and because we have time and the technology available, I can teach all over the world – even to Japan!

Rainer leads an intermediate “Move with MCB” class on Instagram (recording saved to Youtube)

DCA: In your opinion, what is the greatest contribution that your organization makes to you community?

Rainer: In every art form… ballet, visual art, theater, music… what we do is give inspiration to the community. At the venues we perform in throughout Miami, Broward, Palm Beach and Collier counties, I see our community’s reflection. We are open to the entire community in South Florida, not just for the people who can afford a $200 ticket, as we have accommodating ticket prices and opportunities for all audiences to enjoy our shows.

We are here for everyone, and that is what I love about Miami City Ballet. We are dancing for our community, and we see that reflection at our shows. It is very different from what I have experienced anywhere else.

Rainer Krenstetter performs Alexei Ratmansky’s Namouna at Staatsballet Berlin. © Bettina Stob

DCA: What do you think of when you hear “Culture Builds Florida”? Why are the arts and culture important to our state?

Rainer: Well, Florida is famous for beaches, parties, Disney World, Harry Potter World… so there is this image of what Florida is. Right now, it is so important to show the other sides to Florida culture. I’m very happy that with the theaters we have in South Florida, these amazing arts centers that we get to perform in and where people and families can experience dance, theater, and opera with amazing artists. This is so important, to bring the arts to the community so they can enjoy, learn and experience many different cultures.

This has been part one of a three-part Art Talk feature with Miami City Ballet’s Principal dancers. Tune in tomorrow at 8pm ET for another candid conversation!

If you are interested to take a class with Rainer, please contact him on Instagram.

Special Feature: Artist Alba Triana

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Artist Alba Triana holds a shell

Each year, the regional arts agency South Arts awards a State Fellowship to an artist in each of its nine member states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. This year’s Florida’s Fellow is Alba Triana, an audiovisual and nature artist from Bogotá now in Miami. We asked Alba to tell us a bit about her journey to Florida, her work in Miami and why Culture Builds Florida.

Alba Triana:

Ranging squawks of green parrots, evocative of a hysterical laughter; a polyphony of bird songs coming from all directions above one’s head; the delicate sound of air being moved by flocks of birds heading who knows where; Insects, breeze, swinging palm trees; mesmerizing buzz of pool and A/C motors …

“Microcosmos”, Vibrational sculpture | installation, 2016. Photo: Alba Triana Studio

These are just some of the sounds that constitute the soundscape of my daily walk in Miami. I religiously go out at sunset, because that’s when I get to indulge all my senses. It’s precisely then, when one can see the sunlight spectrum, hear the full richness of the ecosystem, smell the ocean, and feel the heat and humidity in the environment.

My husband and I came to Miami ten years ago, planning to stay for three weeks. However, an accidental event prevented me to go back to Colombia, where we used to live. I initially thought it was just a temporary delay, but time went by and I could still not travel. Between the stress and the frustration, we started adjusting to the situation. At some point, we realized we had settled.

“Sounding Score”, Interactive virtual book | installation, 2009. Photo: Oscar Monsalve

After having lived in five cities, Miami stood out for its capacity to change at a fastest pace, as well as for its natural beauty. Its cultural diversity made us feel at home from the very beginning. Here we encountered a flourishing visual arts scene, concerned with social issues, and rooted in the American contemporary art tradition. There was, and there still is, a very focused and ingrained way of understanding what art and art-making could be. We also found a small and incredibly welcoming sound art and experimental music community.

I must admit that, initially, not finding a robust circuit developing a line of work akin to mine was a bit disquieting. However, as time passed and we continued to settle, I understood that it was precisely in the absence of a strong experimental, cross-disciplinary, and technology driven musical or artistic community, that I could find the space to make a contribution.

“Music on a Bound String No. 2 (reflecting light)”, Visible sound and light sculpture | installation, 2015. Photo: Ernesto Monsalve
“Music on a Bound String No. 1 (natural light)”, Visible sound sculpture, 2015. Photo: Bernardo Olmos

I decided to open up to this new context and let it transform what so far had mainly been a highly experimental musical career. What I initially identified as a “lack” was precisely what pushed me to try new creative strategies. I started to work in a holistic, multidimensional fashion. My pieces fully adopted the installation format. They were still musically conceived, but exceeded the musical and the audible. My material was not only sound, but different forms of vibration and energy. This caused the fields of the sonic and the visual to become fully unified in my work, which no longer fit any traditional artistic category.

My artistic practice gradually became what I really wanted it to be: a vehicle to understand and connect with the natural world at a primordial level; an exploration of nature’s intrinsic creative methods, behaviors and properties, intending to holistically reveal its often overlooked poetic qualities.

“Red Luminous Phrase”, Visible sound and light sculpture, 2019. Photo: Alba Triana Studio
“Delirious Fields”, Suspended spheres in variable electromagnetic fields, 2019. Photo: Alba Triana Studio

Based on the notion that everything in the natural world can be reduced to a vibrational state, I’ve been using vibration, especially sound and light, as the main material in my works. Also, I have extensively examined inter-connectivity, a phenomenon that prevails at every single level of existence which, from my perspective, is the soul of art and music. Most recently, I have experimented with electromagnetism as a means of observation of non-perceptible entities. Supported by the Swiss government, I recently visited CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) and have collaborated with their most renowned scientific and artistic institutions.

In Miami, I have participated in several group and solo shows, as well as in various editions of the Subtropics and FETA Foundation festivals. During 2018–2019 I had the privilege to be a resident at Oolite Arts—formerly ArtCenter South Florida. This was one of the most enriching experiences I’ve lived in this city. It gave me the opportunity to interact with great artists from different backgrounds and to actively integrate to the artistic community.

“Polyphotony”, Visible sound and light installation, 2016. Photo: Ernesto Monsalve

Receiving the South Arts 2020 Fellowship and being named Florida’s State Fellow confirms that Miami is home. It also indicates that I have helped to push the institutional patrons in our region, so they understand that, in the digital era of inter-connectivity, new art forms need to emerge. Our duty as artists is to challenge established paradigms, respond to our time, and envision a radically new future. For this, we require cultural institutions to take risks. I celebrate and thank South Arts for supporting experimentation and the search for the unknown through this recognition.

I am happy to contribute —with my unusual body of work— to the artistic and cultural scene in our region, and to confirm that Culture Builds Florida.

“Polyphotony”, Visible sound and light installation, 2016. Photo: Ernesto Monsalve
“Music on a Mound String and Resonating Tubes”, Visible and audible sound installation, 2018. Photo: Alba Triana Studio
“Microcosmos detail”, Vibrational sculpture | installation, 2016. Photo: Alba Triana Studio

The Division thanks Alba Triana for her participation in this interview.
For more information about Alba and her work, visit her website:

Spotlight On: The Future of Arts and Culture Districts in Florida

by Bob Evans

I might dispute the claim that a river is the only feature missing from Tallahassee, but I won’t dispute that Johnny Cash lyrics always make a salient point. In a recent Emerging Leaders Blog Salon post at the Americans for the Arts ARTSblog, “Another Wide River to Cross: Incentivizing an Arts District in Tallahassee,” my colleague, Tim Storhoff, gives some excellent commentary as to why a centralized arts district can be a defining factor in the overall health of a city. The truth is that these arts and culture districts provide a community with a meaningful sense of place and purpose, the likes of which cannot be easily replicated.

Map of the Bradenton Riverwalk from

At the behest of the Florida Council on Arts and Culture, I’ve done some research on the subject of arts and culture districts. I found that these areas, intended to create a “critical mass” of places for cultural consumption, have 4 major outcomes:

  • Attracting artists and cultural enterprises
  • Fostering cultural development
  • Encouraging economic growth
  • Fulfilling community needs – both rural and urban

These outcomes are condensed from the National Association of State Arts Agencies Policy Brief on State Cultural Districts, which naturally also defines the state’s roles.  Currently, 12 states have enacted legislation for arts and cultural districts, but Florida is not among their ranks. Overall, I feel like the recognition, facilitation, and cultivation of these districts by the state is the most crucial part of the process.

Originally, I was unclear if the catalyst of these districts came from a grassroots or local effort or from the state; was it a top-down or bottom-up approach? Through my research, I discovered it was more of a growth from a younger program to an older program, where the criteria are established first, and grants, funding, and tax incentives are added later. The current models in states like Texas and Maryland support this.

Maryland is especially receptive to these districts, and has provided admissions and amusement tax exemption, income tax credit, and property tax credit for these districts, the most of any state. The benefits of these districts are astounding. Towson University conducted an economic impact study of these arts districts in Maryland, and found that “an estimated 1,621 jobs, $147.3 million in state GDP, and $49.8 million in wages were supported on average annually between 2008 and 2010.”

Florida has some excellent examples of arts and culture districts, from the Bradenton Riverwalk, to the Tampa River Arts and Channel Districts, Jacksonville’s CoRK District, Miami’s Design District, and on. But as of right now, there are no local or state systems to provide a forum for communication, nor are there direct tax incentives for these areas. If Tim’s dream comes true, there will be a vibrant district right in the middle of Tallahassee, and, as he theorizes, “If Florida’s policy makers can experience the benefits of an arts district firsthand, perhaps a statewide system can be implemented.”

Right now, it’s hard for anyone to see long term benefits of giving tax breaks, especially to relatively new programs. It’s going to take time, and we need to be cautious, which is exactly why states like Texas have adopted the certification-only approach without incentives. It’s a great way to test the efficacy of the program. But, as for the future, I’ll just have to defer back to Mr. Cash: “I don’t know. I can’t say. I don’t like it, but I guess things happen that way.

Spotlight On: Poetry for All at the O Miami Poetry Festival

by Tim Storhoff

The goal of the O, Miami Poetry Festival is for every single person in Miami-Dade County to encounter a poem. This event returns in 2013 to once again attempt to deliver poetry to all 2.6 million+ residents of Miami-Dade County during the month of April, which is National Poetry Month. Created by University of Wynwood with founding sponsor the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, O, Miami is both a celebration of contemporary poetry and an experimental project to turn a metropolitan area into a canvas for the literary arts.

In 2011, poems were flown behind airplanes, dropped out of helicopters, sewn into clothing, and attached to every single bus in Miami-Dade County. Events featured actors (James Franco); choreographers (Jonah Bokaer, Rashaun Mitchell); artists (Anne Carson, Sam Winston); and, yes, poets (W.S. Merwin, Tracy K. Smith, Raúl Zurita). The festival was covered nationally and internationally by The New Yorker, NPR’s Morning Edition, Dwell magazine, Best American Poetry, and the Associated Press, and chronicled in a new Knight Foundation report.

To continue trying to reach every person in Miami-Dade County this month, the festival organizers are undertaking a new series of projects and events to re-imagine what’s possible in the presentation of contemporary poetry, including:

  • A special celebration with Thurston Moore, lead singer of Sonic Youth; Richard Blanco, the Miami-raised poet who read at the 2013 Presidential Inauguration; and Megan Amram, a poet, comedian, and writer for the NBC show Parks & Recreation
  • A final weekend on South Beach that will feature readings and performances from the most diverse group of poets we’ve ever assembled, including Kevin Young, Chase Twitchell, Jean Portante, Jose Angel Leyva, Eduardo C. Corral, and Frank Báez
  • A book called “That’s So Miami!” published by the people of South Florida. Send us your poems that begin or end with the phrase #ThatsSoMiami and we’ll play them on WLRN 91.3 FM, post them online and select the best ones to go into the book.
  • “Poetry is Dead”: the first-ever poetry parade on South Beach featuring performances by well-known dead poets
  • A special “local poem” displayed pasted on 100 lampposts banners Will we ever see another month so full of poetry?”
  • Poems written by South Floridians flown behind airplanes
  • Brand-new “poetry films” commissioned from and created by those behind the Borscht Film Festival
  • A Tatoo + Poetry Night featuring legendary tattoo artist Duke Riley
  • A new dance + poetry piece by Merce Cunningham alumni Rashuan Mitchell and Silas Reiner commissioned and created for O, Miami
  • An opening ceremony with Miami legend Trick Daddy
  • The first-ever Miami Literary Trivia Night
  • An open mic reading series for locals
  • A “poetry soapbox”: everyday at 5 p.m., a poet will read on the front steps of The Betsy Hotel
  • A poetry-themed flash mob

“Today’s audiences demand to be engaged, and often that means taking art out of the symphony halls and into people’s everyday lives,” said Dennis Scholl, vice president/arts at Knight Foundation, whose art program inspired and funded the festival. “Whether you’re a poetry enthusiast or organizing a small music festival, the lessons from O, Miami will resonate.”

A new report commissioned by the Knight Foundation chronicles the rise of Miami’s art scene and the unorthodox, inaugural O, Miami festival. It also offers insights for any cultural organization trying to engage new audiences and reframe art for their communities. For some additional tips, check out O, Miami co-founder Scott Cunningham’s tips in Bringing Art to People: 8 Ways a Cultural Event can Transcend Genre, Geography and Demographics.

The O, Miami Poetry Festival will be taking place all throughout April, and you can visit their calendar for a list of scheduled events. If you’re a part of a cultural organization, we also encourage you to read the above reports and articles for useful information that can help us all in our goals to more successfully bring the arts and culture to all Floridians.

Spotlight On: Mapping Miami

by Lara Stein Pardo

Photograph near the MacArthur Causeway, where Zora Neale Hurston lived on a boat named The Challenger in 1950. Photo circa 2010 by Lara Stein Pardo.

Photograph near the MacArthur Causeway, where Zora Neale Hurston lived on a boat named The Challenger in 1950. Photo circa 2010 by Lara Stein Pardo.

Mapping Miami is a project about Miami’s cultural and artistic history. It is part of a larger Mapping Arts Project that ‘maps’ cities through places where artists have lived and worked. In Miami, we are beginning with a focus on the time period of the 1920s through the 1950s. While this was a particularly active time period for local and global events and the arts in Miami, it is also a time period that most people don’t know much about. This period included the Great Depression, World War II, the boom of Overtown in Miami, and also two major hurricanes which devastated parts of South Florida. Throughout all this change, the arts were active in Miami.

Did you know, for instance, that dramatist, writer, and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston lived on a boat near the MacArthur Causeway for periods of time in between trips to Honduras? Or, that Billie Holiday maintained a room at a boarding house called Georgette’s Tea Room in Brownsville? Did you know that playwright Tennessee Williams staged A Streetcar Named Desire at the Coconut Grove Playhouse in 1956? What about the fact that Robert Frost owned a home in South Dade called Pencil Pines?  He even wrote a poem by the same name as the tall pines on the property inspired his work. These are just a few examples of the artists and places we are mapping in this project. Our map-in-progress shows these sites and more:

The Mapping Arts Project connects the arts, history, and the public in an innovative way. Inspired by my background as an artist and cultural anthropologist, I started the project in 2009. In 2010, Blackbird Arts and Research, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, was founded to support this work and other innovative projects that connect history, arts, and the public.  This project has received support by granting organizations, archives, and universities including the Miami-Dade Department of Cultural Affairs, the Deering Estate at Cutler Bay, HistoryMiami, the University of Miami, Arts of Citizenship at the University of Michigan, and Imagining America. They have helped the project to grow while providing much needed historical content, research assistance, and seed funding. We recently received a Community Grant from the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs, and now we are seeking to raise funds from individuals to match the grant and develop the project.

Photograph of the Coconut Grove Playhouse, where Tennessee Williams staged A Streetcar Named Desire in 1956. Photograph circa 2013 by Lara Stein Pardo.

Photograph of the Coconut Grove Playhouse, where Tennessee Williams staged A Streetcar Named Desire in 1956. Photograph circa 2013 by Lara Stein Pardo.

Currently, we are redesigning our website so that we can share the wealth of information that we’ve gathered over the past several years. Our goals are to:

  • Connect arts, history, and the public by sharing valuable information in an open access format (free and online).
  • Build a well-designed website that shares information and images in a way that is easy to access, and looks good too.
  • People engage with history and the arts in new and fun ways.
  • Develop a platform for this kind of project so that more projects like this can be developed in the future.
  • Build on and connect resources already available, but may not be easy to find or access.
  • Showcase the importance of arts and history in Miami and other cities.
  • Link geography and the arts by using maps to tell the story of cultural arts history.
  • Reach broad audiences ranging from children to adults, locals to tourists, students to professionals, and more.
  • Inspire artists, writers, musicians, performers, dancers, and anyone interested in the arts, really, by sharing our rich cultural heritage.
  • and more!

Billie Holiday at Georgette’s Tea Room circa 1950, courtesy of HistoryMiami.

Billie Holiday at Georgette’s Tea Room circa 1950, courtesy of HistoryMiami.

Georgette’s Tea Room circa 2011, photograph by Lara Stein Pardo.

Georgette’s Tea Room circa 2011, photograph by Lara Stein Pardo.

If you would like to learn more or become a supporter of the project, we invite you to visit our page on Indiegogo: All contributors will become members of the project, and receive behind the scenes updates, invitations, and news. We also came up with some special perks to show you our thanks. We’re looking forward to including you, your story, and our history in the project.

This project, like the Culture Builds Florida campaign, highlights the diversity of the Miami community and its residents, creates connections to our history and heritage and reminds us that Florida is a special place to live and work. As part of this interdisciplinary project, we plan to share archival photographs and documents, information about the artists, essays, syllabi, lesson plans, tours, podcasts, and even more as we move forward. By making this information available and then doing the same for other cities, we will illustrate and emphasize the important role of the arts and artists to the development of our communities.