Place and Purpose
Art Transformation in Coconut Grove, 1968-1989
Saturday, May 29, 2021 — Sunday, September 19, 2021
Amy Galpin, Ph.D., Chief Curator
In Miami, neighborhoods change rapidly, and populations shift and swell like the rising sea level. Place and Purpose: Art Transformation in Coconut Grove, 1968-1989 celebrates the role of a community as a creative space as well as a key driver behind a young city’s evolution.
Coconut Grove established itself in the 1960’s as the local haven for a diverse group of artists, writers, musicians, and art galleries. In historic Bahamian West Coconut Grove, the Miami Black Arts Workshop (MBAW) provided a community space for Black artists like Roland Woods, Jr., Robert McKnight, Donald McKnight, Dinizulu Gene Tinnie, and Kabuya Pamela Bowens-Saffo, among others. Political activists, as well as artists, these community leaders created a powerful space in Coconut Grove through the MBAW, a venue that welcomed young people to learn about art and activism. Coconut Grove was also home to artists like Annette Rawlings, who combined interests in fashion, painting, and ceramics, as well as Owen Lee, a prolific, self-taught artist who worked with paper, tapestries, and sail cloth.
The Grove’s rich history has contributed to the complex narrative of Miami as a home for myriad cultures and the arts that define and shape our experience of them. Community events such as the Coconut Grove Arts Festival (dating back to 1963) and the King Mango Strut Parade (founded in 1982) became signature events of the Grove that continue today. While most art galleries have long since moved out of the Grove and today’s prohibitive real estate prices discourage artists and musicians from living in the Grove, the neighborhood’s history as an artistic mecca remains its legacy in Miami.
This exhibition is made possible through a Knight Arts Challenge Grant.
Caption: Coconut Grove Art Festival Mural, 1967. History Miami Archives.