Looking to up the Miami Beach art game, Commissioner Ricky Arriola proposed to his colleagues that they consider a temporary installation of the Rainbow Bridge that was recently featured at Burning Man and Art Basel, two of the country’s most highly visible arts and culture events.
The bridge, created by the Looking Up Arts Foundation, was brought here by Red Bull Energy Drink in collaboration with PAC-MAN for the HIVE Wynwood satellite fair during Art Basel. Its size – 75 ft long by 30 ft tall – and its 25,000 programmable LED lights with nightly light displays ensured it was one of the most “instagrammable moments” during Art Week.
Wanting to capture some of that before it left, Arriola hastily added discussion of the Rainbow Bridge to this month’s Commission agenda. “Many of us were inspired and our competitive nature got flowing when we saw the umbrella project go up in Coral Gables,” Arriola said referring to another local “instagrammable” temporary art installation.
Describing the bridge, he said, “It’s quite beautiful and interesting… This is a discussion about the Rainbow Bridge but it’s also the larger discussion of our efforts to try to beautify the City and do something cool and unique that shows our commitment to our city through artistic installations.”
“[I] thought it would be worthwhile to have the discussion while it’s here. The rainbow’s cool, it’s very thematic of what Miami Beach stands for," Arriola said.
Srikanth Guttikonda, one of the co-founders of the Looking Up Arts Foundation (LUAF), spoke to the Commission about the future potential (as the bridge was being packed up for shipment back to San Francisco). He liked the idea of having it in place for Pride Week after Commissioner Michael Góngora proposed putting it in Lummus Park near the 12th Street rainbow crosswalk.
Because of its size, Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales said Lummus Park is one of the few places it could go. Commissioner John Alemán said she had not seen the bridge but her Commission aide marveled at the great views from the top of the climbable structure. That would also argue for putting it someplace with great views, like Lummus Park, she said.
Guttikonda noted the bridge was placed on hard packed sand at Burning Man so the park location would work.
Mayor Dan Gelber joked, “Burning Man isn’t exactly what we want to be but art from Burning Man is just fine.”
“I appreciate it, Commissioner Arriola, because I think we ought to be thinking about ways to create these kind of moments in our city,” Gelber added. “We all think it’s a neat thing that fits our city and in a lot of ways.”
Though Guttikonda said the LUAF team would like to build a permanent structure, Commissioners were more interested in the temporary version.
Commissioner Micky Steinberg said, “I think that makes it more special when it’s there for a finite amount of time because people want to get there and enjoy it” before it leaves.
Guttikonda said during HIVE Wynwood more than 2,000 people climbed the bridge which, he noted, was approved by City of Miami and the fire marshal. There were no safety issues with it during the weekend.
The task was left with Morales to discuss terms with LUAF and shortly after the Commission meeting he informed Commissioners via letter. “The LUAF team has explained that the bridge is designed as a temporary structure with exposure to outside elements limited to approximately ten (10) days.” Though keeping the bridge here for a late December – early January time was discussed, Morales said, “After multiple conversations and a multi-departmental logistical meeting, LUAF expressed their sincere interest in working with the City of Miami Beach, but would prefer to engage in 2019, due to team fatigue and budget. LUAF shared that during Art Week, the budget for the Rainbow Bridge was over $80,000 for a four (4) day rental including, but not limited to, structural rental, staff wages, flights, room and board, car rental, structure repairs, shipping, machinery rentals, permits, insurance, generators, security, and fuel.”
He told Commissioners LUAF is interested in an installation during the 2019 Miami Beach Pride celebration, April 1-7, “or other 2019 Miami Beach events.”
“The Administration will continue to communicate with LUAF and return to the City Commission once we have a potential new plan of action,” he wrote.
Guttikonda, described on the Looking Up Arts Foundation website as a “physicist turned engineer and artist” was the LED artist on the project “overseeing the physical, interactive and software design” for the “25,000 individually addressable LEDs.” In our, “he’s cooler than we are category,” the LUAF website says Guttikonda “received a grant to build an interactive Flying Spaghetti Monster sculpture from California Foundation for the Advancement of Electronic Arts which toured LA and SF Decompression events.”
Josh Zubkoff, co-founder, is the artist who created the Rainbow Bridge. LUAF says his “versatile work explores the intersection of pop culture and profound meaning.”
And, while the Rainbow Bridge may reflect Miami Beach’s diversity, we should point out Zubkoff also created what we would consider another quintessential Miami Beach art piece: Phoenicopterus Rex, a climbable 40-foot tall steel and fiberglass Flamingo sculpture, which was featured at Burning Man 2017.
The Looking Up Arts Foundation is a non-profit organization based in San Francisco. Established in 2018, it is dedicated to large scale art installations and supports local artists in the “production, exhibition, and public dissemination of exciting and extraordinary art projects, focusing primarily on art festivals and interactive exhibitions.”
Photos of Rainbow Bridge at HIVE Wynwood, Courtesy Commissioner John Alemán Facebook page
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