Advocacy For Regional Preservation of Heritage for Economical Stability.
by Wiliiam Coulthard / Edited by Ana Bikic Miami Art Reviews.
A region that relies upon tourism needs an entertainment industry. Historical sites are an integral part of this service orientated economy and the degradation and destruction of cultural interests undermines the formula a region has inherited over the decades and centuries. History is the repeated story that entertains, they are the tourist industry‘s product line and without them a region is no different than any other as a destination.
Although Miami Dade has beaches,National Parks and a pool side party image, most of our visitors are children and the retired if we include resident’s families,snow birds and annual holiday trippers. Their interests are based on more traditional pursuits that require a more intellectual approach to entertainment. Beaches and night clubs, gambling and sports are good for some but to attract an audience appreciation for the arts requires having a strong local history that is more appealing to opera lovers and art collectors, who in turn buy apartments and return each year.
Miami Dade County has an immediate or recent history in comparison to European regions but what interests visitors beyond just the pleasure and joy of visiting is to be entertained, educated and have memorable experiences that can be shared with friends upon returning home. Saving local history plays a vital role when tourists return home, they carry with them the stories behind the places they’ve visited. A region’s history actively stimulates intelligent and curious minds, between natural pleasures of parks and beaches to complete the experience of an exciting and fulfilling trip to their friends. The ancient Romans understood this economic formula providing not just arena entertainment but also galleries of archival history to accompany libraries and monuments. Their tourist cities provided the very best in spas and sports but the most successful cities like Pompey and Pila had preserved and prepared more ancient sites to excite a more affluent and studied clientele.
Miami, Miami Beach and the Miami Dade County, as a whole, must be mindful as it expands to what foot print of the past it wipes away. If an iconic house sitting in full view is the cover picture of an old story related to the region’s past with internationally known cultural references; it follows that the home’s destruction would bring strong negative feed back from previous and possible visitors. If a City is seen not to care about it’s heritage then it is seen not to care about it’s visitor’s experience. So why should they return? or talk well to others? Persuading for a location based on others opinions and published experiences, a reputation by region or location should be seen as a regional and residential responsibility for everyone wishing to live in a successful area and enjoy the benefits that come from an active tourist economy.
The history, architecture and intellectual property of local myths and stories that enrich the visitors experience of our region are vital to the tourism industry as a whole, without them Miami would be boring and predictable. Our local history adds variety to regional destination and encourages opportunities for creating new local attractions. Preservation is therefore a vital part, not an after thought, it is at the heart of our very image and if we are seen to not care what is torn down, our ineptness to protect our own interests will be ridiculed internationally. Currently the Coconut Grove Playhouse and the famous Star Island Mansion are up for destruction.
Now is the time to save them, like Miami did with the Daily News / Freedom Tower 12 years ago. Developers and their investors must realize history has unique and has brand name status and that the stories behind the history are an intellectual property that belongs to all the region’s residents, compromising local stories compromises future potential. Destroying history actually limits future development.
On Wednesday 27th February 2013, the Dade Heritage Trust heard Commissioner Xavier Suarez, aide J.C. Garrido and architect Richard Heisenbottle, the region’s foremost authority on restoration, call for the raising of the Coconut Grove Playhouse to be avoided, offering a plausible solution. To achieve this Governor Rick Scott needs to be inundated with our concern and appreciation for the old Theater and how it’s return as a working stage would stimulate the cultural attraction of the whole Coconut Grove Arts scene and the business district to the strengths of former years. The theater has a rich history and is well-known as a brand name, it has an iconic image that reflects the Grove’s artistic and expressive heritage which would certainly aid the launching of a new working stage for the region as a whole. Miami now attracts many international events all year-long, any theater with mixed programming appealing to a wider audience and offering facility to host events would be able to partner strongly with the neighborhood hotels and residents’ tastes. Performance could be added for the Arts Festival, Comedy nights throughout the year, film openings, corporate and inspirational presentations, conferences, poetry, dance and music recitals, the list of uses a working stage offers to a community is as long as the imagination and creativity the Theater’s director is given. Now that we know the building itself is restore-able and safe, we need a business plan for a modern working stage. The Grove’s theater was the driving force of it’s identity as a location, returning to this formula is a sound investment. Destroying the Playhouse entirely or just as a facade to another empty arcade would be contrary to our community’s real concerns. Private schools and gated communities in the center of the business district are contrary to civic planning and they do not attract visitors to the shops and hotels. Theaters have served communities as focal points, the stage is the forum for debate and idea, politically theaters are important places for common voice and vibrant expression, from them comes the confidence of community and with out them the silence is joyless. Save the Grove Playhouse, save a piece of history and save a chance for more to be made. Call the Governor and tell him this is important to reopen a working stage for Coconut Grove.
Miami Dade Commissioner Suarez phone 305-375-5680 or District7@miamidade.gov
Florida Governor Rick Scott phone 850-488-7146 and at firstname.lastname@example.org
Counter to the current conditions of finance and political issues to solve legal halts; the rich historical heritage associated with the Playhouse is impressive.
Historically it showed film, was restored to stage by famed architect Browning Parker and hosted Black, Jewish and Hispanic artists, from Billie Holiday to the Wizard of Oz.
The stage hosted the premiers of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, the musical Fame and many other Broadway hits, providing quality national performances. The Playhouse was a premier stage for Off Broadway and International new plays and shows. In 1982, with the Artistic Director actor-director José Ferrer brought regional programs for actors and Arnold Mittleman continued as AD, expanding to touring companies.
The Coconut Grove Playhouse was commissioned in 1926 by the Peacock Family, the symbol of the Grove still today, the architect, Kiehnel, is Miami’s very best. The land was given from the Munroe family.
The front facade has Rococo neo spanish features, commanding the southern entrance to the Coconut Grove business district, it has it’s own parking, office space and room for two small stages.
Between 1964 and 1965, The Coconut Grove Playhouse was used by The Miami Actors Company.
Among many important artists, most renowned performers, including Maureen Stapleton, Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy, Eve Arden, Tallulah Bankhead, Carol Channing, Liza Minnelli, Linda Lavin, Bea Arthur, George C. Scott, Colleen Dewhurst, and Ethel Merman, Neil Simon’s The Sunshine Boys, starring Jack Klugman and Tony Randall, and Urban Cowboy, Sherry Glaser’s, Family Secrets, Death of a Salesman, starring Hal Holbrook and Elizabeth Franz, actor-director José Ferrer.
In a 2011 Miami Condition report by Ellen Ugiocinni states a $15 million plus matching $5 million had be reserved.
The restoration if done in private hands would match this figure, according to the Architect but double that figure if the City gets involved with the renovation process.
Miami Art Reviews considers the Coconut Grove Playhouse as important to save as the Freedom Tower,the old Daily News Tower , 600 Biscayne Blvd. It has both cultural and historical heritage for the Grove and the region as a whole. MAR calls for a working stage once again for Coconut Grove.
The poem takes center stage of the mural design, encased in the central structure it reads.
Here once by April breezes blown
You came, O gallant De Leon,
Sailed up this friendly ocean stream
To find the wells of ancient dream
The fountain by the poets sung
Where life and love are ever young.
You found it not, O prince, and yet
The wells that made the heart forget
Are waiting here year ever here
With touch of some immortal sphere,
For here below these skies of gold
We have forgotten to grow old
Here in this land where all the hours
Dance by us treading upon the flowers.
Edwin Markham in 1925
This simple rhyming seven versed, to Juan Ponce De Leon’s arrival on the North American continent and the poets satirical epigram to historical myths twists to include us all blessed with final days here under one glorious golden sky after another. Markham had written and recited the epigram for the Lincoln Memorial ceremony in 1922. His recital of his “Lincoln, Man of the People” had an immediate recognition which prompted Gov.James Middleton Cox. to request Markham’s pen for a homage to the history of Miami, Florida and “these import moments in our distant histories.” (James Middleton Cox biography)
Edwin Markham was born in 1842, died 1940, educator, poet and American Institute of Arts and Letters member. 1922 Lincoln Memorial dedication “Lincoln, the Man of the People.” Nine schools named in his honor, A WW2 Liberty ship and Wagner College Horrmann Library archived collection of his personal library and letters.
Markham was a politically and socially conscious writer at odds with the modernists Pound and Elliot and their free form directions in literature. He his exampled as an American of Letters, whose work exemplifies the National tradition in Literature. His interested in working class struggles, ethnic troubles and equal opportunities in education made him a popular choice for composing important civic and cultural epigrams.
Other important works… The Man with the Hoe 1899, Lincoln and other Poems 1901, The Shoes of Happiness 1913,Children in Bondage 1914, California the Wonderful 1914, Gates of Paradise 1920, 80 poems at 80, 1932 and The Ballard of the Gallow’s Bird. published ph 1960.
The M.D.C., Miami Freedom Tower’s New World 1513 mural at the M.D.C. has an epigram by Edwin Markham that dedicates to the discovery of the first known Native American settlement discovered by the Spanish new world explorer Juan Ponce De Leon who landed his boats only yards away on the shores of Biscayne Bay. The Markham poem takes center position of the 44 Ft. Long mural and in true epigram satire twists the fountain of youth fable to include our collective search and fragility, making the verse equal to all contemporary tastes some 90 years later. Perhaps Markham’s preference for the structured inclusion of cultural content and witt is after all a more constant and enduring literary style than the more subjective modernism that surrounded his later days. His Lincoln writings have been re-read and recited as we celebrate the Man’s anniversaries again. Since the Memorial’s dedication in 1922 few writers have been able to equally express our National sentiment and admiration for the iconic President Lincoln and so the poets words continue to serve.
The video shows many photos of the New Worldmural‘s making before it was hung in Miami’s Freedom Tower in 1988. The mural depicts Juan Ponce De Leon and the Tequesta Chief, spanish galleons,mermaids and the new known world. The mural celebrates the date 1513 and Miami as the first discovered settlement by the Spanish explorers. 2013 is Florida’s 500th Anniversary of this historic. You are invited to watch the video and read further on the website. Many residents of Miami Dade County are waiting to see how the MDC, National Landmark Freedom Tower’s New World 1513 Mural will be presented as a main celebrative art work for the Florida Quincentennial Anniversary in 2013. Some of the artists are still based in South Florida and they are still working towards bringing awareness about this important historic date for our South Florida community, State and Nation too.
The Freedom Tower is open to the Public and it is free to visit the mural that hangs in the main hall. Enquires for the artists can be made through the website or 786 239 0126 to leave a message.