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Coconut Grove Oral History Project

For decades, Coconut Grove has attracted artists, writers, and musicians. The Frost has chosen to tell a story of a moment in the Grove’s rich history through a select group of visual artists. The creative life of the Grove sprang from the vibrant people who chose to create in this Miami neighborhood. It is not a single artist or group of artists but the spirit of a community that has contributed to the Grove’s reputation as a wellspring of creativity.

In conjunction with the exhibition Place and Purpose: Art Transformation in Coconut Grove,the Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum presents an oral history project that was conducted over several months with different members of the Coconut Grove community.

Banner: Miami News, ‘Grove Mad hatters are bled hatters now’ The winners in the homemade hat contest in the Coconut Grove Festival display their entries after judging. From left are Selma Magram, third place winner; Ted Peters, a judge: Mrs. Julia Follurd, first place; Joyce Bryant of Porgy and Bess cast, also a judge. And Mrs. Eleanor McCufferty (almost hidden by hats and birds), April 23, 1965, courtesy of the HistoryMiami Museum 

  • Lilia Garcia

    In this interview with Lilia Garcia, Director/Curator of the Coconut Grove Arts Festival Gallery, conducted by the Frost Museum’s Assistant Registrar, Yady Rivero in April 2021, we learn about Lilia’s unique relationship to the Grove and the rich path that led her to her current role as director and curator.

     

    Yady Rivero: My first question is, of course, about the Coconut Grove Arts Festival. How did you become involved?

     

    Lilia Garcia: Let me give you a little background on me first. I was an art teacher. I got a master’s degree from FIU. I got my undergraduate’s [degree] in UM, and a specialist from NOVA in Leadership. So, after I graduated from college, I became an art teacher.

    During that stage, this principal calls me up – he was the principal of Coconut Grove Elementary and he said, “I’m on the board of the Coconut Grove Arts Festival that’s 30 years old”, something like that. He asked me to join the board because he wanted me to start a program with the Coconut Grove Arts Festival. He said “We have all these artists come in, for 3 days. Some stay longer or come earlier because they have to do all this set up. And sometimes they stay later for shows. I want to take them to the schools.” So, I say, “Fine! But what is a board?” and he said “Well, you have to come to all the meetings…” And I said, “That doesn’t sound bad, I live nearby. But I want more than just the program. I want money.” “Money? But none of us get paid?!” “I want a scholarship fund.” And he said “Oh that’s a great idea! Let’s work on that.” So, I joined the board that year.

    The first program we started was the Visiting Artist Program. Where I would ask, of the 200-300 artists, how many would devote one day of their stay in Miami to visit a school. And they could choose what grade level and if they wanted a high school – 2d or 3d. I had sculptors, textile artists, ceramic artists. The first year I had around twenty participate. Today we have around 150. And now it’s both public and private schools. And some artists come days before and they don’t do just one school, they do two or three. Especially minority artists. A lot of artists are very shy, so I got an art teacher to go with them until they felt comfortable. And the teachers started calling the artists back “Oh, you gotta come back! You were so good!” And I had a few artists tell me I had changed their lives because from there, they wanted to teach. Every year I had someone say, “Oh my God, I didn’t know it’d be so much fun!”

    So that’s how I started in the board, it was the mid 80’s. The board was small at the time. It was mainly men— it’s still mainly men. And the majority of them were lawyers – people who needed this type of community service on their resume. I didn’t need it. Nobody knew I was doing this in the school system. They just knew I did everything. I started a program with free tickets so I called every cultural center in Miami and said, “If you can’t fill up your program, give me your tickets and I’ll give them away.” One year I gave away 5,000 tickets. I wanted teachers to have access to them. Because with teachers—most teachers are not cultural, they’re blue-collar workers.

    The principal who brought me in, his name was Dr. Von BB. He was not your typical principal. He was always thinking about the family component. We were always conscious about giving parents tickets to the Festival. Even today we have a discount ticket program for Grove residents. With him and me on the board and with a few others that came in when I did, they realized that – even though the festival was running fine – we needed to do more community-based things. And my perception always was that if we wanted to be a strong component of the arts in our county, we couldn’t just be a 3-day event. We had to be ongoing. We had to be a year-round organization so we could provide activities throughout the year. And kids were the easiest things for me to do. So that’s what we started doing. The scholarship program came about easy. The first year was $5,000. Now it’s $25,000 every year. We give them an art show and we do a training for them. There’s an organization of retired art teachers that work closely with us in preparing the kids. So, by the time we give them the stipend, it’s to recognize them. High school seniors. And now they’re artists.

    The beauty of what I do with the CGAF is, I’m retired from the school system, so now it’s allowing me to give back to those kids who were very interested in the arts, who went through the system, and are now emerging artists. So that’s how the gallery came about. They had this beautiful space that included a pop-up near the front, right on the sidewalk. And I opened it the first year that Basel opened here in Miami. And I did it with kids form New World School of the Arts that had just graduated. We had 6,000 people come through the gallery. They told me I could have this gallery for 6 months.

    My husband, who died 5 years ago, was the founding art teacher at New World. He started a program at the gallery, that we still do, which is to give New World a free booth, and they give one student artist the experience of what it is to be a selling artist. They have to create at least one painting and it has to be something about Miami. And the kid was responsible for everything. Bacardi was a sponsor, and they’d donate mats. And the kids would have 2 hour shifts at the booth, and they sold the pieces for $100. The students would keep half. They sold $30,000 worth of art. They had to do inventory, they had to watch the booth, count the money, represent themselves, everything. Sometimes teachers from New World would get upset because the work would sell so fast, so now they do a presale.

    … I also recruit artists by traveling to different fairs across the region and country.

     

    Yady Rivero: So, let me ask you about Coconut Grove specifically – were you raised here, or did you move here as an adult?

     

    Lilia Garcia: I don’t live here. I live in the Gables. Three minutes away on LeJeune, where Merrie Christmas Park is. I moved around.

     

    Yady Rivero: What has been your impression of Coconut Grove throughout the years?

     

    LG: When I was a kid, Coconut Grove was something special. I would never think of living there, you know I was a refugee little girl. But it was always fun. We drove around it and through it. I don’t think we often stopped in the Grove. Now, I went to UM on a scholarship. And of course, all the kids wanted to go to the festival. The boys to pick up girls and the girls to get picked up. I remember coming in with friends, and the boys would drive around Grand Avenue for hours! Honking their horns, it was the thing to do! And I would say, “Boy, what are those boys looking for!” Even a few years later when I was in my twenties, they’d still be doing it. For a long time, it was the thing to do in the Grove. So, I would come to the Grove when I wanted to be cool.

     

    Yady Rivero: Were there bars you liked or music venues?

     

    Lilia Garcia: When disco came on, I loved to dance. Discos here, you know places to dance, the one I liked most was right here, it was called Ginger Man. It was owned by Monty [Trainor] who is the director of this place. It was a private club so men that were there were higher-ups. And the women could get in without paying, without being members. So that was a lot of fun. And then my other favorite was Regine’s, in one of the hotels. That one was owned by a French woman. And, they had happy hour with free food! And me, I would go anywhere. I’d go to Coral Gables; I’d go to Fort Lauderdale. But Coconut Grove was the place to go. I don’t think there was a nightclub here that I didn’t go to.

     

    Yady Rivero: Would you say that prior to joining the CGAF, you were interested in a lot of the art spaces here?

     

    Lilia Garcia: Oh yeah! I’m an artist! Look at what I did this morning! [Ink doodle on tablet cover]. I went into education for survival because I knew I wasn’t good enough to be a well-paid artist. I have a background as a commercial artist, and I hated it. I didn’t like the atmosphere. I still do a lot of marketing though, because life is marketing. I used to tell my old teachers this, that if you’re in the arts, you have to toot your own horn. You need to say “I’ve done this! I’ve done that!”

     

    Yady Rivero: Especially as women.

     

    Lilia Garcia: Yes. And I’ve done the research. If you look at administrative positions in the arts, you see that as you go up, there are less and less women.

     

    Yady Rivero: I know that you’re a Board member of Oolite Arts Miami. I’m curious to know what you’d say the state of the arts are today.

     

    Lilia Garcia: Coming from my background when there was so little. There were maybe 2 or 3 art galleries here, and they were only for a particular few. I have seen it grow beautifully. The talent has always been here, but the talent has become stronger. And I think one of the reasons is that the make-up of this community is from so many different places and coming from so many different strata of income and all that. It’s like a pool of great art – and one feeds the other. I know that in most schools you have kids who hate each other. It’s like, “Oh, this is a black kid” or “Oh, this is a Hispanic kid who just came over. I don’t want to sit with him.” In an art class, you don’t see that. In an art class, kids are just looking to see what work you’re doing. And if you’re good, who cares what color you are? They want to see what you’re doing! I see that and it’s exciting to me. I had a kid in my class who was legally blind, and the other kids would come and say, “Oh my God!” Nobody would talk to him – he was very tall and black. But when he started painting, kids would come from everywhere and ask for him, they wanted to see his work.

    Art is expanding. Art used to just be painting and sculpture. Now it’s everything! Now it’s illumination and sound and projection and ceramics. So, what I’m working on, for the future of CGAF is installations. I want to bring large installations. Like music festivals, like Coachella or Burning Man. We are also working very closely with the Chamber of Commerce, since there’s more interest in working cooperatively. We are working with BID and the Women’s Club. We want it to look beautiful so it’s very high cost. We also hire private security. I am responsible for the jurying and the judging. We have a blind jury, that evaluates the work of artists who apply. We use ZAP, the online platform for people to submit their work. We judge it here in this room, at this table. We use 5 monitors. We get around 1,000 applicants for the festival and we choose around 380 artists. I like to do this part together in the same room.

     

    Yady Rivero: The jury is comprised of artists…?

     

    Lilia Garcia: The jury is artists, curators, university professors. Each year is different. $50,000 of our budget goes towards awards.

     

    Yady Rivero: Do you make an effort to get diversity candidates?

     

    Lilia Garcia: No, it’s whoever. I don’t know if that’s right or wrong. We have artists of different backgrounds. I do share application deadlines to Black artists through the Black guilds.

     

    Yady Rivero: To wrap up – you know, this exhibition is essentially providing an art historical narrative for this area of Miami. I wanted to know what you think about the importance of that. Not just for this exhibition, but in general.

     

    Lilia Garcia: Telling Miami art history is so important. First of all, I think it’s so important to tell every history. And a lot of this stuff we know as history is a lot of rumors that actually didn’t happen. I’ve been listening to this podcast on a study they did about being Black, and it hurt me for a while to even listen to it. The history that I was taught – there’s so many nuances within that history that aren’t taught. It was shocking to me. So, the same thing is the case with the arts. History is important because of that. Those little stories… especially for a community like ours that is so fragmented. It’s hopeful for some kids to see. Like, “Hey, look! This guy made it. This Gene Tinnie gut.” Gene Tinnie and I go back many years.

     

    Yady Rivero: That’s great! I’ve seen his work. I’m a registrar so I help with the loans and it’s great to hear stories about the person behind the art, since registration is very object focused. But now I am getting a picture of the artist.

     

    Lilia Garcia: Gene’s background is Foreign Languages. And he traveled a lot. He interned for me. There was a special program for people in Miami interested in the arts. They would take them and put them in different places to experience the art world. And Gene Tinnie was with me for six weeks. And he loved teaching. He’s very calm and wise. I love being around him. Everyone thinks he was a basketball player, but he never played sports.

    So those connections are important to keep. Because if you don’t write them down, if you don’t show them, they’re lost.

     

    Yady Rivero: That’s great, and you mentioned earlier you wanted to start a curatorial program?

     

    Lilia Garcia: Yes! Three major projects. One is my baby – called Oolite Wheels. Which is a revamped truck so it’s going to be a maker’s space for artists with a 3D printer and other technology. It will be completely equipped for artists. On the back it will open up and there will be a screen for showing films so people can sit in the back. It will have a gallery inside. We can take a whole art program and bring it around town. We’re thinking of bringing it to Homestead, Doral, Opa-Locka, those communities.

     

    Yady Rivero: Oh, that’s great. Bringing it to the suburbs.

     

    Lilia Garcia: Yes, we can also rent it out. The first thing is to buy the bus.

    The second project is a journal about art in Miami. And we’ll start with coverage about artists at Oolite and we’ll try to get the New York Times and the Chicago Times to run the articles. It will be virtual, but we will have an editor. The idea is to boost our artists.

    Th third project is a kit, a skills kit for curators. Each day do a different research category on how to put up a show, how to do artists visits, all that kind of stuff.

     

    Yady Rivero: And that would be for college students or high school?

     

    Lilia Garcia: It would be for whoever wants it. Mainly artists who want experience with curating or young curators who want to up their skill.

    Oolite actually started at Coconut Grove. Which is kind of interesting. Nobody knows that because they don’t have the history I do! But Oolite – there was a place in the Grove and then later where Johnny Rocket’s used to be. It was a place to do art. It was full of artists and classes for adults. And if you wanted to try something new, it was a community for artists. And I went when I was at UMiami because I was interested. I met this woman there whose name was Eli Schneiderman and she was working – she was a psychologist at UM who took a class there on ceramics and loved it. She took classes with Juanita May who was a master ceramicist. And then the place where the Grove House was located was sold.

    They sold that space and then they moved to the Johnny Rocket’s space. And then that place went up for sale. So, two women went out looking for a new space. Eli went to South Beach, on Lincoln Road. And the other woman, whose very popular (her husband was a major landscape artist), she went to the Bakehouse. I am friends with both. I’m 18 years old at this point. They both come back to the Grove House and they say “We have to make up our minds. Which one do we want to take?” And both of these women explained what they were doing. Eli said “I have right now, under contract, I can get 7-10 store fronts where we can put artists and pay very little. We can change that whole space.” This was the early 70s. South Beach was a derelict area; you did not want to walk around there. But then the other woman said, “Oh but the Bakehouse is a bakery that’s been around forever! Marita’s Bakery. And it’s empty, in the outskirts of Wynwood. We can take that whole building and have it to ourselves and put studios and all that.” The board was divided between the two! So, one group went to South Beach and one group went to the Bakehouse. They opened them both up with artists and that’s how both spaces started. The Bakehouse didn’t have air conditioning for the first 5 years. Look at them now! And in South Beach – when Eli started bringing in all these artists that were producing great work, they started bringing in all the collectors. And they wanted restaurants, places to buy things, so that’s how things started developing. And then you have Wynwood. Now those artists are being pushed out and going to Little Haiti.

     

    Yady Rivero: Okay I have just one more question. And then I’ll leave you…

     

    Lilia Garcia: Oh, we talk too much.

     

    Yady Rivero: No, no. It’s been fascinating. My last question is since we’ve been reflecting on the art community here in South Florida. What are some lessons we can learn in terms of improvement, or things that have happened in the past that you keep in mind?

     

    Lilia Garcia: Well, considering my background and my interests and my purpose for joining the board – I think, not losing the Arts. Keeping them important and as a part of our lives – it has to be through education. I think that the Frost will show this in its exhibition. All the local artists in the show became the guides and the mentors for those coming up. The show can show that when it brings people in. So, I think that’s something to keep in mind. You don’t want an exhibit that just…especially after a pandemic where no one wants to go anywhere – you have to bring in people and come up with events. Especially history people.

     

    Yady Rivero: Like an education program.

     

    Lilia Garcia: Yes. It’s not just doing the event; it’s bringing people to the event. I would like to see it documented and accessible.

     

    Yady Rivero: Thank you so much for taking the time to meet with me.

     

    Lilia Garcia: You know I had a friend that would say, if it’s about the arts then it has a connection the Grove!

     

  • Glenn Terry

    Former Coconut Grove Resident and community leader Glenn Terry and curatorial assistant Ashlye Valines discuss life in the Grove during the ‘60s and ‘70s, and the history of the infamous King Mango Strut Parade held in the Grove every year. Terry was one of the founding members of the parade, which started in 1982 and has become a nationally known phenomenon.

     

    This interview was conducted for the exhibition Place and Purpose: Art Transformation in Coconut Grove, 1968-1989 and took place on February 11, 2021.

     

    Ashlye Valines: Where were you born?

     

    Glenn Terry: I was born in Miami, a long time ago. I’m 73.

     

    Ashlye Valines: When did you move to Coconut Grove?

     

    Glenn Terry: Well, when I became an older teenager, it became clear that all the neat stuff was happening in Coconut Grove. Because I was a budding hippie in the mid-60s, and the flower children gathered there and serenaded each other and smoked dope in Peacock Park, I thought, “Well this is pretty interesting.” [We] flew frisbees, danced around.

    Then when I went to college in Gainesville, University of Florida, I’d come back for the summer, come back for breaks and my friends and I would gravitate to Coconut Grove, which seemed like the most interesting place to be. Especially if your drawn to creative things and the arts, which I am.

     

    Ashlye Valines: What were some of your favorite places in the Grove? Are there any places that you miss?

     

    Glenn Terry: Oh, I miss them all. So much of its gone, but, you know, things change. Before hippies there were beatniks, and there were the vestiges of a beatnik bar called The Last Word on 27th Avenue near US 1. I used to go there. It was like a coffee house for folk music. And then, in the Grove there was just a lot going on, a lot of public events that were, sort of, spontaneous. Like, one day I went down to the bay just to hang out by the water and Richie Havens was there with a guitar case. And he took out his guitar and sat down on something like a soapbox and just started playing. It was just an impromptu concert, and I said, “Wow this is really magical.” The movie Woodstock had come out couple years before in 1972, or so, and Woodstock was mid-69. Anyway, I said, “Oh my god! I’m sitting at the feet of Richie Havens and he’s playing music for thirty-five of us.” I said, “This could only happen in the Grove.” Sometimes I’d go to the Playhouse for plays. There were folk clubs there. The Grove Cinema showed experimental and foreign films. They would have, like, double features, a different one every night. There were a lot of bars with live music, so, there was a lot to do for a young single person like myself. `Lot to do. And we were by the ocean, by the bay. A lot of us didn’t have a sail boat, you had a friend with one, so, we’d go sailing, we’d have parties out on the bay, we’d dive into water filled with luminescence that sparkled when you splashed the water. There were just so many amazing things about the place but mainly it was just it’s liberal artistic atmosphere and its proximity to the water.

     

    Ashlye Valines: Did you know any of the artists who worked in Coconut Grove?

     

    Glenn Terry: Well I knew local artists. I didn’t know famous people or anything, I’d go hear them. Once the Channel Two TV people said, “We have an artist coming down to give a concert on Saturday afternoon. We need some people for the audience.” So, I went down, this was around 1977 or so, and they let us into a studio and we sat on hay bales and this guy named Jimmy Buffet came in. And he sat on one of them and gave a concert, sort of like the Richie Havens thing except Jimmy was on a hay bale. And I had heard a song of his; he had had a hit song called Come Monday by them and that was pretty cool, it was very cool, but the live music was just fine. Bobby Ingram was a Grove legend who passed away a year ago, he was in his 80s, but he lived a whole musician’s life through the Grove. When he started out, he was a duo, he sang with David Crosby who later became very... still is very famous, you know, the singer with The Byrds and Crosby, Stills, and Nash, and Bobby knew him well. So, when he was in town playing with Crosby, Stills, and Nash, he’d come to the Grove, and go over to Bobby’s house and visit him. Twenty years ago, and these are all old musicians I’m talking about to you, Neil Young would be out there washing his car because he was a big car guy, you know, and Bobby just knew all these people. He went on a sailboat trip with Joni Mitchell and Graham Nash because Bobby knew how to sail boats and he knew so many people. So, I would hear, like, secondhand stories from Bobby. I lived across the street from him for the last 15 years [I was] in the Grove. I moved up to North Florida last year, but I lived in the Grove for about 40, 45 years. So, a lot of artists and musicians came through the Grove, mainly in the 60s and 70s. David Crosby, for instance, he lived in the Grove way back when, and a lot of them got their start there. Bobby ran a folk club downtown on Main Highway, and people like Jimmy Buffet played there, and Crosby played there, and Fred Neil played there. Steve Martin performed comedy there. In Steve Martin’s autobiography, he recognized the night he performed in Coconut Grove. He got the audience to go crazy and then he said “Oh, well, you know, enough of this place. I’m tired of this place. I’m out of here.” And he just walked down through the crowd and they followed him out to the street. And he did comedy in the street and walked down the block just doing crazy comedy. A writer from Miami Herald was in the audience and he wrote the first glowing article about Steve Martin, the comedian, that took him to his first level of success. So, a lot of things started in the Grove, but, its changing now and it’s been Gucci-ized and there aren’t so many creative people there anymore because the atmosphere has changed, and artists can’t afford it anymore. It was a sleepy fishing village for many, many years. From its inception in the early 1900s all the way up to the 1960s and little wooden houses started getting torn down and turned into condos, and big mansions, and big concrete ugly boxes, cutting down trees. So, I know things change and I’m fortunate to have lived there during that period. That being said, there’s still many wonderful people and wonderful things in Coconut Grove. I’m happy about that.

     

    Ashlye Valines: Were there any fine arts studios or galleries during the 60s and 70s in Coconut Grove?

     

    Glenn Terry: Sure, sure. Artists came to show their work, and, on the average, we had, maybe, a dozen galleries there. They had, like, gallery night were the galleries were open at night, and there were musicians on the street and people would go from gallery to gallery. That occurred for a number of years. There was a people’s gallery next to the Coconut Grove Playhouse just north of it on Main Highway and when I moved to the Grove in the mid-70s, early 70s, that was still open. I’m not remembering the name of it, but it was created by artists for artists. And artists could go in there and show their work, they could make art, they had a ceramic studio, they had a gallery space to show your art, and right behind it was a woman named Penny Praig. She’s gone now. She was a stained-glass artist, she made big stained-glass art, but in the Grove, you could afford to live there and make art there and be around people who encouraged that type of thing as well. And the Grove Art Festival, that was a big deal. The Grove Art Festival used to have Grove artists in it, used to have Miami artists in it, that’s completely changed over the years. Now they have 350 artists in the Grove Art Festival and maybe 2 will be from the Grove, maybe 5 will be from South Florida. It’s a big commercial event, I don’t go anymore. But, things happen, good things still happen. Some people were tired of the Grove Art Festival and what it had become, and they started their own art festival called the Gifford Lane Art Stroll. It’s kind of a secret, but once a year, this one street, just north of the tennis courts across from Coconut Grove Elementary School, that one street has its own arts festival. And everybody that lives on that street parks their cars in other places and their front yard become areas for 50 artists to show their artwork. I’m an artist; I showed my artwork in the show for the last 15 years and its free. Its everything that the Grove Arts Festival isn’t. Some of the artists aren’t the best… but, so what? They’re people doing their best, showing of what they create and there’s magic in the air. There’s live music being played about every 100 feet. They give out cucumber punch that’s pretty crazy, pretty toxic. It’s a wonderful thing and it’s kind of a secret in the Grove. Probably where 300,000 people go to the Grove Art Festival, maybe 3,000 got to the Gifford Lane Art Stroll. It’s kind of hard to find too. Anyway, I guess I’m saying that there’s little secrets in the Grove that, if you live there, you get to know them and enjoy them, appreciate them.

     

    Ashlye Valines: So how did the King Mango Strut Parade begin? How did that come about?

     

    Glenn Terry: Well, we used to have this big deal parade called the Orange Bowl Parade led by a guy called King Orange and that started, like, 1930s or so, and I was a kid. I was growing up in, like, the 50s, and my parents would take me down there. It was like New Year’s Eve, certainly a holiday parade, like the Rose Bowl Parade, and we’d just sit on Biscayne Boulevard and watch these floats go by, and they were so bright and colorful. Pretty women, marching bands, it was just amazing. I’ve always loved parades and then in the mid-70s, they started a festival in the African American part of Coconut Grove, called the West Grove. They started a Goombay Festival and I went to the first year and it was a festival for people, African Americans of Bahamian decent, which there are many, and they had a parade. And they had the Nassau Police Marching Band and Goombay dancers and Goombay bands. And the parade only had, like, three or four units in it but it was great, and they attracted us like lemmings. I was marching behind them, dancing in the street, and I was one of the few white people there having a great time, and I thought, “This is great! I’m gonna be in this parade next year. I’m gonna have my own group.” The problem is, I’m not a musician. I’m kind of a clown, but not a very funny one, which means I’m not an actor, but I started a band called the Mango Marching Band, a marching band for non-musicians. And we played conch shells and kazoos and wore Hawaiian shirts and straw hats and we entered the parade, and we just had a great time. We just played When the Saints Go Marching In, Stars and Stripes Forever, and the people loved us and it was just really fun to be in a band in a parade, or just to be in a parade doing anything probably. And so we marched in this parade, had a great time, and then we decided, “ You know the Orange Bowl Parade needs us,” and we applied to be in the next Orange Bowl Parade, which was like, 1979, 1980, whatever it was. And we went through this whole application process, and they rejected us, and I was kind of downhearted by that, but I thought, “Aw, to heck with that! I’ll start my own parade!” And I called up the police department, [because] people said the cops have to be onboard for that, so I called up the Miami Police Department and I said, “Who is in charge of parades?” And they said” Oh, special events.” So, I went and met with them and they said, “This is how you start a parade, you fill out these forms.” So, I did all that and got permission to have a parade, but it was only like 4 blocks long. And so, we had our first King Mango Strut Parade in 1982. And our budget was $300, we just put in our own money for that and, like, we’d block off the street with refrigerator boxes that said, “No entry. Parade.” They weren’t even that big, [probably] television boxes. We put one at each end of Commodore Plaza, which is just a mile long, and we all lined up on the street. And we had to hire 3 police officers for $50 bucks each and one of them was gonna be at the back, one at the front, and one was gonna hang out. One didn’t show up so that only cost me $100, and we blew a whistle at 2 o’clock on a Sunday afternoon and started marching down the road led by the Mango Marching Band and we had a great time. And the thing is, like, 4,000 people showed up to see it because we got some publicity in the Herald: “There’s gonna be a weird parade in coconut grove on Sunday afternoon.” The sun was shining, you know, the sun kept shining. You know, the parade’s gone on for 39 years and its never rained on the parade? It’s incredible. God loves King Mango, and I do too. And so, we thought it would be, like, a one-shot deal but, we got a nice review in the paper and people said, “Oh, we can’t wait until you do it next year.” So, we did it again, and we did it again, and we did it again. And that’s how it got started and if you’re not familiar with it, it’s a weird satirical parade. Makes a lot of fun of local, state and national politics. A lot of it can be just really strange and, some things you don’t understand but its real edgy humor. Most people don’t do costumes in a big way, they just come up with this crazy idea and do it in the road, and its street performance. We encouraged you not to be in a vehicle, we didn’t want anybody there waving from a car. We didn’t let politicians in the parade. We didn’t want marching bands in the parade unless they were really weird or marched backwards or did something unusual. We encouraged blues bands and rock and roll bands to be in our parade, and that’s who we got, so. Some bands would say “I’ll be in your parade if you give me $500,” and we said, “Aw, screw you. We want garage bands. We want the real people who want to be in the parade. Not to be paid to be in the parade.” And so, it just picked up momentum and I was the cofounder of it. Actually, I met a fellow named Bill Dobson who, I was told, was interested in putting on a parade in the Grove and I met him and got along great, so, we were the cofounders of the parade. Unfortunately, Bill died 15 years ago. And I was the director of the parade for 30 years. Other people run it now. The parade marched every year for 39 years, 38 years, and then with COVID coming on in 2020 we made it a virtual parade, and that was stranger than the one in the street. But the parade usually cost, like, $35,000, and the one online was free, didn’t have to raise money. It’s a noncommercial parade so you didn’t see sponsors with floats and all that other junk like most parades have. We sold t-shirts. This was the first t-shirt. That’s the logo, King Mango, that I came up with.

     

    Ashlye Valines: Did you come up with that or did you draw that?

     

    Glenn Terry: Yeah, yeah. I’m an artist. I’m a retired art teacher now. So here, King Mango’s stepping out and every year I came up with a different t-shirt design. I designed about 9 out of the 10 t-shirts over the years, and the posters as well. We had some pretty cool posters.

    There’s a couple of posters I created. This one was our parade after 9/11, it was our 20th parade and Janet Reno was gonna be our grand marshal... that’s Janet in the blue dress. Janet was a friend of mine. So, it’s Janet and Joe Carollo, this crazy politician. I was dressed as Uncle Sam, that’s me over here. Statue of Liberty and firefighters, the flag, so it was very patriotic. That was our 20th parade.

     

    Florida got a reputation for being stupid, fairly recently, it became Flori-duh and so this was the 2002 poster and it’s a King Mango poster, but it looks like a placemat. You used to get placemats when you go to restaurants, way back when, and they would be, like, the state of Florida with different tourist attractions. But, this has (things like) “O.J. Simpson lives here”, “the dead can vote”, “the terrorists learned to fly in Florida”, “Elian floated into Florida”, “hanging chads”, “most alligator attacks”, “most lightning strikes’, “most shark attacks.” Here’s a shark with a leg in its mouth.

     

     Anyway, so we’d come up with these posters and we’d make money for the parade by selling t-shirts and posters and sometimes a business would throw us 500 bucks. Parades are expensive, the first one cost $200. and then, 10 years later, they were costing $10,000, $15,000 and $20,000 and whatever. It’s strange to me still that you might have to pay $35,000 to put on a parade that’s an hour and a half that closes down a road for three hours. But then, you know, you have to hire 15 cops, you have to have insurance, and you have to pay for the parking meters, and they require you to put up barricades that cost $5,000, so the price keeps going higher and higher. Makes that virtual parade look better all the time. So, we had a lot of success with the King Mango Parade and there’s a long history of silly parades that probably goes back thousands of years. I was inspired by one in Pasadena, California called the Doo Dah Parade. It started 45 years ago, and we helped start one in Columbus, Ohio that’s also called the Doo Dah Parade, that’s gone on for about 25 years. I was in that parade about four years ago. I happened to be there on the day of their parade. We started one in Orlando called the Queen Cumquat Sashay and one in Washington D.C. called the Gross National Parade, so we’ve had some spin-offs. The King Mango Parade was started by a bunch of hippies, like myself, who are now old hippies, and some of us have died. We haven’t been real successful in passing off what we created to younger generations. And that might be a sad thing or just the way things go because the younger people don’t wanna do what we did, or their looking for other forms of entertainment, who can say. We’ve had 39 years of this and that’s a great run. We lasted longer than the Orange Bowl Parade. In fact, the Orange Bowl Parade Committee marched in our parade once after their parade had closed down with a sign that said, “We started this parade,” so, that was cute. So, I guess we’re part of Miami’s history, having done this for so long and I’m proud of that. King Mango still marches on. I put on a King Mango Halloween parade up here at my new home in Gainesville and a friend dressed up as King Mango and put on (the papier-mâché king mango mask).

     

    Glenn wearing the King Mango mask.

    This is kind of my art; I make papier-mâché sculptures. I put on a King Mango Christmas concert here and King Mango did the King Mango strut across the stage and raised $400 for the local homeless shelter. So, King Mango marches on in different ways. And after COVID passes it may reappear in Coconut Grove, but that’s not a sure thing because every year it’s gotten harder to do the last 10 years. Just because we haven’t found younger people to take responsibility to put it on, it’s a lot of work putting on a parade.

     

    Ashlye Valines: What were some of the more interesting grand marshals that you had at the parade?

     

    Glenn Terry: Well, Janet Reno was pretty interested in coming at first but then she got cold feet and her campaign manager called and said, “We noticed your parade poster had Janet Reno marching next to a naked guy. We think that might look bad in our campaign that is going on now.” I said, “No, the naked guy’s behind her, and it doesn’t even show his privates,” and she said, “Well we’ve had some second thoughts and, I’m sorry, she can’t be the grand marshal.” So, we came up with someone else. We got a woman who had been fired as the manager of the airport because she was honest. We look for unusual people and found them. We got Austin Burke, which was a guy who would appear on tv for 40 years selling clothes, and he wore, like, eight jackets, different sizes, and said, “I’m Austin Burke. I’m going to sell you this cashmere jacket,” and he took it off and there’d be another one. He stood in the back of a Cadillac convertible taking off his jackets, this little squatty guy in his late 70’s when he did this. And then he died the next year and his obituary said one of his proudest moments was when he was the grand marshal of King Mango Strut because so many people loved him. We had a sports figure, Ted Hendricks, who is from Miami, he played in five Super Bowls. The next year I worked out a deal with Janet Reno after she lost her election, and I went out and said, “We don’t have a grand marshal this year. We’re just gonna pick somebody from the audience. Raise your hand if you want to be the grand marshal this year.” And I said” Eenie, meenie, miney, mo,” and of course Janet was planted in the audience, and then, “catch a tiger by the... toe!” And pointed to her and she stepped out and I asked, “What’s your name?”, “Oh, my name is Janet Reno.” And so, she was our grand marshal, she was great. There was a guy who electrified his front store window with electrical wires because he got tired of people breaking into his shop. Someone broke in and, unfortunately, was electrocuted, and they took him to trial, and they found out that he did it accidentally. He was just trying to protect his shop and was found not guilty. He was our grand marshal and he got a hero’s welcome too for fighting crime in his own weird, tragic, way. So, every year, we didn’t pick politicians, but we would pick unusual people that you wouldn’t expect that’d give people a nice surprise. I tried really, really, really hard to get the guy who played the creature from the Black Lagoon. He lived in Ft. Lauderdale, but he said he was too old to do it at the time. So, I can’t remember them all. I wish I could and if I did, I’d say, “Gosh, I was proud to put these people in the convertible.” They were the people that were waving. Oh, we had a stunt man who was in Thunderball, Ric O’Barry, and he blew of his thumb doing one of the stunts in Thunderball. So, he’d hold up his hand with his fake finger then pull it off and wave. They were all unusual, they made you wonder, made you laugh. So, yeah, we had a lot of fun with it.

     

    Ashlye Valines: What are some of the most memorable groups who have participated in the parade?

     

    Glenn Terry: Well, there was this terrorist named Osama Bin Laden, no one could find him. During the George W. Bush administration, they were hunting for him and spent millions, and millions, and millions of dollars trying to find Osama Bin Laden. So, this woman, Gina McFall, marched down the road in a big southern bell dress, and a friend of hers marched behind her and she would open a sign, like, every 50 feet saying, “We know where Osama Bin Laden is.” Then she’d pick up her dress and he would be between her legs. You know, like, there was a dummy, with a photograph of [his face] being dragged on the ground. You see, in this parade you’re performing for the audience, you’re not just marching around waving, you’re, like, performing to the people around you. We encourage interaction, we don’t allow cars because you had pedestrians. You had signs that were funny, signs that made sense, and every 50 feet you tell the same joke, basically. Ted Kennedy’s son, one of the Kennedys, was arrested for rape of a women in Palm Beach about 30 years ago, it got national publicity, and international publicity. He was defended by an expensive Miami lawyer, and found not guilty, and, so, I formed a group called the Marching Kennedys, and we dressed up like we were yacht club guys. Yacht club hats, and blue blazers, and wore white pants, white shoes. We marched down the street with a big banner out front [that said] the Marching Kennedys. We marched along drinking champagne and then I’d stop about every 50 or 100 feet and I’d turn around and yell. “Who are we?!” And they’d go, “We are the marching Kennedys!” And I yelled “And, what do we do best?!” And they screamed back, “Drop trou!” And then they’d unbuckle their belts and lower their trousers down to their knees. “Drop trou” is a phrase 30 years ago taken out of context, and you don’t see that in your average parade. We had a bunch of guys dress up like airline pilots who were flying on llamas, they had fake legs off the sides of these, maybe they were giant ducks, like flying ducks, and it looked like guys with airline captain uniforms flying ducks around the street and the ducks had wings, and it was like, “Woah, this is really strange.” People throwing fake cocaine into the crowd, dealing with the latest cocaine bust. The powder is, like, [actually] flour and all that. We had a grand marshal once of a guy who ran the parade for a couple months named Wayne Breen, we had his ashes in the parade as the grand marshal and then we threw his ashes out into the crowd but they weren’t his real ashes. His real ashes were there but we threw some barbecue leftover ashes into the crowd. You ever heard of Lorena Bobbitt? We had the Bobbitt Brigade and she was famous for cutting of her husband’s, you know, thing below the waist on a guy, and then she threw it down the street or something like that and later he recovered it and had it sewn back on and became a bad porn star. It’s just this horrible story. But we had these women, the Marching Bobbitts and they had knives and hot dogs and they would slice them and throw them out in the crowd. We had some pretty strange stuff in our parade. A fake O.J. Simpson was selling murder memorabilia, you know, bloody knives and all this other stuff. So, a lot of it was in bad taste, but a lot of it was just good humor, like, there was a mad cow disease that went around 12 years ago or so. And this group bought black and white cow costumes and they looked like cows and they were just really angry going down the street as mad cows and they’d scream at the audience and whatnot. So, the list is long, but I think from what I told you, you can get a pretty good idea of what we have done in the King Mango Parade for years, and years, and years.

    Marjory Stoneman Douglas lived in the Grove forever, died at 109 years old. She left her house in the South Grove, that she had built in 1929, to the people of Florida to enjoy, and when she died about 20 years ago, we just figured it’d be turned into, like, a little museum. But the state never did, it was falling apart, and they turned it into a residence for park rangers. It’s really stupid. Marjory Stoneman Douglas was a grand marshal when she was 102. About 14 years ago, the state was making plans to cut this house into pieces and reassemble down at Fairchild Gardens, out of the Grove. If you know historic preservation you know that any structure moved from its original spot to another place losses half of its authenticity and what it means to the world. Anyway, we fought that really hard and we had a group of people dressed up like Marjory Stoneman Douglas who wore these long dresses, and big hats [like she always wore], she was a short person. Including me, we were all dressed up like Marjory and we were, like, a chorus line marching yelling, “Don’t take our house!” And my children were Marjorys too, and the Marching Marjorys were a huge success and it got a lot of publicity and we were part of the reason they decided not to move the house. So finally, they’re turning it into a museum to promote her legacy. Most of the things we did in the parade were just to make fun of stupid politics, crazy things that had happened in the world, and we liked to get people thinking about how to make things better by publicizing these things.

     

    Ashlye Valines: What were some of your fondest memories of living in Coconut Grove, or with the parade or anything?

     

    Glenn Terry: Well, with the parade, what I’m proudest of, is that we entertained so many people, we made so many people happy. People would say, “Oh god, it’s like taking a bath in laughter!” You could just walk from your house, your apartment, and see this parade once a year. A lot of people would march down in costumes and be in the parade and while we probably had, on the average, about 8,000 people come to see it, it’s hard to see it because it’s only five blocks long. It would be in the Miami Herald the next day. So, it was like this: 8,000 people came to see our parade, 3,000 people would read about it and laugh in the Miami Herald the next day. Then, it was picked up by a lot of other newspapers and local news media would run it on the news and, so, we entertain a million people with our crazy parade every year. And just being a part of that and being a part of the group that put it on, and being cofounder, is something I’m proud of. In Coconut Grove it can be like living in a tropical island. I could walk fifteen minutes from my house and be on Biscayne Bay. Most of us aren’t fortunate to be able to do that in Miami, but we had access to the bay. I taught for many years in inner city schools with kids that’d never seen the ocean, never seen the bay. So, I had field trips to take them to see the bay. But I just loved being by the sea, being around boats, being around creative people, people that are different. Some people would say “crazy”, but their creatives, and Coconut Grove had that, a lot of diversity too. And when I lived there, which most of my life has been in Coconut Grove, I was promoting community, bringing people together like with the King Mango Strut Parade. I had a raft race one year, I’d put on little festivals, little concerts. I helped create a little park in the South Grove. So, I just loved having so many friends, being around so many people that shared their lives, shared their love for Coconut Grove, and enjoyed being with each other. Yeah, Coconut Grove was special, you got parrots flying through the air, and peacocks, and guys walking down the streets wearing dresses and you’d think, “Oh, that’s Coconut Grove.”

  • Dinizulu Gene Tinnie

    Over a Zoom call, artist and community leader Dinizulu Gene Tinnie and curator Amy Galpin sat down to continue their ongoing conversations about art and life. Tinnie, represented in the exhibition, Place and Purpose: Art Transformation in Coconut Grove by four works, played a key role in the development of the exhibition and advised on the checklist. Tinne was active with the Miami Black Arts Workshop and the Kuumba Artist Collective.

     

    This conversation between Tinnie and Galpin focused on three essential questions and took place on December 16, 2020.

     

    Amy Galpin: Tell me about your interest in art evolved?

     

    Dinizulu Gene Tinnie: It seems like a roundabout way to get back to art and I say back because I think it’s fair to say that my career as an artist, if you will, might’ve started around age three. My brother and I loved scribbling prolifically on the walls of the house.  In school, like elementary school I got to be the class artist who drew pictures of the pilgrims and the like. By the time I graduated high school— naturally if you come from a home where people encourage you to “go on and be something”— I was giving serious thought to dentistry. I went to community college in Long Island, Suffolk County Community College the year it opened. I did not think when I applied that I would actually be one of the first six students to be registered. That was kind of a groundbreaking moment and I started down the path of being a bio major. That was always an interest of mine.

    After graduating from community college and transferring to Stony Brook University I was on the pre-dental path, but then I was realizing maybe this really isn’t the path because some of these courses were kind of kicking my butt. I thought maybe I should really invest my time and energy into something I’m much more successful at. I had not studied French until I got to community college, but it was something that I took to like a duck to water. I realized that I always did have a fascination with language and foreign languages. I became a French major and from there came the idea that I really wanted to do my graduate work in France.

    In 1957, the Russians beat us into space and then all of sudden the Congress decided ‘well we need to start educating American citizens.’ So, the National Defense Education Act went into place and one of the great things that came out of that were these NDEA summer seminars. Some of them were these language immersion programs based on a model that Middlebury College in Vermont had where you could do a summer of just immersion and then you can do a year studying abroad. I applied to Middlebury and was not accepted, but then I ended up being able to get the equivalent of it. I was fortunate enough to get a Fulbright grant to study in France and get the French equivalent of a master’s degree. While I was there, I had one of these interesting, life changing moments. During the breaks in the school year, I would travel by hitchhiking, as we had no great wealth as students. On my way back to school in France from having gone to Spain, Morocco, and a few other places; a gentleman gives me a ride and he asks me an interesting question, he asks, “So, what do you do?” I said, “Well, I’m a student studying language.” He said, “OK, but what do you do?” I said, “In the United States I’m a teacher.” He said, “Let me explain: you see all this stuff in the backseat?  Those are school supplies. I sell those, but what I do is I compose music. It may never get published, but the family and I sit around the piano and have fun. So, what do you do?” I told him I used to do art and he almost runs off the road and says, “Are you telling me you know how to do art, but you’re not doing it?” I thought, “OK, this is one of those moments.”

    I find myself in this awkward moment. By the time he drops me off all I could say to him was, “Being a salesman may not be what you do, but you are quite a salesman, because this conversation was very important.” By the time I got back to the University and the serious business of my graduate studies, I’m still being haunted by this art thing. I decided one day to just pick up a pencil and do a drawing. (I discovered a few months back I still have it.)  It was like you never forget how to write a bike. This is something that felt right, and it led to another drawing. Before I knew it, I was kind of taking more and more of an interest in that.

    From there I got back to the States, taught French as a graduate teaching assistant, finished my Master’s, got involved with the linguistics at the time inthe early 1970s with the whole issue of Black English and its impact on education was very much the academic fad. It was something that I felt that I could apply my linguistic interest and talents to. I got a job at one of those educational research laboratories that was studying that issue and sort of began going down that professional path. All the while this attraction to art was getting stronger and stronger, so it went from an interest to a hobby.

    ­­­I then relocated to Boston and was involved in a lot of activism of one sort or another. In the process of that, I really came to this realization that for those of us who are thinking about who we are, what we are, and how we are as a nation and about making some kind of change, it was impossible to understand the United States without understanding the South. I had a few opportunities to travel to North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.  It was then I realized it was a whole other part of the world that, coming from New York, you would not understand without seeing. I knew that in some kind of way that I wanted to get to the South and spend some time in the South. Then the love connection came.

     

    Amy Galpin: Can you talk to me about your engagement with the Miami Black Arts Workshop and the type of work you did there?

     

    Dinizulu Gene Tinnie: I met this young lady in Boston. She was from Florida and returned home to Miami. We correspond and I figure I need to do some travelling anyway. With that, I thought relocating to Florida would not be a bad idea. I kind of knew that I didn’t intend to spend the rest of my life in Boston, but at the same time I really had this notion that with this relocation I’m just going to have to make a commitment to art. It turns out that when I got here, she introduced me to this place in Coconut Grove, the Black Arts Workshop. Our love connection didn’t last very much longer, but it was kind of like a mission accomplished. She ended up relocating to New York where I was from and so we traded places. Through the Black Arts Workshop I met Donald McKnight, he was the first artist I met, and he just passed away this year. Then I met some of the other artists. They invited me to one of their meetings and it turned out that up until that very point, they had been receiving some funding from the United Way. There was a question in terms of the next month's rent being due and the discussion was how this can get done.

    As fate would have it, a gentleman came to the meeting who was starting a company producing t-shirts. He had done this market research and he had an article called, “Get if Off Your Chest by Putting It on Your Chest.” He was inquiring about having an artist make samples and it was an interesting conversation. I asked him if had any promotional materials. He said, “we have a logo, but we do need more.” I told him “Why don’t we make some sketches? You look at them and if you think that’s what you want, we can do that.” I was able to do that and with the deal we made I could say that I got this job from the Black Arts Workshop. We just split the income 50/50.  There was the next month's rent taken care of and we could go from there. That was my introduction that allowed me to join in a way of being able to contribute.

    Coconut Grove was this epicenter of art and creativity. We had a few well-established artists that I got to know, I never actually got to know Tony Scornavacca very well, but he was kind of an iconic name. I did get to know Gene Massin and his son Barry. Barry and I became friends and allies in a number of ways. His shop was the go-to place for any artistic problem that could not be solved by a common hardware store.

    The Black Arts Workshop was a gallery space and workspace, more so a workplace, but we would clean up the place now and then and we would put up a show that would run for about 10 days. We got to do quite a few interesting shows, a prison art show that was, much to my surprise, successful. The premise of it was not original, because a lot of the art that was coming out of these penal institutions was very politically and socially conscious. What we got was not quite that, but what was very telling, and why that particular show. stood out was because we put the word out and the idea was that we would have a soft opening at 4:00 pm for the press and the real opening would be at 7:00 pm. At 4:00pm, cars are parked all over the street, people were outside the door, and I remember one gentleman in particular who literally had his checkbook open, ready to buy. It was this understanding that folks had, that here was a place where you get pretty fine quality art at a bargain price.

     

    Amy Galpin: Can you share more about the role of printmaking?

     

    Dinizulu Gene Tinnie: Printmaking was one of the real advantages of having the Black Arts Workshop, it was almost like the difference between exercising at home and exercising at the gym. If you're exercising at home, you can be easily distracted, when you're at the gym you’re with kindred spirits and you're there with a common purpose. One of the things that developed was this cross-fertilization process that would happen. Whether we thought about it or not, we were inspiring one another, and we would have these waves of activity so if one person decided to do painting using old master’s techniques or carving wood then we would all kind of get into that. So, it happened with screen-printing, I had always heard about it and didn’t quite know what it was. Then I had gotten into this rhythm that was really a good one, I didn’t maintain it as long as I would've liked to, of taking adult classes in the spring. Right down the street at Carver Middle School there was a class in silkscreen printing. Coincidentally it took me back to when I first got to the Black Arts Workshop where Donald McKnight was commissioned to do those t-shirt samples, so we got into screen-printing and it became a very rich moment because it allowed us to learn from both ends: We were learning from the technical side about the best way to produce screens and the images that we wanted, and there was also the creative side such as aligning and overlaying colors for special effects. The most fascinating thing about printmaking is the fact that you can create an image that is reproducible as a whole edition, so that the original work is in multiples. Which if you value the idea of art having some sense of popularity, where the idea is for it to reach many people, printmaking has a lot to offer. One of the things that I looked forward to with the opportunity to go to Europe was seeing the Gothic cathedrals. Not just how they were built and the dynamic tension, but also the fact that there was this collective act of profound faith that went into that.

     

    Amy Galpin: Some amazing connections to thread together. Thank you, Gene, for sharing time with me today, and for all of your advice for the project.