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.

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.''