by Eddie Arroyo
She is in the kitchen typing away on her laptop as my eyes wonder her home. For me it is witnessing a retrospective of the past ten years of art in Miami. However, this is not confined in the white cube of a museum or gallery. This space is welcoming, lived in, and very comfortable. At times, there are questions from collectors to the general public about if these contemporary art pieces should be in a home. Dan and Kathryn Mikesell’s have answered these questions. And as my eyes continue to wonder Kathryn hands me a glass of water and we sit in her living room.
How long have you and your husband been collectors?
We’ve been collecting since we’ve been together. We have always collected Miami artist as well as National and International Artists. Dan had two pieces in his collection when we met. He was introduced to collecting by his parents, who have been collecting for 30+years. My parents had never collected art. I’ve actually introduced them to collecting and they now have about 5 original works in their growing collection. We have very different tastes but, I’m proud to have given them the bug.
Your husband and you were not collecting prior to meeting each other. So what was it that got you interested in collecting?
We got involved with the Art Center in South Florida and began meeting local artists and it developed into a passion between us and now it’s taken over our lives in a very beautiful way. I don’t know what we’re more passionate about; collecting art or helping to support artists. We try to do as much as we can with the resources we have available. Our goal is to support Miami’s arts community as a whole. We frequently host events for our local museums and non-profits, as well as artist only events. In addition to the artists we invite to the residency, We also host artists and provide flights for artists for Miami non-profits Locust Projects and Bas Fisher Invitational. Our first collaborative project was with Locust Projects back in March 2008. Locust Projects was started by three artists, Cooper, Westen Charles, and Elizabeth Withstandley. Claire Bruekel was later hired on as Director and it is with her that our partnership began. It has continued under the direction of Chana Budgazad Sheldon, the current Director.
When Locust Projects began, they were located in Wynwood and they had a very small bedroom in a warehouse where artists would come and stay when they did their exhibitions. But it wasn’t a nice place to stay; it was simply a place to stay. They wanted to be able to do more ambitious projects but they didn’t have the funding at the time. They didn’t have the ability to get people hotel rooms. That is when we started talking and we decided to support them more and we developed this relationship. It was the beginning of our residency.
The residency was started for a number of different reasons, one was selfishly we, Dan and I, wanted to understand what it was to be an artist. How you take something from conception to completion. Not being an artist it’s hard to understand that, right, everyone’s process is so different. We always tried to get to know the people whose work we collected. But, there is only so much you can get to know with just a handful of telephone conversations and e-mails. Some we have gotten to know well and they’re very close friends of ours but it’s not an easy thing; especially if you’re buying work from outside the country.
We also wanted to do more to feed the growth of Miami and the arts community. Bringing national and international artists introduces Miami to a new group of people. It helps to show the world that we are not a one event town but an artistic hub, with a uniquely supportive community. It also introduces the Miami community to artists from around the world. The ideas and experiences that are shared between artists and the community are priceless. We can all learn from one another.
It has also built friendships with artists around the country and around the world. Miami based artist, Loriel Beltran, did a European tour and stayed with an artist he met while they were here at the Fountainhead. You just never know, it’s funny, I get text and e-mails all the time telling me, “You won’t believe I’m in Spain and I ran into Dean just hanging out on the street and I met him at the residency.” Crazy things like that happen and then there are the shows, books and other opportunities that came from relationships that started at the residency. We’ve even been responsible for several couples meeting. No marriages yet but we’ll see. I’ve found when you put creative people together the options are limitless.
Shortly after we started the Residency, we began thinking about what more we could do to support local artists. That was the start of The Fountainhead Studios. We now have 26 artists working in the studios.
This city has had a wonderful art scene for many years and thanks to the exposure that began with Art Basel, more people realize that. We want to continue to foster that growth by enabling non profits like Locust Project, Bas/ Fisher, and Dimension Variable to produce ambitious shows. We want to support all our museums, each one of them play a valuable role in our community. We’ve also supported several galleries like Diet Gallery, Dorsch Gallery and Alejandra Von Hartz that have reached out to us.
There was a need in the community that we were able to help fill and it’s a great opportunity for the artists that come to visit the residency to really become a part of the Miami community and be directly connected with the people and institutions that are making things happen. This is something we want to give back to visiting artists, that Miami is very unique, in that we are all open and very supportive of one another. We are available to talk to at events. It doesn’t matter who you are or what your background is or what your place in the art community is. It’s a great learning experience for our residents being able to talk intimately with collectors, museum directors and curators, gallery owners, consultants. Something many of them don’t have that in the cities in which they live. I’ve had artists tell me that now how more friends in Miami than they have at home.
Did you foresee something like this happening when you started collecting and found that you wanted to be a part of it?
No, my crystal ball is that good. Truly I could have never imagined it but it has fulfilled our lives in a way that words can not describe.
You ask what I think of Wynwood. I think there are a lot of great galleries in Wynwood but there is room for growth. Many of the galleries are very active and doing things to change the community and give back. The initiatives of WADA, Wynwood Art Dealers Association and programs like WOW, Women of Wynwod are a great examples. It will be interesting to see in the next couple of years to see what happens. The Design District took many years and several false starts to get it to where it is today. From an outsiders perspective, the improvement and expansion gathered steam when the restaurants opened and they expanded their audience beyond that of designers and clients. The area to flourished. It’s now the place to be. The challenge with Wynwood remains that aside from the gallery walk that neighborhood is still very quiet with little foot traffic. The property owners there are working hard to change that and are encouraging new business to move in, opening their own businesses and are fostering growth of the existing businesses. These challenges are not new. Geographically it’s a great location because in the middle of everything and its right off the highway. The restaurants in Wynwood are a good example of how they are trying to grow with Joey’s and Lesters. Panther Coffee recently opened. You even have a children’s center Play In that opened this year. Things are starting to happen and there is some more traffic. Perhaps some more boutiques, books stores, record stores, a comic book store businesses that cater to creative people and draws in an interesting crowd.
You told me your intent with the residency. Tell me what direction you would like the Fountainhead studios to go?
Honestly, I like the studios just as it is. The reason we started is to give artists an affordable place to work. It was not easy because we didn’t have the funds to do anything else but we had the passion and desire to help.
So I spoke to my friend Steve Rhodes and asked him if he had any cheap spaces, that would be difficult to rent otherwise, that I could turn into artist’s studios. After looking at several warehouses, we decided on one.
The first thing was that we wanted the studios to be affordable. The second thing was that we wanted them to have no term commitment so if times were good and an artist could afford it they can work there fantastic. If the next day they couldn’t afford it or were offered an opportunity elsewhere, there would be no lease so they could leave without owing anything. We simply wanted it to be a place where artist create, collaborate and share ideas, and develop their practice without any other commitments. The only rules were you have to be committed to your practice, open to dialogue, and respectful to others. I’ve have to children, I need artist that could work together and wanted to be part of a community.
Two plus years later, we’ve expanded and now have over 17000 square feet. I suppose if I want to do anything different it would be to open more studios because I get a lot of calls, but right now my plate is full.
I’m sorry to press this question but I’m trying to understand where this interest in the arts came from. I mean both of you had no serious interest in it until you met and so when you two got together…it’s like the you two were reborn as little children and now you’re like wow look at this, oh My God, running around like you’re in a toy store.
And that is what happen, we got together and we had our first apartment on the beach and we started to decorate it. Dan had three paintings one from Purvis Young and two by Nick Vukmonovich. Slowly we started visiting the Art Center of South Florida, the Bakehouse, galleries and museums. The next thing you know were going to galleries while we’re traveling for business and calling each other excited about what we had seen. Then we bought our first house we had all this wall space and it kind of exploded from there. Our walls have been filled for years so we rotate work and we share our art with friends. We have work all over the city. We try to store as little as possible. Art needs to breath and have a life. By sharing it we keep the work alive and it’s help to introduce our friends to collecting. We enjoy sharing our home especially with artists. Our dream is to have a home built by artists for art and try to involve artist into as much as the process as we can.
That would be something to see.
Yes… it will be.