An exhibit at the Art Deco Museum on Miami Beach’s Ocean Drive features chairs as works of art—but not regular household chairs.
In an effort to restore and revive interest in the Miami Marine Stadium, which has sat deserted on the edge of the historic Virginia Key Beach since 1992, the advocacy organization Restore Marine Stadium distributed its seats to local artists.
A total of 60 seats were picked up from the stadium three years ago by the organization as part of a crowdfunding campaign by Heineken USA called “Save Your Seat,” which removed hundreds of chairs from the stadium.
“From 1992 to current time, hundreds of artists came in there and graffitied the Miami Marine Stadium,” said Angela Shlyakhov, one of the curators and a representative of the organization. “So it was a natural fit for the artists to go forward and to create with their artworks.”
The pieces vary in shape and size: some kept their shape as chairs and were painted over, others were taken apart completely and transformed into sculptures. All resemble a piece of South Florida culture.
Local graffiti artist Adam Thompson contributed to the exhibit, called “If Seats Could Talk.” Straying from graffiti, he designed a woodwork sculpture that hangs on the wall of the museum.
“I went to a machine shop where some friends of mine work and they used a bunch of different power tools to help me disassemble it,” said Thompson. “Then I attached it to a wooden board—it took a while.”
Thompson took apart the almost 60-year-old wooden chair and spread out all the individual nuts and bolts on a neon blue painted board. With added neon yellow and pink, the piece resembles Miami Beach’s vibrant Art Deco colors.
“I would describe it as a love letter to the Miami Marine Stadium,” said Thompson. “A thank you note for the inspiration and knowledge that it imparted me with in my career as an artist.”
Another piece in the exhibit is by Alfredo Cappelli and George Hernandez. They attached a cage to the bottom of the painted chair and filled it with recycled plastic that they found in the ocean. Titled “Ocean-na-sia,” their aim was to raise awareness about water pollution.
The “If Seats Could Talk” project was co-founded by Don Worth of Restore Marine Stadium over a decade ago. Along with the Miami Design Preservation League, they presented the exhibit for the first time this year in late April.
The City of Miami commissioners voted in 2016 to borrow $45 million to restore the Miami Marine Stadium, but no major restoration has begun.
“We expect that over the upcoming year, the Miami City Commission will take several more commission votes on the stadium's restoration,” said Shylakhov. “That is why generating awareness of the Marine Stadium is so important right now.”
The exhibit will run until Sept. 9. With only 12 artworks presented at the Art Deco Museum, the curators and organizers of the project plan on finding a place for the four dozen other chairs made into art.
“We took these old seats that weren’t really doing anything they were just sitting there,” said Shlyakhov. “We gave them to artists, great artists… and they’ve created artworks and a lot of them want to exhibit everywhere.”