Travels & Traditions: Miami - #208

Greater Miami and the beaches. They've become one of the most popular vacation destinations in the world. Each year, over 9 million people come to Miami. They come for the sun and the surf, the nightlife… and the food. They come to see and be seen. But there is another side to Miami, a side that has been here for over 50 years, and makes Miami even more interesting. I went in search of the other Miami, and when I found it, I loved it. And I think you will too.

So please join me, Burt Wolf, for Travels & Traditions, in Miami, Florida.

Miami Beach, magic name of a miracle city, evolved almost overnight from the tropical jungles of a mangrove swamp…

The men and women who started developing Miami, and Miami Beach, at the beginning of the 20th century, decided that the best way to attract attention to their community, and profit from its growth, was to project a single, coordinated image. Come to the playground in the sun and live it up. And they spent the entire century telling that story to the entire world.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): And for over 80 years, that's the image that Miami has been promoting. And for most of those years, it has been accurate and complete. But that is no longer the case. Greater Miami and the beaches have become a center for cultural arts and design. To come here just for the warmth and the water is to miss much of what this area has to offer. Let me show you what I mean….

Two-three, one! Ta-da! One! Cha-cha! Uh! (Fades)

The Miami City Ballet is quickly becoming one of the most respected ballet companies in the world. It was founded in 1986 by Edward Villella, the first American-born male star of the New York City Ballet.

EDWARD VILLELLA: One-two one, two-three-point set. One...

EDWARD VILLELLA: My mother was a frustrated dancer. She was an orphan. Never had opportunity. My sister being a year older, my mother thought, oh, wow here’s a way to live vicariously. She took my sister off to this local school in Bayside Queens, where we grew up. And I used to hang out in the streets and do what I did best, and that was get into physical trouble. One day I got whacked in the back of the head with a baseball, knocked unconscious. My mother got upset and said, ‘there is no way we are going to trust you on the streets of Queens, any more.’ So, I’m nine years old, I get dragged to my sister’s school. And I had to sit there and watch 40 giggling girls, their mothers, and me, and being this physical guy, to sit was nearly impossible. And I was so bored; they were doing all these soft, poetic gestures. I was out of my head with boredom. Ah! Towards the end of the class they started to jump. I went in the back, and I started to fly around, I said hey! You know, oh, yeah! I’m okay at this. I could do this. I was even better than they. So naturally, I made fun of it. I got a dirty look from the teacher. I said, maybe I’m in trouble. I was. Teacher said, ‘you either get him out of here, or stick him in tights at the bar.’ I got stuck in tights at the bar, and that’s how I began.

(SALSA MUSIC playing, dancers performing…)

Today, the Miami City Ballet has over 15,000 subscribers, and over 10,000 single ticket buyers each season. It appears all over the world, and is busy creating works that incorporate the social dances of this century into the traditional ballet of the past. To see The Miami City Ballet in action is to see the future of music and ballet in America. As the Miami classical arts community grew, it not only became a place where great artists came to perform, but also a place where young artists came to train. The Old Lincoln Movie Theater at the heart of the art deco district on Miami Beach has been converted into the headquarters of The New World Symphony. It's North America's only full time national training center for young orchestral musicians who want to prepare for professional careers.

(SYMPHONY playing…)

Chris Dunworth is the orchestra's president and chief executive officer.

CHRIS DUNWORTH: Really what we've become known for is a unique training program that focuses on the individual. On the individual musician and bringing out the artist in the individual musician. Our vision of an orchestra now becomes a whole group of interlocking ensembles. Each part of the orchestra is a chamber group unto itself. And the musicians are performers within that chamber group, and it's up to the conductor, to bring all those different interlocking ensembles together. And with that type of vitality, and that type of communication, you get a totally different kind of performance.

The idea for The New World Symphony came from the conductor Michael Tilson-Thomas. If you are in Miami Beach between mid-October and the beginning of May, stop into The New World Symphony.

(LIVELY GOSPEL MUSIC, singers and ensemble performing – “Well, didn’t it rain children, rain. Oh my Lord, didn’t it rain children. Oh my Lord, didn’t it rain…” )

Another organization that will give you a look at the musical future of America is Jubilate.

(LIVELY GOSPEL MUSIC, singers and ensemble performing…)

It started out in 1995, when a group of friends put together a vocal group to help celebrate Black History Month. Since then, it has expanded into the Jubilate Vocal Ensemble, and the Jubilate Symphony Orchestra. Orchestra is one of three in the United States that are primarily managed and staffed by minority musicians.

(LIVELY GOSPEL MUSIC, man singing –“All night, all night and all day, Oh…” )

NELSON HALL: The mission of the organization is to promote, and to preserve, the music of black American composers. All the way from the Negro spirituals, to the gospel music of today. But also the music that's got that classical flavor to it. There is gospel music, but there's also the gospel influence in the classical music.

Today they're performing at Vizcaya, an Italian Renaissance villa, built in Coconut Grove by James Deering, in 1916, and open to the public as a museum of Italian decorative arts.

(MUSIC playing…)

JOSEF SPENCER: Jubilate musicians represent the mosaic tapestry of Miami. We are of all racial make-up, religious make-up, we are professionals, within the cultural make-up of Miami.

(MUSIC playing…)

JOSEF SPENCER: What is unique about Jubilate and the Symphony Orchestra is that we have taken, one component that we think is very important, and that's by adding 13 to 18 year of age gifted students, to our orchestra, to give them a professional seat in the orchestra, which will allow them to hone their crafts and be better professionals as they take the ranks into their professional opportunities.

(LIVELY GOSPEL MUSIC, woman singing – “Well, I met my preacher the other day… just as soon as ever my back was turned, scandalize my name! You call that a preacher?…)

JOSEF SPENCER: That's the essence of Jubilate, catching those rhythms and bringing the community together, for one purpose, and that’s to enjoy our heritage, and our freedom.

(LIVELY GOSPEL MUSIC, woman singing -Do you call that a preacher? Do you call that a preacher? Scandalize my name! – AUDIENCE CLAPPING…)

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): But Miami's interest in creativity is not just limited to music and dance. The city has some outstanding art museums. As a matter of fact, the part of the creative community that is most available to tourists is made up of painters and sculptors.

This is Lincoln Road on Miami Beach. During the mid-1980s, it looked like a set on Miami Vice. Today it is a busy and beautiful center for shopping, eating and entertainment. One of the organizations that played a major role in this revitalization is the Arts Center, South Florida. In partnership with the City of Miami Beach, they purchased a series of storefronts, and converted them to artists’ studios, which they made available to a group of artists who were long on talent, but short on cash. The studios are open to the public, who come in, chat with the artists, and if they like, make a purchase.

TONY CHIMENTO: Here, on the Road, I get to meet my collectors. I, you know, there's that personal contact, which I realize they quite appreciate, too. They like having a bit of a personal view into the process, into where this work that they have on their walls came from, how it came to be, and they don't get that in a gallery situation.

BABETTE HERSCHBERGER: Some of the great things about being here at the Art Center are that, not only can you create your work, you can display your work here. I have set my studio up with some zones, sort of: gallery zone, display zone, a more casual zone, and specifically, this painting loft. And it allows me to have some privacy, but yet, keep my space very open and accessible to people. So, in a way, we gain a lot from the public coming in, but we also give a lot, because we act as instructors. We're able to teach them about art, perhaps in ways they've never been as intimate, in their teaching. To see it actually being created, to ask how it's done...

FENOL: Well, this painting, it's about, an avenue of trees. Basically, there's no particular place. It just ...just my imagination. And I just called it Avenue of Trees. So it's a work in progress, as you can see. And I feel like I'm home, so, that's why I like to work at the Art Center.

The Art Center on Lincoln Road is one place to meet the artists who live and work in Miami. But you could also visit many of them in their private studios. For example, you could drive into Coconut Grove and pop into to see Lisa Remeny. Coconut Grove is an artists colony that is home to the Coconut Grove Arts Festival, which is the largest in the U.S.

LISA REMENY: The things that inspire me to paint are tropical light. And all the subject matter involved therein, you know, the type of cloud formations in the tropics, the plants. The flowers. The water. And the colors that the water changes to, from sunrise, to sunset, to moonrise, to moonset. It's like, it's infinite, you know, you can just carry on forever. I've no shortage of subject matter to build on here. My favorite spot to go for inspiration in Miami is Fairchild Tropical Garden. They have the largest collection of palms in the United States. They have an amazing array of flowers, and cactus, and all sorts of things. They have a moonlight walk twice a year that I go and draw, in the moonlight.

And of course, there are art galleries. The Bernice Steinbaum Gallery has an outstanding collection of art, with new pieces being added every few months. One of my favorite works of art is Bernice. She had a successful gallery in New York, but sold it to start a new life in Miami.

BERNICE STEINBAUM: I chose Miami because I think it's the gateway to Latin America. And, I'm very curious about those people coming to Miami. For second homes, or for all of the time, Latin America does have a history of buying art. I'm very interested in seeing new work, all of the time. And of course because I reside in Florida, I'm very interested in looking at Floridian artists. One of the artists that I have been looking at is a young man named Carlos Betancourt. I'm very taken with how he uses the landscape. And how he brings his own personal history into the history of Florida. He did a very large piece on the beach that I thought was extraordinary.

One of the most interesting manifestations of Miami's interest in art and design is the recent development of the Miami Design District. It consists of over 50 stores packed with some of the finest home furnishings, and unlike most other design centers in the United States, it is open to the public. Traveling to Miami to shop for furniture may sound strange, but when you consider the range of stuff available in this district, sun, surf and a sofa, makes an interesting combination.

CRAIG ROBINS: I love that lamp.

BURT WOLF: That one?

More than anyone else, Craig Robins has been responsible for the redevelopment of the area.

CRAIG ROBINS: We see our mission as always attempting to find the next frontier, and having done most of what we can accomplish in South Beach, we've now chosen the Miami Design district as our next location of focus. This is the, Gondola Shoe by Antoni Miralda, the Spanish artist. It was made, actually, to fit the Statue of Liberty. And serves both as a public art sculpture, and the vessel, you can kick the heel off and sail on the canals of Italy.



I love it!

CRAIG ROBINS: This is the Moore Building. It's our most spectacular historical structure. It houses Leah’s Gallery. Which is this extraordinary collection of antiques, and paintings...

Next to it is WaterWorks, which is a very up market, important home bathroom fixtures. And, just around the corner is ICF, which has contemporary furniture. The great thing is to see the different showrooms, and how they combine into a fun destination to come, hang around, and see design.

Knoll makes some of the world's most beautiful contemporary furniture. My personal favorite is the Gehry chair.

Dilmos from Milan opened its first showroom in the Miami design district in the United States. They more than anyone challenged the line between art and furniture. Holly Hunt is without a doubt the most important showroom in the United States. And she has done this spectacular 25,000 square foot space without Alison Spear in the district. One of her principle designers, and what's really made Holly famous, is her association with Christian Liagre, the French designer who has brilliantly mixed contemporary design with primitive influences. In this neighborhood, we've assembled the best of everything, from the floor up. Santini’s, hand crafted mosaic floors, are undisputedly the best in the world. They've imported all of the materials from Europe, and come here and do these beautiful both residential and commercial projects in the United States, and of course, around the world. Santini's probably best known in Miami for having done Versace's beautiful home.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Miami's interest in good art, architecture, and design is very much part of the philosophy of the hotel I stayed at. But in spite of the fact that there is a sign on top of the building that says Tiffany, I did not stay at the Tiffany Hotel. I stayed at a hotel called The Hotel. And the reason The Hotel is called The Hotel, is a story all by itself. During the late '80s, Tony Goldman, a real estate developer, teamed up with Todd Oldham, the fashion designer, and turned it into a great place. Just before they were about to open, Tiffany, the jewelry company in New York, sued them to prevent them from using the name Tiffany. Well, Tiffany the jeweler had more money than Tiffany the hotel, and Goldman settled out of court. Can you believe that? Who would think that this was a jewelry store? But, Goldman has a good sense of humor about the whole thing.

The landmarks commission insisted that the sign stay. Which makes the whole thing a little bizarre. The roof of the hotel has a fantastic view of the Atlantic Ocean and the beach. So Oldham designed an emerald shaped swimming pool. The lights in the public spaces are shaped like diamonds. There are constant reminders of precious stones, and in fact, the entire place is a jewel. Which includes Jessica Goldman, Tony’s daughter who took me on a tour.

JESSICA GOLDMAN: Now, this piece is a perfect example of the craftsmanship and artisan work that you'll find throughout the hotel. This piece is colored glass, textured glass and antique glass, and we sourced it from all over the country, and one woman came and hand cut, and hand placed every piece. And it really is very much like a piece of art. Some of the other things that you'll find, the inspiration that we took was really from the original art deco era. So, the floors are original terrazzo floors. And if you look at the fabrics of the furniture, they really have a terrazzo feel to them as well. The inspiration for the rooms really came from the beautiful environment that we're in. When you think of Florida, you think of the sun, and the sky, and the blue waters, and the beautiful sand. So that's where you get your, your blues, and the beautiful blues and greens, and if you look at the carpeting, kind of gives you a sense of the sand.

It certainly does.

JESSICA GOLDMAN: We really wanted to take all of those wonderful elements, and all that warmth, and bring it inside. And, and that's why you have all this, the colors and the textures. The wonderful thing about the bathrooms is that there are so many beautiful elements. They're all hand airbrushed tiles, seven different types of tiles. Oversize, rainheads. Custom designed cotton bath robes from Todd Oldham. We also have mirrors in the showers, so men can shave.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): I don't actually shave, but I trim a little over here, and the mirrors were very convenient.

Todd Oldham has a deep dislike for bad art. Whenever he stayed at a hotel room where the pictures were just too ugly, he took them off the wall and put them in a closet. He also believes that everybody has their own sense of what's good art.

Accordingly, the walls of The Hotel have frames that contain only mirrors. The Hotel is listed as one of the historic hotels of America, which is part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. And it's right smack in the middle of the most fashionable neighborhood in Miami Beach.

As you might expect, at the same time I was working my way through the cultural aspects of Miami, I kept an eye out for the culinary. So what's cookin' here? The News Cafe on Miami Beach's Ocean Drive started out in 1987, as an ice cream parlor. And slowly grew into the hottest hangout on the beach. Based on the idea of the European cafe, it's a spot where people who live in the neighborhood, tourists, models, even television journalists come in to have a coffee, or a meal, and read the newspaper without being rushed. It's open 24 hours a day, every day of the year, and it's always an interesting place to see what's going on.

So many people told me about this place that I felt I had to stop in. It's called Pizza Rustica, and Pino Piroso owns the place.

PINO PIROSO: We use all fresh ingredients in these pizzas. We get fresh tomatoes, fresh mushrooms, fresh herbs, every day from the market, and that's how we put all these wonderful pizzas together. One of my favorites ones, the potato pizza made with roasted potato, rosemary, roasted peppers, black Kalamata olives. Then we have our signature pizza, with pizza rusticas, prosciuto, basil, fresh plum tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts. The four-cheese pizza’s wonderful, with four kinds of cheese. Also the arugula salad pizza with fresh arugula, fresh tomatoes, it's also a wonderful pizza. We have the chocolate pizza. It sounds weird, but it's not sauce and cheese. It's a wonderful pizza crust, baked, richly and crisply, and cut in a half, and a sprayed with chocolate Nutella, like a chocolate croissant on a form of a pizza.

Red Fish Grove in Coral Gables sits at the edge of a sandy beach that faces out on Biscayne Bay. And you can sit out under the palm trees and stars, and enjoy their baked and grilled fish specialties, prepared by Denton Hudson. Yuca, on Miami Beach's Lincoln Road is an upscale, sophisticated Cuban restaurant, with a sense of humor. Yuca stands for young, upscale, Cuban American. But it is also a play on yucca, which is the starchy root vegetable that's a common ingredient in Latin American cooking. We started with stuffed Spanish peppers with porcini mushrooms and a bleu cheese sauce. The main course was a dish of lobster and shrimp, in a rich saffron fish broth. And dessert was a coconut crème brulee, served in a fresh coconut.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Well that's a brief look at how greater Miami and the beaches have been presenting themselves, as a vacation spot for sun and surf. And how alongside that Miami, there is another Miami of classical music, ballet, art, design, painting, sculpture. I hope you have enjoyed this visit. And I hope you will join us next time, on TRAVELS & TRADITIONS. I'm Burt Wolf.