Maria Elena Ortiz Brings Essence of South Florida to MOCA

“Because the artists are from South Florida, the themes, strategies, and topics being talked about and being dealt with in the exhibition are things that are close to you.”

PAMM’s own Maria Elena Ortiz, associate curator at the museum, just wrapped up a summer spent hard at work curating the South Florida Cultural Consortium (SFCC) exhibition.

The exhibition, which showed at Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) through the start of August, showed works by 25 artists that have been awarded grants from the SFCC in 2014 and 2016. The SFCC Fellowship Program offers the largest regional, government-sponsored artists’ grants in the United States, awarding $15,000 and $7,500 fellowships to resident visual and media artists across five counties in South Florida. Since it was established in 1988, the Consortium has awarded close to $2 million in fellowships to over 200 artists.

The grants come with no restrictions to the artists, who are free to create whatever they want with the money awarded. The free reign on the show, as well as the different approach that comes with curating a grant exhibition versus a museum one, made Ortiz’s work all the more exciting.

“The curation process for this project was unique. Some artists have new ideas and we were able to take those new ideas and create site specific works, while other artists presented already-made works that we selected,” said Ortiz. “It felt like a negotiation. And as a curator, for me, especially when you’re doing a grant show, I feel like my job is to make every artist look as good as possible. It’s all about harmony and relationships.”

The exhibition included works by South Florida artists Bhakti Baxter, Jillian Mayer, Cara Despain, TD Gillispie, Deborah Goldman, and more.

“Because the artists are from South Florida, the themes, strategies, and topics being talked about and being dealt with in the exhibition are things that are close to you. They are very much things that reflect the culture here in South Florida,” said Ortiz. “As we build and continue to grow our network of cultural institutions in Miami, it’s very important for both MOCA and PAMM to get together to celebrate the local productions and to celebrate the South Florida artists.”

The SFCC is hosted at a new location every year. For more information, or for artists who may be interested in applying for the grant, please visit the Miami-Dade Department of Cultural Affair’s website.

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