South Florida Female Artists Captured In Traveling 'Now Be Here' Portrait Project

Dec 12, 2016

While studying old photos, Los Angeles-based artist Kim Schoenstadt grew uneasy. She said history had overlooked some very talented women artists.

“The women [artists] were either not identified or identified as ‘so and so’s wife,’ ” Schoenstadt said. “And that was annoying, because she was reduced down to not having a name.”

So Schoenstadt has made it her mission to record and identify women in the art world as part of a collaborative portrait project she titled “Now Be Here.”

After capturing images in Los Angeles and New York in August and October 2016, her next stop was Miami.

So on Saturday Dec. 10, the Pérez Art Museum (PAMM) hosted the third “Now Be Here” photo to capture a snapshot of the most female and female-identifying South Florida contemporary artists in one place.

"For all these women to be here together and to celebrate women in the arts is so exciting and it’s about damn time" - Dana Donaty

Schoenstadt said being properly represented in today’s art world is important. That’s why the project’s corresponding website will identify each artist in the photo.

“It’s a little more powerful to say here are all the women artist who showed up today, there are more, and here are all their names,” Schoenstadt said.

It was a rainy morning, but drippy and eccentrically dressed artists joyously filled the museum’s auditorium.

Of the nearly 600 registries, 305 (coincidentally Miami’s area code) participated. Photographer Gesi Schilling took the photo, while Schoenstadt directed.

Participants getting in place in the auditorium of the PAMM
Credit Amanda Rabines / WLRN News

After the photo was taken, participants networked and reacquainted themselves with other female artists.

Dana Donaty, a neo-surrealist artist and owner of a studio at the Bakehouse Art Complex in Wynwood, was one of the first to arrive. She heard about the event from the art curator, Jane Hart.

“For all these women to be here together and to celebrate women in the arts is so exciting and it’s about damn time,” Donaty said.

Directors of the Fort Lauderdale-based non-profit Girls Club, focused on the advancement of local female contemporary artists, also participated.

Sarah Michelle Rupert, the Girls Club’s gallery director, came with Michelle Weinberg, the Girl’s Club’s creative director. Together they helped gather some of South Florida’s local artists for the photo.

“It’s comforting to know that we’re not out here alone, that there are so many of us with commonalities, with common goals and who eagerly want to support each other,” Rupert said.

"It's comforting to know that we are not out here alone, that there are so many of us with commonalities, with common goals" - Sarah Michelle Rupert

Art educator and Girls Club fellow Tayina Deravile took the energy in the room as inspiring.

“When we mobilize, amazing things can come from it. So the networking and I’m sure the conversations being had right now, it’s vital to the environment that we’re in,” Deravile said.

Visual artist Zeal Harris said she kept bumping into familiar faces while meeting new ones who shared common interests, like the cross-cultural arts festival “The Ghetto Biennale” held in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Harris said the event reminded her of the black-and-white photo of jazz players taken in the late 1950s in Harlem, New York, called “Great Day in Harlem.”

“That’s one of the first large group photos I’ve ever seen, so every time I see these type of events that takes pictures of creatives I consider it a historic moment like that one,” Harris said.

Schoenstadt said what she liked about Miami was how many artists pushed their friends and families to join them at the event.

“That’s the beauty of the project,  that you have these generations, you have the budding artist and the eldest artists,” Schoenstadt said. “I think what’s beautiful about this [Miami] -- is the community.”