What exactly is a public space?

Parks and plazas come to mind … so do sidewalks. But what about our skyline? This concept intrigued Dejha Carrington, sparking her idea to transform one of Miami’s most recognizable spaces – the side of Downtown’s highly visible Intercontinental Hotel – into something with which the public could interact.

“We often think about public space as this horizontal platform,” Carrington said. “The truth is public space isn’t confined to the traditional notions of parks or community plazas.  It can be on any surface within the urban landscape that engages a wider audience.”

Carrington came up with the idea for the hotel’s facade one day on a visit to the Freedom Tower. The flurry of activity and sense of possibility in Downtown captured her attention. She looked up and saw the silhouette of a dancing woman on the side of the Intercontinental, which some in the city felt perpetuated stereotypes of Greater Miami’s identity instead of recognizing it as a center for arts and culture. For Carrington, the hotel’s digital screen seemed ripe for a public art intervention. Ideas started bubbling.

“How could we create artwork that would embrace the community, feel more interactive and more relevant, and act as a catalyst for engaging residents?” she remembers thinking.

An arts advocate who works in public relations, Carrington is drawn to artists like James Turrell and Carlos Cruz-Diez, who pair color and abstraction, and use light as a medium unto itself.

She recruited long-time friend Kelly Nunes, a composer from Montreal, to collaborate with her. Together, they came up with the idea to create a project based on Sir Isaac Newton’s theory that all primary colors correlate to a sound, and produce an immersive light show that moved in synchrony to an original composition streamed on their website, They called it Newt Miami.

Carrington won Public Space Challenge funds in 2015, and also received support from the Miami Downtown Development Authority and the Awesome Foundation Miami. This backing helped her proposal gain acceptance from the hotel.

To make the exhibition as accessible as possible, Newt arranged a host of events, including a launch party with live music from the Nu Deco Ensemble, a night of Newt music and yoga, panel discussions and more. With the diverse line-up of events, Newt reached far beyond Greater Miami’s art and cultural scene to engage residents from a variety of backgrounds.

“I wanted to inspire people to start thinking about vertical walls, horizontal spaces and their community as something they can and should have a direct say in,” Carrington said. While Newt was a temporary exhibition, Carrington says her artistic work in public spaces continues. She hopes to keep using buildings and performative architecture in her work.

If you missed the live light show in November of 2015, the video below captures not just the sights and sounds, but also the feeling of endless possibilities for unique spaces and Greater Miami.

The Public Space Challenge is accepting submissions through April 21, 2016. Submit your ideas at

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