Wednesday, May 28, 2008

State of the Arts - Miami

Miami - the next cultural mecca? So says the NY Times and many other publications around the country. I, however, am not convinced. As someone who has lived in Miami for the last 12 years, I have to say that I do not see it happening in the foreseeable future. This, of course, is just my opinion, but I will share with you what my opinion is based on.

1. Mindset. Unlike Europeans, many Americans are not raised to visit museums and to engage themselves in culture. This means attending the Opera, going to museums, attending live performances of dance, theater, etc. Some of the arts and culture events that Miamians do enjoy and do attend are the various arts festivals - in the Grove, in South Miami and at the beach.

2. Melting Pot. Taking #1 a step further, Miami can, at times, feel like a different country rather than a different city. We have a lot of South Americans, Central Americans, Cubans and people from various other countries in our midst. I, personally, find this cultural diversity to be one of the things that makes Miami so interesting. Unfortunately, this type of melting pot does not necessarily lend itself to being a "cultural mecca" when it comes to the arts.

3. Expansion of Cultural Organizations. As part of this cultural building of Miami, many organizations have built buildings or tried to expand. One such example is the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts (now known as the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts). I won't even talk about the tens of millions of dollars that went into building this particular building, which has failed miserably year after year. With the name change and new funding source (Adrienne Arsht) this may change. Time will be the only teller of this particular story.

This is no way means that I do not think that the Arsht Center does not do a great job of sharing performances with the community. I think they have a fabulous selection of performances every single year. But do Miamians embrace and attend these performances? Not so much.

Now, at least three of the main museums in the Miami area are planning on building Museum Park, where visitors can hit these three museums in one place at one time. Good idea? This remains to be seen, since the completion date is now set at 2012, but seeing what has come and bombed before it, I'm not convinced that it is going to be the raging success that some are trying to pump it up to be.

4. Budget Cuts. Finally, the county drastically cut the budget of many areas including the arts and culture community. If the county does not back these organizations, do you really think that private funds alone are going to be able to sustain the entire arts community? Combine this with the decline in the economy and the tightening of Americans' purse strings and it is not looking so good. So far the result has been an overall decline in the marketing budget and staff of these organizations, which further debilitates the organization's reach to gain new audiences and engage current ones. In the end, this has left the arts community at a screeching halt.

Miami, the next culture mecca - not convinced.