Arts Pioneers: Profiles of South Florida’s cultural groundbreakers

South Florida’s current rich cultural scene is largely rooted in the ’80s, a decade during which many of the city’s key arts institutions and events were launched, transforming what was largely derided as a cultural wasteland into a city with all the elements of an artistically vibrant community.

This extraordinary burst of civic and creative energy was all the more remarkable in that it followed a series of disasters: the violent “Cocaine Cowboy” drug cartel struggles in the ’70s, the Mariel boatlift and the 1980 Liberty City riots, which famously led Time magazine to dub Miami “Paradise Lost.” Instead, a small group of artistic and civic visionaries, backed by political and business leaders who saw (or were persuaded to see) the arts as a lifeline for their beleaguered city, started the enterprises that would turn Miami into a thriving artistic center. Here are the stories of those ventures’ beginnings, and of the transformation of South Florida.

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