There’s something to be said for a collective that brings together an expansive community brimming with talent. Empowering is just one word to describe Miami’s ArtCenter/South Florida. A nonprofit devoted to furthering the knowledge and practice of contemporary visual arts, the organization launched the Ellies, a grant program inspired by their founder, Ellie Schneiderman, in April. More than six months later, the long-anticipated moment has arrived: 44 winners of close to $500,000 in artist funding have just been announced.
In a ceremony at the Bass this evening, ArtCenter president and CEO Dennis Scholl took the stage with his colleagues to commemorate the winners. Broken down into three categories, the 44 awards went out to 38 “creators,” five teachers and one lucky recipient of the Michael Richards Award. Eduoard Duvall-Carrie is that singular winner bestowed with the distinction, a commissioned work to be displayed at The Bass and a no-strings-attached $75,000 prize. A Haitian-American sculptor and painter, Duvall-Carrie has had solo shows at PAMM, MOCA North Miami and international exhibits everywhere from Chile to Dakar.
The list of award recipients reads like a who’s who of the Miami art scene, with names including Dara Friedman, Jillian Mayer, Johanne Rahaman, Asif Farooq and other well-known local artists.
“It is really Miami’s visual arts awards,” Scholl said. “It’s just such a happy, happy moment for us.” The CEO behind the groundbreaking creative initiative links it all back to the organization’s founder. “In [Ellie Schneiderman’s] words, it’s about helping artists help themselves.”
Over 500 applications flooded the ArtCenter, Scholl says, which was hundreds more than they expected to receive. “I have to say that I thought, wow, if we could get a couple hundred wouldn’t that be great?” Scholl laughs, recalling his team’s surprise at the surge of interest that skyrocketed in the final days before the deadline. “We had gotten to a nice number, maybe a hundred or so…and then literally there was this wall, this kind of tsunami of applications. We were so thrilled with that.”
After Heade-Hummingbirds, a 2013 work by Edouard Duval-Carrie, who received $75,000 from ArtCenter/South Florida.
Criteria used by the jury for each category was a culmination of innovation, impact, and opportunity. “We were looking for an idea that first of all would allow the artist to really do something special for their practice that maybe they hadn’t had the opportunity to do before,” Scholl clarifies that they were also seeking ideas that would “excite” the community. “And of course, the thing I really believe in for Miami is that you’ve got to look everywhere. So we spent a lot of time thinking about our neighborhoods, and where some of these ideas came from and where artists might not necessarily have been given the opportunity to do things before. We wanted to make sure that the winners of the Ellies looked like the 305.”
Duval-Carie said that, using his prize winnings, he hopes to work further with ArtCenter. “I would love to create and organize an exhibit and really zero in and try to see if there is what we would call a Miami aesthetic…let’s hope there is one,” he laughs good-naturedly. But what is here, Duvall-Carrie says, is a spirit of congeniality. “I moved here from Paris. Everybody in Paris said, ‘What are you going to do there?!’ I said, ‘Well I kind of like it.’ I’m going to write letters to them just to rub it in,” Duvall-Carrie jokes, divulging that moving here was a decision he’s always been proud of.
Duval-Carrie was one of between 20 and 25 artists considered for the prize, Scholl said, noting how remarkable it was to have such a colossal pool of talent to choose from. “We just kept coming back to Eduoard. He has inspired a lot of other artists in our community. He has had a career at the highest level.”
The infamous airplane made of paper by Miami’s very own Asif Farooq.
Joining Duvall-Carrie in the limelight are a collection of 38 artists and five educators. Teacher Travel Grants of $5,000 were awarded to five Miami-Dade K-12 teachers who will use the grant to travel around the world and build art-inspired curriculums based on their experiences. This particular category was originally intended for only three recipients, but after an influx of “stand-out” applications, Scholl and his team went back to the ArtCenter board and got two extra winners approved. From studying mosaics in Spain to attending boat-building schools in Maine, the honorees are bound to bring back unique visual art techniques for their students.
Of the subcategories, the Ellies Creator Awards holds the most sizable number of winners, spanning a series of projects from brilliant local artists recognized for a powerful visual arts project. Among the range of 38 individuals selected are some of the 305’s local art celebs.
Asif Farooq’s winning project is “Balalaika.” A slightly larger-than-life-size, fully-detailed paper airplane based on the Russian MiG-21 fighter jet, more than 320,000 individual components make up the impressive sculpture. “This project is all about opting out.” Farooq says he worked on this project for five years. “I wanted to get away from the paradigm of mass-produced cultural commodities and work on a project that took forever that had very little to show for it.” He also shares he is grateful for the opportunity the Art Center is affording him in continuing his work, and “for the chance to continue to engage the arts community here in Miami.”
Dara Friedman’s “FIGHT” looks to analyze patterns of confrontation, argument, and negotiation through a process of theater, Aikido, debate workshops and structural film techniques that round off in a
sequence of 30-second PSA’s. “We are in a time of reactive times and trying to figure out how to be active rather than reactive…[it’s about] basically trying to go through and analyze emotional responses to our time and get a handle on it,” is how Friedman summarizes her mixed media project. As for the grant? “It’s absolutely amazing because it allows you to carry on with making work with a lot of the stress of the process of making work alleviated,” the artist says.
Black Florida, Urban Beach Weekend 2015.
Johanne Rahaman, another recipient, is known for her Black Florida photo series. Her winning project is “Water Rights.” Rahaman illustrates the work as an “open-ended examination of the African diaspora’s relationship with water. We’ve historically faced obstacles to having access… In Florida, our ancestors were brought in to help develop the East Coast. So there’s this constant struggle of the desire to have some connection to water but always being pushed back.”
Images as compelling as they are poignant, “Water Rights” is a segment of Black Florida, which has risen to prominence over the past few years. “Oh my goodness, I am still pinching myself. I can’t believe it happened.” Rahaman reveals that she didn’t believe it when the Art Center first told her about her win. “It gives so much more credibility to the project to receive this award and it makes it possible for me to extend the LED shows into more communities.”
Further elevating the elation felt by all individuals both recognized and involved with the ArtCenter’s initiative, Scholl concludes speaking about the success of this year’s Ellies, only to divulge some special news. “The Board has decided to renew the Ellies for a second year.”
The full list of Ellies winners includes:
Michael Richards Award: Edouard Duval-Carrie
The Ellies Creator Award
Thom Wheeler Castillo
Lou Anne Colodny
Rosa Naday Garmendia
Michelle Lisa Polissaint
Teacher Travel Grants
Juana Meneses, New World School of the Arts
Susan Feliciano, Robert Morgan Education Center High School
Lourdes Fuller, Shenandoah Middle School
Justin Long, New World School of the Arts
Mirena Suarez, Ada Merritt K-8