MOCA programs in jeopardy, former board members leave for new museum
Erick Johnson | 8/14/2014, 9 a.m.
Aug. 9 was the last day for the creative summer arts camp for seven to ten-year-olds at North Miami’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA).
It was time to say good bye after the participants put the finishing touches on six fun-filled weeks of art lessons, activities and memorable relationships. They gathered together for a group photo near
the museum’s reflection pool. The students shouted “MOCA” before a little girl snapped the picture.
It may be the last time they will attend this camp again.
When MOCA’S board members last week abruptly pulled out to form their own museum, North Miami city officials were suddenly left with a grim picture. Funding for 43 of MOCA’s programs, workshops and activities that for years were popular among Black families in the predominately Haitian-American city grew uncertain.
“Once they (board members) knew they were leaving, they stopped applying for grants,” said Alan Waufle, assistant director of MOCA. “Once we get through this transition, we’ll re-apply for those grants.”
TOUGH ROAD AHEAD
With the clock ticking away, city officials are under tremendous pressure to protect the quality and image of an institution whose international reputation came from its cutting-edge exhibits that featured the most sought-after artists in the world. MOCA is adjacent to North Miami city hall at 770 NE 125th St.
For locals, MOCA’s extensive programs were also appealing. Parents enrolled their children in numerous classes in the arts. They included photography, painting, figure drawing, creative writing and journalism. Blacks also participated in mentoring programs that promoted self-esteem among teenage girls. Then there is the potential loss of the successful Women on the Rise program, an art and photography class for adults.
Other MOCA activities include a community outreach group, a museum magnet program, a teen fashion design program, MOCAzine, and a teen film project. On the last Friday of the month, there was Jazz at MOCA on the west lawn of the museum. With many residents taking numerous classes, last year’s attendance was a whopping 20,000 said Waufle.
BOARD MEMBERS LEAVE
Those programs were jeopardized when MOCA’s board pulled out of the facility to form a new museum in the historic Moore building at 192 NE 40th St. The building, built in the 1920’s, stands amid rows of high-end stores and boutiques in Miami’s Design District, one of the city’s hottest neighborhoods. The new museum will be called the Institute of Contemporary Art and will open in November.
MOCA board members said the temporary location will be ideal for the museum. Chairman Irma Braman issued a statement about the move. “The interim facility provides the expanded exhibition galleries that the museum has sought for nearly a decade and moves us closer to the center of Miami-Dade County where we can continue our outreach and education programs.”
The decision disappointed city officials who were in mediation talks with MOCA’s board members. They were working to resolve a bitter legal battle to prevent the board from relocating to the Bass Museum on Miami Beach. In April, board members sued North Miami, accusing the city of neglecting the museum’s city-owned building. Board members also alleged the city was attempting to thwart their efforts to combine MOCA’s 600 pieces of artworks, sculptures and exhibits with Bass’s renowned collection. Calling it a “modern day art heist,” city officials countered with a lawsuit to dismiss the complaint, calling it “legally deficient”.