Part 1: South Florida – A Hub for Innovative Performance Experiences – that's right, didn't you know?! Here and Now

May 13, 2015

Perhaps you are trying to figure out who the people that live in South Florida really are. From time to time you even find yourself wondering if there is a place for you in the mix.

It can be a confusing place to find your stride. There's a lot going on, pulling people in a great many directions. But anyone still thinking South Florida is not a place for creatives to take risks is obviously not paying attention.

 

The Southern tip of Florida has become a place to look, listen, explore, enjoy, and immerse yourself in the arts. Art Basel Miami Beach is our super star, of course. It's arrival in 2002 changed the visual art scene and that growth hasn't slowed one bit. Wynwood is the biggest example. From food to art to lifestyle to nearly anything one desires, there are constantly new Yelp-able places to discover. 

 

The amount of events surrounding Basel is staggering, with the spotlight on more than just the visual arts. But there's much, much more to South Florida than Basel and Beaches. There are producing theatres, dance companies, music venues, film festivals, and cultural institutions encouraging the community to explore the arts. The Knight Foundation has been supporting innovative programming in Miami-Dade for years and the landscape of the arts scene is elevating to new heights. You see it not only in buildings like the Perez Art Museum Miami but also in the artists returning home to create and tell their truths through art.  It's an exciting time to be creative whether you are a creator or an enthusiast. 

 

Long before Art Basel Miami Beach arrived, though, South Florida began developing into an artistic hub. There have been festivals and annual events highlighting local artists for years, with many celebrating big anniversaries these days. Not just 2nd annuals, but decades of producing. There are three standout facts when considering these annual events taking place. The success seen by their programs proves there is a creative movement happening in our own backyard (1) and there is a growing audience looking to engage (2). Many of the works/artists from our community being presented in our community go on to have a life and audience outside of Florida (3). 

 

This blog started as a way to celebrate South Florida's burgeoning scene of new works. It has grown into a three part series to highlight three events that encourage and foster local talent; the Miami Light Projects’ Here and Now, South Florida Theatre Leagues’ Summer Theatre Fest Play Reading Series, and YoungArts’ Outside the Box. These, among others, showcase new innovative works for the community they serve. And it turns out the community is interested. The community is listening. The community is attending. And the community wants more.

Here and Now is a leader of the pack that’s been around since 1999. Annually, Miami Light Box commissions works and offers the artists development support and a space to perform. As noted on their website, “Miami Light Project has commissioned work from more than 75 South Florida-based artists, whose work has contributed to the growing reputation of Miami as a cultural center of international importance. Over 30 of those artists have gone on to perform that work in 14 states and 16 countries for an estimated worldwide audience of over 25,000!”

 

The team at Miami Light Project goes beyond just giving artists spaces and fees. They offer guidance on the ins and outs of non-profit management from raising money to promoting your work. They then give you a tech team and support to produce your show successfully. Letty Bassart, a 2014 Here and Now artist said in a May 6, 2014 Herald interview by Fernando Gonzalez, "I’m a native of Miami and I felt … that Miami has always had a lot of space if you had the will to create. But now it seems that there are also systems in place to meet that will.”

 

To find out a little more a quick email was sent over to Beth Boone, Artistic and Executive Director of Miami Light Project. She graciously gave a little insight into Here and Now and it's impact:

  Beth Boone photo from an awesome piece over at The New Tropic about resolutions for Miami from a few of our brightest cultural thinkers.

 

Why is it important to give a stage to local artists with local stories?

 

MIAMI LIGHT PROJECT IS A CULTURAL FORUM TO EXPLORE ISSUES THAT DEFINE CONTEMPORARY SOCIETY.  THAT LAST LINE OF OUR MISSION STATEMENT GETS ME UP AND GOING EVERY DAY, BECAUSE THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS.  WE ARE IN BUSINESS TO DO EVERY SINGLE THING THAT WE CAN TO HELP ARTISTS MAKE THEIR WORK, TO DEVELOP PROFESSIONALLY, AND AS A RESULT, TO MAKE OUR COMMUNITIES BETTER PLACES TO LIVE.  AS FAR AS I’M CONCERNED, THAT BEGINS AND ENDS WITH INVESTING IN COMMUNITY BASED ARTISTS.  FROM THE MOMENT THAT I ACCEPTED MY JOB IN 1998, I MADE A COMMITMENT TO PUTTING OUR MONEY WHERE OUR MOUTH IS, BY PLACING MIAMI ARTISTS AT THE CENTER OF OUR WORK.  BEST DECISION I’VE EVER MADE. 

 

What’s the most exciting part of exploring new works?

 

YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT YOUR GOING TO GET!  IT’S ALWAYS A RISK AND WITH BIG RISK COMES BIG REWARDS.  MANY OF THESE ARTISTS HAVE GONE ON TO DEVELOP THEIR SHORT HERE AND NOW WORK INTO EVENING LENGTH PIECES WHICH ARE THEN PRESENTED IN OUR SEASON AS STAND ALONE WORK, PRESENTED AGAIN BY LIKE MINDED PRESENTERS IN MIAMI, AND IN MANY CASES, THE ARTISTS ARE INVITED TO BRING THEIR WORK TO FESTIVALS AND VENUES WORLDWIDE.  THAT WORK AND THOSE ARTISTS ARE OUR AMBASSADORS, AND I’M REALLY PROUD TO INSTIGATE.  BIG RISK, BIG REWARD.     

 

Over the years how have you noticed a change in your audience response to Here and Now?

 

I FEEL LIKE WE’VE CULTIVATED AN AUDIENCE OF THE CURIOUS.  PEOPLE COME OUT OF THE WOODWORK FOR HERE AND NOW.  THE AUDIENCES HAVE A LOT OF ARTISTS IN THEM, THAT’S FOR SURE.  IT’S EXCITING BECAUSE YOU KNOW THAT THE ARTISTS ARE THERE TO ENTHUSIASTICALLY SUPPORT THEIR FRIENDS, AND IN MANY CASES, IT’S CLEAR THAT THEY ARE THINKING THROUGH WHAT THEY WANT TO PROPOSE TO US FOR THE NEXT ROUND.   ITS ALSO INTERESTING TO ME THAT IN THE EALY YEARS OF THE PROGRAM, I FOUND THAT SOMETIMES PEOPLE WOULD GET ANNOYED IF THEY DIDN’T LIKE THIS OR THAT PIECE.  IT GAVE ME THE OPPORTUNITY TIME AND AGAIN TO EXPLAIN TO PEOPLE THAT LIKING OR NOT LIKING ANY GIVEN PIECE IS NOT THE POINT OF THE PROGRAM.  OF COURSE WE WANT PEOPLE TO LIKE THE WORK.  BUT THE POINT OF THE PROGRAM IS TO GIVE ARTISTS A MODEST AMOUNT OF MONEY AND A PLATFORM TO TAKE A RISK, TRY OUT AN IDEA, PUSH THEIR OWN BOUNDARIES – AND MORE THAN ANYTHING – TO GROW.  GROWING IS MESSY, IT’S UNCOMFORTABLE.  AND WHEN THE ARTISTS BREAK ON THROUGH TO THE OTHER SIDE, IT IS THRILLING.   I THINK MOST OF OUR AUDIENCE NOW GETS THAT.

This year’s Here and Now features Liz Ferrer, Lazaro Godoy, Hattie Mae Williams, and Michael Yawney. From a Miami New Times article by Shelly Davidov, “Audiences will be treated to performances in various disciplines by the artists. Performance artist and filmmaker Liz Ferrer will present a nonnarrative, postapocalyptic underwater opera, Subaqueous. Choreographer/dancer Lazaro Godoy will dazzle with a dance performance projected onto the dreamy landscape of an underworld fairy tale, Harmonicum Accordion | Act 1. Hattie Mae Williams’ Snatched is a site-specific interdisciplinary work that incorporates dance, visual art, music, and projections to reimagine the narratives of individuals such as Sarah Baartman, Josephine Baker, and Ota Benga. And Michael Yawney’s Exile Jesus Starbucks is an original theater piece based on the life and work of artistic leader Assurbanipal Babilla.”

 

Here and Now is currently in the middle of its 2015 presentation. 

 

To catch the final performances THIS WEEKEND (May 14 - 16, 2015) visit their website and grab a ticket here: http://www.miamilightproject.com/herenow.html

 

Read a review of this year's 2015 pieces by Miami Herald's Jordan Levine here: http://www.miamiherald.com/entertainment/ent-columns-blogs/jordan-levin/article20505744.html

 Photo Credit: Peter Andrew Bosch, Miami Herald Staff

 

 

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