Miami - Interviews

Miami as an Artistic Ecosystem: an Interview with Dennis Scholl

2 months ago

Mara Sartore: Last year you have been named president president and CEO of ArtCenter/South Florida. This was just after developer South Beach TriStar 800 bought the ArtCenter’s historic building at 800 Lincoln Road in a sale that provided the organization with an unprecedented cash windfall. ArtCenter stated that this money would be used to expand its role in serving the city’s growing cultural community, and in particular you aimed to develop the city’s reach “beyond those five days in December”. Could you tell us what has been done after one year since your nomination, and which are the plans for the future as the next edition of Art Basel Miami Beach is approaching?

Dennis Scholl: As I write this reply, we at the ArtCenter are preparing to announce 44 awards to artists and art teachers in Miami Dade County totaling almost $500,000. This new program, entitled The Ellies, after Ellie Schneiderman, our founder in 1984, received over 500 applications from visual artists in our community. It has been christened “Miami’s Visual Arts Awards”. It is an effort on behalf of the Trustees of the Art Center to give direct support to artists in our community and help them realize their individual artistic ideas.

MS: In the last fifteen years Miami’s cultural art scene has been developing quite considerably, what is still missing? Which are the actions you think both privates and public institutions should undertake to continue the growth for the next 15 years?

DS: Perhaps the most important step our community needs to continue to evolve as an artistic ecosystem is to strive to create a top 20 Masters in Fine Arts program. We generate dozens of the best and brightest artists out of our high schools, especially New World School of the Arts and Design and Architecture Senior High. Many go on the New World for an undergrad degree but then when it comes time to seek an MFA, (a defining degree in the art world), they are forced to leave our community to go to Los Angeles or New York City to seek that opportunity. We need to create a program that would allow for them to stay here and continue to develop at a high level of excellence.

MS: How you combine your role as president of ArtCenter and your passion as a collector?

DS: I have had to curtail a number of my collecting activities when I assumed the role of CEO of the ArtCenter, as it is truly a more than full time job! But I continue to use my relationships in the art world to bring important curators here for our Talks series, a collaboration with Locust Projects, a Miami based alternative space that also includes studio visits for our artists. Collecting is in my DNA, so I will always collect. My wife, Debra and I are working on a new collection of post war and contemporary drawings, which is a new area for us. And which is bringing us a lot of joy.

MS: Last year you and your wife Debra donated two hundred Australian Aboriginal works to three US museums, including New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. How many pieces does your collection counts now? Will you find another place like World Class Boxing to store and display your collection?

DS: Our donation to the US museums of a large group of Aboriginal Australian artists’ works was the consummation of a decade long plan to expose this incredible work to our nation and also to try to insure that it would be seen in the US on a more regular basis. We still own over a hundred works, and always enjoy living with them. After giving away close to 600 artworks of all genre and media over the past 5 or so years, we still have around 1000 pieces. Every time Debra thinks we have finally slowed the acquisition pace a little bit, I get excited about a new idea and off I go.. 😉

MS: We love to give insider’s tips to our readers, especially when they come from local art experts as you are for Miami and Miami Beach could you recommend 5 not-to-be-missed spots in Miami for an art lover visiting the city on a regular day?

DS: Our collector spaces are not to be missed. They represent thousands of hours by the collectors in our community to give back, through providing a public venue for their private collections. The Rubells, de la Cruz family, Margulies collection and others are simply extraordinary and where all the international attention started for the visual arts in our community.
My happy place is on the veranda of the Pérez Art Museum as there is always a cool breeze, an ice cold drink and the chance to look out at the bay and reflect. It has become our community’s front porch.
The galleries of the upper east side are starting to emerge in a wonderful way. Nina Johnson, Emerson Dorsch, Spinello, Mindy Solomon and of course the venerable Snitzer gallery have programs that shock and delight.
I am proud to say that the Art Center on Lincoln Road continues to provide studio spaces for working artists and our Resident Nights are not to be missed. All our artists are in their studios, there is typically an exhibition, a thoughtful lecture and an excellent DJ (including sometimes our own VP of Programming, Esther Park). It is how Miami likes to party!
Most of the time for Art Basel, my art world friends are asking me about food, not art… so some of my current foodie restaurant favorites are Stiltsville, Upland, any Michael Schwartz restaurant, Macchialina, Stubborn Seed, and of course Joe’s Stone Crab… Along with the amazing new Surf Club by Thomas Keller.

Mara Sartore

  • Dennis Scholl, President and CEO of Art Center/ South Florida Dennis Scholl, President and CEO of Art Center/ South Florida
  • ArtCenter South Florida ArtCenter South Florida

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