Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami
Backstory and Context
The Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami (MoCA NoMi) began as a much humbler organization. The Center for Contemporary Art was founded in 1981 in a single gallery space in North Miami’s water department. After fifteen years, the center established a permanent collection, which created a need for expansion. In 1996, the center was rebirthed as a museum, and moved into a new space designed by Charles Gwathmey. Gwathmey was a New York based architect with a history of museum design. Costing $3.7 million, the new museum building featured 23,000 square feet of floor space, though only about 12,000 feet of space was dedicated to exhibition. MoCA NoMi experienced an extremely successful first year, garnering praise from other area museums for innovative exhibitions and educational programs. Over the next several years, MoCA NoMi continued to build their reputation as an outstanding educational institution with a penchant for pushing boundaries of what is considered art. The museum’s efforts culminated in 2012, when the Institute of Museum and Library Services conferred upon MoCA NoMi the highest honor for museums and libraries, the National Medal for Museum and Library Services.
Despite MoCA NoMi’s recognitions and garnered praise, tensions ran high between the city of North Miami and the museum’s board of directors. The board of directors felt that the city had not delivered on its contractual obligations to maintain and expand the museum space. In fact, by 2014, only 7,500 feet of space in the building was exhibition suited. Other concerns from the board included that the salaries for museum officials were not being paid. Issues came to a head in 2014, when the city attempted to install a new director against the wishes and recommendations of the board. The board responded by suing the city for breach of contract. After several months of litigation, the conflict was resolved through mediation. The compromise involved a split in the museum, with most of the staff and approximately thirty percent of the artwork being transferred to a new museum, the Institute of Contemporary Art. MoCA NoMi maintained the original name, a lion’s share of the art, and had new board members appointed by the city.
MoCA NoMi continues to exhibit contemporary art from its location in North Miami. The museum’s permanent collection — which was the first institutional collection of contemporary art in Miami-Dade County — numbers only a few hundred works. However, it is still considered one of the finest collections in South Florida. Artists represented in the collection range from local to international artists, and include figures such as Pablo Cano, Teresita Fernandez, Keith Haring, Alex Katz, Edward Ruscha, and George Segal. Testament to the quality of the collection, several of MoCA NoMi’s works can be found on loan in the Tate Modern, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Contemporary Art Museum in Barcelona.
In addition to its permanent collection, MoCA NoMi is also renowned for its temporary exhibitions and solo shows. The museum maintains a full docket; eight to ten shows are presented each year. Artists featured in solo and survey exhibitions include Bill Viola, Tracey Emin, Edouard Duval-Carrie, Purvis Young, and Wangechi Mutu. All of MoCA NoMi’s shows strive to be both innovative and provocative. The museum desires that contemporary art encourage the viewer to reconsider their approach to art and life. Other offerings by MoCA NoMi include a variety of educational programs. School tours, lecture series, artists forums, and hands-on classes for learners of all ages are mainstays of the museum’s events. Performance arts pursuits include popular jazz on the last Friday of each month, classical music concerts, and dance performances. MoCA NoMi mirrors its philosophy towards contemporary art through its extensive events.
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