By Dr. Laura Henkel, contributing writer
Since I was born, I would go to Miami every summer to visit
family. My family were early settlers of the city and I would always hear about
27th Avenue being the edge of town whereby the 'Everglades' began. As a kid, I would fish with my Grandfather
off The Rickenbacker Causeway wearing a big straw hat and one of his button
down long-sleeve shirts so I wouldn't fry in the sun. I heard about the glamour of Miami Beach in
the 50's and 60's, The Fontainebleau's elegance, the celebrities, the mob, and so
on. In the late 80s, I moved to
Miami. Moving from Dallas, I quickly
segued into snorkeling in the Florida Keys, power boating, and sun bathing on
Miami Beach. (yes, completely negating what my elders tried to instill in me
as a kid regarding the sun, yet persistently lathering up with baby oil and
iodine so that I might be the living incarnate of the Coppertone kid in
South Beach in the early 90's wasn't what it is today. It was forgotten, old and decrepit. Being in
my 20's, it was a little depressing to see so many elderly staring at the beach
from their perches on Ocean Drive.
Unbeknownst to me when I arrived, I did not know that developers had
already seen the future and entrepreneurs began to breathe new life into the
area. I found myself at the right place
at the right time.
Romero Britto opened a gallery and The Van Dyke, a beer pub,
literally set the stage for revitalization on Lincoln Road. Lincoln Road, an outdoor shopping center,
similar to Commercial Center, was all but abandoned. There were quirky businesses in there; a
dance studio and the best vintage clothing stores (thank you Miami glamour of
the 50/60's). Soon, fabulous nightclubs
full of imagination on and off of Collins Avenue began to take hold between
Lincoln Road and Ocean Drive. After a
night of dancing, I could go to Wolfie's, have a delightful breakfast, and
imagine Meyer Lansky walking through the front door.
I remember the Cleveland Hotel as one of the first of the Art-Deco hotels to have a complete makeover.
It was fun to sunbath on the beach and see the renovations of those old
hotels revamped one by one. The
elderly slowly disappeared to make way for Cafe News and other yummy
eateries. Versace came to town and
designed an incredible private villa from one of the coolest apartment
buildings on Ocean Drive. It was exciting to be part of that synergy of
creativity and development by supporting those new businesses. Twenty years later, Art Basel and those old
grand homes by the Miami Herald have once again become posh and an art/design
district was born. (I gotta say that I
got a little teary eyed when I heard that the old Sears Tower would serve as
the new opera house/concert hall for the City of Miami. http://learningfrommiami.org/?p=1555
And now, here I am in Las Vegas. I'm feeling the same creative and synergistic
vibe in DTLV (Downtown Las Vegas) as I did in South Beach.
It's pretty amazing to be a part of change that supports a community at
large. It is a very special moment in
time and I enjoy supporting the local businesses, artists and art
establishments. It's pretty damn cool
to know someone by their first name and it is even cooler to recognize that
everyone in this town knows everyone by one degree of separation.
So while fondly remembering the growth and changes of South
Beach, while recognizing the importance of what is happening around me today in
DTLV, I am inspired by the forward-thinking entrepreneurs that make this place
so special. While I follow on the heels
of Miami, I
would really like to see Las Vegas become the West Coast epicenter for the
arts. Those white tents at the World
Market would make an exceptional spot to host an international art fair. There are plenty of hotel rooms to accommodate
the mecca of artists and patrons that would come from all over the world. And, talk about easy access! Hell, you can catch transportation directly
from the airport to the World Market.
Look at Miami's model, refine it, make it work for LV... more tourism...
more dollars... from Strip to Streets of DTLV... from Venice to Vegas (hello
Anthony Bondi)... so many bright and talented creatives in this town alone,
such an untapped market, and a destination that everyone would enjoy. Planting seeds, planting seeds. A Vegas Biennale, collaborating with Venice,
would be simply amazing!
Brian Paco Alvarez enculturating Las Vegas into the millennium...