COVID may have decimated the live vibrant arts scene globally. But creators are finding exciting ways to showcase their exhibitions in a time of social distancing. One such city at the forefront of bringing back art is Miami, US.
South Miami-Dade Arts Center opened its doors for the first time this week in ten months. An outdoor performance by Dimensions Dance Theater Of Miami was held on the outside concert lawn. The solution? Limiting the usual capacity of 1200 to 200 with the audience in pods of two. This is now the ‘new normal,’ at least for the time being.
There is no doubt the arts scene has struggled. Miami-Dade cultural affairs director Michael Spring revealed last year that budget slashes and job cuts had hit hard, with nearly 16,000 jobs lost since March. The loss of ticket sales was at an estimated $99 million back in September last year. However, it’s led to a wealth of more individual artists and photographers getting a chance to flex their creative muscles. When they may have been seen and not heard in the noise of Art-Basel.
One such creative is Reni Arias. Usually, in March, he is taking reportage-style photos of Miami’s Ultra Music Festival. However, due to COVID restrictions, it’s looking highly likely its stages will be shut to the usual 70,000 crowd. Reni’s solution? He is showcasing a selection of images taken over the last five years of the festival. A specialist in taking candid images documenting street life, his work focuses on capturing what people are feeling and their connection in an instantaneous moment.
Reni said: “The Ultra Music Festival is such a huge part of Miami culture. I wanted to capture the sense of freedom people experienced. My work is to remind people we were once unified and carefree. And give them the hope we can be again. What’s great about Ultra is all walks and tribes can be together celebrating in dance. It’s a place where people from so many different backgrounds who are inspired by different things can converge. We need to feel that sense of freedom again.”
The exhibition, called ‘Freestate,’ was named after his favorite song by the British band Depeche Mode. It also features on their album ‘Ultra,’ which the Miami music festival is named after.
Reni’s last Miami-based exhibition was Miami Power, held at Hippie Haven Art Space in 2020, just before the start of the pandemic. It showcased his work on “the next generation of artists” with Puerto Rican, Latin, and African backgrounds. Well respected in his native Venezuela, Reni has been featured in more than 20 exhibitions. Reni, originally from Coro, Venezuela, started taking photos when he was nine years old. He became well known in his native country for his ability to showcase the decay of the beautiful buildings of the city against the backdrop of economic turmoil. His story is the perfect illustration of how art is pivoting into a different medium in this time of COVID. And the cancellation of big organized art events is even seen as a blessing in disguise by some, despite the job losses. With its new intimate approach, it’s allowing independent and forward-thinking creatives to shine in the arts scene.