Transforming Opa-locka with Art

July 2012.

On Friday, July 6th, The Opa‐locka Community Development Corporation (OLCDC) is hosting a charrette to develop the conceptual framework for the public art program that will remove the metal barricades that have divided the city for 30 years.

Five artist teams – Rick Lowe + Sam Durant; Walter Hood; Gale Fulton Ross; Roberta Behar + Rosario Marquardt; and Jennifer Bonner + Christian Stayner – were recently chosen by OLCDC in collaboration with Miami-Dade County Art in Public Places for these projects and will participate in the charrette meeting. Other attendees include: Stephanie Williams‐Baldwin; OLCDC staff members; Opa‐locka’s City Manager and key staff; and, several consultants (Loeb Fellows, urban planners, architects).

A charrette is a process in which a group of designers work intensively to create a solution to a design and development problem. Friday’s charrette will include a tour of the Opa-locka community, an objective assessment of opportunities and challenges in the community and design sessions. After the session concludes, the OLCDC expects to develop a summary prospectus outlining the artists’ master plan for the city. This event will take place at the University of Miami School of Architecture in Coral Gables.

“This session will spark imagination, build momentum and help us create an attainable vision that we can work toward as a team over the next decade,” said Dr. Willie Logan, President/CEO of OLCDC.

In July 2011, the OLCDC received an Our Town grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The $250,000 grant, one of only 51 awarded nationwide, has been allocated to strengthening the arts in the Opa-locka community.

Our Town is the NEA’s latest investment in creative placemaking, through which partners from both public and private sectors come together to strategically shape the social, physical, and economic character of a neighborhood, town, city, or region around arts and cultural activities. The “Community Gateways” project in Opa-locka will remove the remaining metal barricades that have divided the city for thirty years; redesign the community’s intersections to serve as inviting entryways to a newly-reborn residential and mixed-use neighborhood; and provide public spaces with environmentally functional landscape design.

OLCDC and Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs partnered to select an artist team that will work with existing architects, landscape architects and project developers to implement this public art component of the redevelopment of the Magnolia North neighborhood. A group of artists, architects, urban designers, and various other community members will collaborate on the design of six gateways, which will serve as emblems of the project’s goal: that public art works not serve as stand-alone fixtures in space, but as integral elements of the public realm.

The OLCDC plans to designate pavement, planters, lighting, seating, landscaping, and building features all as potential “canvasses” for the community. OLCDC was recently awarded $20 million by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s highly competitive Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP). The NSP is intended to strengthen communities that have suffered from foreclosures and abandonment. As part of that process, the OLCDC hosted a design charette with nationally recognized design experts in an effort to develop a plan to improve the neighborhood, increase economic opportunity, provide better housing over the long term, and create a more attractive environment for the community.

The design charette resulted in the notion that Opa-locka should become a well-known, recognizable destination for visitors, both regionally and internally. As suggested by the charette, this could be achieved by becoming a city to visit to enjoy enriching and artistic activities.

In June 2012, the OLCDC selected the finalists for the “Community Gateways” project. Once the team saw the individual artists’ presentations and visions for design, the decision was made to allow five artists to participate in the program. The artists will execute their respective design projects in Magnolia North and throughout the city of Opa-locka by February 2013 for a celebration in conjunction with Black History Month.

University of Miami School of Architecture
3rd Floor Studio and Jury Room
1223 Dickinson Drive
Coral Gables, FL 33146

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