top of page

This summer ten (10) years ago...

Entryway Wall of Peace 2007 Art Miami Artworks Purvis Young

Ten (10) years ago we were celebrating a lifetime achievement event for my friend, the late painter, Purvis Young. A year earlier in 2006, Young graciously anchored a series of art and antique festivals lending his reputation and compassion to support emerging artists of South Florida and expansion of after school arts programs at public elementary schools. A year later he was selected as the Director's Choice Exhibiting Artist for Art Miami, an exhibition that was exhilarating for Young, who had spent decades painting his way into international and national art museums and established private collections. A massive entryway structure was erected at the Miami Beach Convention Center, an arch of triumph called 'The Wall of Peace,' constructed of 8'x 10' wood paintings framed in strong, black floater frames stacked one upon the other to pay homage to 'Good Bread Alley' and the early days of Young's work in Liberty City, Miami. Young's love of the South Florida community was evident in the composition of each piece with urban scenes of protests, hard working mothers with honey bees in the sky, warriors on horses with angels hovering overhead, jailed young men waiting for release, boats lost at sea with hopeful immigrants to the Florida coast, and beautiful pregnant women waiting to raise a new generation with concerns about the strength and presence of the fathers. Young himself was a common law father to several children. He lived to paint but he loved his family, fighting to take care of them especially in the later years as his health failed and legal matters sapped his strength.

I felt very 'cool' - actually very blessed - to be selected by Young to share his art in our gallery and to sponsor the 2007 exhibit. His generous spirit brought a steady flow of customers hungry to invest in his art, and also a line of promising younger artists who wanted to hang their art alongside Young. The consistent sale of art allowed the gallery to provide matches for local government grants to sustain off site art programs and the outdoor festivals bringing visitors to antique and art districts, Broward County and South Florida.

Other noted painters frequented the gourmet cafe, attracting performers and instructors of art including multiple weekly dance classes of tap and tango. Singers and musicians, poets and writers, filmmakers and scholars of science and the humanities, joined us for monthly programs leading eventually to the creation of a charitable organization that could support expansion of these projects and the production and presentation of theater and dramatic performances.

The photo above is from a performance in the Wynwood Art District at the Miami Light Project at Goldman Warehouse, a project in its third phase in 2018 to infuse Shakespeare with Florida and American history. 'La Florida at the time of Shakespeare' explores the diverse culture developing in the peninsula separate from the thirteen English colonies which would eventually be united as 'America' along with the other states at great cost and courage in the 1800's. Florida was a special refuge from the earliest origins and some of the strains of cultivating community out of adverse conditions and diversity have led to the state's most distinctive qualities and matters still in the headlines.

It's going to be a hot summer but we're preparing some very cool programs to share in multiple counties and locations. In a few weeks, we start "Studio in Plein Air" at the Old Davie School Museum with representatives from nine (9) advanced placement visual arts classrooms across Broward County Schools sponsored in part by the Broward Cultural Division and the Broward Educational Foundation. A Cuban-born female artist, Annie Melik Brown, now married to an American and a practicing artist, will lead the class. She was educated in some of the best technical arts institutions in Cuba. Her nine merited students are entering their senior year preparing portfolios and recommended by their instructors. The collage below contains images of the Florida Highwaymen art, their version of 'plein air' painting and America's iconoclastic painter, John Singer Sargent. Sargent rode a wave of elite society support and training, painting freely outdoors and in the best ateliers in the early part of the 20th Century, while the Florida Highwaymen prepared their landscape paintings inside, mostly from memory very quickly in order that they might dry fast to store in the car and sell on Florida's highways during the Jim Crow era of the 1950's. Despite the barriers, Highwaymen art popularity persists and older works are collected at top dollar. A guest appearance by one of the original generation painters is scheduled to encourage the students in their endeavors to become Florida artists, developing their own style and a legacy of painting Florida street and landscapes professionally. Finished compositions will be displayed later this year in two historical properties to benefit preservation initiatives.

From top left to bottom left images of Florida Highwaymen Artists and Beanie Backus and John Singer Sargent

Two performances in September during the International Ballet Festival of Miami will feature choreographers involved in the next chapter of 'La Florida of Shakespeare' project begun in 2014. A taste of the talent in the expanded cast and production is sponsored to support the 22nd annual festival for both classical and contemporary ballet here in South Florida. Photo below is from a 2016 pilot project with New York City based Zest Collective

Zest Collective Pilot Project 2016 'Courageous Chapel' prior to 'R&J The Temepst Too'

Award winning, Zest Collective Founder and Creative Director, Gentry Isaiah George, worked with previous principal dancer for the Miami City Ballet under Founder, Edward Villella, Isanusi Garcia Rodriguez, who also danced for the Cuban National Ballet, to create choreography for the 2017 performances in Fort Lauderdale and Miami of 'R&J The Tempest Too.'

Christie Scitturo, Isa's wife and also a company dancer with the award-winning Miami City Ballet, was able to perform during the series of performances. Actors from Outre Theatre joined the dancers from several countries to perform in February. The script is being written for the expanded production in 2018-2019. We are committed to #Florida #artworks Find out more by contacting us at

bottom of page