In the midst of the director and staff of South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center (SMDCAC) rescheduling performances and responding to queries, they have been equally busy using technology to connect audiences to performers.
The most recent offering beginning Thursday, May 14, 2020 is SMDCAC Sessions that, “supports local artists in Miami financially, emotionally, and creatively during this difficult time.” Eric Fliss, Managing Director of the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, has been in continuous contact with other directors and performers as they seek ways to make it through mandated closures in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
Although SMDCAC does book national and international performances, Fliss’s “Sessions” initiative focuses on Miami-Dade artists who have an established relationship with the center. "Our top priority is to support the artists in our community that are struggling to showcase their talent and make ends meet and we are able to do this through the ongoing support of the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs which operates the center. Miami thrives on an artistic and cultural scene that, unfortunately, has been put on pause due to this virus."
SMDCAC is able to provide a fee to each artist as well as a call-to-action for audiences to donate through a “virtual tip jar”. Fliss explained this aspect. “Artists will be accepting donations in support of themselves, an organization they are with, or at times for a third party.” A chat function will also enable viewers to interact with the performers. Thebsessions, which will air each Thursday at 7:00 p.m. until further notice, will be a short video performance broadcast on the SMDCAC Facebook Watch Party platform and the videos will remain available on their website.
One musician in the line-up, Aaron Lebos, began piano lessons at age five, and moved to the guitar about age eleven in following his older brother’s lead. Lebos, a Miami native, received his Bachelors from the University of Miami and a Masters at Florida International University, both in Jazz Performance. In developing his own style, he has appeared with the Nu Deco Ensemble, Nicole Henry, and others well-known to the south Miami music scene. He also established the group Aaron Lebos Reality, “a powerful and unique original music group whose music blends Rock, Funk and Rock in an organic fusion”. They’ve been featured on National Public Radio (NPR) and been part of SMDCAC’s annual “Backyard Bash”. For Lebos, “Whatever things have been funded are awesome; every little bit helps.” He has been able to do some teaching and studio work, but recognizes performing venues will be among the last to open, which means musicians will be some of the last to recover work. “It isn’t just the money,” he said. “We love to perform, to be in front of people. We miss that.”
Audiences miss the performing arts, too, and despite no known date to re-open, SMDCAC is preparing for when restrictions are lifted. “We take orders from the County and will roll out as directed,” Fliss said. “We have already rescheduled some of the summer shows until fall and next spring. We’re trying not to cancel, but it’s more difficult to reschedule with national performers; we can work with our regional artists.” Even within the uncertainty and disruption of lives, the arts have been neither silent nor still. “I’ve been watching the videos come in and it’s lovely to see how the artists are being creative; dancing in parks that are open; collaboration of artists in different locations; a three-piece band social distancing in masks. What they are doing is a testament to our local artists’ tenacity.”
To access all SMDCAC on-line archives and find the most up-to-date information, go to https://smdcac.org or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The SMDCAC Sessions at 7:00 p.m. every Thursday, through their Facebook page are also free access.
The South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center is managed by Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs, with funding support from the Office of the Miami-Dade County Mayor and Board of County Commissioners. The Center is dedicated to presenting and supporting arts and culture and providing access to the arts to the entire Miami-Dade County community. It is located at 0950 SW 211 Street, Cutler Bay, FL 33189. Tel, Main Office: (786) 573-5316, Box Office: (786) 573-5300, email@example.com