Editor’s Note: Oolite Arts is a 2018 grant recipient of The Jorge M. Pérez Family Foundation. Oolite will use their grant to invite renowned artists from around the world to work alongside younger local and national studio residents. We spoke with Dennis Scholl, president and CEO of Oolite Arts, and got a glimpse at how they’re helping artists advance their careers by giving them an affordable space to create. This year, The Jorge M. Pérez Family Foundation is launching the Pérez CreARTE Grants Program, investing more than $1 million in Miami-Dade organizations across three focus areas: artist fellowships and residencies, spaces for creation and arts education and access. The deadline to apply is June 10th.

“Culture is what drives communities, and it’s how communities are remembered,” says Dennis Scholl, seen at the center of the photo. “When you think of the Greeks and Romans from thousands of years ago, you don’t think of their businesses, you think of their culture.” As the president and CEO of Oolite Arts, formerly Art Center/South Florida, Dennis is helping build Miami’s visual arts community.

Oolite Arts describes itself as “both a community and a resource.” Up to 14 artists at any given time can be found painting, printing, building and creating inside the free studio space on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach. The space also hosts art classes like figure drawing and printmaking for members of the local community. “Oolite is the type of limestone that makes up the core of South Florida, and we want to be the bedrock of the visual arts community in Miami,” Dennis says.

Miami’s arts community has grown tremendously over the past decade, and the whole area has grown with it, but so have the costs of living here, Dennis points out. “Offering free studio spaces is our effort to make Miami a home for visual artists where they can work and build their careers.” At Oolite, artists like Haitian-born Adler Guerrier (pictured at left), best known for his printmaking, can have an affordable space to create.

Oolite also allows artists like Adler and Diego Gutierrez (pictured below, standing far left) a chance to build their practice without the financial pressures of paying for a space to work out of. Applying for a studio residency to work in the space is a competitive application process, Dennis says. To give you an idea, 181 applicants applied for the seven spaces available last year. “That means the best of the best are all working side-by-side, creating and collaborating. It’s those unplanned interchanges of ideas that create some of the artists’ best work.”

This year, with support from The Jorge M. Pérez Family Foundation, Oolite will bring renowned visual artist Mel Chin to work in the studio. “Because our interest is in supporting Miami’s visual artists, we’re always looking for ways to expose them to the international art world. The foundation funding is used to invite a master artist to Miami and have them spend time with local artists,” Dennis says. Over the next year, Mel will visit Miami to get inspired by the space and create.

Oolite is just one of the many spaces for creation for Miami’s artists that’s growing and strengthening the visual arts community, Dennis notes. Among others are the Pérez Art Museum Miami, the Institute of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art and The Bass. “A lot of attention has been placed on the visual arts because it’s been such a significant driver of who we are as a community – so it’s important to support the artists who make it happen.”

The Jorge M. Pérez Family Foundation is currently accepting pre-proposals for the Pérez CreARTE Grants Program. Pre-proposals are due by June 10, 2019. Click here to apply.

Roshan Bransden is a freelance journalist writing about the local arts community.

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All photos courtesy of Oolite Arts.

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