Since the 1980s, Miami has experienced a magical transformation from cultural wasteland to global destination for contemporary art. Greater Fort Lauderdale also enchants with the arts and entertainment, investing more than $200 million in new metro-area cultural facilities since the 1990s.  

With both destinations also investing in convention center expansions and headquarter hotels, this cultural vibrancy, reason alone to visit, memorably enhances the multi-dimensional group appeal.

Fort Lauderdale Promotes Quality of Life Through Arts

Closely tied to economic development, quality of life is a strategic priority in Greater Fort Lauderdale and Broward County, with major drivers including the arts, culture and entertainment.

The Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB’s unique “Underground”-branded Film, Music, Fashion & Create division has dramatically elevated the destination’s cultural identity and appeal.

[Related Content: Q&A With Noelle Stevenson on South Florida's Arts Boom]

This rising international profile includes events like January’s inaugural Art & Design Week, anchored by the third-annual Art Fort Lauderdale. The increasingly important live-music scene includes the Riptide Music Festival and this April’s eighth annual Rock the Ocean’s Tortuga Music Festival, with headliners that include Kenny Chesney and Flo Rida.

“Our vibrant arts and culture scene makes it easy to inspire attendees,” said Ed Simon, the Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB’s senior vice president of convention sales and services. “The destination is filled with hidden gems and convention-defying creative hot spots, such as FATVillage (Flagler Arts and Technology), Fort Lauderdale’s creative incubator and arts district, and the Downtown Hollywood Mural Project, which offers a great backdrop for teambuilding.

"We can connect you with thought leaders and experts from our cultural hubs and other industries, such as technology, marine, aviation and the life sciences. Embrace the unconventional and become an architect of imagination in Greater Fort Lauderdale.”

Local dreamers include developer Doug McCraw. Around the time that Tony Goldman was re-envisioning Wynwood, McCraw began reimagining four blocks of former auto repair shops and warehouses just above downtown Fort Lauderdale as artistic “wonderlands.” 

Today, his FATVillage has put Fort Lauderdale on the national art map.

The booming neighborhood’s attractions include restaurants, bars, coffee shops and the ArtWalk celebration on the last Saturday of each month. Rentals include indoor warehouse and gallery space, and an outdoor courtyard surrounded by murals.

FATVillage ARTWALK, Credit: Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB
FATVillage ARTWALK, Credit: Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB

In 2011, Arron Rimpley and Gregg Whittecar began transforming the dilapidated Graves Museum of Archeology and Natural History into a visionary new cultural space.

Opened in 2012, their Gallery of Amazing Things offers 40,000 square feet of gallery and event space for diverse corporate and social gatherings.     

Housed in a fetching Modernist building in downtown’s Riverwalk Arts & Entertainment District, the visual arts-focused NSU Art Museum, from 1958, offers versatile event hosting and teambuilding art classes with professional instructors. The 22-block district also offers the Florida Grand Opera and multivenue Broward Center for the Performing Arts.  

Other metro-area venues include the historic Parker Playhouse, Miramar Cultural Center, Symphony of the Americas and Art and Culture Center of Hollywood. Broward County’s own internationally recognized Public Art & Design Program, which includes the Artist in Residence project at currently under-expansion Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. 

Culture Drives Innovation in Miami Beach

“Embedded in everything we do, art and culture together are a driving economic force that brings people to Miami and Miami Beach,” said Brandi Reddick, cultural affairs manager for the City of Miami Beach

The experience begins at Miami International Airport, where significant works include A Walk on the Beach. Seen by 40 million travelers each year, Michele Oka Doner’s 9,000-foot-long terrazzo walkway, inlaid with bronze and mother of pearl elements, evokes Miami’s natural environment and resources. 

The installation is one of some 700 site-specific works commissioned since 1973 under Miami-Dade County’s pioneering Art in Public Places (MDAPP) program.

Reddick, formerly MDAPP’s curator and artists manager, said that “art establishes a sense of place, which flows throughout the destination.”

That includes the Miami Beach Convention Center. December 2018's ribbon-cutting for the $620 million reimagined venue included the unveiling of German abstractionist Franz Ackermann’s exterior About Sand mural. Curated by Miami Beach’s own Art in Public Places Program, the work forms part of an unprecedented public art investment. 

“It’s the largest single commission by a municipal program in the nation,” Reddick said of the $7 million collection, with another five works from internationally renowned artists being installed this year.  

Discoveries surround and extend the convention campus. Frank Gehry’s event-capable New World Center, home of the New World Symphony, videocasts concerts on a 7,000-square-foot external projection wall for free public viewing in adjacent SoundScape park, which also hosts a free monthly outdoor yoga series. The venue’s sound and video installation Sonic Dreamscapes is another Art in Public Places commission.

Relaunched in 2017 following the $12 million expansion of its landmark 1930 Art Deco home, the Bass (1964) ranks among the Southeast’s premier contemporary art museums.  

Other group venues include The Fillmore Miami Beach at Jackie Gleason Theater; Florida International University’s (FIU) provocative Wolfsonian Museum; Miami City Ballet; and Miami New Drama, resident company of the 1935 Colony Theatre.

From Spanish Mediterranean to Art Deco, distinctive architecture, such as Morris Lapidus’s still-iconic Fontainebleau Hotel (1954), has long defined the scene.  Architecting the Miami look since 1977, trailblazing firm Arquitectonica contributed the wavy heat-reducing curtain wall and other elements at the reimagined Miami Beach Convention Center. 

The firm’s influence extends to Miami, where the compass of diverse cultural coordinates points in all directions.

Miami's Art Scene Remains Strong

Other Arquitectonica-designed group venues include the Miami Children’s Museum along the MacArthur Causeway, and downtown Miami’s waterfront American Airlines Arena. Neighboring the latter, Museum Park houses two preeminent institutions. 

Landscaped by ArquitectonicaGEO, the Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) features canopied outdoor plazas cascading with vegetation and modern indoor spaces.

Opened in 2017, the new $305 million Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science features a suspended, 500,000-gallon aquarium and panoramic outdoor space. Across the MacArthur Causeway, the globally renowned Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts was a major renaissance catalyst in 2006.

Imagined by late developer Tony Goldman around the year 2000, the arts-driven rebirth of Wynwood, a gritty former industrial zone in Miami’s core, has created a tourism blockbuster.

Opened in 2009, Wynwood Walls is an event-programmable open-air gallery featuring giant murals that extend throughout the multi-block neighborhood, where innovative operators include Plant the Future.

Wynwood Walls Mural by Ron English, Credit: Jeff Heilman
Wynwood Walls Mural by Ron English, Credit: Jeff Heilman

One of Miami’s most Instagrammed-spots, Paloma Teppa’s showroom showcases her amazing works of biophilic, or botanic, art. Clients for her living murals include hotels, restaurants and event planners. Preeminent cultural beacons include the Rubell Family Collection, hosting 600-capacity events, and Margulies Collection at the Warehouse.

In the nearby Design District, the tour-capable Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami is another influential draw. North Miami’s Museum of Contemporary Art hosts fundraisers, film showcases and special events.

Just south of downtown, Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is a circa-1916 Gilded-Age fantasy on Biscayne Bay featuring an art-filled Italianate villa and 10 acres of formal gardens. With grottos and the iconic stone barge among the discoveries, this national historic landmark accommodates indoor and outdoor events for up to 500 guests.

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, Credit: Jeff Heilman
Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, Credit: Jeff Heilman

Opened in 1935, Little Havana’s Ball & Chain is another local treasure. Live music, zesty food and cocktails and the giant pineapple-shaped backyard stage make for energetic private events. West of the airport, FIU’s Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum provides “transformative experiences through art” with event hosting for up to 500 guests.  

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