A Day by Day Guide to Experience Miami Art Week 2017

In this Miami Art Week guide, you will find art that inspires Creative Unions. It’s the kind of art that is participatory, immersive, and intentional...the kind of art that is essentially an experience.
— Michelle Ivette Gomez, Founder of Creative Unions
Image:  Michelle Ivette Gomez, Founder of Creative Unions Event Design LLC in front of a mural by artist, Jose Mertz

Image: Michelle Ivette Gomez, Founder of Creative Unions Event Design LLC in front of a mural by artist, Jose Mertz

As a Miami native, I have had the privilege to grow up around the arts ever since I was a teenager dreaming of becoming a curator while at New World School of the Arts in Downtown, Miami. Ever since those high school days, I have seen Miami nurture my local artists community, seeing this city transform ever since Art Basel Miami Beach debuted in the early 2000’s.

I know we have great art all year round beyond Miami Art Week, but now is the time of the year to soak up the biggest arts phenomenon right here in my own backyard, how exciting! With SO much going on, I have carefully planned my adventures for each day of Miami Art Week, and compiled them into the perfect guide for you.

Whether you are an art lover that just got engaged, are thinking of planning your next anniversary, or celebratory event, then you have come to the right place! In this guide, you will find the art that inspires Creative Unions. It’s the art that is participatory, immersive, and intentional...the kind of art that is essentially an experience. Whenever I look at art, I imagine it in the context of a celebratory event or marriage ceremony, and I am reminded that with art, anything is possible.

See my Miami Art Week adventures on Instagram by following @michelleigomez and the hashtag,  #Creativeunionsinspiration to see what I see, and feel free to leave me comments on the artworks you love best!

PS: there are TWO Creative Unions artists listed below who participated in the highly talked about Creative Union that just happened in Baltimore this past October, “Miami is Nice”! I am so proud of them!

*Oh, and look out for these asterisks next to each event below. This means the event or exhibition requires a special RSVP, badge, invitation, or paid ticket. Remember to pace yourself and have back up plans, because not every event during Miami Art Week will always guarantee you access. Ugh, I know...the art world can be pretty inaccessible sometimes, but I found many free and public things below too! And don't forget to drink plenty of water and carry granola bars!

Enjoy, and you’re welcome!

Michelle


 

WEDNESDAY 12/6

I will jumpstart my Miami Art Week with an exhibition that redefines the white cube. I always had a complicated relationship with the white cube. From completely criticizing it’s traditions, to lovingly embracing it as a clean slate for events and life’s celebrations, I am excited to see what a graphic 3D cube looks like, without walls. Because with technology, anything is possible, literally ANYTHING!

My friend and exhibition designer, Simona Uzaite that I met from my days consulting and writing for Quatrefoil Associates invited me to the VIP Preview for Hakanaï Miami 2017, which features a solo dancer that takes guests through a visual journey a 3D cube space between dreams and reality. Dance, visuals and accompanying music are all performed live, ensuring a unique experience each time. AND you get to experience this cube after the performance! Congrats on being involved with this incredible project Simona!

Image:  https://www.hakanaimiami.com/events/press-vip-preview-hakanai-by-adrien-m-claire-b-2

Image: https://www.hakanaimiami.com/events/press-vip-preview-hakanai-by-adrien-m-claire-b-2

Exhibition: *Hakanaï Miami 2017 presented by Artechouse and Canvas Miami (VIP and Press Preview event, RSVP required)

Time: 6 - 11pm (Doors open at 6pm, live performances 7pm and 9:30pm, followed by an interactive session “Experience the Cube” 10:30pm)

Location: Canvas Miami 90 NE 17th St, Miami, FL 33132, USA


 

THURSDAY 12/7

As a proud New World School of the Arts alum, I always support NWSA student exhibitions (which never even feel like student exhibitions because they are so talented). Every year, these students curate an exhibition of site specific sculptures, installations and performances in Miami’s only urban garden art space, Casalin. It’s the one morning during Miami Art Week where I feel like the curators get me (well, because we are all natives) when they serve Cuban cafecito, pastelitos, and Jamaican pineapple/ginger drinks while I think about what an art wedding may look like in an urban garden oasis escape. It’s a local favorite for Miami natives, shhh - don’t tell too many people.

Then I will head to the newly opened ICA Miami for a talk at 2pm about the future of Miami’s Culture Track. I will spend the rest of my day working on Creative Unions, although it is so tempting to go to EVERYTHING AT ONCE! But I gotta pace myself...it’s the most wonderful time of the year, and the busiest one too, with lots of traffic.

Image:  by Michelle Ivette Gomez from NWSA @ Casalin 2016

Image: by Michelle Ivette Gomez from NWSA @ Casalin 2016

Exhibition: New World School of the Arts @ Casalin

Time: 9am - 12pm

Location: Casalin 55 NW 30th St, Miami, FL 33127


 

FRIDAY 12/8

On Friyay, catch me roaming around Downtown Miami, Wynwood, and the Design District to see a couple of fairs and get my social justice themed nails done by Rosemarie Romero (Rosemarie Romero, aka Porn Nail$ was a featured artist in the Creative Union, “Miami is Nice”!). Then I will head over to Wynwood to find inspiration from Wynwood Walls for couples who want to get married in front of murals, followed by Locust Projects for a couple of immersive exhibitions featuring inflatable sculptures and fiber work. I will then end the night in a phone free party hosted by Adidas to let loose with some hip hop and dancehall reggae. This phone free party brings up a few important thoughts:

  1. Going to that phone free party will give me a taste of what it’s like to be in the present moment without documenting everything for my friends on social media.
  2. That party may influence me to encourage my clients to consider a phone free wedding or event. (especially when they pay professional photographers to do the job with a much higher resolution camera that takes way better photos than your cell phone).
  3. I looooove hip hop and dancehall reggae so much. It’s super Miami bro. Just sayin’.

Pssst… don’t rely on google maps to find addresses for fairs. Google Maps has outdated addresses as the fairs have recently moved!

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Fair: *Art Miami | Context (Ticket required)

Location:  1 Miami Herald Plaza at NE 14th St, Miami, FL 33132

Artist Spotlight: Goya Contemporary featuring Joyce Scott and Soledad Salame

 
Image:  http://www.thewynwoodwalls.com/walls/maya-hayuk

Image: http://www.thewynwoodwalls.com/walls/maya-hayuk

Exhibition: Wynwood Walls

Location: 2520 NW 2nd Avenue, Miami FL 33127

Artist Spotlight: Maya Huyuk

 
Image:  Creative Unions artist, Rosemarie Romero aka Porn Nai$ performing in a Creative Union “ Miami is Nice ” for Nick & Zach’s month long wedding celebration and art exhibition in Baltimore, October 2017. Photograph by Tiffany Jones.

Image: Creative Unions artist, Rosemarie Romero aka Porn Nai$ performing in a Creative Union “Miami is Nice” for Nick & Zach’s month long wedding celebration and art exhibition in Baltimore, October 2017. Photograph by Tiffany Jones.

Fair: *NADA (Ticket required)

Location:  Ice Palace Studios 1400 N Miami Avenue, Miami, FL 33136

Artist Spotlight: Rosemarie Romero’s “Rise Up” Nail Bar Friday, 12 - 3pm (Creative Unions artist in “Miami is Nice”)

 
Image:   Nancy Davidson  at Locust Projects

Image: Nancy Davidson at Locust Projects

Exhibition: Nancy Davidson and Pepe Mar: Man of the Night

Hours: Wednesday, December 6 through Friday, December 9, 10 am to 6 pm Sunday, December 10, 10 am to 1pm (These are their extended hours for Miami Art Week)

Location: Locust Projects 3852 North Miami Avenue, Miami Fl 33127

 
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Party: You Had To Be There (RSVP, get there early)

Time:  11pm - 5am

Location:  1306 North Miami Ave Miami, FL 33136


 

SATURDAY 12/9

After too much dancing the night before, I will begin the afternoon wearing my bathing suit under my dress to one of my favorite historic museums, Vizcaya (a popular museum for weddings too)! Vizcaya features CAP Overload and CAP Lab which are two exhibition programs that explore the concept of immersion at Vizcaya in order to activate the senses and alter the experience of Vizcaya. CAP Lab features a Creative Unions artist, Nick Clifford Simko who was a featured artist in the Creative Union, “Miami is Nice”, a month long wedding celebration and art exhibition in Baltimore, October 2017!

After Vizcaya, I will head back to the beach to check out Untitled Art Fair. There, I will chill out under AMLgMATD’s “Suncatcher Pavillion”, as I have always dreamed of doing a beachy Creative Union with their furniture and installation designs for an outdoor wedding. Then I will check out one of my friends from Baltimore, Amy Sherald who is commissioned to paint Michelle Obama’s portrait. Talk about my friends shaping art history!

I am especially excited to engage with the installations by Faena Art, including an art installation that also serves as a roller skating rink! This whole day is about dipping in the water in between public art sightings, and finding inspirations for couples who want to get married or have an event in front of a public sculpture or installation (during Miami’s winter season of course)!

Then I will relax on comfy bean bags on the lawn in front of the New World Symphony for Art Basel at Soundscape Park to listen to sound art, watch abstract projections, and a featured film.

Image:  Artwork by Tanja Smeets

Image: Artwork by Tanja Smeets

Exhibition: *CAP Lab Overload at Vizcaya Village (RSVP/Ticket required)

Time: 11am - 2pm

Location: Vizcaya & Vizcaya Village 3251 South Miami Ave Miami, FL 33129

Artist Spotlight:  Nick Clifford Simko (Creative Unions artist in “Miami is Nice”)

 
Image:  by  AMLgMATD  at Untitled Art Fair

Image: by AMLgMATD at Untitled Art Fair

Fair: *Untitled Art Fair (Ticket required)

Location: Ocean Dr & 12th St, Miami Beach, FL 33139

Artist Spotlight: AMLgMATD and Amy Sherald

 

Exhibitions: Faena: Miami Art Week includes  myriad public sculptures and programs listed here.

Locations: Faena Beach Between 32nd and 36th streets Miami Beach, FL 33140 & Faena Forum
3300 Collins Ave Miami Beach, FL 33140

 
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Exhibition:

Art Basel Sound and Film Program

Time: 7pm

Location: Soundscape Park 400 17th St Miami Beach


 

SUNDAY 12/10

Sundays are my lazy beach days, but this Sunday, I’ll be in Miami Beach with my towel in my tote bag wearing my bathing suit under my jean shorts and chanclas at the Design Fair, then will spend the rest of the day engaging with public art works at the public sculptures at Collins Park!

After all of that, I will wrap of Miami Art Week 2017 reflecting on my experiences, imagining the future of Creative Unions, and practicing gratitude for living in an art capital like Miami that gives me inspiration every single day. Art IS everywhere.

Image:  From Design Miami’s Facebook page: Perrier-Jouët digital installation series

Image: From Design Miami’s Facebook page: Perrier-Jouët digital installation series

Fair: *Design Miami

Location: 1809 Meridian Ave, Miami Beach, FL 33139

 
Image:  by Michelle Ivette Gomez from Art Basel | Public 2016, artwork by Ugo Rondinone

Image: by Michelle Ivette Gomez from Art Basel | Public 2016, artwork by Ugo Rondinone

Exhibition: Art Basel | Public

Location: Collins Park 2100 Collins Avenue


Thank you for joining me. Be sure to join my mailing list so you get next year’s guide. See you at Miami Art Week 2018!

 


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ABOUT ME

Michelle Ivette Gomez is an arts professional with a love for romance and art, and a passion for bringing people together and telling stories through art. She received her MFA in Curatorial Practice from the Maryland Institute College of Art where she focused on co-creative curatorial practice and expanding traditional methods of exhibition presentation in collaboration with communities. As the Founder & Creative Director of Creative Unions Event Design LLC, the first event planning company dedicated to integrating contemporary art into life’s celebrations, she views marriage celebrations as specially curated art exhibitions that bring people together to celebrate and express unique love stories.

Making Miami Nice

Michelle Ivette Gomez - Founder of Creative Unions sitting with Creative Unions’ pioneer couple Zachary Z. Handler (left) and Nick Horan (right)

Michelle Ivette Gomez - Founder of Creative Unions sitting with Creative Unions’ pioneer couple Zachary Z. Handler (left) and Nick Horan (right)

Hey fellow art lovers and lovers of love!

I AM SO EXCITED! I just flew in from Miami to my second home, Baltimore, and I brought all my neon powered Miami energy to help bring Creative Union’s first celebration to life! I’m typing this from a folding table in Spacecamp gallery watching the “Miami is Nice” curatorial team transform this white wall gallery into a queer paradise where love wins. From October 7-28, right where I’m sitting, this 2800 sq. ft room will be home to 45 incredible artist’s works, 3 public events, and Zachary & Nick’s Golden Girls inspired wedding. It’s been a day of painting, sweeping, and reflections on this 2 year journey. I actually had a bit of an epiphany earlier when I realized that we are featuring 45 artists from around the country at the same time as we grapple with the current 45th President’s attacks on the LGBTQ community. Talk about creative resistance, right?!

“Miami is Nice” is more than just a private wedding that takes place in an art gallery. So much more. In fact, I suggest heading over to www.miamiisnice.com for details on the exciting series of programs for the greater Baltimore community. Hint: one of the original screenwriters for the Golden Girls is joining us for a discussion! And there will be cheesecake! You can also stop by the gallery during gallery hours to play Atari video games or watch Golden Girls episodes with me in your PJs. ;)

I can’t believe it’s been a year and a half since Creative Unions began WERKing on our first art exhibition/wedding. Personally, it’s been a rough month. I’ve dealt with the world’s natural disasters and had to evacuate my home in Miami. Fortunately, my house and family are safe but I constantly worry about my family in Puerto Rico after hurricane Maria. Returning to Baltimore this week has proven to be the most wonderful gift. It has lifted my spirits and allowed me to laugh again, despite the gun violence, climate change, and everything else wrong with this world. I came up with Creative Unions because I wanted to bring more love into my life and this world.

Nothing else brings me as much joy as working with Creative Union’s pioneer couple, Zachary & Nick alongside co-curator Carlyn Thomas of Terrault Gallery to make this art exhibition, series of programs, and gay wedding a dream come true. As I look around me right now, I am so excited to introduce the world to all of this excess :)

Check out my top 10 favorite behind the scenes moments from this past year while working on the #miamiisnicesxhibition below!

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1. N&Z screen printed hundreds of shoulder pads with their wedding logo as part of their wedding invitation (packed in gold envelopes)!


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2. Seeing the postcard and invitation for the general exhibition and wedding! This was the first “IT’S REALLY HAPPENING” moment.  


3. Ok here’s a mini list. These artworks got me way too excited from the moment I first laid my eyes on them, and this is just a tiny fraction of the entire art exhibition. (And yes, that is a glitter toilet seat that will be featured in the gallery’s bathroom! #artiseverywhere)


4. This Miami is Nice sign is everything.


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5. No Golden Girls themed wedding is complete without Elvis costumes and accessories!


6. I met Sebastian from The Lapel Project here in Miami (yes the guy that was featured on Shark Tank!), and he gave me the “Miami Vice” lapel set for the groomsmen, so sweet of him! Check out the video below to see how the his lapels work. These lapels are so great, you can stick them onto any suit to customize your look so your suit is as unique as you! Thank you Sebastian!


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7. A Golden Girls Wedding? YES! Here is a photo of that time we heard Nick & Zachary’s interview on “Out on the Lanai: A Golden Girls Podcast”! (PS- H. Alan Scott is one of the co-hosts and GG superfans for this podcast...he will be moderating a talk with one of the original screenwriters for Golden Girls on Oct 18th! (See www.miamiisnice.com for event details)


8. When Carlyn drove to NY to pick up artworks from artists and took selfies with (most) of them! Oh how I loved getting these in our Whatsapp chat group.


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9. I have weekly Skype sessions with Nick & Zachary. Sometimes I take screenshots of them when they show me the deliveries they get in the mail for their wedding, like this beautiful martinique wall paper donated by Accent Wall Customs for our Golden Girls inspired photo booth, eeeeek!


Left to right: Michelle Ivette Gomez of Creative Unions, Zachary Z. Handler, Nick Horan and Carlyn Thomas of Terrault Gallery

Left to right: Michelle Ivette Gomez of Creative Unions, Zachary Z. Handler, Nick Horan and Carlyn Thomas of Terrault Gallery

10. When the whole team got together in Baltimore to take this 80’s neon glamour shot!


If you are around Baltimore or DC, I hope you can stop by the opening for “Miami is Nice” on Oct 7, 7-10pm at Spacecamp to say hello, enjoy drag performances, and get your glitter nails done. See you Bmore, miss you.

Yours in 80’s excess and shoulder pads,

-Michelle


ABOUT ME

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Michelle Ivette Gomez is an arts professional with a love for romance and art, and a passion for bringing people together and telling stories through art. She received her MFA in Curatorial Practice from the Maryland Institute College of Art where she focused on co-creative curatorial practice and expanding traditional methods of exhibition presentation in collaboration with communities. As the Founder & Creative Director of Creative Unions Event Design LLC, the first event planning company dedicated to integrating contemporary art into life’s celebrations, she views marriage celebrations as specially curated art exhibitions that bring people together to celebrate and express unique love stories.

Top 10 Reasons for a Museum Date

#TBT to that time Anthony and I went on a #Museumdate AND SAW ANDY WARHOL at  the baltimore museum of art  in baltimore.

#TBT to that time Anthony and I went on a #Museumdate AND SAW ANDY WARHOL at the baltimore museum of art in baltimore.

I will never forget the moment I met my partner for the first time at the Guggenheim museum.  It was 2013 and I was a busy graduate student getting my MFA in Curatorial Practice in Baltimore patiently enduring the monotony of OkCupid dates at bars when I stumbled upon Anthony’s profile. I was hooked on Anthony, aka “Intellectualguy”. After exchanging some long winded life essays I told him I was going to be in New York during Spring Break for museum research, to which he replied “I’ll be in New York visiting my family for Spring Break too!”. YES, perfect!

Fast forward to a chilly New York weekday in March: I’m sitting in the marble lobby of the Guggenheim anxiously twisting my blue scarf fringe around my fingers next to some older ladies taking a break from all the art. He’s running two hours late. I’m totally OK with this as he later explained his Puerto Rican grandmother made him stay at the house longer to finish eating her lunch (I get it)! Suddenly he walks through the lobby doors, and that typical cliché love at first sight moment happens: the world around me blurs and slows down as my eyes dart straight to a tall, dark, and handsome young man. “Get it together girl. This is it, this is it, this is the one.” My heart is racing out of my chest and my brain is tumbling through images of our future together all in the blink of an eye. I confidently walk over him to give him a hug. It’s a brief, tight, and tingly embrace that feels like it lasts for three minutes. Yup. This is it. We walk through the rounded walls of the art filled Guggenheim so comfortably together. It’s as if we’ve known each other for years as I talk about the Gutai art like a typical curator would. The art sparks conversations about our tastes, phenomenology and suddenly we’re telling stories about our families and childhood dreams. We didn’t leave each other’s side the rest of the afternoon. The museum was the perfect place for us to discover ourselves and eachother.

That #museumdate story brings me to this blog post to further explain why museum dates are the best dates to spice up your love life or propose to that cutie you have had your eye on in the OKcupid app. We even found these adorable #museumdate pictures on Instagram from other fellow creatives who agree that museum dates are the best dates, check em’ out!

 

1. Obama says, “Art...it impresses people...”

Museums are a great place to have intellectual conversations, like Michelle and Barack did! Hear them recall their first date at the Art Institute of Chicago on Huffpost and “take tips gentlemen!”

Photo by  Pete Souza

Photo by Pete Souza

2. Museums are a great place for conversation!

You will never have a moment of awkward silence, even if you don’t feel like an art expert! Take an art professional’s words of advice: Use the Visual Thinking Strategy questions below to spark conversation and get to know your date. They work on museum tours too, believe me!

Photo by  @insidemuseums  at the home of Mondrian  Gemeente Museum  in the Netherlands

Photo by @insidemuseums at the home of Mondrian Gemeente Museum in the Netherlands

What do you see?

What makes you say that?

What more can you say?

Or you can just mimic the sculptures so you avoid the fact that you are anxious af...

Photo by @denisefosua “That time I went to a museum and spent the whole time impersonating statues and sculptures to distract me from being nervous on a date 😂🤦🏾‍♀️😂”

Photo by @denisefosua “That time I went to a museum and spent the whole time impersonating statues and sculptures to distract me from being nervous on a date 😂🤦🏾‍♀️😂”

3. You can learn a lot about your date from way they perceive art.

And while you're listening to your date answer the above questions, you get to learn about how your date thinks about art, which can give you hints on how that person perceives life.

Photograph taken at the  Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden  in DC by award winning photographer  @kenpakphotography . PS - Ken Pak is the kind of photographer you need for your future creative engagement shoots in museums, check out more of his work  here !

Photograph taken at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in DC by award winning photographer @kenpakphotography. PS - Ken Pak is the kind of photographer you need for your future creative engagement shoots in museums, check out more of his work here!

4. You can look at art, and eat too!

Museums are a one stop shop for eating at the café for brunch mimosas AND looking at art! It’s also a great opportunity to see how your date treats their server...20% or it’s over! Check out this adorable art loving couple at Café Sebastienne inside the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City! PS - Cafe Sebastienne was named Top 10 Best Brunch Restaurants in America for 2017 on OpenTable). #lifegoals

Photograph by Designer & storyteller,  @jeani0

Photograph by Designer & storyteller, @jeani0

Image source from  The Pitch

Image source from The Pitch

5. Museums host parties too!

Museums have a ton of after-hours programs that make great introductions to those dates who would rather go to the bar or club every weekend. My favorite one is Miami’s Poplife Social at the Perez Art Museum Miami which was named Best Art Mixer by Miami New Times Best of Art & Entertainment! See? Miami isn’t ALWAYS about clubbing on South Beach, but we go like to go hard, even at museums!

6. Museums are Instagram ready.

Museums make great backdrops for cute selfies like this one by @danymoc at the Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo in Mexico. After 5+ years, make an artful scrapbook with these bold and colorful photos so you can reminisce outside of your phone screen…(and save those museum admission tickets for the scrap book too!)

Photo by  @danymoc

Photo by @danymoc

And when you post those #museumdate pics on Instagram, you seem pretty cultured too, like Queen Bey and Jay Z:

7. You get to soak up some AC!

Tired of long walks on the beach, sunburns, and displaced sand? Try a museum! Museums can keep you cool like this couple right here at The Museum of Ice Cream in LA (#relationshipgoalsaf). Haha, “cool”. PS- make sure you buy your tickets early to check out this gem!)

8. Museums can be fun to play in.

Not all museums are stuffy! Sometimes, they feel like playgrounds as fellow creative @champaige explained to The Museum of Ice Cream: "Surprised my BF with tickets... needless to say we are more in love after going and feeling like kids again 💕💃🏾🤓

Photo by  @champaige

Photo by @champaige

9. Surprise your date with a gift from the Museum shop!

At the end of your date, you can go to the museum gift shop to buy a souvenir! Here’s an idea: surprise your date with the postcard of the art they liked the most as a romantic gesture at the end of the day so they can treasure it on their bedroom corkboard until it fades as a result of sun damage.

Photo by  @jackieullustrated  (And check out Jackie’s beautiful illustrations  here  - they make for great custom post cards and wedding stationery!)

Photo by @jackieullustrated (And check out Jackie’s beautiful illustrations here - they make for great custom post cards and wedding stationery!)

Or get a silly $1 souvenir from SIDESHOW, my favorite museum gift shop in Baltimore! It's inside the American Visionary Art Museum!

Image source from  Sensible Stylista

Image source from Sensible Stylista

10. You can preserve memories by adding a museum catalog to your library collection!

If you reaaalllyy like them, take my advice and buy the catalogue for the exhibition you two saw together. And when you are having a rainy day, pull out the book to reminisce the artworks that you talked about on your first date! I so wish I bought this Guggenheim catalog for that Gutai art show me and my partner saw in 2013. I guess it’s never too late?  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Photo by  @septembers_issue  at the gift shop at the   High Museum of Art  in Atlanta

Photo by @septembers_issue at the gift shop at the  High Museum of Art in Atlanta

And there you have it! Those are the reasons why Creative Unions endorses museum dates! It brings my heart such joy when I see these adorable pictures of couples in museums, reminding me of that magical time I first laid my eyes on Anthony in a museum. That date at the Guggenheim set us up for a life full of intellectual conversation and creativity.  

Ever since then, Anthony and I talk about out of the box wedding ideas. He often says, “Knowing you, you’ll end up curating our wedding”. Fast forward four and a half years and I’ve DIY’ed my own dream job that combines my passion for art and love into the first event planning company dedicated to integrating contemporary art into weddings for creative couples like us. I guess I owe it to him and more importantly, that time we met at the museum, which set the tone for a life full of art and love.

Stop by the blog later and check out why Creative Unions thinks museums are the best places for weddings (and engagement photo shoots)!


ABOUT ME

Michelle Ivette Gomez is an arts professional with a love for romance and art, and a passion for bringing people together and telling stories through art. She received her MFA in Curatorial Practice from the Maryland Institute College of Art where she focused on co-creative curatorial practice and expanding traditional methods of exhibition presentation in collaboration with communities. As the Founder & Creative Director of Creative Unions Event Design LLC, the first event planning company dedicated to integrating contemporary art into life’s celebrations, she views marriage celebrations as specially curated art exhibitions that bring people together to celebrate and express unique love stories.

Creative Highlight: Jermaine Táron Bell

#TBT to that time I went to Baltimore to see Jermaine and we checked out “Take Me Away To The Stars” a solo exhibition by Stephen Towns. Image by Anthony Summers.

#TBT to that time I went to Baltimore to see Jermaine and we checked out “Take Me Away To The Stars” a solo exhibition by Stephen Towns. Image by Anthony Summers.

I am so honored to introduce you to one of my favorite Scorpios, and arts leaders, Jermaine Táron Bell! Jermaine is the first to be featured in the Creative Unions’ “Creative Highlights” blog series meant to highlight some of the incredible creatives in my community who inspire my work everyday!

Jermaine Táron Bell holds a B.F.A. in Graphic Design from the Maryland Institute College of Art. He is a visual designer who creates kick ass stationery, prints, and pins inspired by the African diaspora. In addition to his visual designs, he has had his hands in the advertising, marketing, and branding worlds doing everything from planning programs that broaden community outreach, to helping artists brand themselves through curatorial projects and social media.

Jermaine and I met at a fellowship program for arts administrators in Baltimore a few years ago. We knew we were going to be friends and #Scorpiosiblings from the start when we bonded over our shared goals while collaborating with our own communities to create art spaces for people of color designed to represent themselves beyond traditional methods. In facing these challenges, we learned it is important to be true to ourselves and not get caught up changing who we are, or silencing ourselves to fit into dominant molds that institutions are comfortable with.

 Read below to see what he is up to, and get a deeper look into his thoughts on Black Queer  Love, art, the institution of marriage, and the importance of intersectionality in LGBTQIA+ spaces. #Blackqueerlovestoriesmatter

Standing next to a piece by  Shani Crowe  at MoCADA museum in Brooklyn, NY. Image by Lauren Van Slyke.

Standing next to a piece by Shani Crowe at MoCADA museum in Brooklyn, NY. Image by Lauren Van Slyke.

Michelle: Hey Jermaine! Thank you so much for talking to me today! I am so excited to get real with you and ask a bunch of questions about art, love, marriage and more. I bet you haven’t talked about relationships on a blog yet, right?

Jermaine: Sure! I guess there is a first time for everything, let’s get real!

Michelle: In my world, all of those things intertwine! But before we dive deep AF into those things, lemme start off with one question...Have you seen any powerful movies lately? I haven’t stopped thinking about Moonlight ever since I saw it. I also just saw the SunDance movie called KIKI, which is about New York City’s underground voguing ballroom scene, and the importance of creating our own systems in a heteronormative world. Both of these movies blew my mind!

Jermaine: I obviously loved Moonlight! It actually reminds me a lot of my friend and frequent collaborator Kirk Shannon Butts’ film Blueprint in that it features beautiful talented black leads and sexual tension, but no actual sex. Powerful!

I haven’t seen KIKI yet, but, I LOVED Moonlight because It’s rare that I see a story that could mirror me or my friend’s lives on a big screen.

KIKI sounds a lot like Paris is Burning. Which is controversial of course because some people feel that Jennie Livingston exploited the people in the documentary, but it’s also instrumental to any young black gay person’s development because the subjects in the film are LEGENDARY!

Michelle: Yes, it is so important that we see ourselves not only in the visual arts industry, but also on the big screen to feel validated, and be heard. The way popular media tells our stories has a huge influence on how others may perceive us. And yes Livingston’s methods were HIGHLY problematic, but the creative team for KIKI seems to have taken a very different approach and actually partnered with Twiggy Pucci Garçon, one of the members of the ballroom scene, to develop the story and guide the process. I’d say the film has a very different and far more socially conscious tone than Paris is Burning. Both Moonlight and KIKI proved to me that it is so important for us creatives of color to tell our stories in new ways, and to keep fighting for seats at the table so everyone can benefit, even if it feels tokenizing in a mostly white industry, like film.

Although you are not involved in film, you do have the power of creating visuals and advertisements as a graphic designer. Other than your role as a designer, how do you define yourself as a creative in the broader sense?

Jermaine: I heard from Leslie King-Hammond, my former African Studies professor that in most African countries there isn’t a word for “art”. And, I’ve had conversations with other creatives of color that felt art school only complicated their relationships to art. Since graduating I’ve worked in advertising, but I also have had several community organizing roles like my current one as an Open Society Fellow where I am working with a local black artist to broaden his programming and marketing at his arts and community centered event space. This all grew from the marketing work that I did alongside my friend Kirk Shannon Butts of Flickeria to help get my partner’s foot into the contemporary art market.

Jermaine wearing his  “Respiration” pin . Image by Stephen Towns.

Jermaine wearing his “Respiration” pin. Image by Stephen Towns.

Michelle: Back to Leslie King-Hammond’s point about how there is no word for art in African countries...I found that to be such a beautiful way to remind us that art is everywhere, art is a part of our daily lives, and that we are all inherently creative (even those who did not obtain an arts education). It seems like every aspect of your life is a work of art, including your relationship to your partner, Stephen. If love was a collaborative work of art, how would you describe your relationship?

Jermaine: I think about Stephen as a sensitive, caring person with a range of feelings and emotions. So, it’s more about respect and tenderness than anything else. With black gay men there is no blueprint for love. We have to define love on our own terms, the same can be said about our art practices. I make mistakes all the time, so does he and we learn from our mistakes and we mend them. We both learn on the job together!

With black gay men there is no blueprint for love. We have to define love on our own terms, the same can be said about our art practices.
— Jermaine T. Bell

Michelle: How long have you two been together?

Jermaine: This July will be 8 years!

Jermaine and Stephen installing Stephen’s 2014 solo exhibition, “Co-Patriot” at Gallery CA in Baltimore, MD.  

Jermaine and Stephen installing Stephen’s 2014 solo exhibition, “Co-Patriot” at Gallery CA in Baltimore, MD.  

Michelle: Sometimes I go to parties, and acquaintances just straight up ask me, “So when are you going to get married?!” Or my Latina friends tell me that their abuelitas or tias come up to them at Thanksgiving and Christmas asking them why they haven’t gotten married yet. Do you ever feel that kind of pressure to get married?

Jermaine: HA! I think that happens far less frequently with gay couples. I feel pressure to “be an adult”. Marriage is not something that really concerns us. Our intersectional lives as black gay men face several challenges before marriage can even be considered. There’s our physical bodies as black men that frighten people. There is being an outsider in the “LGBTQIA+ rainbow” which is largely centered around wealthy, white couples interests and needs. I think when people close their eyes and picture a gay man they see a sassy, fit, wealthy, white man who may not even date a person of color. My personality, partner, and body type may not be what comes to people’s minds when they hear the term “gay man”.

I believe it's because LGBTQIA+ people are still fighting to be seen as “normal”. So all of the other things outside of that scope like an all black, body positive, non-wealthy partnership aren’t top of mind to everyday people. Him and I are more focused on having amazing conversation, fitting in time in every week to Netflix and chill, and being present in one another’s and our friends and families lives.

Jermaine T. Bell sitting underneath a painting by  Stephen Towns . Image by  Rob Ferrell .

Jermaine T. Bell sitting underneath a painting by Stephen Towns. Image by Rob Ferrell.

Michelle: Yeah, it proves that conversations around the whole institution of marriage is so heteronormative and white. Philadelphia recently released a PRIDE flag that included a black and brown stripe to represent the inclusion of people of color.

Even though you do not feel pressured by others to get married, do you ever imagine getting married as a way to celebrate your beautiful relationship to Stephen with those you love the most? If you were to get married, what would be the ideal way to celebrate your union if you were to let go of all those dominant, heteronormative and eurocentric traditions?

Jermaine: I mean the flag thing just proves that we are a minority within a minority. If the LGBTQIA+ really is accepting and malleable, then what's wrong with the new stripes?  As for a  fantasy wedding, mine would be very short on ceremony and big on food!! To satiate the Type A Creative Director in me, I’d do something like unexpected food pairings... like my mother’s baked macaroni and cheese with a complimentary expensive red wine that would make some of my bougie friends AND my truck driving dad and brothers expand their palettes, and hopefully enjoy it. That’s a curatorial project that needs fine finessing right there! I just think that as gay men when we decide to have a wedding, which is traditionally not designed for two men, we have to be creative and tailor it to fit our lives. I can’t afford a destination wedding, or to feed 100 people, so I won't! But at the same time our celebration will have a lot of detail and love put into it. I don’t undervalue what the occasion marks, but, I can't adhere to heteronormative standards either, simply because it isn’t who we are! Basically it'd have to be unique to us in every way and still be bad & boujee.

“Respiration” pin designed by Jermaine Bell.

“Respiration” pin designed by Jermaine Bell.

Michelle: That sounds beautiful to me! Sounds like a curatorial project to me, with “juxtapositions”! (Art School inside jokes). I can imagine your dream wedding naturally being creative, especially since food is a culinary art. Like you said earlier, there is no term for art in African countries. Your whole life is art and your wedding sounds like one big piece of social practice or performance. You are utilizing your creativity to create your own way of doing a wedding outside of heteronormative standards. This is one of the main reasons why I developed Creative Unions, so that people can authentically tell their stories, in their own ways, through “art” that brings everyone together! #youdoyouboo!  

So, what’s next?

Jermaine: I just want to keep working to get more retailers for my stationery and pins. And, basically get to the level of success of a typical character that Anne Hathaway might play in a predictable romantic comedy. I want a modern kitchen in a spacious brownstone in a leafy, urban neighborhood. I just want to be less basic, which I can do pretty easily since I’m a black gay man, and my road to that brownstone will inevitably include lots of hard work!
 

Michelle: I am confident you will get that brownstone in the near future, especially since I know you always work so hard to get what you want! Thank you so much for your real AF interview, I know you will inspire others to speak their truth! Keep imagining. Keep creating. Keep thriving.

Jermaine: Thanks for having me!

 

And that’s the 1st of our “Creatives Highlight” blog post series. I hope this interview inspired you to watch Moonlight and KIKI if you haven’t done so. I also hope you continue creating your own systems and ways of doing things. It’s what creatives like Jermaine do best: they utilize their creative problem solving skills to innovate and dismantle the world’s boxes in order to be the change they want to see in the world, while doing what they love best. You are the tastemaker. 

To stay updated with Jermaine’s bad and boujee journey and creative practice, follow Jermaine on Etsy and Instagram @jtbeezwax.

Featuring Jermaine Táron Bell. Image by Lauren Van Slyke.

Featuring Jermaine Táron Bell. Image by Lauren Van Slyke.


ABOUT ME

Michelle Ivette Gomez is an arts professional with a love for romance and art, and a passion for bringing people together and telling stories through art. She received her MFA in Curatorial Practice from the Maryland Institute College of Art where she focused on co-creative curatorial practice and expanding traditional methods of exhibition presentation in collaboration with communities. As the Founder & Creative Director of Creative Unions Event Design LLC, the first event planning company dedicated to integrating contemporary art into life’s celebrations, she views marriage celebrations as specially curated art exhibitions that bring people together to celebrate and express unique love stories.

Introducing Zachary and Nick: A World In Which Love Wins


On February 25, 2016, I had that natural aha moment (picture a light bulb over my head at the beach). I thought to myself, why not think of weddings as art exhibitions that utilize art to express love stories in powerfully unique ways traditional weddings cannot express? With all of the positive feedback from my community of artists, arts lovers, and couples in love, I took a leap of faith and started to build Creative Unions Event Design LLC, the 1st ever event planning company dedicated to integrating contemporary art into weddings. And here we are now...

Look, I have always loved the number 3, triangles and trinities (hence, the Creative Unions triangle), especially when they show up in my personal life (like how the trinity represents my nuclear family of 3 strong women: my mom, my sister, and me or my love of Pitbull, Drake, and J-Lo). My favorite trinity at the moment is the relationship between me, and Creative Union’s pioneer clients Zachary Z. Handler and Nick Horan who you will get to know in this blog post!

How did we meet? Good question! They came into my life so seamlessly. A couple of weeks after I posted that Facebook status, a mutual friend (and amazing people connector) told Zachary and Nick to contact that Miami girl with the red glasses about curating their Miami influenced wedding/art exhibition in Baltimore. When I read that email about them wanting to get married in a Baltimore art exhibition about Miami and The Golden Girls, I was shocked, excited, teary-eyed and amazed by the synchronicity of my life! Talk about perfect timing! I immediately e-mailed them back saying something along the lines of...this is perfect, we are meant to work together, and I am about to launch a company focused on creating the type of weddings you want to have. I was PSYCHED! It was the perfect trinity (:enacts the sign of the cross:).

#TBT to that time I visited Zachary (right) and Nick’s (left)  home in Baltimore to work on their upcoming Creative Union!

#TBT to that time I visited Zachary (right) and Nick’s (left)  home in Baltimore to work on their upcoming Creative Union!

Since then I have been emailing and Skyping them on a regular basis with fellow team member Carlyn Thomas from Terrault Gallery, to consult on the following:

  • Figure out ways they can subvert wedding traditions through art
  • Things to consider when organizing a wedding in an art exhibition in the most intentional ways
  • Exhibition language to describe their deepest intentions
  • Encouraging them to think of their union ceremony, catering, and everything in between as works of art
  • Considering artists and artworks for the exhibition, including their own collaborative artworks
  • Art as a form of resistance and what their union means during today’s political climate

Fast forward 9 months later, Zachary and Nick invited me into their art filled home in Baltimore, Maryland for our second in-person consultation and brainstorming session.

After walking up some steep steps to enter their brick row home, all of the ideas we discussed since the summer of 2016 clicked when I finally had a chance to visit their art filled haven. Seeing teal walls filled with art they made together or for each other, art from their closest friends, Golden Girls books, mugs, and prints, vintage items, a neon sign that beams a bright pink “WERK”, alongside lovely photographs of their travels made me realize why it makes sense for these two artists to get married surrounded by art, and to embark on their latest work of art: their wedding!

I’m excited to continue working with Zachary and Nick in order to ensure their Creative Union is like their home: a safe haven that reflects their authentic selves. Their Creative Union will tell their story of hope, while providing an opportunity for their family, friends, and fellow art lovers to escape into an idealized version of the warm and leisurely energy of South Florida in the 1980s, away from struggles, to actualize a world in which love wins.

Continue reading today’s blog post (on the 3 month anniversary since Creative Unions Event Design LLC launched) that introduces you to the couple who changed my life. :cheers x3:
 


INTRODUCING ZACHARY AND NICK

How did you two meet?

Z: Well, it’s a pretty fun story. I’m a professional dance photographer and had been hired to archive a performance at the University of Maryland College Park. When I arrived to shoot I realized rather quickly that I knew everyone in the large ensemble on stage except for one very handsome young man. When the performance was over, I asked my dear friend Stephanie - who partnered with him throughout the performance - who he was. She smiled and replied that he had asked who I was as well, eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! She suggested that I come and meet him at the cast party that friday. I had another photoshoot that night in DC so when I wrapped up I mosied on over to the gathering. When he got there, he seemed surprised seeing me, but sat himself right down in across the table. We talked to only each other for the entirety of that party, and in all honesty, have been inseparable ever since. It’s been a dream come true.

N: I was in my final semester of grad school and was dancing in a typically “arty” MFA Thesis project piece at The Clarice Center. I also happened to be dancing in my underwear. I remember looking out from the stage and seeing this tall unfamiliar and handsome man behind a camera snapping away. It was Zach. I thought he was very cute and asked our mutual friend to introduce us. Unbeknownst to me she invited him to the cast party, we sat across from each other and talked all night. I thought he was charming and funny and I made relentless fun of him for photographing me in my underwear before our first date. Later that night he asked for my phone number and when I drove him back to his car he fumbled saying goodbye and accidentally stuck his hand in my mouth during a really awkward hug. We’ve been together ever since.

Why did you choose to work with Michelle?

N: When we met Michelle we were immediately drawn in by her effervescent personality. There is nothing quite like being in the same room as Michelle. She just explodes with positivity, passion, and creativity. As we started talking it became clear that we all spoke the same art language. That is a remarkable and rare thing indeed. She totally latched on to our aesthetic and instantly began bubbling with new ideas and concepts for our upcoming wedding. I think it was her energy and her deep connection to the art world that really sealed the deal for us. I don't think there is anyone who I would trust more to plan our wedding than Michelle!

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Why do you want a non-traditional wedding with art? Why would you like art to be an integral part of your wedding?

Z: Someone once said to me, “Gee Zach, everything doesn’t always have to be an art project!” My response was, “Yes it does, and, that’s what I like most about myself!” Art is what I do with my everyday, my everything, at every chance, or if not, I make the chance! Art is an integral part of everything I feel I do, so then it has to be the same for one of the biggest days in my/our lives. If it’s not artful, honestly, it doesn’t feel like me, it doesn’t feel unique to me, and I don’t want it. These are values that are very, very important to me.

N: We both come from artistic backgrounds and are not interested in anything remotely resembling a “traditional” wedding. I think art is at the core of our relationship. We create together and inspire each other.

Why do you want to have your wedding ceremony in an art exhibition/gallery?

Z: There’s no place else where I would feel more at home, which is what I want to feel that day. I’m comfortable in galleries, they make sense to me, I can be and say and do and respond any way I like in these spaces. I was going to galleries and museums with my dad by the age of 5. We talked about Rodin, Rothko, and Close. He showed me the power of art, and the welcoming nature it can hold. I guess I want to hold this, and be held by this, on my wedding!

N: I think art galleries have innate potential in them. They are blank slates and that is how I’d like to start my life with Zach. Full of potential!

What inspires you for the union/exhibition?/ Why did the theme/idea of Miami come to mind? Why the 80’s? Why The Golden Girls?

Z: I grew up on the Golden Girls, and I also grew up going to Florida a lot, Pompano Beach specifically, but often we’d visit Miami, since I had so many family members living there. My Mom had a short stint at the University of Miami and I remember her talking about that when I was a kid. Miami Beach was also the place where I believe I first encountered LGBTQ culture and I remember it being like my own little secret, one that only I could capture, in a way. I absorbed from it what I could - a sense of place, of identity, of joy - as I continued to visit with family as I got older. So for me, Florida has always been this magical spot that I have really fond memories of.

My mom always says that The Golden Girls is the only show that ever made me laugh out loud as a kid and she always knew when it was on because I’d be wailing from the living room downstairs. I’d have to ask her when/if she remembers me first watching this as a kid (ie: how on earth did I find this show and what about it kept me coming back? She may have no idea!)

So similar to what I said earlier about growing up going to museums and that feeling of nostalgia that I know and love, this show, this era, this locale feels just like home to me too.

N: We both have a connection to Florida. I grew up in Orlando and Zach visited Miami and Pompano Beach throughout his entire childhood. I have such a nostalgia for the warmth and energy of Florida. I think there is a seabreeze ease there. Not as much hustle as Baltimore. That’s for sure! Zach and I are both children of the 80s and grew up listening to that synthesizer music and watching the movies from the time. I love the aesthetic of the era and the extremes they lived in.

I connect with The Golden Girls on a deep level. It was a very queer show. They built their own family unit together. Struggled to find acceptance in a world that wasn’t designed for them. They battled each other with their wits and humor. The show talked about HIV at a time when the president wasn’t even saying the words out loud. I respond to the gay sensibility of 4 strong independent women talking about sex and love in such healthy and positive ways.

Zach and I used to watch The Golden Girls together over Skype when we first started dating and couldn't be together. Both of us would que up the same episode and press play at the same time. It might have been the gayest thing we’ve ever done. Watch the other person watch The Golden Girls. That show was one of the first things we bonded over and we still watch it every night as we fall asleep.

How do you envision the final outcome?

Z&N: We want a Creative Union that is inclusive, authentic, artful, and full of joy! We trust Michelle to bring our vision, our complex ideas and concepts to life!


In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed this honest look into Zachary and Nick’s intentions. Be sure to check back with us for updates as we work with them to create an exhibition and a queer paradise where love wins in October 2017!

#TBT: check out these velas Zachary and Nick made for me featuring my other favorite trinity: Drake, Pitbull, and J-LO. Seriously, one of the best gifts I have ever gotten! Love y’all!

#TBT: check out these velas Zachary and Nick made for me featuring my other favorite trinity: Drake, Pitbull, and J-LO. Seriously, one of the best gifts I have ever gotten! Love y’all!


ABOUT ME

Michelle Ivette Gomez is an arts professional with a love for romance and art, and a passion for bringing people together and telling stories through art. She received her MFA in Curatorial Practice from the Maryland Institute College of Art where she focused on co-creative curatorial practice and expanding traditional methods of exhibition presentation in collaboration with communities. As the Founder & Creative Director of Creative Unions Event Design LLC, the first event planning company dedicated to integrating contemporary art into life’s celebrations, she views marriage celebrations as specially curated art exhibitions that bring people together to celebrate and express unique love stories.