North Miami Merges Art with Change

When you visit Miami, you’re really visiting Miami Dade County, including a group of cities that anchor our community. North Miami is one of those cities.

Located north of the city of Miami, North Miami has a diversity of Haitian immigrants, a strong Jewish community, and a Latin community—all tributes to North Miami’s flavor.

Once known for film and a block known to carry beautiful antiques from around the world, the city is growing. High-rise condos and new homes are being built, and the downtown is being revitalized, but at the core of this change is art.

North Miami‘s mayor, Philippe Bien-Aime, is fortunate to have the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) North Miami as the city’s crown jewel. MOCA and the North Miami Community Redevelopment Association (CRA) ensure that Art is anchored among the new changes North Miami is experiencing.

For example, North Miami CRA created a program to place public art throughout the city, created by a diverse roster of some of South Florida‘s most dynamic artists, who happen to be of color—work that is interesting and represents the culture and heritage of this city. Art by South Florida’s Onajide Shabaka, Morel Doucet Stephen Arboite, and Corinne Stevie Francilus has graced the city’s urban landscape.

And what’s great is that these changes are not just lip service: residents enjoy free admission to MOCA, and the downtown Plaza is often buzzing with concerts filled with everything from jazz to Kompa. You always will find nods to this city’s dynamic cultural population and its mayor, who himself represents diversity.

Mayor Philippe Bien-Aime came to the United States from Haiti via Canada. Since his arrival, he has worked tirelessly for the residents of North Miami. He has made sure that the work he does serves everyone—while taking great care that the benefits available also are accessible to Black and Brown residents. It’s no easy feat to satisfy an entire community, but Mayor Bien-Aime makes it a part of his mission and works for the good of all.

North Miami is flourishing, and it’s not just seeing a rebirth, it’s adjusting the lens and making sure the inherent culture is a constant reflection of the new North Miami lifestyle. We talked with Mayor Bien-Aime about the exciting changes in the city and why Art and  culture are so meaningful.

Above: Mayor Philippe Bien-Aime in front of Onajide Shabaka’s installation Her Touch Smooths Rough Waters at Moca North Miami.
Sugarcane Magazine: Typically, when people revitalize cities, they use the arts to get people interested in coming to live and conduct business, which quickly prices those artists out. But not in North Miami. It seems like those same dance studios and galleries and restaurants not only have a place but are encouraged to stay. Why is that so important to the city?

The arts is very important to the City in the pursuit of revitalizing North Miami. Many projects that come to the City are subject to Miami-Dade County’s Art in Public Places provisions that requires developers to transmit 1.5% of project cost for all development on county land.

SM: Not many cities get a chance to boast of having an internationally known museum right in the midst of downtown and their government campus.  How is the city of Miami working with MOCA  to not only stay open but to continuously provide access to the Arts for your residents?

The revitalization of downtown NoMi and the surrounding area promises higher density, which will increase the demand for cultural and educational experiences. It will also generate new sources of municipal tax revenues. This is a great opportunity to secure the arts as an important part of North Miami. The support of art and MOCA should go hand-in-hand with the creation of new, well-designed public spaces.

SM: North Miami has evolved over the years. Since I’ve lived in the area, it was once known for film and had a film production studio. Even your Police Department was featured in an Eddie Murphy film. So, there’s always been an Art and culture presence. How do you plan on expanding that?
The City of North Miami is known as a film, arts and cuisine hub with over 70 businesses focused on music, video production and post production. The City receives permit requests regularly to film different projects. On December 14, 2021, the City agreed to enter into an inter-local agreement with the Miami-Dade County’s Office of Film to issue permits for film and still photography. This agreement will expand the City’s presence to over 2000 professionals in the filming and still photography industry.   

SM: What can South Florida’s Artist community expect to gain by moving their studios, galleries and culture businesses to North Miami?

Since opening in 1996, the award winning MOCA facility, designed by Charles Gwathmey of Gwathmey-Siegel Architects New York, has been a symbol of North Miami’s urban aspirations and identity.

Look how much has changed in the past 25 years: South Florida is now a global destination for contemporary art. Local art and museums are key drivers of economic development and the community’s character. The home-grown creative economy is spreading fast throughout Miami-Dade County. The local arts scene is bursting with energy, especially among the Caribbean and African communities. These vibrant communities are eager for cultural experiences that reflect that diversity. 
What does the future hold for the city, and what new projects can we expect?

Development is one of the many things to be expected in the City of North Miami’s future. There are many new development projects happening in South Florida and North Miami is at the top of the list as a top destination for development. A major project being planned in the City right now is the redevelopment of North Miami’s downtown area. The City is looking to redevelop the downtown through a Public-Private Partnership (P3). The goal of the redevelopment of downtown is to make downtown North Miami a walkable area with new mixed use commercial real estate, affordable and workforce housing, additional public and private parking along with a new City Hall, Police Station and an expansion to the MOCA museum.     

I know this is a difficult question, but I want an honest answer. Some friends are coming in from out of town, and they are visiting North Miami for the first time. What do you suggest they do, and where do you recommend they go?
I suggest guest visiting the city of North Miami to visit our award-winning MOCA to see the latest art exhibit ‘My Name is Maryan.’ I encourage them to take a walk in our downtown area to have lunch at our local restaurants, such as Café Crème. For some fun, they can visit world-renowned car collection of Dezerland located near our new Sole Mia development. There is always something to do in the City of North Miami and for all ages. 

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