Located in the historic 777 International Mall in Downtown Miami is Mana Contemporary Miami, a growing arts center dedicated to fostering the local creative community. Mana Contemporary promotes artistic diversity through public engagement. Stationed not only Miami but also in Chicago, and Jersey City, Mana Contemporary’s purpose is to provide artists with space and room to uninhibitedly express themselves. By hosting a number of artist studios, residency programs, performances, exhibitions, educational programs and much more, Mana Contemporary offers an expressionist society regarding Miami’s culture and lifestyle.
With a melting pot of local artists, you truly get a sense of heightened perspective of each individual’s dialect through their work. Inspired by their Miami surroundings, creators such as Laurencia Strauss infiltrate their work to reflect their niche. Strauss’ recent work is a collaboration with Jason Lazarus known as Sea Level Architectural Intervention Institute (S.L.R.A.I.I.) that was established in 2018. This portrayal is created to raise awareness of sea-level rise projection through models in both formal and institutional spaces. At Mana, you can see there are three installed sea level rise indicators around the building for the year 2118. In one hundred years, the elevations – 10’, 20’ and 30’ above mean sea level – are all possible scenarios.
I had the opportunity of talking with one of the in house artist’s Aryal Novak, who is a senior at the New World School of Art’s College. The second floor has about a quarter of its floor dedicated to the senior students of New World and allows them to work on their pieces and exhibitions for their upcoming shows.
Aryal let know that although most artists were gone for the summer, she decided to stay back and work on her pending project. I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek of her work and watch her intertwine the Divine Comedy and Miami. Now, for those of you who may not know, the Divine Comedy was written by Italian writer Dante Alighieri and was split up in 3 parts – Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise. Her work is inspired by the slow descent and then ascent that Dante takes throughout the divine comedy. The paintings lead the viewer through spaces that feel disorienting and transform the physical spaces that exist in real life into falsified ones. Aryal depicts this interpretation by emphasizing on Miami’s captivating cotton candy sunsets and scenery we all so cherish and love. You can check out Aryal Novak’s exhibition in October at the Books & Books in Coral Gables.
Another gem Mana Contemporary holds is Superchief Gallery, an artist-run gallery with the history of supporting artists from disparate scenes. Superchief is an extension of the cultural landscape in its most raw and honest form and invites anyone who is willing to break norms and barriers society failed to instill in them. You can find merchandise on the artist’s behalf, as well as marvel at the current projects of featured workings.
When you walk in you can see the current workings of Parker Day’s art series, “Possession”, bannered across the ceiling space that will leave you in complete awe. In regards to his piece, Parker Day expresses, “I believe when the distinct meanings of “reality” and “fantasy” erode into insignificance, we see our own supposed limitations are not absolute, and we can finally perceive unity between ourselves and others.” Day goes to show how once we free ourselves from the chains of our self-imposed restrictions, we ultimately embrace the beautiful madness within ourselves and others as well.
Mana is also home of the legendary Queef Latina’s, “Queef Enterprises”. Queef Latina takes the hustle of drag to new levels as a sewing instructor, drag performer, and also director and creator of Miami New Times ‘Best Festival of 2018’, Wigwood Miami. Queef Latina creates custom-made-to-order garments and costumes as well as instruct sewing classes at the Miami-Dade Public Library to children and at the Hotel Gaythering to adults – she also does private events! Named reader’s choice ‘Best Drag Queen’, Queef Latina has performed at the Perez Art Museum Miami, drag festivals such as Bushwig in Brooklyn, and has even worked alongside pop-star Charli XCX and designer Patricia Fields.
The 777 International Mall can add an extra notch on its belt for bringing home the new sanctuary for artists, Mana Contemporary. Although these are just a few of the highlighted creatives, Mana is full of influential artists who are more than willing to invite you into their world. It’s a perfect blend of beloved local outlets like Dale Zine, and emerging innovative thinkers. There truly is a sense of come as you are collectivism showcased in this building.
Miami New Times
While the spaces give these innovators the opportunity to work and promote their art, it also provides a sense of solace for people who are looking to not only escape but grow. Grow on their perspective, knowledge, and possibilities on what they believed one could accomplish. The building oozes with creation and inspiration on all three levels, it’s almost impossible to not leave the building bursting with excitement for what’s to come and what we can accomplish.
Cover photo by Refractologist.