With this month's annual Dwntwn Art Days, the concrete jungle of downtown Miami gets an artistic face-lift.

Dwntwn Art Days
Daniele Frazier’s temporary installation It Takes Two towered over passersby on North Miami Avenue during last year’s Dwntwn Art Walk.

In the mid 1980s, downtown Miami commissioned big-time art world talent, from the innovative sculptor Claes Oldenburg to famed Japanese designer Isamu Noguchi, to create striking public art projects around town. There was a bit of a creative lull in the ensuing decades, but for the past two years the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) has been molding the staid landscape among the office buildings while boldly infusing energy into the place with a three-day festival of public art and activities called Dwntwn Art Days.

That means three days of talks, exhibitions, walking tours, bike tours, and panel discussions involving independent galleries and artists, as well as major institutions like the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science and the Pérez Art Museum Miami. There’s action all over downtown, with the central business district being a main focal point, via a series of public art encounters. According to Sonja Bogensperger of the DDA, there will be much more family-friendly programming this year. Add to that the vibrant culinary scene, a growing crop of galleries, artist residencies such as Cannonball, and the already-on-display Art in Unexpected Places, and downtown is more and more becoming a place not just for business or Heat games but for an entire cultural experience.

Dwntwn Art Days
Pontus Willfors’s Latticework, on view in downtown’s Grand Central Park last year.

“People are going to encounter these things without realizing that they’re art,” explains Amanda Sanfillipo, a curator for Fringe Projects, the group behind deciding which artists create the installations for Dwntwn Art Days. “It’s an experience,” she says of the works, such as Nick Lobo’s planned scent clock that uses aerators to disperse perfumes purchased from downtown shops at certain times throughout the day.

Last year, there was a gigantic 18-foot inflatable Godzilla from the mind of artist Reed van Brunschot, and local artist Misael Soto’s 1,680-square-foot beach towel that accommodated 400 people in Bayfront Park. These projects are meant to jar downtown visitors and residents and take them out of their normal routine while giving them a collective experience to enjoy.

Brandi Reddick, from Miami-Dade County’s Art in Public Places, which funds the project, believes that temporary and time-sensitive public art projects can have a large impact. “When you encounter something that’s beautiful,” she says, “you’re not quite sure why it’s there, what it’s there for, but everyone somehow engages with it.”

The event is really a celebration of art, artists, and downtown itself, tailored specifically to the area. This year, the public art commissions will be on display after the festival—10 days in total—so there will be more time to experience the wonder of a reinvented downtown Miami. Dwntwn Art Days takes place September 19 through 21, around downtown, 305-579-6675

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