Xavier Cortada On How Art Made Miami Global And How It May Save It In The Future

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This interview is part of the “Tomorrow Lives Here” Conversation Series presented by Miami Business School



Artist Xavier Cortada is known in Miami for helping introduce the public to complex issues and ideas through beautiful pieces of art.

–A graduate of Miami Business School, Cortada has done some wild things in his life including planting a green flag at the North Pole in order to “reclaim it for nature and launch an eco-art reforestation effort”.

–He is also trying to get more public awareness around the issue of climate change in South Florida, among other issues. 

Cortada recently donated four pieces of public art to Miami Business School and spoke to Dean John Quelch about the significance of that work, his view of how art has made Miami an international city and how it may save the city in the future.


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$125,000 Gold Shark Sails Through Miami Streets

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A massive, 13 foot golden shark racing down Biscayne Boulevard on a recent afternoon was a bizarre sight, even judging by Miami standards.

-We followed it just to figure out where the heck the thing was going. 

-The journey took us to a series of renovated warehouses near the railroad tracks on NE 59th St in Miami. 

-We learned the shark was created by Miami artist Hamilton Aguiar

-The shark was installed at J. Steven Manolis’ gallery in Miami’s Lemon City section and it is for sale for a cool $125,000

-The shark is a spoof by Aguiar of the well known Damien Hirst piece, “The Physical Impossibility Of Death In The Mind Of Someone Living”

Aguiar on his inspiration: “I play with the opposite of the materials. So the [Hirst] shark was a real shark that rotted so I did the opposite. I did a handmade sculpture in gold leaf so it’s supposed to be eternal.” 

-Manolis moved to Miami after a career on Wall Street. 

-While climbing up the corporate ladder and becoming the youngest partner in Solomon Brothers history, Manolis also followed another calling-his love of art. 

-For over 35 years, he received one on one lessons from Wolf Kahn, one of the best known colorists in the world. 

-He opened his gallery in 2014 and he really loves Aguiar’s shark. “This is $125,000 and cheap at half the price,” Manolis said. 


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North Miami Beach Enters Farmers Market Game With Monthly Event

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-North Miami Beach Farmers And Artisanal Market debuted to a solid showing the Sunday before Thanksgiving. 

-The Market will run monthly starting in January. 

-NMB Commissioner Marlen Martell has worked on delivering a Farmers Market to the city for years. 

-Martell teamed up with Wynwood Farmers Market CEO Melissa Frantz to get the project off the ground this year. 

The North Miami Beach Farmers And Artisanal Market opened on November 19.

The market is North Miami Beach’s first entry into the farmers market game and will become a monthly event starting in January.

The market was created after NMB Commissioner Marlen Martell approached Wynwood Farmers Market CEO Melissa Frantz.

NMB Commissioner Marlen Martell (L) and Wynwood Farmers Market CEO Melissa Frantz (R) were the driving forces behind the market.

Martell had long dreamed of bringing a market to NMB and was impressed by what Frantz had accomplished in Wynwood.

“I went to the one she runs in Wynwood, and it was fabulous,” Martell said in an interview.

Frantz worked with the city to develop the market and was given a big boost by local attorney Victor Dante when he offered to let his parking lot be used for the event.

Over 20 vendors had booths at the event and hundreds of local residents attended.

“I think the vendors are happy,” Frantz said of the first event. “Generally everyone made some sales and they want it to be successful.”

“This could become a really great market. The community really wants it,” Frantz said. “We could easily double what we had today. It brings community together.

Allison Academy provided the musical entertainment at the event.

The next NMB Farmers Market will be on January 20, 2018. The venue will be announced.

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Watch More: Did this South Florida Entrepreneur Just Invent The Next Tofu? 

You Have To Check Out This Andy Warhol Inspired Cocktail

Andy Warhol is one of the most iconic artists in the history of the United States. So it only makes sense that someone would eventually try to honor him with a cocktail.

Daniel Najarro, the bar manager at Bagatelle Miami Beach came up with the concept for the drink for the upcoming Art Basel in Miami.

It is Ketel One Orange, fresh strawberry, ginger beer and lime all in an iconic Campbell’s coup can.

“Inspired by Andy Warhol, one of the most iconic leading figures in POP ART, this special cocktail salutes all of his memorable work throughout the years,” Carrie Hyman a spokesperson for the Bagetelle said in a release.

unnamedDo you think the drink measures up to the legacy of Warhol?

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Art Personalized: Millennial Designer Caitlin Ashley Tries To Get Us To Look Around Life

Too often in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, we forget to take a breath and look at the beauty and art that exist around us. 

But one millennial designer named Caitlin Widener is trying to get us all to do just that.

Widener’s Caitlin Ashley Custom brings the beauty of the world alive in clothing pieces made for women, in the forms of skirts, pants, and blouses, among other styles.

The brand is based in New York City and describes itself as being “wearable art, unique for the individual” on the brand’s official website.  

The description continues labeling the brand as “hand painted and inspired by everyday on goings in the world,” and that “every woman is unique, just like this line and wants that vision to transcend when worn.”

Widener’s inspiration for it all began when she moved to New York City in 2014.

“At the time I was doing fashion blogging and it was fashion week, my first experience,” Widener said. “Everything was on such a grand scale and in some ways had me doubting my place amongst it all.”

It was then when her mind began to reel and the pieces began to fall into place.

“There was an event in particular that I had been invited to that week. It felt as though I had nothing to wear on my current budget that would set me apart from the crowd,” Widener said. “Sitting in my room, I was making an attempt to brainstorm ways to show originality. There was an old white dress hanging up and it got me to thinking, what if perhaps I painted on it? I have painted all my life and perhaps it was possible to combine two of my greatest passions together?”

It was then when the first of many pieces was born.

“I painted a rendition of van Gogh’s “Starry Night.” It was a hit. I realized this was something I wanted to pursue for the rest of my life, it’s like everything came together and finally made sense.”

Widener’s brand is still growing, having nearly 1,130 followers on her official Instagram page filled with different examples of her colorful and intrinsically unique designs.

CAITLIN ASHLEY SPRING/SUMMER is now available online. Feel free to check out the pieces and more images like this one at (link in bio) Would really like to extend a big thank you to everyone who has followed and supported me on this journey, thus far. Believing in yourself is crucial but having friends and family believe in you as well is truly everything. I’m constantly working towards becoming a better painter/designer. This is going to be a long journey and I won’t give this up for anything. If you don’t have your dreams, what do you have? Endless love to the people who inspire me everyday, you’re indispensable xx Photo taken by the immensely talented @tomfraud in the beautiful city of Marrakech, Morocco. @lahandira #caitlinashley #custom #spring #summer #marrakech #morocco #tomfraud #lahandira #nyc

A photo posted by Caitlin Widener (@caitlinashleycustom) on

With time, there is hope that the brand will continue to flourish.

“The brand is still very new. Just over a year in,” Widener said. “It’s currently working with other brands on collaborations and creating time capsule collections for small boutiques.”

Since that first event that drew her to paint her creation on the old white dress, the inspirations for other pieces in the line have come from many different sources, including those found in the outside world.

“The best thing I can do for outside inspiration is put my headphones in and wander around the city a bit,” Widener said. “You start to notice things outside the box, colors in a puddle, flowers coming up through the sidewalk, street art that transforms a building.” 

The designs pictured on her website show the wide array of different creations, including artsy dresses, inspired skirts and other pieces that almost seem like wearable and usable masterpieces.

As for what continues to inspire her to create more pieces today, Widener states that it continues to be the same drive that initially led her to create her early creations.

“Today’s inspiration is still a lot of the inspiration that was at the start. Really just creating things that I love and in turn, reaching out and sharing it with others,” Widener said. “It’s so important to keep that fire to create fueled and never forget what made you start in the first place. Always come back to the roots.”

As for what the future holds and if she will begin to create designs for men as well, only time will tell she said. 

“Last year there was a small stint of time where I dabbled with men’s ties and really loved it,” Widener said. “Got a lot of great feedback! For the time being, my focus is with women’s apparel but it’s something I would love to progress into in the future.”

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

Photo Credits: Caitlin Widener/ Submitted

This Gen X’er And Her Two Young Daughters Are Trying To Revolutionize Millennial Menswear

Who says that you have to be a millennial in order to know what they want?

After spending five years as a housewife, Mary Di Fede-Garcia, age 47 and a resident of South Florida, decided that it was time for a change.

She focused on the men’s online clothing market for young people, sensing that it was a soft market.

Then Di Fede-Garcia launched Solsburry last December.

Solsburry is a website where men, mostly millennials, can find affordable clothing.

According to Di Fede-Garcia, Solsburry was chosen as the name of the brand because of a story told by former Genesis front-man Peter Gabriele.

“Peter was not getting along with his band member, Phil Collins, and he got to a turning point in which he needed to decide between going solo or take the back seat at the band while Collins was the lead,” Di Fede-Garcia said in an interview with RISE NEWS. “Peter went to a place in England, called Solsburry Hill, where a sense of change came to him, decided to go on his own, and became very successful.”

Picture 1

Mary Di Fede-Garcia, second from left, with her husband Alex and two daughters at a party in 2014.

Change has come to Di Fede-Garcia’s life as well, but the creation of Solsburry, the brand, was not an easy feat for her.

She had to face two of her greatest challenges: the Internet and social media.

“While I was building the brand in my head, I said to myself: ‘Let me face my biggest fears right on’,” Di Fede-Garcia said. “’If I am technologically challenged and I manage to do well on the web and social media, then I would know that there is nothing I can’t conquer.’”

To overcome her fear and after working for some months with a web developer, Di Fede-Garcia established Solsburry on the web, and it is spreading its name in social media channels such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.

Di Fede-Garcia has had support from her family in figuring out how to efficiently use social media as a branding and sales tool.

“Seeing her struggle since the beginning in not knowing how to do certain things on the web led me to help her,” Mary’s 18 year old daughter Lauren del Pino said.

Lauren is helping with the social media marketing efforts for the brand while her 22 year old sister, Danielle del Pino, is leading the web styling and selection of clothing for the brand.

“My sister helps out with the social media section because that is natural for her,” Danielle said. “I love helping out putting together the styling and the organization for the brand, and, of course, the photoshoots.”

The two daughters not only help their mom build and maintain the brand but also, along with their friends have provided significant inspiration since day one according to Di Fede-Garcia.

Picture 3

A view of a Solsburry photo shoot.

“My daughters have male friends who visit the house, and they are always commenting about how the women’s clothing market is over saturated while the men’s one is missing attention,” Di Fede-Garcia said. “I decided that I wanted to provide quality clothing that is durable, easy to wash and wear.”

Solsburry, is aiming at providing clothing for young men from high school to young adults who are starting their careers- men who want clothes that make them to look good but are also affordable.

Di Fede-Garcia said that she understands that young men at those stages have other priorities that are more important than looking good.

She also contributes a portion of the proceeds from each piece sold to some charities each month.

More Info On Solsburry:

[email protected]

Phone: +1 (305) 275-1829

Toll Free: 1 (844) 834-1829

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

Photo Credit: Solsburry/ Submitted.

Miami Fashion Blogs Rise In Importance As Local Scene Grows

This story was originally published on on June 22, 2015.

By Damian Gordon

Fashion is forever and forever changing.

That reality can make keeping up with the latest a challenge without some serious help.

There are few places in the world where fashion is as prominent as in South Florida, making local fashion blogs a must to visit  since style changes more than our bipolar weather.

Fashion bloggers have made a major impact on the industry and public. Even designers and brands have embraced them in recent years, after realizing their importance. One of them is Maria Tettamanti of Tettamanti’s been on the scene for many years now and is a well seasoned vet in Miami’s growing fashion world.

“Bloggers have an undeniably huge social media presence and they can help spread the word on everything from under-the-radar designers to huge fashion houses,” Tettamanti said. “I know first hand that one blog post/Instagram/tweet can help open doors for a brand and that’s really powerful stuff.”

Of course for many young people in South Florida, the blogs can also be used as a way to learn some tricks about to stretch a dollar and still look good.

Many fashion bloggers have recommended for those on a budget places like H&M or Forever 21, attributing these stores because of their trendy clothes and accessible prices.

Photo Credit: Pancho Gómez/Flickr

Photo Credit: Pancho Gómez/Flickr

Tettamanti said that feminine midi skirts and dresses, off-the-shoulder blouses, floor-skimming maxi dresses, and matchy-matchy tops and bottoms are what’s in right now in South Florida during the summer.

With such a diverse display of cultures in South Florida, it can be a challenge to decide what to wear.

“In Wynwood, you’re going to find a more hipster vibe. Bal Harbour is going to be much more upscale, designer sheek. Miami is super sexy, less is more,” Kelly Saks, fashion stylist and creator of said. “Coral Gables is more preppy and more professional, since it’s in the business district.”

Miami continues to grow closer to becoming more entwined in fashion, as more events seem to take over the city such as Art Basel and Swim Week. With that increased democratization of fashion taking place, many people have turned to knock off goods to keep up.

“Everyone’s Instagram, Facebook or Twitter trying to floss what they have, trying to keep up with the Joneses,” Saks said. “The fashion industry right now has so much to offer at all price points, you don’t need to be buying crappy fake goods.”

“It’s not about the price, it’s all about how you style the look and really how you wear it,” Saks said. “It doesn’t have to cost a thousand dollars to make you look or feel good.”

Cover Photo Credit: acevvvedo/Flickr

Secret Garden Promises More Enchantment In Celebration Of Its Three-Year Anniversary

The most attended yet secretive pop-up party during Wynwood’s Art Walk, Secret Garden, celebrates its three-year anniversary, welcoming all experience seekers to an “Enchanted” journey.

On February 13th, starting at 7pm until 3am, Secret Garden’s creators bring the Enchanted edition to one of Wynwood’s most exclusive venues, MANA. This Kylie Jenner-approved venue spans over six acres with 32-foot ceilings and is known for bringing Miami’s culture to life by hosting high-quality productions.

Enchanted brings you an innovative kind of art walk, different from any before. As soon as you step into MANA, you will be transported into the magical world of Alice in Wonderland, feeling the eerie moss underneath your feet as the enchanting forest swarms over you. Siglo will be presenting Down the Rabbit Hole with a full on maze incorporated into the art gallery, as well as a special installation presented by Poetry of I.

After finding your way out of the Rabbit Hole, guests are invited to the Mad Hatter Tea Party taking place on the main stage with a special performance by PILLOWTALK, Superlounge and many more.


Photo courtesy of MANA Wynwood.

“The amount of creativity at Secret Garden feeds off one another, giving a truly amazing experience,” Secret Garden co-founder Matthew Ohashi said. “We bring together the best talent Miami has to offer, and since our inception three years ago, we have stayed true to our motto of supporting the local artist.”

This art walk experience is designed to have guests trembling on their feet at the intricate details of this garden.

Enchanted invites art walk enthusiasts to escape the hectic city life for a night to explore one-of-a-kind art installations in the mysterious Secret Garden, while indulging in Miami’s finest artists, musicians, performers, and craft food & beer vendors.

Limited free passes and more information are available on EventBrite. You can also share your RSVP with friends on Facebook.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. Anyone can write for us as long as you are fiercely interested in making the world a better place. 

Cover Photo Credit: Secret Garden/ Facebook

In Miami’s Wynwood Art District, A 25 Year Old Artist Is Ready To Take The City By Storm

MIAMI- Nestled along Wynwood’s 5th Avenue there’s a mural of a figure painted entirely in black and white. Pictured on its monochromatic surface is a woman, naked except for the long ringlets of hair wrapped constrictively around her body. She sits contemplatively before the viewer, back bowed while pedestrians pass her by.

Surreal-looking spectacles like these can be found scattered throughout the city, all of them authored by Rolando Adrian Avila. At only 25 years old and with less than six of months of residence in Wynwood he’s poised to become one of the more prolific and better-known painters within Miami’s art district.

The Cuban-born muralist and former Angeleno (native of Los Angeles) has roots to South Florida dating all the way back to his days at New World Schools of Arts, a small and selective magnet school known both locally and nationally for its excellent arts and theatre programs.

“Unfortunately not everybody has a chance to do it. I come from a pretty poor family, and the only way I was able to travel and to go outside the city was because of art,” Avila said during a sit-down interview, “I got money to go to California from school, that was the only way. I feel like that’s important for an artist, to be educated. Education is everything.”


To date Avila has created at least 12 murals in Miami, most of them concentrated within Wynwood and the surrounding art district. As a self-described “wall vampire” he often seeks out unadorned spaces within the area to renovate and embellish with his work, masking concrete in a monotint display of long-limbed bodies and lotus flowers.

Avila first emigrated from Cuba to the U.S. at the age of 13, eventually gaining a scholarship to attend Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. The most notable thing about his work at first glance is just how stripped-down his pieces tend to be, both literally and figuratively.

“Women in general are a lot more powerful than men to me, especially around [Miami].” -Avila said

The subjects he portrays are predominantly female and nude, implied to be the objects of a male gaze. But there’s also simplicity to the color composition of Avila’s work. He often picks a single shade to dominate the canvas, focusing attention and detail on the subjects of his murals by keeping the palette relatively monochromatic.

As for the nakedness, Avila doesn’t believe his primary subjects are likely to scandalize here as easily as they might somewhere else. Miami’s extensive beach culture brings with it an inordinate preoccupation with body image and physical beauty, making the city a quintessential place for nudity in art to be accepted and, in some cases, even lauded.


“I feel like people [here] really respond to figurative work. I do these girls, and in Miami the body is something that is celebrated.” Avila said.

It’s true that there’s a definite sense of eroticism to Avila’s work, but more often than not it’s purposely coupled with mythological imagery and significance. The women depicted in his paintings and murals often show up in triplicate, a reference to the religious archetype of “triple deity” so often seen in classical literature and art.

They’re goddesses the way you imagine goddesses would look like in the 21st century; slender and statuesque, hair coifed and lips pouted perfectly as if posing for an editorial.

“Women in general are a lot more powerful than men to me, especially around [Miami].” Avila said, “It’s kind of like the whole idea of goddesses, this whole idea of the Greeks and the Romans. To them women were everything.”

These women often appear to be reveling too, frozen mid-pose on the canvas while onlookers are free to gawk at the display of their bodies. Avila’s work is, if anything, voyeuristic in nature. He plays with perception as often as some other artists play with the colors on their mixing palettes and it’s never made clear exactly how we should feel looking in on these private scenes.

The women within his murals almost always have their eyes covered or bound by their own hair, blinded to the audience’s gaze and unable to take in their own surroundings. They appear naked and vulnerable before the viewer, and yet the artist himself describes their sightlessness as transcendent, a reference to a harrowing experience his sister once underwent in Guantánamo after one attempt to emigrate to the U.S.

“At the time my sister was trying to get out of Cuba. She tried to get out through the water because her boyfriend was trying to bring her over here and she got sent back to Guantánamo two times,” Avila said. “She almost died, and they cut off her hair just to be assholes with her. I was doing an illustration at the time just about depression and so I did this woman with her hair wrapped around her face.”

Avila explains most of the story from inside of his studio, a modestly sized, brightly painted room located in the heart of Wynwood. Walking in you can see the artist’s half-finished paintings dotting the main wall that runs along the interior. A pile of surreal-looking prints rest in the corner. The apartment building it’s housed in is also home to the studios of his colleagues, many of whom he spoke about as having an influence over his body of work.

“I think [it’s] one of the most important things as an artist. Especially when I was at Art Center what I learned was [being influenced by] other artists.” Avila said.

Like him, some of these individuals feel conflicted over the commodification of Wynwood’s art scene and the ensuing gentrification of the area. The popularity that events like Art Basel bring to the neighborhood creates more substantial opportunities for urban artists to work and promote themselves, especially when corporate sponsorship becomes a viable reality.

But all that promotion comes at a cost, mainly that the rise in property values now mean that a significant portion of Wynwood’s local artists can no longer afford to live in the same neighborhoods that their murals have helped to commercialize in the first place.


“I think artists should be paid a good amount of money to do what they do because it takes time and it’s hard, you know? If people appreciate it then [they] should appreciate it by helping.” Avila said. “That’s why I feel like I have a responsibility to make sure that happens, especially now that I’m getting lucky enough to get some projects and [have] some people like my work.”

A recent exhibition of Avila’s entitled Paradox Lost ran almost a month ago as part of an Art Walk experience originally hosted by Minimax Events. The display was held at the Mana Production Village, a raw space popular in the area for accommodating everything from art openings to film crews.

Aside from the show, one of Avila’s upcoming public projects includes plans to beautify a local apartment complex sometime in October. His intent is to turn the space into a hybridized showcase for both fine art and street art, one style juxtaposing the other in a strange marriage of aesthetic to functionality.

Collaborating with him on the project will be Reinier Gamboa, another Wynwood artist well known for his figurative painting style and use of religious and tropical iconography.

A contemporary of Avila’s, the Cuban-born Gamboa also spent his youth at New World. His body of work has been exhibited everywhere from the non-profit Locusts Project in Miami to the Nucleus Gallery in California.

“I want to be a fine artist that does walls,” Avila said at one point, explaining the changing nature of his field’s accessibility to the general public, “If you think about it that’s what artists do in their careers. They start by canvas and then later on in their life they do a mural somewhere. I want it to be the other way around.”

Photos: Bea Sampaio/ Rise News

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