A city’s brand is always less about what’s actual and more about what’s imagined. It’s a collaborative recipe — made with a dash of history, a twist of bad habits, and a pinch of pop culture. It all depends on who’s crafting the narrative. Some cities are known as progressive havens, others love to be defined by their sports teams, and a brave few still cling to fantasies about the “American heartland” and whatever Hallmark paint-by-numbers portrait makes their town seem the most idyllic.
This goes the opposite direction, too. Cities get labeled as “crime infested” or “corrupt” or “backwards.” Sometimes these splashy stories reflect reality; sometimes they don’t. Think about what your town or city is known for and consider if it’s actually true or not.
For the city of Miami, its most recognizable #brand goes back at least 25 years. It’s a warm weather paradise where escapism rules and excess is celebrated. The clubs, the parties, the chic hotels… It’s the American Riviera where guys with unbuttoned shirts pour bottles of expensive champagne on the decks of sports boats. It’s vice. It’s wild.
If you’re really looking for those things, you can probably find them. But the “other” Miami is a functioning city in which the majority of the people get up and go to school or work, just like anywhere else. People aren’t always cruising Collins Avenue; sometimes they’re just in line at Trader Joe’s. Slowly, the Miami brand has changed to accommodate the city’s broader horizons. As evidenced by the fact that these days, the city is often first thought of as home to art shows.
Miami’s modern cultural renaissance got its start way back in the ‘80s when philanthropic dollars poured in as a way to change the city’s drug-fueled narrative. In the years since, the area has slowly built a creative community, one that differs from other cities in a distinct way: This era’s buzzword du jour, diversity, is already baked into Miami’s ethos and doesn’t have to be outsourced or rushed into existence. Miami and its surrounding cities and towns are home to a potent mix of local and international artists. Many of them with Caribbean, Latin American and even West African influences. Coupled with warm weather and a vibrant nightlife, the area has become a draw for those with eclectic taste. Whether you’re a painter or a sculptor, architect or photographer, a performer or something else entirely, there’s a place for you.
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Mural by Nicole Salgar @nmsalgar for the Miami satellite activation of @pangeaseed in collaboration with @seawalls_ & @saltmatesapp Nicole's mural portrays a businessman drowning in the ocean that could invade Miami Beach if we continue to ignore climate change. "The bills represent money lost that was invested in the area was not used to prevent this catastrophe. You can also see the iconic Art Deco architecture Miami Beach is known for submerged in the water. This could become a reality if we don't get involved. Climate change is very real." – N.S Photo: @parcialmentenublada #pangeaseed #ARTivism #nicolesalgar
So don’t fret if you missed Art Basel this year. The city is teeming with places to go and things to see. You just have to be willing to leave South Beach.