Xavier Cortada, "Plan(T): Installation at Pinecrest Gardens," 848 mangrove seedlings in water-filled cups, 2019

May guide to the arts at the U

By Amanda M. Perez

May guide to the arts at the U

By Amanda M. Perez
University of Miami arts and humanities leaders reflect on the spring 2021 semester and offer their hopes for the future.
As spring 2021 draws to a close, arts and humanities leaders at the University of Miami discuss the semester while taking time to look forward to the fall and the start of the new academic year.

Shelton G. Berg, dean of the Frost School of Music

While the pandemic created unique challenges for a music school, at the Frost School we were able to continue making music education an active priority for our students, while doing so safely. Countless innovations led to significant strides in teaching and performance within COVID-19 protocols, which allowed about 90 percent of students to return to campus this spring.

Our Frost Music Live concert series continued virtually, providing our students not only with performance opportunities, but with audiences of 20,000 and more, viewing their livestreams on YouTube. 

Our most pivotal move in making a safe return to normalcy was to create the first outdoor music festival where students performed in front of a live audience. Frost Music Fest ’21, which took place March 20, was a quantum leap in the return to live music and featured superstar soprano Renée Fleming performing with the all-student Frost Symphony Orchestra. The six-hour event also featured more than 180 students performing with Frost faculty members in various ensembles of classical, Latin, jazz, pop, and rock music genres.

In looking forward to the fall semester, we will continue to ensure a safe environment for our students on campus and look forward to escalating the return of live audiences and special guest artists joining us again for our Frost Music Live concert series. 

Charles Eckman, dean of University of Miami Libraries

The University of Miami Libraries (UML) continued this spring semester with appointment-based study in order to ensure the health and safety of our faculty and students. We expanded hours gradually throughout the semester in response to increasing use of the libraries and student requests. UML’s "Request a Book" program has proven to be immensely popular with faculty members and students. And just last week, we unveiled the new smart locker system that serves as the program's distribution point in the Richter Library breezeway.

Our virtual events program has really taken off—with just more than 2,000 attendees during the spring semester alone. Regular programming includes the "Deep Dives into Special Collections" series; the Cuban Heritage Collection's series’ "El efecto Mariel: Before, During, and After"; and the "Mindfulness Online" sessions offered every Wednesday. We are looking forward to the "Mainly Mozart" series in July.

We have begun planning for a “new normal” in the fall semester. The libraries will be completely open for study (the reservation system will be discontinued). We are working now to find the right balance between in-person and virtual services, ensuring that through a hybrid approach we are responsive to user needs. We are similarly looking forward to resuming in-person events and at the same time leveraging technologies to ensure continued broad engagement with community members.

Jill Deupi, director of the University of Miami Lowe Art Museum

Though many stand-alone art museums both in our community and across the country have been operating on a limited basis for the past few months, academic art museums have been slower to reopen. The reason for this is very simple: like the Lowe, many American college and university art museums are located on campuses with significant student residential populations; populations whose health and safety has—appropriately—been a focal point since March 2020. Remaining shuttered this past year to all—except students and faculty members pursuing academic projects—has been a real challenge; but it was, I am firmly convinced, the appropriate course of action. Our protracted closure makes it that much sweeter to look forward to this summer, when my team and I hope to reopen to the public on a limited basis with carefully thought-out protocols in place to protect our staff and our visitors.

We are excited not only to share with our many audiences all that makes the museum special—its collections, its temporary exhibitions, its programs that cannot be replicated in the digital sphere—but also to put into practice all that we have learned about one another, ourselves, our institution, our society, and our world since last spring. This means that we will continue to foster and promote equity, social justice, and anti-racism as urgent priorities; we will work that much more closely with the constituents we serve . . . through enhanced feedback loops and expanded "co-creation" opportunities. We will think ever critically about broader societal ills and the role our work plays in creating platforms for engaged and engaging civic dialogue and civil discourse. And we will continue to champion and support the mission, vision, and values of our parent organization, the University of Miami. The future is bright, and we are ready for it!

Hugh Thomas, director of the Center for the Humanities

At the Center for the Humanities, we are relatively fortunate that a lot of our events, such as lectures and workshops, can be carried out virtually, making the continuation of our programming easier than for many arts groups. Thus, we have simply been able to shift faculty book talks, visiting lectures, and other activities online. Some of our headline events this year have been unusually timely. By chance, we had long ago chosen an eminent historian, Kyle Harper, to speak on pandemics and history. And we added a talk by a leading Spanish medical doctor, Antoni Trilla, on the so-called Spanish flu from a century ago. Other highlights include a lecture by Valeria Luiselli, a celebrated Mexican fiction writer, on her fiction and advocacy for immigrants, and a discourse coming at the end of the semester by Martha Jones, Society of Black Alumni Presidential Scholar, on the longstanding role of Black women in securing voting rights. We are also reviving “Inquiring Minds,” a program designed to introduce undergraduates to humanities research, in a virtual format. For next year, we are eagerly hoping for a return to live events, but we intend to apply some of the skills we have acquired this year to increase our online presence.

Nathan Timpano, chair of the Department of Art and Art History, College of Arts and Sciences  

As with the 2020 calendar year, the spring 2021 semester was not without its pandemic-related challenges for the Department of Art and Art History. With the exception of two art history courses, all of our humanities-based classes remained online in spring 2021. On the other end of the spectrum, the majority of our studio-based art courses were taught in-person, though with social distancing protocols still observed. This required our department to maintain the hybrid/staggered-teaching model (that had been used in fall 2020) for most arts classes, which ensured that six feet of space remained between students and their instructor. The return to some semblance of “normalcy” in our studio classes was welcomed by our undergraduate and graduate students, given that our visual arts curriculum is—and shall remain—a hands-on, creative process.

Milly Cardoso, Wynwood Gallery director and curator

Museums and galleries are the cornerstones of the art community. It’s hard to feel connected when we can’t physically be together. Most artists turn to online connections to continue to share their work. Having a robust online presence has helped us bounce back. This semester I created two series for IGTV. The first is a series that invites viewers into the studios of art faculty members, where they offer insight into their creative process, share works in progress, and outline the elements that support and define their practice. The second provides virtual tours of exhibitions at our off-campus gallery in the Wynwood Art District. We must offer things of value to our students and expand our reach into the community and beyond. That remains our goal for the fall 2021 semester. I am hopeful the art department and the university will persevere and come back stronger than ever. To stay up to date with the University of Miami Wynwood Gallery, follow us on Instagram and Twitter: @umartgalleries.

Wynwood Gallery

Xavier Cortada: “The Reclamation Project: Engaging community for 15 years through participatory eco-art” 

The exhibition by Xavier Cortada, professor of practice, presents a long-lived ecological art intervention across the state of Florida. Over the last quindecennial, Cortada has engaged scores of Floridians in learning about and addressing the widespread disappearance of native vegetation. The Reclamation Project also lives on today through Cortada’s iterations in Native Flags, Underwater HOA, Plan(T), FLOR500 and Flower Force, encouraging locals to restore native habitats as coastal cities like Miami plan for a future with rising seas.

On view until May 28. By appointment only. To schedule a visit, contact Milly Cardoso, gallery director, at m.cardoso1@miami.edu.

University Libraries

Every Wednesday, 4–5 p.m.

Mindfulness at Richter

The University of Miami Libraries offers introductory mindfulness sessions for cultivating calm and focus. These 45-minute sessions introduce the fundamentals of mindfulness with periods of guided practice and opportunities for reflection and questions.

Register here.

May 20, 1:00 p.m.

Reefs, Wrecks, & Rascals: The Pirate Legacy of the Spanish Main

Presented by Arthur Dunkelman, Jay I. Kislak Collection Curator

A deep dive into the history, lore, and legends of pirates and privateers from the early history of the Americas until modern times. Following the voyages of Columbus, piracy on the open seas became a serious risk to the political and economic stability of the Americas. British and French governments commissioned private expeditions to attack and plunder Spanish ships carrying gold and treasure from the Americas back to Europe. When official sanctions were withdrawn, these privateers often turned to piracy. Francis Drake, Henry Morgan, William Kidd, Lionel Wafer, William Dampier, and many others roamed the Atlantic Ocean and the islands coastlines of Caribbean Sea—the so-called Spanish Main—in search of plunder.

Almost from the beginning, pirate exploits were documented by sea captains and storytellers who wanted to share—and often embellish—great tales of adventure. Reefs, Wrecks, & Rascals is a glimpse into the exploits of some famous pirates and books that they inspired, from “Robinson Crusoe” to “Treasure Island” to “Captain Blood.” These and many more accounts of piracy, exploration, and intrigue can be found in the Jay I. Kislak Collection in the Special Collections of the University of Miami Richter Library.

Register here.

Lowe Art Museum

Tuesdays, 1:00 p.m.

The Art of Mindfulness

Join the Lowe Art Museum for a virtual guided mindfulness practice each week. The Lowe’s Art of Mindfulness session lasts about 40 minutes (30-minute guided practice with 10-minute reflection and Q & A).

Register here.

Frost School of Music 

May 2, 4:00 p.m.

Frost Bands—“Song and Symphonies” The Music of Mahler Stravinsky, Shostakovich, Salfelder, and Hailstork

Robert Carnochan, conductor

Alexandra Colaizzi, guest mezzo-soprano

The Frost Bands second concert of the spring 2021 season features the mezzo soprano Alexandra Colaizzi, who will join the Frost Bands for its interpretation of Gustav Mahler’s “Um Mitternacht.”

Praised by the South Florida Classical Review for her "deep-toned mezzo" and "vocally fierce" production, Colaizzi is a frequent soloist and professional ensemble singer seen on the rosters of organizations such as Seraphic Fire, the Santa Fe Desert Chorale, and Grammy Award-winning ensemble Roomful of Teeth. She is a first-year student studying for her doctorate in musical arts in vocal performance and pedagogy; she is studying under Robynne Redmon. 

Under the direction of Robert Carnochan, the Frost Bands will perform a range of music from diverse composers and artists. They include Adolphus Hailstork’s “American Guernica,” written in remembrance of the 1963 fire-bombing of an Alabama church that killed four young girls; Kathryn Salfelder’s “Cathedrals,” a fantasy piece written for St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice; and works by Dimitri Shostakovich and Igor Stravinsky. 

Set a reminder.