In early February, Door-to-Door escaped winter in New York City and went to record interviews with the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami, Florida. The museum was a 2012 recipient of a national medal from the Institute for Museum and Library Services. Through the interviews, we got a look at the many wonderful aspects of the museum’s programming. From artists to volunteers; educators to musicians; and students to curators, we heard about how MOCA has worked to make contemporary art accessible for people across Miami.
On our last morning, Jill Hernandez and Anya Wallace, good friends and coworkers, came in to talk about their role in Women on the Rise. As a young woman and art student, Jill had become passionate about feminist art, at one point making a film about the experiences of women in Miami. After graduating from college, she went to work at MOCA. One morning, Jill heard a story on the radio about an increase in the number of young women being detained in juvenile justice centers, and decided that she wanted to start doing programming at some of those centers.
As Jill began going to the detention centers, she was nervous, because she didn’t have a clear-cut plan or agenda. However, “things just happened” as she started to meet the young women there and talk about the artists whose work she would present to them. Their reactions, she says, were the best part, as the girls were bringing a wide range of experiences to their readings of the images. She remembers that the conversations they had “not only showed me what the art could teach the girls, but how the girls challenged what the work is, or what I think about what the work is.” The second year of the program, they received a grant from the Women’s Fund Network, and it began to take off.
Jill and Anya met later, at a Women’s Studies conference, and found instant friendship. Anya had been working with young women in Savannah, Georgia, and remembered feeling that their meeting was serendipitous. Anya was also surprised by finding someone who shared her feminist perspective “not just on working with girls, but how we connect with them.” Shortly after meeting, Jill offered Anya a position at Women on the Rise. When they began to talk about their favorite memories from their work at the program, it turned out they shared quite a few. Reflecting on their work, Jill said, “I know it feels good to write something. I know it feels good to make something. I want to give girls a space and a reason to do that.”
MobileBooth East kicked off the first stop of 2010 amid the palm trees and students of Miami Dade’s Wolfson Campus. On an unseasonably cold day in Miami, outdoor heaters warmed the crowd as we snacked on guava pastelitos and café con leche.
While in Miami, MobileBooth East is partnering with WDNA public radio to record the stories of Latino and Hispanic communities as part of StoryCorps Historias. And we were thrilled to welcome new Mobile Facilitatorâand Miami local-Virginia Lora to the road.
For the first conversation of the day, Mercy and Manny Quiroga talked about family. Manny began the conversation by sharing memories of his father, Manuel Quiroga, who Manny remembers as a strong, determined man, “with great hands.” Manny particularly remembers the time that his father sawed through a ficus tree in their backyard in Havana, Cuba. Fifteen feet in diameter, the tree was so large that its roots were interfering with the house’s plumbing. Manny’s father only had access to a tiny pruning saw, so he spent every Saturday and Sunday for two years sawing, stroke by stroke, through the ficus’s huge trunk.
While development in Miami goes ahead full speed, plants and creatures remain bountiful. Marsha Colbert, above, came to our StoryBooth to talk about her love of people and nature. She is a biologist and informed facilitators Jonah Engle and Nadja Middleton about some of the vegetation they have been impressed by since arriving from New York. Besides palm trees, Miami is home to a variety of trees such as Australian Pines, red-berry producing Brazilian Peppers, Royal Poincianas from Madagascar, Yellow tabebuias and Mango trees from India. With a colleague and orinthologist, Marsha was kind to help identify these birds:
Mostly there are boat-tailed grackles, a species where the males are black and the females are brown. There are also European Starlings, a smaller black bird that has white speckled plumage at some times of the year. -Miami’s flora and fauna are apparently as cosmopolitan as its inhabitants! In her email Marsha wrote: “These birds may have been gathering to sing at the end of the day before going to roost for the night. Possibly they were flocking or gathering together in the open, such as on power lines, and then going to sleep in the canopy of nearby trees.”
Below, a favorite picture taken at sunset near Miami, in the Everglades national park.
Reverand Petunia Chung-Segre wanted her daughter Marie to know how much she meant to her and StoryCorps seemed like the right place to make such a declaration. Petunia has been suffering from depression for over a decade but Marie is the reason she does not give up during the most difficult periods. Petunia is also thankful that Marie “has the guts” to talk to her and confront her about her depression. For example, on being pushed to attend a depression workshop, Petunia says: “You were very cruel, I hated you for doing that to me, but I thank you [...] I want you to know that and I want the world to know that.”
The picture above was taken right after their 40 minute StoryCorps interview. It will be archived in the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress, alongside the conversation they recorded.
During their daily commute to the StoryBooth, facilitators Jonah Engle and Nadja Middleton often pass by this public art work in Miami’s Design District. According to its designers, Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt, “The Living Room” is meant to be a criticism of the lack of public space and “provide opportunities for human interaction and alternative states of mind”. It appears that for Jonah and Nadja, at least the latter goal was achieved!
Following the advice of StoryCorps participants, facilitators Nadja Middleton and Jonah Engle checked out Little Havana’s Hoy Como Ayer nightclub. To better rock the crowd with his mix of Cuban hip hop and reggae, Descemer Bueno would sometimes come off stage, as illustrated in the photo above. Before moving to the United States a few years ago, Bueno lived in his native Havana. Then came the Spam Allstars. The Miami based band is often on tour, but they are also Hoy Como Ayer regulars. With their latin, funk, hip hop and dub improvisations, they keep the audience dancing and guessing well past these facilitators’ bedtime. Featured in the picture below are flautist and vocalist Mercedes Abal and alto sax player A.J. Hill.
A modern replica of Haiti’s famous iron market, this landmark stands in the Heart of Little Haiti, a five minute drive North of the mobile booth. The neighborhood’s storefronts are adorned with colorful murals painted by local artists.
Ed Laake missed our Storybooth while it was stationed in Sarasota last month. He decided to drive all the way to Miami where the booth just opened. He was accompanied by his cousin Mary and his 91-year old aunt Erma. They came to sing and pay homage to the songs Ed’s father wrote and sang. They also brought home-made cookies.
At the end of January, incoming StoryCorps facilitators Nadja Middleton and Jonah Engle took over from Maisie Tivnan and Nelson Simon in Miami. Below, they are seen chatting with StoryCorps participant Donald Stanier who came with his wife Carole. The Storybooth is located in front of the Miami Herald building and directly beside the soon to open Miami Performing Arts Center. The performance space is said to be the biggest project of its kind since the construction of New York’s Lincoln Center. In fact, construction sites abound in America’s second fastest growing metropolis. Nadja and Jonah’s favorite building project thus far is a lovely South Beach castle!