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© Maya Hayuk
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Miami, The Open City

MIAMI – Miami, which has always welcomed minorities, and has exercised throughout its history tolerance of religions, genres, ethnicities and cultures, has made this blend its identity. Today, after the time when crime rates spoke loudly in his name, in the late 1980s, the city gives an example of overcoming.

Frequently remembered among the most gay-friendly cities on the planet, Miami celebrates and receives diversity of genres with a calendar of events for this segment. Among them are the LGBT pride parade, and festivals such as the Winter Party – which has already reached its 25th edition and brings together about 10,000 participants each year – as well as attractions (but not only) aimed at this audience.

There is even a guided walk that shows how the civil rights history of the LGBTQ community and the struggle for gender freedom of expression intertwines with the development of Miami Beach. Even Calle Ocho, where it beats the heart of the Cuban neighborhood, has its gay pride party.

But the diversity of Miami is such that it is not defined in labels, since the city begins to become reference in production and exhibition of contemporary art. Moreover, because it is on the shores of the Atlantic, beach culture is also part of everyday life.

On the same weekend, the sunny edge of the historic Art Deco District is capable of hosting events as diverse as the 305 Half Marathon and the Winter Party, while opening its “Muscle Beach” (like Venice Beach, California) , public outdoor exercise area at Lummus Park (9th St.) with state-of-the-art equipment next to a children’s playground.

Art as an investment

This cultural cauldron that makes up Miami’s identity is expressed in the streets, in gastronomy, in art centers and museums, driven by investments in art and design education programs in Miami-Dade County schools (which encompasses the cities of Miami and Miami Beach).

In the circuit of arts and cultural attractions, newly opened or renovated museums reinforce the city’s transformation process, including revitalization of regions such as Wynwood, Design District and Downtown. The Design District, for its part, is a great project still in progress. This is an open-air luxury shopping complex where each designer has built a store whose architectural design expresses the brand’s identity – think of the most famous and luxurious ones and they are there: Fendi, Christian Louboutin, Hermès, Gucci, Dior etc. Even the parking lot’s buildings have large, bold designs.

There the experience of seeing shop windows is raised to another level, almost as if it were a museum, where boutiques are the object of contemplation. An outdoor area with sculptures and snack bars, live music venues, and ice cream parlor with alcoholic flavors and trendy restaurants complement leisure options.

The Bass Museum of Art was reopened in Miami Beach in October after two years of renovations. With an original collection of European art from the fifteenth century, it started to offer a program of contemporary exhibitions. As “Beautiful”, in which the artist Pascale Marthine Tayou of Cameroon interferes in the space dedicated to the permanent collection of the museum, almost resulting in a “recreation” of classic works of art. All in an environment-friendly installation.

There the idea is to subvert and transmute the narratives. It is also the “Welcome wall”, which welcomes visitors to the museum in the lobby with LED colored panels and the expression “Welcome” written in more than 70 languages, including Portuguese.

The Bass, founded in 1964, is housed in a National Heritage listed building, close to good hotels like Setai, W and Shelborne. In the gardens of Collins Park, in front of the museum, another work draws attention: it is “Miami mountain” by Swiss Ugo Rondinone. The tower, made up of colored blocks points towards the beach, and invites us to walk along the boardwalk.

The stop in front of the Breakwater Hotel, erected in 1936, is an example of an Art Deco building (note the symmetrical elements on the façade), highlighting the history of South Beach’s economic revitalization and somehow associated with references LGBTs in the city. In 1985, an advertising piece from the Calvin Klein campaign for the Obsession line of perfumes ran the world stamping nude models in a thought-provoking geometric setting. They were behind Breakwater’s dashboard. It was a shocking image for the time:

People saw the photo and asked, “Where is it?” And they wanted to come to Miami Beach and check it out, “Howard says.

Other art forms relate to LGBT culture in Miami Beach. The tour highlights gay personalities and their relevant contributions to the city, such as Michael Tilson Thomas, founder and artistic director of the New World Symphony, located in a building adjacent to Lincoln Road. Not to be missed are the Wallcast concerts (outdoor projection, in the gardens, of the performances that take place in the auditorium, on certain Saturdays).

Stylist Gianni Versace, who lived in Miami in the 1990s and lived an openly gay life, has two landmarks on the tour: his mansion today is the Villa Casuarina boutique hotel; and the News Cafe, which is one of the oldest on Ocean Drive, still in operation. Versace, who frequented the site daily, was murdered in 1998, at the gate of his house, when he returned from there.

– The News Cafe, opened in 1988, was one of the first establishments in Miami Beach to encourage integration between gays and straight people. Before that, there was not much mixing between people. And that’s an example of the liberal feelings here in Miami Beach, “Howard notes.

In front of the Park Central Hotel building, the guide highlights the role of supremely gay personalities involved in the Miami Beach preservation movement, which began in the mid-1970s. Historically, women have led conservation movements in the United States, says Howard, but there, a gay designer is remembered. Built in 1937, the building is being renovated to reopen as Celino Hotel. The work maintained the color palette created by Leonard Horowitz in the 1980s, which marks the restoration phase of the Art Deco neighborhood.

Crayons and drag shows

“When the buildings were erected, most had neutral colors. “Off-white” (sand) was more common. In the 1980s, Horowitz wanted to use multiple colors, highlighting architectural details. He oversaw the painting of many buildings, but died of AIDS in 1989. Many reforms thereafter extrapolated the palette of soft colors with more intense colors. Today, some buildings, like the Celino, return to using the Horowitz palette – says the guide.

From Ocean Drive, the tour follows Washington Avenue, where the Twist, gay bar opened in 1993. Other bars that make success on LGBTQ night are Score and Trade and Heart Nightclub. The Trade works where Club Liquid was – which had between clients Madonna, Cher and Versace.

The drag queens shows are popular in Miami. The oldest – Jewel Box Review and Ha-ha Revue – emerged in the 1930s. Today, Athena Dion, Miss Ultimate Miami Drag Queen 2017, is the host of Drag House’s R Brunch in Wynwood (the restaurant has a Dali mural made by the Brazilian Kobra on the facade).

The food is neat in comfort style food (eggs, steak, chips etc.). In an upbeat mood, the drags parade, play with the audience, sing, dance, and dance in choreographies that end with an applauded death drop (a dance step in which the drag satirizes the traditional ballet movement) . At the tables, audiences of all kinds (it is at the discretion of the parents the presence of minors).

The Palace on Ocean Drive has shows by day and by night. Even Monday’s dinner is packed. The mood of the show “Mondays are a drag” is “hot,” and the place gets a nightclub airs where food does not matter so much. There are tables on the porch and in the lounge, the atmosphere is nightclub. In both shows, the drags pass through the tables collecting tips. The higher the incentive, the more lively the show.

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