Saving The Coconut Grove Playhouse.

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Saving The Coconut Grove Playhouse.

Richard Heisenbottle's architectural rendering
Richard Heisenbottle’s architectural rendering of a future Coconut Grove Playhouse restored to its 1926.
  On Wednesday 27th February 2013, the Dade Heritage Trust heard Commissioner Xavier Suarez, aide J.C. Garrido and  architect Richard Heisenbottlethe 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.  
 
Contact
Miami Dade  Commissioner Suarez      phone 305-375-5680    or   District7@miamidade.gov
Contact  
Florida Governor Rick Scott         phone  850-488-7146    and at rick.scott@eog.myflorida.com
Further reading.
 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.
Specific Dates 1926 1955
 Architects: Kiehnel and Elliott – 1926
 Remodeling by Alfred Browning Parker – 1955
Builder/Contractor: Albert V. Peacock – 1926
miamiartreviews@gmail.com
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.

Art Interview With The Coconut Grove Art Festival Monty Trainer

Monty Trainer
Monty Trainer Coconut Grove Arts Festival Photography by Ana Bikic
Monty Trainer Interview February 08 2011
by Ana Bikic MiamiArtReviews.©2011. All Rights Reserved
Photography by Ana Bikic

Interview with Monty Trainer, The President of the Coconut Grove Art Festival

At his Festival office in the Mayfair, Coconut Grove, Miami, Florida.
There is less than one week to go until the 3 day art festival that lines Coconut Grove’s Biscayne Bay parks. Feb 19 to 21. The No.1 Art Show of the Decade 2000-2010 USA and No.1 Art show 3 yrs running according to the Sunshine Artists Rating. The Coconut Grove Art Festival has coincided with the Miami Beach Boat Show on the same weekend for decades, both events have complimented each other in providing a whole weekend of entertainment for art collectors and boat owners escaping from the winter chills of the north.
A -“This year’s 2011 festival poster by Artist Guy Harvey is very iconic and beautiful, have you printed enough of them? ”
M – “Well we have made 3,000 copies and they are available now through the Festival’s website. We started selling them four weeks ago, a day after the unveiling party and sales are going steady.”
A- “How is the Festival Art Gallery related to the Festival Art show, is it an independent project?”
M- ” Oh no, it’s very much part of the Coconut Grove Art Festival, it’s an extension of what we do, it puts us in an all year round program for the young local talent we have.”
A- ” Many people have been so impressed with the drawing and subject matter the Gallery has shown this year.”
M- “Yes, we’ve been working with the New World School of Arts and the Florida International University Art School. We also have been working with the Miami Dade County Magnet School Programs for highschool artists too. This is an ongoing project that the Festival is involved with.”

Interview with Monty Trainer, The President of the Coconut Grove Art Festival photos and interview by Ana Bikic
Interview with Monty Trainer, The President of the Coconut Grove Art Festival photos and interview by Ana Bikic

A- “It certainly is helping to promote high quality  artists emerging locally. The Festival is one of the longest running shows in the country, this is the 48th year, how did it get started? “
M- ” It started in 1960 when Charlie Cinnamon was asked to help out the Coconut Grove Playhouse advertise a french play called I’m in a duce. The play had a scene with French art on a clothes line, Charlie and a few friends did a display on the side walk to help the playhouse. It was a side walk art show of only a few artists to start. Now the Playhouse is closed and we’re still open.”
A- “How old were you when you became involved with the CG AF? ” some ers and errs…
M-”I had just finished college when the CGAF started in 1963, I opened the Monty’s Restaurant in 1969 and by the 70’s I was a sponsor. I’ve been involved for nearly 33 years since.”
Monty Trainer is a great example of community involvement. He has gone from event sponsor to board member, 2 years chairing and the past 5 years as the Coconut Grove Art Festival President. In addition to this Monty also sits as the Chair for the New World School of Arts Executive Committee where he can be found at least once a week at the School. He says it’s quite an endeavour.
M- “The NWSA is supported by three entities; the MDC, the MD school system and the University of Florida who issue the Bachelor of Arts degrees to the one thousand student body. I represent the U F and we all provide the funding for the entire NWSA together.”
Monty is extremely proud of the success of this local young artist alumni who are going onto the Bill Battle NY dance school, Martha Graham etc with over a 98% scholarship support. It is their ability to succeed in the auditions besides having good SATs that he accredits the schools success in educating so many of our artistically talented. I comment that the success in the visual arts is due to the dedication to traditional learning/teaching. Monty explains about a recent experience.
M-“The National Foundation for the Arts had over 200 school kids work at the Marty Marguilles Gallery for a week recently, you ought to have seen it, unreal, they really open up their minds, I don’t know where they get it from, we might not like it for our homes but this is the next century art.”
A-“What would you define as the difference between Art and Fine Art? “
M-“That’s a tough question, you know, there’s art but there’s two sides to it. Fine Art has at least a 200yr old history behind it and the eyes of the beholder . How has it stood time? is it a time factor only and who’s to judge the quality? Michelangelo, Picasso, who can judge that? You tell me.”

Guy Harvey poster Coconut Grove Arts Festival
Coconut Grove Art Festival Poster 2011 by artist Guy Harvey

A-“Yes, the eyes of the beholder, over time, or Art verses artistic or icon verses entertaining? The crisis of the economy has been terrible, we’ve seen many galleries close.”
M-” And yet the big auction houses like Sotheby’s have done very well. It’s a hedge on your investment, if you feel that a piece of Fine Art will not decrease in value it probably won’t, it’s not like the stock market after all, generally fine art only increases in value.”
A-” Why is the Festival slightly smaller than several years ago?”
M-“The Artists asked for a more focused and art conscious audience. The Gating of the event has reduced the number of visitors but increased the artists sales. Folks were coming for food and refreshments and to listen to music, like a beer bust. The $10 gate charge helps keep the focus on art.”

Monty Trainer At the Annual Coconut Grove Bed Race 2010
Monty Trainer At the Annual Coconut Grove Bed Race 2010 Photography Ana Bikic

A-“As a No.1 Arts show in the Nation, how do you see the CGAF reacting to Globalization and art relevance ?”
M-”One of the important factors we have is a very strict jury system, it’s a blind jury, they do not know who the artist is, the work is juried solely on its own merit. Of course we are lucky to have Lilia Garcia run the system, she was the Miami Dade Schools Art director for years and is extremely well-respected. The jurors are chosen from the Museums, Art Schools and Galleries from the region. We have a different jury each year and yet we still get a 30% new artists for each annual event. So our relevance is most accredited to our strict jury system, I think that this has helped protect the show and give it artistic value. Of course you need good jurors too. I don’t get to know who’s in the show until the computer adds up all the scores each artist has been rated on.”
A-“In recent years we have seen a prolific number of art shows crop up locally and internationally, how does the Coconut Grove Art Festival compare?”
M-” Locally we are still the most important, we are an art show, others are more arts and crafts orientated. We are subject to National art organization’s ratings like the Sunshine Artist Mag. { 40 yrs old}. The Art Basel is a Gallery show, although it represents over a 1000 artists.”

Monty Trainer Coconut Grove Arts Festival 2011
Monty Trainer Coconut Grove Arts Festival 2011 Photography by Ana Bikic

A ”it’s not juried. Are the Festival’s Gallery artists given an opportunity to be in the Coconut Grove Art Festival GAF 2011?”
M ” They most certainly are encouraged to submit an application but they are subject to the exact same process of jury as everyone else.”
We are interrupted by the Grove’s Police lady on a bike, Suzi, just checking in to say Hi. although Coconut Grove was the first settlement of Miami the City over 100 years ago, the Grove is essentially still a village community, with local friendly police, by their first names.
I comment to Monty about this family feeling the Grove has.
M ” Actually I really want to promote this situation we have, on the shore of the Bay, The Coconut Grove Village is a bay side community, I want the Art Festival to help celebrate what a great artist community we have here. Along with the fact the Art Festival has been voted the best of the decade Nationally and at No.1 for the last 3 yrs. Coconut Grove lost many of its artists to Miami Beach for lower rents years ago, then they moved to the Wynwood and now that’s expensive too, it’s difficult for artists to sell and eat, let alone have a $5000.00 studio bill.”

Monty Trainer and Festival Staff Fall for the arts 2010
Monty Trainer and Festival Staff Fall for the arts 2010 with Patricia Dahne board member of the Coconut Grove Art Festival Photography by Ana bikic

A ”What are the plans for the C. G. Art Festival for the near future and programs that you hope to encourage? “
M ” The Festival has 110 artists who visit local schools all year long,we would like to have a studio space we can use for this. We have always been looking for an opportunity to expand and buy our own building, this would help towards our scholarship fund to. ”
A ” I see this like a type of nursery of the arts, nurturing a new trend of cutting edge visual fine art. “
M ” This is why we opened the NWSA show at the Festival Gallery at the beginning of Art Basel week ahead of everything, we had 1,500 people visit the Galleries’ opening night.”
A ”What more can you say about this year’s Coconut Grove Art Festival? ”
M ” Well we have four chiefs giving demonstrations of their art each day in recognition of the culinary arts and we have a nice children’s area for the kids to play too. ”
Another interruption; enter Tom Falcon from the Grove’s Grapevine, more photos and I suggest we do another conversation together after the Art show about the New World School of Arts and Monty’s roll with that exciting endeavour.
The 48th Coconut Grove Art Festival begins on the 19th-21st, Presidents Day weekend. It is the biggest and best Art show around. Run by a dedicated group of Art educators and an army of volunteers, they generate a $100,000.00 scholarship fund every year for young students in the South Florida Area.
I hope this recorded conversation with the President of the Festival, Monty Trainer, highlights some of the questions around the renowned Coconut Grove Art Festival.
by Ana Bikic.  miamiartreviews@yahoo.com
Miami Art Reviews©2011. All Rights Reserved