ReFrame Curatorial Team Speaks Out Regarding Removal of Artwork at Miami Beach Sponsored Exhibit

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

ReFrame Curatorial Team Speaks Out Regarding Removal of Artwork at Miami Beach Sponsored Exhibit:

“This incident was an act of art censorship”

The curatorial team of ReFrame: Miami Beach has released an official statement regarding the removal of an art piece critical of police actions from the I See You, Too exhibit over Memorial Day Weekend. In a story first reported by RE:MiamiBeach, City Manager Jimmy Morales said he requested the removal of the work Memorial for Raymond Herisse "after a discussion with the curators.” Today, the team called it “an act of art censorship” and said they agreed to remove the piece “under duress” after the City told them the entire show “would be shut down” if the work remained. 
Meanwhile, reaction continues to come in with one leader in the Miami Beach arts community offering to host a conversation on the subject.
The statement from the curators in full:

The ReFrame Miami Beach production team was engaged by The City of Miami Beach’s Tourism and Culture Department to present a program during Memorial Beach Weekend, we together approached this project with a question, “How can art and culture step in as a mediator to tell stories from different points of view?” Given the fraught relationship between The City of Miami Beach and local and visiting communities of color, we agreed on programming that would spark crucial conversations about inclusion, Blackness, trust and surveillance. Curated by Octavia Yearwood and Naiomy Guerrero, with artists Loni Johnson and Rodney Jackson, the exhibition "I See You, Too” opened on Friday, May 25 as one of several activations about how propaganda and misinformation have compromised us. 

On Saturday, May 26, The City of Miami Beach told Yearwood that we needed to remove the memorial of Raymond Herisse at the behest of the Miami Beach Police, due their being offended by the memorial, or the entire exhibition “I See You, Too” would be shut down. We requested a conversation with the offended parties.

Our request for a conversation was not accepted and another demand for removal was articulated. The installation was removed under threat of consequences that would have further limited our expression.

We stand by our artists and their first amendment rights. When The City underwrote the exhibition, they approved of the curatorial direction and did not ask for curatorial review. This incident was an act of art censorship, and while we as curators removed the artwork, it was removed under duress.

We are currently speaking with our creative team, reaching out the family of Mr. Herisse, and advisors to determine the best next steps. We thank the many artists and leaders who have reached out with their support and who stand against art censorship.

-ReFrame Miami Beach Production Team
Octavia Yearwood and Jared McGriff

Michel Hausmann, Artistic Director for Miami New Drama, discussed the issue with RE:MiamiBeach. “I think that Miami Beach has stood above every city in Florida and even the country for its embrace of the arts. The arts have set us apart from everywhere else, so I think we should look at this issue very carefully because its implications are very dangerous.”
“I work closely with the government of the City of Miami Beach and know their support for the arts and I am hopeful things will be cleared up,” Hausmann said. “I’m happy to host a conversation about this issue at the theater, if need be.” Miami New Drama is a not for profit organization that receives City funding for some of its programming and manages the Colony Theater for the City.
Hausmann did have high praise for the ReFrame initiative. "We were one of the 6 participant cultural institutions in the ReFrame Progam, an extraordinarily successful initiative from the Tourism and Cultural department that I applaud and hope it can continue in future years. I think it's wonderful for the city of Miami Beach to give artists a platform, and I think it's important to respect the artistic integrity of the artists you invite, and the artists invited were world class,” he told us in a follow up email about the program.
Earlier, the New Times spoke with Shannon Ligon, an attorney for Herisse's family, who said she was “appalled” by the action. "If anything, I think it's important that you memorialize situations like [Herisse's death] just so they don't happen again,” she told the New Times.
Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber told Channel 10 he supported the City Manager’s decision. "It really wasn't what we expected," Gelber said. "We were trying to be more uniting than dividing."
Channel 10 also spoke with artist R. Jackson who said, "There wasn't any violence, there wasn't any profanity, there wasn't really anything disrespectful," Jackson said. "It was simply a memorial to someone who had passed away. I don't know how that can be construed as non-inclusive unless we were memorializing the wrong type of person."

Herisse was killed by police during a high-speed chase on Collins Avenue during Memorial Day Weekend 2011.

The National Coalition Against Censorship condemned the action earlier this week.

"Memorial for Raymond Herisse", by R. Jackson

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