A dinner for local Miami artists at the Mikesells' home (2009)
In March 2008, Miami-based collectors Dan and Kathyrn Mikesell founded the Fountainhead Residency, a non-profit residency program that offers live/work spaces in Miami for visiting artists. The Mikesell’s residency program offers artists from around the globe the opportunity to live and work in Miami. By way of the Mikesells' connections, these artists often meet and receive feedback from some of Miami’s most venerated arts professionals. Since its inception, the residency program has collaborated with local arts institutions, funded travel, and played a key role in arranging exhibitions. Along with the Fountainhead Residency, the couple also founded Fountainhead Studios, a 10,000 square foot space subdivided into long- and short-term low-rent studios for Miami-based artists.
Whereas Art Basel Miami Beach—and all that comes with it—is seasonal, residencies like The Fountainhead ensure a year-round dialogue crucial to the advancement of Miami arts. These residencies help lure galleries, artists, curators, and collectors to Miami, and in turn, everyone feeds off and supports one another. Presently, those who actively offer their patronage in Miami are a dedicated, albeit limited, number of individuals. However, as the city's support group grows and diversifies, the richer Miami’s arts community will become.
At the core of the Mikesells’ mission is the desire to engender intimate relationships with artists that will best serve the artist community. Kathryn Mikesell explains, “we have been collecting for many years, but we had always wanted to do more to help artists.” It is her belief that “collectors should feel some sense of obligation to support their local arts community but for us, as I'm sure it is for most collectors, it's just part of supporting and sharing your passion.” The Fountainhead Residency, which now offers Miami a scheduled, back-to-back injection of national and international artists, seems in hindsight both a natural extension of the Mikesells’ interests and something that Miami desperately needed.
Fountainhead resident Richard Höglund in his studio (2008)
By enabling visiting artists to make and exhibit (often site-specific) work, some local institutions offer vital contributions to the long-term development of a self-sufficient artistic community: the Fountainhead Residency and Studios; Locust Projects, a non-profit experimental art exhibition space; LegalArt, a non-profit organization that offers free legal services to artists (Kathryn Mikesell also serves on its board); Bas Fisher Invitational, an artist-run exhibition space; and even some commercial galleries such as Fredric Snitzer Gallery, Dorsch Gallery, Gallery Diet, Diana Lowenstein Fine Arts, and David Castillo Gallery. These local institutions help make Miami a more plausible residence for anyone who makes art or requires culture as a staple—an important precedent for a town from which, prior to the art boom of 2001, most native artists would migrate away to pursue careers elsewhere.
In the absence of substantial arts funding, Miami’s arts community now operates on a functional, locally driven level. While not consistently comparable to New York or even cities of a persuasion more equal to Miami, Miami’s arts community nonetheless manages to get things done. In order to be the kind of art center it aspires to be, Miami must commit to what will likely be a long but worthwhile period of change. The arts community has begun the process of shedding the stereotype of a vacuous adult playground (at best a good venue for an art party) and is building the kind of cultural infrastructures necessary to attract and hold the attention of the wider art community year-round, but when or if Miami will fulfill its true potential as an art city is perhaps a question that hindsight alone can answer. Such is the curse of seasonal towns.
Thomas Hollingworth lives and works in Miami. In 2008 he founded ARTLURKER, a Miami-based contemporary art blog that functions as both a resource and a platform for Miami's art scene. Hollingworth also writes for Artillery and Whitehot Magazine.
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