Miami, Florida

MIAMI MODERN: Where art is hot!

Wynwood Walls. Photo by Barb Sligl

Ah, Miami. It conjures hotness…as in beach, beach bodies and spicy Cuban fare, moves and music. And, yes, there’s all that. But there’s a hot factor in its art scene too.

The city has become a modern-art mecca, which Art Basel Miami shines a bold spotlight on. The see-and-be-seen party gets the glitterati out (think Leo and George and such), mingling, critiquing and buying contemporary artwork (this year it’s on December 7 – 10).

But to partake in Miami’s art scene all you need to do is walk through Wynwood Arts District (wynwoodmiami.com). Edgy and all things hip, this once industrial ’hood is now home to more than 70 art galleries, performance spaces, shops, bars and restaurants. And its crown jewel is the Wynwood Walls street-art installation (thewynwoodwalls.com).

Inside the de la Cruz Collection; “Sprache der Vögel,” Margulies Collection. Photo by Barb Sligl

Beyond those vivid walls are galleries within old warehouses, now showcasing museum-worthy private collections. Your mind may be blown at the Margulies Collection at the Warehouse (margulieswarehouse.com), housed in a 45,000-square-foot retrofitted warehouse that presents seasonal exhibitions from the vast collection of renowned art collector Martin Z. Margulies. Sample artwork: the spread wings of a three-ton sculpture by German artist Anselm Kiefer. Sprache der Vögel, or “Language of the Birds,” refers to 20th-century French alchemist Fulcanelli’s ideas on hidden truths and the transformative nature of alchemy. Stand beneath its massive wingspan and let its meaning soak in.

There’s more to ponder at the de la Cruz collection (delacruzcollection.org), in the nearby Design District (miamidesigndistrict.net). An extension of billionaire art lovers Rosa and Carlos de la Cruz’s home, it’s another massive (30,000 square feet) contemporary art space showcasing mind-boggling sculptures, paintings and installations. And it’s free to the public.

“Fly’s Eye Dome” public art ; “Le Corbusier" public art. Photo by Barb Sligl

Also free in the Design District is the Institute of Contemporary Art (icamiami.org), which is all about experimentation in contemporary art. A new 20,000-square-foot exhibition space and 15,000-square-foot sculpture garden (yes, Miami likes to go big) open on December 1, 2017.

Still in the Design District, meander the pedestrian-friendly maze of shops and office spaces to find various public art pieces like Neo-Futuristic architect Buckminster Fuller’s “Fly’s Eye Dome,” which is…just that. A 24-foot fly-eye-like sphere that’s considered a green-architecture pioneer—an interactive sculpture that the artist called the “autonomous dwelling machine.” It connects underground parking to the sky and courtyard above (part of the Palm Court shopping centre and another must-see design project composed of glazed-glass fins by architect Sou Fujimoto), where you’ll find a giant bust of Le Corbusier by French artist Xavier Veilhan. Surreal.

South Beach; Miami vibes on South Beach. Photo by Barb Sligl

Just south is the Pérez Art Museum Miami (pamm.org), Miami’s main art museum, which, besides the art inside, is set in a 200,000-square-foot showpiece by Pritzker Prize-winning architects Herzog & de Meuron. Its simple-and-sleek three-storey slatted canopy, hanging vertical garden and expansive deck overlook Biscayne Bay—a celebration of the city’s tropical vibe.

And on the other side of Biscayne Bay is the Art Deco wonderland of South Beach, where there’s both eye and ear candy… Gape at the curvaceous shapes and pastel palettes of iconic architecture from the Rat Pack era and then have picnic in the park while listening to the New World Symphony (nws.edu) projected on the façade of yet another architectural masterpiece, this time by Frank Gehry. It’s Miami modern. — Barb Sligl

MORE: Check out miamiandbeaches.com

Portland

PORTLAND, Oregon, has serious cool factor—and great food. Instead of sitting on its hipster laurels, this PNW city keeps pushing palates…eat it up!

portland6Portland is still the new frontier. Here, amidst the tattooed, bearded, thick-framed-glasses-wearing crowd—it’s as if this Pacific Northwest city, tucked under Mt. Hood, is a homing beacon for hipsters—there’s the warm embrace of creative types with some robust entrepreneurial spirit. “Keep Portland weird,” states a legendary mural (and adopted city slogan of sorts). Another long-standing emblematic sign: the neon white stag. And this odd factor is just plain charming—with some rather tasty side dishes.

portland2Because this oft-satirized hipster-haven is the happening food-and-drink hub of the PNW—think farm-to-fork, branch-to-bottle, leaf-to-cup. From ramen bowls at Noraneko (where you can also have a soju chuhai, the Japanese version of an after-work cocktail) to doughnuts (skip the line at Voodoo for a Dirty Wu at Pip’s), Portland puts on an unrivalled culinary show of which the following is just a small sample…

EAST BY WEST The Southeast Asian street-food cuisine of Pok Pok blew open a burgeoning Asian-fare scene in Portland (and now has recent Brooklyn and LA outposts beyond its PDX birthplace). There’s also Han Oak (named for traditional Korean “hanok” homes), Langbaan (a culinary speakeasy that means “back of the house” in Thai), Hat Yai (Langbaan’s counter-service off-shoot) and the first North American locations of Marukin and Afuri, Tokyo ramen houses with a cult following.

SAMPLE: Korean bibimbap (“mixed rice”) and steamed buns at Kim Jong Smokehouse, a collaboration between a few of Portland’s hottest chefs housed in the new Pine Street Market food hall.

DRINK ME Like the Alice in Wonderland directive, Portland encourages serious sipping. Besides the well-known coffee scene—this is the home of Stumptown Roasters, after all (also a moniker for the city itself)—there’s also a tea movement. This is where Tazo tea started, the founder of which went on to quietly create Smith Teamaker—the best in America, some say. There’s also, of course, kombucha (try Brew Dr.) and distilled tea spirits (at Thomas and Sons Distillery), made with varieties like pine-smoked Lapsang Souchong, that simply don’t fit neatly into any existing category—much like PDX itself. SAMPLE: The new fernet-style digestif by Thomas and Sons Distillery, redolent with local ingredients of Douglas Fir, Willamette Hops and birch bark.

POD CAST Portland was an early adopter of food trucks or carts. And with more than 600 citywide, from Viking Soul Food (lefse and gravlax) to newer kid-on-the-block Chicken and Guns (oak-fired Latin chicken), the options are limitless. Which is why this Portland particularity makes perfect sense: food-cart pods. Clustered in empty lots, the congregations of carts become al fresco dining and community spaces, PDX style. Cartlandia is a “super pod” of some 30 carts (featuring fare from 15 countries) and a full-on bar (with 18 beers and ciders on tap). Cartopia has outdoor movie screenings and is a late-night stop, while Tidbit, the newest pod, goes beyond the food and drink with pretty lights, picnic tables, a fire pit and Airstream boutique.

SAMPLE: A Smaaken waffle sandwich (made with local, organic, heirloom varietal wheat, of course)—try the bacon-forward Van Gogh or the veggie Popeye—at the Tidbit pod.

portland3And, now, after all that feasting, “go by bike,” as they say in Portlandia. — Barb Sligl

For more on all the weird and wonderful things to do and sample in Portland, go to travelportland.com.

 

Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix has plenty of Arizona’s desert heat but it has also sparked a spicy and vibrant art and culinary scene…with some sweet spots to rejuvenate

After my Lotus Blossoming Chakra massage, I discover that some of my seven chakras aren’t quite as aligned as they should be. Apparently I need to meditate more. I try to remedy this immediately by walking the labyrinth at The Boulders Resort & Spa. Round and round I shuffle, the scent of sage wafting over me, the sun warming my face, the dry desert wind softly fluttering my robe. I think it’s working.

Or it could just be this place, the huge rocks the resort is named for, the tall saguaro cacti, the amber and rusty hues of the baked landscape. The next morning I rise early in my adobe-style casita at The Boulders (theboulders.com) and venture into the desert for a run as the sun is just starting to spread its heat. I feel my chakras realigning…

2The Sonoran desert may seem harsh but it teems with beauty. Closer to Phoenix (The Boulders is in Scottsdale, just outside Arizona’s capital and largest city), I walk through the Desert Botanical Garden (one of only a few botanical gardens accredited by the American Association of Museums; dbg.org) and then hike nearby Camelback Mountain to marvel at the range of colour this arid land sprouts, like the magenta spikes of a barrel cactus.

3The southwest vibe continues at The Camby (thecamby.com), one of Phoenix’s newest hotels (a major refurb and rebrand on the site of an old Rat Pack bar and former Ritz property). Inspired by the surrounding desert (its name is a play on that iconic Camelback peak), the swish hotel is infused with the five Cs of Arizona—cattle, copper, citrus, climate, cotton—including lamps the shape of cow skulls and grapefruits, turquoise and copper accents, luxe pima-cotton sheets and local art.

4And there’s art everywhere. In the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM; mim.org), a sophisticated conference/meeting site as well as repository of some 15,000 musical instruments from around the world, art is in the form of objects like a horse jawbone from Mexico that rattles when its teeth are scraped or struck with a nail. In downtown Phoenix, Roosevelt Row or RoRo (rooseveltrow.org) is a wild display of commissioned street art that’s as vibrant as some of those desert blooms. The revitalized ’hood is home to artist studios, galleries, boutiques, co-ops, small-stage theatres, coffee shops, restaurants and even a craft brewery and gastropub, Angel’s Trumpet Ale House (angelstrumpetalehouse.com). Every first Friday night of the month, thousands of people gather in revitalized RoRo for the First Friday Art Walk.

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At the nearby Phoenix Public Market Café (phxpublicmarket.com), art comes in the form of local food, from coffee roasted in nearby Tempe (try the Desert Dawn: oj and a splash of lemon topped with cold brew coffee) to “Eat the Rainbow,” a combo of farmers’ market veggies (and cool t-shirt), or the Arroz & Frijoles bowl, a healthy, heaping, hipster take on southwestern fare. More foodie inspiration is found uptown at The Yard, at the graffiti-art-clad Barrio Urbano (barriourbanophx.com). It’s an urban take on traditional Mexican cuisine by Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza, a four-time James Beard Award nominee, where craft cocktails and killer tacos come together in an atmosphere that’s part gritty barrio and part art gallery. And it’s yet another way of finding that desert zen. — Barb Sligl

For more info on Phoenix, go to visitphoenix.com, for
nearby Scottsdale, check out experiencescottsdale.com,
and for Arizona, visit visitarizona.com.