So now I am making my 5oth blog post. It is precisely 6:19 am on a dark Saturday morning as I start this. My house is quiet and empty. I am alone here with my dogs, my thoughts and my memories. Looking at my notebook from the excellent memoir-writing workshop I took with Greg Bottoms in early May 2011 at Florida Center for the Literary Arts at Miami Dade College , now part of The Center @ MDC, I begin to blog.
Today, I thought I would blog about the day I made my final trip to the newsroom of The Miami Herald. It seems to make sense, now that the Herald building has been sold. In about two years it will be gone from the face of Miami, and I suppose all that will be left of the newsroom that was once there (although I'm told it will reappear some place else in Miami) are the memories people have of that place where so many people once worked so very hard and told so many, many stories in the service of prize-winning print journalism--or for that matter, reviewed so many art exhibits and profiled so many artists and other art world denizens. (Actually, that is an expression I always wanted to use in my Herald copy, but don't think I ever did. But now, with my blog, who is stopping me??)
First things first: More visual arts news in Miami
My artcentric buddy George Sanchez Calderon has just emailed me about this promising exhibition: "Daniel Newman Puente/Texas Flickers" at Tomorrowland, 1368 N. Miami Ave, Sept. 18 to Oct. 8; opening reception is Sept. 18, 8 pm to midnight; for more info email email@example.com
Hey George, thanks a bunch for keeping me in the loop. That very smart, very busy Arthur Dunkleman is one exceptional curator! (Oh, Arthur, why did I never get to profile you for the Herald when I had the chance??!! And, yes, George, it would have been lots of fun, I am quite sure, to profile you also. There are, however, some people in Miami that I am absolutely thrilled that now I will NEVER even have to THINK about profiling!!!...If you are reading this, you know who you are.) Arthur tells me about this reception: "On the Edge of Light: Preview" is Thurs. Sept. 22, 6 to 8 pm at Maor Gallery, 3030 NE 2nd Ave., Miami, with artist's talk and presentation at 6:30 pm and at 7 pm L'Chaim toast welcoming the Jewish new year 5772 by guest of honor Stewart Merkin. Then at 7:15 there's a performance by Fernando Calzadilla. RSVP firstname.lastname@example.org Look for these artists in this exhibit curated by Arthur the Extraordinaire: Tina Spiro, Fernando Calzadilla, Paul Stoppi, Janet Slom, Yasmin Spiro. "On the Edge of Light" will take place during Miami Art Week and Art Basel Miami Beach 2011. For more info see www.MaorMiami.org
Note this 9/12/2011 news flash from the very helpful Cuban Art News service. So glad I get their emails too! Jose Bedia is having a retrospective at the Fowler Museum at the University of California's Los Angeles campus. See www.fowler.ucla.edu Show is "Transcultural Pilgrim: Three Decades of Work by Jose Bedia." Also "Fowler in Focus: Bedia Selects" puts on public view more than 30 seldom-displayed objects in the Fowler collection from Central Africa. You can see them through Jan. 8, 2012. Cuban Art News service is a fab project from the Farber Foundation, started by one of my fab artcentric friends and collector, Howard Farber and his wife. See www.cubanartnews.com So glad I got to meet him too when I worked for the Herald, and it is so nice that now that I now longer work for the Herald we keep in touch via email.
This just in from another fab email buddy from my Herald days: Gean Moreno. He sent me his September [NAME] Newsletter: Look for the launch party/fundraiser at Gallery Diet www.gallerydiet.com on Wednesday, Sept. 28 at 7 pm; gallery address is 174 NW 23rd St. in Wynwood. Among the artists [NAME] is working with this year: Hernan Bas, Bhakti Baxter, Christy Gast, Bert Rodriguez. They'll be at the New York Book Fair at the end of this month. Most of [NAME] publications are at this site http://www.namepublications.org/multiples.html
Congrats to NWSA! New World School of the Arts celebrates its 25th anniversary! A highlight from its email newsletter: NWSA's art history curriculum is now becoming much more impressive thanks to this cool collaboration with the Bass Museum of Art (I remember when I used to give NWSA tons of art books that publishers fairly inundated with me at the Herald--those were "review copies" that of course there was never space for me to cover in the newspaper. Wonder what is happening to them now....but I just love it that this is NOT MY PROB anymore!) . Now there's a one-year art history seminar for every first year student in NWSA's Visual Arts College Program. As of this month, 40 students will come to the Bass once a week for a two-hour course taught by Dr. Adrienne von Lates , Director of Education at the Bass.
Mario Algaze is having a show at Throckmorton Gallery , 145 E. 57th St., 3rd floor, in New York City. Opening reception is Thurs., Nov. 10, from 6 to 8 pm. "Mario Algaze: Forty Years" presents four decades of his truly stunning and perceptive photography in the Caribbean and Latin America. Note that his art is collected by many museums, including Houston Museum of Fine Art, Norton Simon Museum, Cleveland Museum of Art. So glad that I recently saw his gorgeous photographs at Dina Mitrani Gallery in Wynwood. There's a book to accompany his New York gallery show: Mario Algaze: Portfolio, published in 2010, price is $125.
Miami's Museum of Contemporary Art aka MOCA announces its many programs for the fall. Note "Contemporary Art Boot Camp," a lecture series by MOCA curators and art professionals, which covers key figures, themes and trends in contemporary art. Jillian Hernandez, Moca's Outreach Coordinator and PhD candidate in Women's and Gender Studies at Rutgers University, will present "(Re)thinking Sex Through Contemporary Art: The Politics of Scandal, Pleasure and Disappointment." (Can't WE ALL relate to those issues??!!) This two-part lecture series, presented Oct. 19 and Nov. 16, will draw from queer theory and interdisciplinary sexuality studies to examine the way contemporary art affects the way we think about sex. "Contemporary Art Boot Camp" is $10 for members and $15 for non-members. MOCA is located at 770 NE 125th St., North Miami. For more info, call 305-893-6211 or see www.mocanomi.org
Emilio Sanchez is celebrated in a new monograph and current exhibit at Bronx Museum of the Arts. Sanchez (1921-1999) is a Cuban-born American artist well worth celebrating. Try your hardest not to miss this presentation of Hard Light: The Work of Emilio Sanchez and book signing with author Rafael Diazcasas and editor Ann Koll happening in Miami at my totally fave bookstore ( Mitchell Kaplan: whatever would Miami do without you??) Books & Books, 265 Aragon Ave, Coral Gables on Wed., Oct. 5 at 8 pm. For more info, call 305-442-4408 or see www.booksandbooks.com Also see www.emiliosanchezfoundation.org Note also that "Urban Archives: Emilio Sanchez in the Bronx" is on view through Jan. 2, 2012 at Bronx Museum of the Arts, 1040 Grand Concourse at 165th St., Bronx, NY. For more info, call 718-681-6000 or see www.bronxmuseum.org
For sure don't miss the grand opening of South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center on Oct. 1 and 2, 10950 SW 211 St., Cutler Bay. For tkt info call 786-573-5300 or see www.smdac.org This $15 million multi-disciplinary performing arts center sounds extremely exciting and I for one cannot wait to see it!
Rogelio Lopez Marin (aka Gory) is showing "Selected Photographs, 1985-1994" at Farside Gallery, 1305 Galloway Rd. (87th Ave.) in Miami Sept. 21-Oct. 28. Opening reception is Sat. Sept. 24, from 7 to 9 pm. This show can be seen by appt on weekdays, 11 am to 5 pm. The totally terrific and totally fab Farside Gallery is elegantly and graciously sponsored by Mosquera Orthodontics.
Also this just in from another fab artcentric friend, David Rohn. He tells me about the opening reception for "David Rohn: Small, Medium, Large" at 7-11 pm Sept. 23, 2011 at Carol Jazzar Contemporary Art, 158 NW 91 St, in Miami. At the opening you will see his "installation-cum-performance." He explained it in much more interesting detail than I have time to go into in my blog, unfortunately. Carol Jazzar has a very cool gallery in Miami Shores, but David, dahlink, I could not see the address on your email! Maybe it was my fault, and I missed it. Anyway, I think you are so clever and so interesting and so amusing that I googled the address and website for my blog. See www.cjazzart.com (After all that, hope I got it right! If not, readers can always post a comment on my blog with corrections and clarifications.)
Well, it is about 8:06 am on Sunday, Sept. 18 and I am getting really bleary-eyed. I have been blogging off and on since yesterday morning. I am getting too tired to count how many hours I have been doing this, so I am just going to stop and double-check my facts for the umpteenth time. Would, however, like to add that Robert Huff and Barbara Young and I had a totally fab and fascinating evening at Art and Culture Center of Hollywood yesterday when we heard Shamin M. Momin deliver the inaugural lecture for the center's very cool Hot Topics Discussion series. She is such a charming and smart curator. No wonder she has accomplished so much! She even remembered meeting me several years ago at a fall barbeque party at the home of Debra and Dennis Scholl. Finally, I guess at about 8:48 am on Sunday, Sept. 18, I am ready to publish this blog entry. Also ready for some real breakfast and another cup of coffee!!
I am typing here what I wrote by hand during my final and very productive "free writing" session in that memoir-writing workshop in May 2011. I have revised it somewhat--maybe you know how writers are, we always want to do something extra to our copy...
Miami Art Critic Makes Final Trip to Herald Newsroom by Elisa Turner
I had often dreamed about the day I would go back, almost the way I have dreamed about returning to the actual yellow brick building where I graduated from high school in 1970 in Shelbyville, Illinois. In my dreams, I can hear the clatter of lockers slamming shut and feel how tense I became when I could not get my stubborn combination lock on the locker to open. Shelbyville High School is very different now. Because of the school's declining student population, a kindergarten now occupies the place where there was once a huge study hall during my freshman year. It was always packed to capacity then.
So would the Herald newsroom be very different when I went back? I wanted to see if the charming and riveting photos documenting Miami's upstart and colorful past would still be displayed prominently along a corridor in the newsroom connecting the Metro section to the Sports section.
Would there be the odd, sweet black-and-white photograph of a little Micosukee girl standing on an alligator? Maybe I would finally have time to see if there was a date on that photo. Would there be the famous shot of the Cuban rafters, their mouths wide open in anguished cries, their faces dripping with sweat and tears, their arms reaching out for help that might not come or grabbing flimsy inner tubes in desperation as they bounced along in the crystalline blue waves of the merciless Florida Straits?
Would there still be the three TV monitors hanging from the ceiling, the colorful talking heads looming over the backs of print journalists ever mindful of how the 24-hour cycle of breaking news was forever changing their business, diminishing their livelihood?
Would I see if the glass-windowed conference room, with its spectacular picture postcard view of MacArthur Causeway arching over Biscayne Bay, was still named, as I recalled, the Knight Conference Room? I remember stitting at the head of the conference table inside that room, outlining my plans for how the Herald could cover the first Art Basel Miami Beach in 2002.
I never found out the answers to these questions on the day in 2009 I made my last walk through The Miami Herald newsroom. I was too focused on accomplishing my mission. Yet questions like these still haunt my dreams and disturb my sleep.
"I used to work here," I say firmly to the guard inside the entrance to The Miami Herald building at One Herald Plaza. It is a gray, muggy midsummer morning in Miami. This is my final visit to the Herald building. I hand him my photo ID as I am about to walk through the metal detector. I place my purse on the conveyor belt for hand-held packages.
The guard looks skeptically at my photo ID, which says Miami Herald, INDEPENDENT, ELISA TURNER, FEATURES CONTRACTOR. He turns it over in his calloused hands.
"They didn't ask for this back?" he grunts. My heart leaps to my throat. After all the legal effort that has been expended for me to get to this point, I am absolutely not going to turn in my Herald ID to a guard who has no idea about how long and hard I have worked for this newspaper.
"No, I still have my ID," I say in a firm, even tone of voice. I reach for my ID back. I tell him the name of the woman with whom I have an appointment that day. "She's expecting me, " I say.
And with that, I briskly walk through the metal detector, retrieve my purse from the conveyor belt, and press my ID card on the metal plate next to the glass security door at the inner entrance to the Herald lobby on the ground floor. The door opens immediately and I walk through. I walk quickly to the elevator, step inside, and I push the elevator button for the fifth floor for the last time.
When the elevator door opens on the fifth floor where the newsroom is located, I hardly recognize this lobby. It gleams with a new, clean coat of off-white paint. I don't recall seeing that day the framed Pulitzer awards or the famous page one headlines from the past.
My walk through the newsroom to the library is eerie. It gives me the creeps. Ceiling lights are dim or non-existent. Rows of desks are empty. Computer screens are black, rows and rows of them. They look like death warmed over. No phones are ringing. I see hardly a soul. A ghostly pall hangs over this place that once hummed with hectic activity. I am shocked to realize I barely recognize the newsroom as I walk the about five-minute trip it takes to reach the Herald library. It actually makes my skin crawl. A knot in my stomach tightens.
I shove these feelings out of my mind. "Stay calm," I tell myself. "Be focused and clear. You have a mission." Yes, I do. I own the copyright to all my work for The Miami Herald for 21 years. I am there, I remind myself, to get my goddamn stuff back. It is mine, and I want it.
Nevertheless, the place feels like a morgue. Death hangs in the air. As usual, the air-conditioning is uncomfortably high, only adding to the creepy, gloomy, deadening atmosphere of the place, so silent and virtually empty.
At last I reach the library. The woman I am there to meet smiles and shows me a desk where I can accomplish my task. She shows me how to use the Herald's library computers so I can download all my stories for The Miami Herald onto my own flashdrive. I am not totally sure what year I began writing for the paper although I know I stopped in 2007. We determine that my first story was in 1986. I start the process of downloading it all on my five-gigabyte flashdrive.
That day I bring two flashdrives with me. I do the downloading twice on two separate flashdrives, just to make sure nothing is lost, that I will never lose access to this part of my life again.
Seeing all the titles with my byline intact, year by year, is comforting. (I was so hurt to realize that my byline had been "disappeared" from my stories archived on the Herald website, but I am sort of getting over that, or basically getting used to the fact that this hurt will never completely go away.) It's also something of a shock to see my stories flash by so quickly, as I click on them each to be downloaded on my flashdrives. They flicker past on one computer "page" after another. It is almost like seeing my life pass before my eyes. I am reminded of people and events I wrote about so long ago that I had forgotten them until this moment.
There is no time to read, to pick and choose. Now that I am there, I want it all. Everything. All my "data," as Ana, my personal computer "techie," calls it. She carefully prepped me for this moment.
I am determined not to be distracted by nostalgia or sentiment today.
The whole process takes, I think, about two hours. Or maybe less. Or maybe a little more. I honestly am not sure. I am sure that it was an utterly surreal experience.
After I complete my task, I suppose I should feel elated. But I don't. I feel quietly relieved but also drained and flat, almost a kind of gray to match the heavy gray clouds hanging over Miami that humid summer day.
Then I walk back to the newsroom and stop to chat briefly with my two dear friends, Kathy and Margaria, who are working in the cold and lonely Features department. They are happy to see me, knowing why I am there that day. I notice that the two window offices in that department are closed and dark. The offices look as if no one has used them for quite some time. That is where the editors who ran the Features department, including my last editor who called me "too artcentric," used to sit.
I make my way quickly to the elevator. I can't wait to leave this gloomy place. Inside the elevator, I push the button for the ground floor. When the elevator opens, I head for the doors to leave the building. As I step outside and breathe in the hot, muggy air, I don't look back.
Then I walk to my car, leave the almost empty Herald parking lot, and drive home. I am exhausted. Every now and then as I drive, I cast a quick look over at my purse, which I have placed securely on the passenger seat next to me. Inside, I know, are those two five-gigabyte flashdrives with all my "data, " next to my Herald photo ID.
"Fuck The Miami Herald," I think.