MIAMI BEACH, FLA.-
With ideas ranging from large-scale exhibitions to projects on sustainability, immigration and cultural criticism, 45 artists are sharing $500,000 in funding as winners of The Ellies, Miami's Visual Arts Awards.
Among them is artist Karen Rifas, who is receiving the Michael Richards Award, created to honor a Miami-based eminent artist. Rifas, who recently achieved distinction with a powerful one-person exhibition at The Bass, has taught many of Miami-Dade's practicing artists over the years. She will receive a no-strings-attached award of $75,000, and a commission by Oolite Arts
to be exhibited at The Bass.
Presented by Oolite Arts, The Ellies celebrate and elevate Miami artists by helping them bring a significant artistic project to life.
"Ambitious and innovative, these projects show the depth in Miami's visual arts community, and the talent that has helped to define this city," said Dennis Scholl, president and CEO of Oolite Arts. "Oolite Arts was created to 'help artists help themselves,' as our founder Ellie Schneiderman likes to say. This funding helps their ideas, and careers, take flight."
The awards, presented at a celebration at The Bass, are named for Schneiderman, who had the foresight to turn empty storefronts on Lincoln Road into artist studios. Today, Oolite Arts is one of the largest artist support organizations in Miami, with a recent expansion of its programming to include The Ellies, a traveling residency program called Home and Away, a Cinematic Arts Residency, the lecture series Talks (presented in partnership with Locust Projects), and more exciting initiatives.
The Ellies are bestowed in three categories: the Creator Award, which offers project grants to realize a significant visual arts project; Teacher Travel Grants, which enable art teachers to have an art experience in another city or country that they can use to enrich the classroom experience; and the Michael Richards Award, which honors one of the city's eminent artists.
Creator Awards: 39 grants ranging from $2,500 to $25,000
The projects will create artistic impact all over Miami-Dade County. They include an art space in Little Haiti dedicated to Haitian culture, an original score derived from the sounds of Miami's many accents, an immersive installation for drivers going through a car wash, and a large-scale drawing depicting the oldest known site of Paleolithic human presence south of Lake Okeechobee.
Additional areas of artistic focus include:
Accessibility and sustainability: David McCauley will present a visual exploration of transit in Miami, from the point of view of an artist who commutes regularly in a wheelchair; and Federico Uribe will create a floor-to-ceiling installation of the sea made from the plastic often found polluting it.
Immigration: Liene Bosquê will offer community hammock-weaving workshops that provide a space to talk about immigration; and Maria Ramirez will produce a new film that is a love letter to the plight of immigrants, as they live in secrecy, yet search for belonging in South Florida.
Life in Miami: Terence Price II's photo project follows an African-American family's journey through four Miami area cities, and explores the evolution of black life here; and Liz Ferrer will create a queer, Latinx music video album that brings diverse voices to the traditionally male genre of reggaeton.
Michael Richards Award: $75,000 for an eminent artist
Karen Rifas receives this year's Michael Richards Award. This award was created in tribute to Michael Richards (1963-2001), an incisive, provocative and poetic artist whose body of work primarily addresses racial inequity and social injustice. An Oolite Arts alum, Richards passed away tragically in his art studio in the World Trade Center during the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
The award of $75,000 celebrates a Miami-Dade artist who has created a recognized body of high-quality works, and who is achieving the highest levels of professional distinction in the visual arts through their practice. The award will support this practice over a two-year period, including a commission to create a work of art to be exhibited at The Bass.
Rifas, who was chosen by a jury of national and local artists and curators, has amassed a body of work that endeavors to understand and reimagine space. Well known for her minimal cord and leaf installations, and precise, methodical line drawings, Rifas began a focused exploration into the constructive possibilities of color in 2016. Her most recent solo exhibition, at The Bass.
in 2018, opened to acclaim, and follows solo shows at the Museum of Art and Design at Miami Dade College, the de la Cruz Collection and the Savannah College of Art and Design. Teacher Travel Grants: Five awards of $5,000.
The five Miami-Dade K-12 visual art teachers awarded these travel grants receive $5,000 each to travel anywhere in the world to have artistic experiences they can bring back to their classroom to help cultivate tomorrow's visual arts aficionados.
Teachers will travel to Indonesia to learn to create shadow puppetry, to Japan to learn the history of anime, and more.