From mojitos to local flora and fauna — artists embraced South Florida at Coconut Grove Festival
Thousands of people attended the latest Coconut Grove Arts Festival, perusing work from an estimated 280 artists from South Florida and far beyond.
Local artist Ivan Roque was invited by organizers to be one of five featured artists that painted murals during the event over the long President's Day weekend.
Roque said that living in Miami constantly pushes him as an artist. He alluded to events like the festival and Art Basel, that invite other talented artists from around the country and global, and said attending them makes him want to “level-up” his art.
"It's really nice to see how the festival has embraced us muralists and street artists, to bring us on board and paint for the people," Roque said. "They get a chance to take in the art as it's being made and understand the grand-scale of it."
Roque’s mural was inspired by South Florida’s colorful flora and fauna, with a nod to the University of Miami’s green and orange. His signature style is seen in the vines that he incorporates throughout his work.
“The vines represent the energy and connection between us all,” Roque said. “The most important aspect of the vines are the thorns — the obstacles that get put in life. That’s what makes us sharp … makes us who we are ultimately.”
Out of town artists also praised the festival as they exhibited their work on McFarlane Road.
Sarah Collier is a mixed-media artist from Wilmington, North Carolina. This was her 10th year exhibiting — and the season opener for what she described as her “carnival person” lifestyle of touring art shows around the country. She said one of the best things about the festival is being able to take in and learn about different types of art in the span of a few hours.
“It gives artists an opportunity to be in control of how their work is seen,” Collier said. “Obviously, the one-on-one talks you can have with people, you just can't get that in any other way selling artwork.”
She combines graphic design, painting and collages to create one-of-one pieces ranging from $700 to $6,000. Collier leans heavily on feminism and social justice, creating “tongue in cheek satire” about societal standards. Although there are specific motifs, she prefers to let viewers interpret and create their own meaning behind her art.
“There was a lot of graphic design that was done in the 60s and 70s that was very standard ‘what a woman should look like, what they should be doing,’” Collier said. “I’ve drawn from that and spun it into a satirical commentary on women’s worth.”
“I don’t really like saying, ‘This is what this art is about.’ I like people to determine their own understanding … spinning it in the direction that they need it to be."Sarah Collier, Artist at Coconut Grove Arts Festival
Most of Collier’s collectors this year were repeat buyers, some of which brought family members and friends to purchase pieces as well. Serena Tibbitt, a Miami Shores resident, stopped by Collier’s booth to rave about her latest artwork. Tibbitt purchased a piece from Collier three years ago at the festival.
”I just saw a piece I instantly fell in love with that was themed to an old theme park in Orlando that doesn't exist anymore, Cyprus Gardens, but I went to growing up as a kid," Tibbitt said, "It really reminded me of my childhood.”
Tibbitt enjoys bringing her nine-year-old daughter, who loves to draw, to the festival. She says being able to meet the artists makes it special for them.
Julia Gilmore’s first exhibition at the festival meant a drastic change in scenery from her home in the mountains of Jefferson, New Hampshire. This is her third of five art show stops in Florida. She applauded the event’s organization, which brought her “fabulous” foot traffic and exposure.
“The people walking around at the show are all very art savvy,” Gilmore said. “This is exactly why I promote and sell my art this way versus with an art gallery … I love the solitude of the studio and the peace and quiet of creating, but I also love connecting with people.”
Her pieces are original oil paintings made with a palette knife instead of a brush — a technique that adds texture and creates a three-dimensional feel. She has found an infinite source of inspiration in a “world filled with an intense beauty even in mundane everyday objects.”
"Artists are always living in fear they’re going to run out of subject matter. I got that figured,” Gilmore said. “I only paint things I like — and I like a lot of stuff! Other people like the stuff I paint and life, so it’s one big happy circle.”
Gilmore created a Miami series ahead of the festival that depicts “this Northern New Hampshire gal’s vision” of what the magic city is like. The bold colors and motifs have resonated with locals, according to Gilmore. She also painted Texas-inspired pieces for her upcoming shows in the lone star state.