The Art in Public Places Board has overseen the installation of three major projects in public sites.
Monaco Reflecting Pools, by Sarah Morris, was completed in 2005 at the Civic Center Oval.
Bedia Plazas, the initial five terrazzo plazas by Jose Bedia along Crandon Boulevard, were installed in 2008. To finish the group, two more plazas by the artist were completed in Spring 2011. This work was partially funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Pleated Gnomon, by Jim Drain, was completed and installed at the Village Green in Summer 2016.
"Key Biscayne has always been a magical place. The condos have come and conquered. The strip shopping centers line too much of Crandon Boulevard. There's plenty of traffic. And yet, somehow despite everything, it still feels, and looks, like an island.
There is no better reminder than the series of eight small public plazas - place makers, really - created under the auspices of Key Biscayne's admirable, ambitious and even visionary public-art program. They are works that speak to time and place, nudging us to pause and think about the island's fragile ecology.
Seven of the plazas were designed by the Cuban-born Miami artist Jose Bedia and the last by the American-born artist Sarah Morris, who is based in London and New York. Wrought in terrazzo (by Bedia) and tile (by Morris), these installations offer momentary respite or the opportunity for long contemplation. Bedia's, in particular, are a reminder of the fragility of the environment, though a long look at Morris' two tiled pools might yield the conclusion that rather than being merely abstract geometries, they might also be saying something about a once-lush, once-native landscape now crisscrossed with roadways.
Bedia's plazas are stretched along the sweep of Crandon Boulevard from the Key Biscayne Library to the north and ending almost at Bill Baggs State Park at the south. They are tucked unexpectedly into sidewalks and corners that might otherwise have gotten an olive tree or two. A few have shade and benches, beckoning for a longer stay; others sit in more circumscribed locations.
Each pays homage to the natural world, invoking the mysterious underwater and airborne life of the semi-tropics, sea and sky. Each has its inspired palette of sea blues and aquas and earthen tones of gray, rust and white. The plazas were part of the Crandon Boulevard Masterplan, done by the urban planning and engineering firm cT3s.
Although his works have been the subject of numerous gallery shows and are part of important museum collections, Bedia is perhaps best known in Miami for his virtuoso transformation of the floors and balustrades of the lobbies of both halls in the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. The mystical-mythical creatures and symbols come together there as a unified work that lifts what would otherwise have been less-than-ordinary spaces into a new dimension.
The plazas show that same deft hand, but they are not quite so enigmatic. North to south, they depict the dragonfly, pelican, barracuda, manatee, manta ray, butterfly and anhinga - all indigenous to the Key. (Is it coincidence, one wonders, that the two most ferocious of the group - the barracuda and the manta ray - face the condominium-lined beachfront?)
The various fauna are identified in terrazzo with their names - some in English, some in Spanish and some in both - part of the art, part of the iconography. The English word manatee comes from the Spanish manati , which is the identifier of choice. Butterfly, in Spanish, is mariposa , and Bedia inscribed both labels into what is appropriately the most colorful of the plazas. Cesar Trasobares, consulting artist to the Village of Key Biscayne Art in Public Places Board, says that Bedia uses the "potent combination" of image and text to "enhance and amplify the meaning of his images."
Morris is no stranger to Miami. Though she is primarily a painter, she also makes films, prints and three-dimensional public projects. In 2003, the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami showed her film, Miami , an ode to architecture, highways, waterways and much more. Her work, though geometric and abstract, often centers on architecture.
For Key Biscayne's Civic Center Oval, she created Monaco Reflecting Pools, two rectangular tiled pools flanked by two benches. The pools are shallow and lean, and the tile pattern is one of a fairly haphazard urban grid rendered in gold, pink, coral, rose, aqua, white and black. And though the pattern could be considered just that, a pattern, it also manifests itself as an urban plan, thus the intimation of a paradise paved, or at least transformed.
The work is sleek and seductive, a perfect companion and counterpoint to the Bedia plazas, which are tactile and engaging. Both contain some potent ideas, provocations for further thought.
Be forewarned; the adventure of viewing these places is not entirely easy and is, perhaps, best done by bicycle. (Appropriately, Crandon Boulevard is the most-bicycled street in Miami-Dade County, but it is also a busy thoroughfare.) Many of the plazas are in spots where there's no real parking, though, in a way, that sort of placement is the point: these are little jewels to stumble upon, now part of the land and the landscape and not separate, vaunted objects."
Art critic Helen Kohen discussed the projects in a March 2010 article in HOME MIAMI magazine's "It Takes a Village: Key Biscayne's Public Art"?:
"The Morris piece, "Monaco Reflecting Pools"? (2005), located on the Civic Center Oval, consists of two elegantly configured shallow pools, each tiled in a geometric pattern, each pattern with its own color way. They look like immersed abstract paintings, liable to change in hue and shape as the light and wind play upon their fluid surfaces. At night, when artificially lit, they look different yet again. Morris has created a contemplative spot - there are benches in the design - altering slightly the traditional nature of a village green though not its function as an open gathering place in the center of town.
Bedia's Key Biscayne works are physically more extensive than the Morris pools, and they delve deeper into the specifics of the island's ecology. Always sensitive to the allure of language, Bedia combines words with his distinctive figural style, here naming and depicting five creatures indigenous to the environment: the manatee, the manta ray, the anhinga bird, the butterfly and the barracuda. The images with their text, fashioned of brightly colored terrazzo, create mini-plazas along Crandon Boulevard, linking the area between the key's two parks, the County's Crandon Park and the State's Cape Florida.
Villagers moving along the spine of the island walk on the art, bicycle around it, jog over it. It's an inspired kind of land art, cautioning islanders about the fragility of the other creatures in their midst, instructing all who transverse the plazas that the familiar names of indigenous fauna have foreign origins. Bedia's plazas are stunning in their details, quiet in their impact, the sort of public art that bears repeating."
Teachers and students are invited to visit and ponder the plazas and the artists' work. Please see the Education section for suggested projects and activities.