MIAMI The Miami Herald

 

Guitars become public art in Miami-Dade

First flamingos. Then cows. Now, giant-size, painted guitars will be displayed from downtown Miami to Coconut Grove.

 

rsamuels@MiamiHerald.com

His sprawling mosaics shine from an affordable housing complex off Interstate 95 and the MacArthur Causeway, but there was something special about Ray Corral's 10-foot-guitar displayed inside Jungle Island on Wednesday. (Aside from the fact that a spider monkey had climbed it a few minutes before.)

Imbued on the guitar's face were small tiles melding into an image he once imagined: a woman with long red hair twisting into the flags of Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Argentina and Ecuador. It was an image symbolizing Miami's cultural kaleidoscope -- and the first one to feature his signature.

``I did all the work for it, so I can actually sign my name to it,'' said Ray Corral, a 36-year-old artist, said as he pointed to the signature on the black end of the model guitar. ``It's small, but it's very high-minded.''

And it will be one of 35 10-foot-guitars that will be planted along public spaces from downtown to Coconut Grove -- the latest public art spectacle to reach the city of Miami.

``We didn't want to do flamingos; we didn't want to do cows,'' said Rebecca Ponce, a spokeswoman for the Gibson Foundation, an arm of the musical manufacturing company dedicated to supporting music and arts education. ``We wanted to do what we do best: guitars.''

Since 2004, the foundation has commissioned local artists in select cities to create to the tune of a giant Les Paul or Chet Atkins model guitar. The best are placed in high-traffic areas, such as Bayfront Park, Bongo's and CocoWalk. After a two-month stint, the guitars will be auctioned off for charity at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino near Hollywood.

London was the foundation's first so-called ``guitar town.'' Nashville, Austin and Orlando followed.

Although Miami is a city known more for its reggaeton and conga drums, project coordinator Brad Berman said local artists found ways to distinguish themselves.

``The use of colors here is bolder than a lot of the ones I've seen,'' Berman said. ``Every country has its flavor.''

More than 110 designs were submitted by local artists to the foundation for its consideration.

In addition to the 35 large guitars, 35 regular-size guitars -- some painted by students at the New World School of the Arts and Design and Architecture High School -- will travel to different spots in Miami as part of a moving museum.

``Miami isn't always known for great music or art; it's a very transient city,'' Berman said.

``By showing that there are great artists here, we hope it gives people an idea that Miami is actually a great destination for all of this.''