The city of Opa-locka has always been a strange, unique, other-worldly place to many a South Florida resident. The city is often associated with poverty, corruption and crime (in 2004, it had the highest crime rate in the country). But it is also known for its bizarre Moorish architecture — built at its founding in 1926 — its diverse population, and the airport from which Amelia Earhart took off for her round-the-world trip. Because of this complex makeup, artists have been attracted to the place since its inception, using the downtown Arabic-styled buildings as a backdrop, or its blighted neighborhoods as a metaphor.
But unlike Miami Beach or the City of Miami, it hasn’t been the focus of public art until now. Last week, at the housing project of Kings Terrace, the last of three public sculptures was unveiled: a 12-foot sculpture with moving parts from Gino Miles. Two other 15-foot pieces, from Clayton Swartz and Lina Ocamposilva, were installed a few weeks earlier. While it’s community art, it isn’t publicly sponsored: it is the commission of the Pinnacle Housing Group and Louis Wolfson III. Pinnacle’s most prominent public art work for another affordable housing project here in Miami can be seen from I-95, a Romero Britto piece.
As has been recognized for decades now, when a neighborhood takes pride in itself, life becomes more pleasant. When broken windows are fixed and trash cleared from the streets, people tend to take more ownership in the place they live. And public art has become a big part of this equation, an essential element in the beautifying of a neighborhood, and the consequent community pride that can follow. There are rumors that other Miami artists are also working on sculptures for Opa-locka. Hurray for all these efforts.
The art installations of Opa-locka are located at 12555 N.W. 27th Ave.; www.pinnaclehousing.com.