The City of Miami Beach has lost its Director of Tourism and Culture after just thirteen months on the job. Matt Kenny (at left in photo) resigned this week according to what City Commissioner Ricky Arriola said was "in protest" over frustration at the lack of a plan for Spring Break. Arriola made his comments during a discussion regarding an ordinance to limit the sale of alcohol during peak Spring Break. Arriola who has argued for counter programming during March was unhappy with what he felt was a presentation of a plan for programming that was too late in the game and "half-baked."
During his time in the role, the City received wide acclaim for Order of Importance, a monumental temporary sand sculpture depicting a traffic jam on the beach; the initiation of a public art purchase by emerging artists in partnership with Art Basel; the City’s popular Culture Crawl event which seeks to engage all of the City’s cultural institutions; and the just-announced No Vacancy program, a juried temporary art program in local hotels.
Kenny was also asked to come up with programming ideas for the City’s problematic Spring Break season, similar to how the City calmed Memorial Day Weekend with the Air and Sea Show. Last September Commissioners agreed to set aside $1.5 million for day and night programming and event production, but last month they scrapped the nighttime option, amid concerns over amount of time to fully plan the programs and that events would just add to the number of people here for the month of March. Kenny had been working with Live Nation to bring their artists here for weekend concerts throughout the month to give Spring Breakers something to do with their time and to attract residents back to Ocean Drive.
On his LinkedIn profile, Kenny describes himself as an “industry disruptor, with over 15 years’ experience leading international teams in creating innovative and comprehensive cultural strategies, centered around the purpose of reinventing industries, driving results and surpassing results.
In his role with the City, Kenny’s profile indicates he managed an annual budget of over $35 million, “oversaw management and sale functions for the Miami Beach Convention Center, the Fillmore Miami Beach, the Colony theatre, and The Bass Museum, with a focus on strong tourism strategy, and aggressive economic impact goals.” He also acted as a liaison for citywide events such as Art Basel, Super Bowl, South Beach Food and Wine, Miami Beach Pride, and others. His responsibilities also included oversight of the Cultural Affairs Department which includes the Cultural Arts Council and Art in Public Places Committees as well as the special event permits and film permit departments, according to his profile.
Prior to joining the City, Kenny was with the Community Agency for four years, an international agency specializing in “positioning brands (Bacardi, Grey Goose, Casper, Perrier)( at the forefront of culture,” according to his LinkedIn profile. From May 2009 through September 2014, he served as Supervisor – Economic Development, Culture and Tourism for the City of Toronto.
In his hiring memo to Commissioners, City Manager Jimmy Morales said, in his economic development role in Toronto, “Matt cultivated various programs for the department, and successfully produced over 100 music, art, and live performance cultural projects, programs and events for the fourth largest city in North America. These programs also included public art spaces and music sector, while working with various grant agencies. As the Tourism and Culture Supervisor, Matt worked with large corporations to secure funding for City-produced events.”
Out of college, he joined MLSE (Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Partnership), spending two years as Senior Coordinator for Live Entertainment and two years at Account Manager, Brand Marketing & Events. He graduated from Ryerson University in Toronto.
“Mr. Kenny’s prior work experience aligns closely with the responsibilities of the Tourism and Culture department including art in public places, cultural grant programs, film and special event permitting, marketing and sponsorship agreements, event production including participation on Nuit Blanche, Vancouver Olympics, Pan Am Games, 100th Grey Cup, and New Year’s Eve,” Morales wrote of the appointment in January 2019.
The previous Office of Tourism, Culture and Economic Development was split in two last year and Kenny was the first one to hold the Director of Tourism and Culture role. Bo Martinez was hired shortly after Kenny for the Economic Development Director role.
Kenny did not respond to a request for comment. The City did not confirm the resignation.
Photo courtesy City of Miami Beach; left to right, Matt Kenny, Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales, and Mariane Ibrahim, owner of Mariane Ibrahim Gallery which represents artist Amoako Boafo. They are seen with Boafo’s painting Cobalt Blue Earring which was purchased by the City as part of its Art in Public Places Program during Art Basel 2019.
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