After the January 12 earthquake in Haiti, attention turned to the Haitian Cultural Center in Miami’s Little Haiti. In “Little Haiti Cultural Center remains underused, underfunded,” the Miami Herald focuses on the largely untapped potential of “its sumptuous murals, light-filled gallery, spacious dance studios, and state-of-the-art theater.”
The article stresses that “a year after its understated opening, the city-run Little Haiti Cultural Center is largely unheralded, severely underfunded and sorely underused. Most days, there are no visitors in the gallery, which holds a first-rate show of contemporary art by Caribbean artists living across the globe. The kiln in the ceramics studio is rarely, if ever, fired up. The 270-seat theater is nearly always dark.” However, the center started gaining more visibility when one of the resident groups, Dance Now! Ensemble, performed in the theater to raise money for Haitian earthquake relief.
Haitian artist Édouard Duval-Carrié says, “They built it, but it really didn’t have a function. It’s a wonderful space. It could become a place of international stature, but the city doesn’t know what to do with it.” Duval-Carrié, whose private studio adjoins the center, has volunteered to help city administrators devise programs for it, including the Global Caribbean Art show he curated. The renowned artist rallied French sponsors for the art show and he brought collectors to the center during Art Basel/Miami Beach in December. These sponsors have committed to supporting annual art exhibits timed to Art Basel for the next four years. With the University of Miami, Duval-Carrié also organized a forthcoming symposium on Caribbean contemporary art at the center. [Also see previous posts Edouard Duval-Carrié on Haiti’s earthquake and New Caribbean art showcased during Art Basel fair.]
Since the center opened in January 2009, it has no director, no operating plan, and no dedicated budget. Community leaders say that the city promised the center in response to years of complaints of official neglect of Little Haiti only to once again fail to provide proper funding. Florida International University architecture professor Nat Belcher, a Little Haiti resident, explained that he was recruited for a board of advisors to help supervise the center’s operations but the board was never granted any decision-making ability.
City administrators have been building programming gradually despite a lack of money. The center has hosted six art exhibitions and more than a dozen events in its first year, including Vice President Joe Biden’s meeting with Haitian community leaders after the Haiti earthquake quake. They are also planning an April film festival, a jazz series and a summer dance program. Center manager Rasha Cameau says that the center does not even have a maintenance staff. She has gradually built the dance program is looking for volunteers to start ceramics classes, but Cameau has no money to market the center to potential users. Furthermore, the people she expected to rely on in the parks department were laid off in city budget cuts.
For full article, see http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/02/13/1479498/a-year-after-opening-miamis-little.html