Tuesday, May 10, 2011
40th Anniversary of Miami-Dade County Public Library's Permanent Art Collection
Library system’s art collection a little-known asset. (Miami Herald, 5/7/2011)
Excerpt: In 1963, long before there was a thriving international art scene in South Florida, Margarita Cano — an exiled librarian and museum guide from Havana whose resume included cataloging items at the island’s eclectic Napoleonic Museum, owned by a sugar magnate — found work at the old Miami library in Bayfront Park.
“It was a wonderful library, but there was not one thing on the walls,” remembers Cano, 79. “I thought, why not bring art?”
She began to tap players in South Florida’s fledgling art world with an enthusiastic pitch about libraries being perfect places to showcase art. She also staged low-cost exhibitions, made small purchases of limited prints to display permanently, and soon, enthusiastic library patrons, artists and collectors began to donate more works.
She gave space and visibility to newly-arrived Cuban refugees and to emerging African American artists who might not otherwise have been able to exhibit their work. When the shows’ runs ended, the grateful artists — homegrown talents such as Overtown’s Purvis Young and budding national stars such as Carlos Alfonzo, who fled Cuba on the Mariel boatlift of 1980 — donated significant works to the library system.
Forty-some years later, the Miami-Dade Public Library System houses a distinguished Permanent Art Collection that tells the story of the region’s art history and chronicles South Florida’s social anxieties and milestones — from language wars and racial and ethnic divides to celebrations of history and heritage. Only a handful of public libraries around the nation can claim such a legacy.