Historic Virginia Key is Looking to the Future

By staff writer

April 2019

As its name implies, Historic Virginia Key Beach Park is rich with history. Since it reopened in 2008, however, the park has wasted no time in establishing itself as both an environmental preserve area and a prime site for cultural events.

Virginia Key’s history dates back to the 1920s, when it became a haven for the local African American population due to segregation. It remained a segregated zone in the 1950s and was closed by the city in 1982 due to high maintenance costs. In 1999, however, a group of locals that called themselves the Virginia Key Beach Park Civil Rights Task Force organized in response to developers looking to buy the land. As a result of their efforts to highlight the value of the park’s history, the city established the Virginia Key Beach Park Trust to oversee its future development.

Since it reopened to the public in 2008, Historic Virginia Key Beach Park has become a popular site for everything from summer camps to large music festivals. In a recent conversation with Invest: Miami, Guy Forchion, the park’s executive director, highlighted the park’s value as a community center — particularly for local youth.  

“The YMCA opened a summer camp here focused on marine biology before we even opened up to the public. Two years ago, we added two other summer camps,” Forchion explained. “HistoryMiami Museum brings students and schools through for tours of the park as well, which is truly the future of the park — being able to tell its story to young people and educate them about its history.”

The park hosted the 2018 House of Creatives Music and Arts Festival last November, which featured regional, national and international music groups, including big names such as Foster the People and MIA. The festival also showcased local cuisine with an array of vendors from various restaurants in the area.

This event came on the heels of the widely publicized announcement that the park would be the site of the famous Ultra Music Festival, which traditionally has been held in downtown Miami’s Bayfront Park.

“The people with the Ultra Music Festival worked with us very actively and responsively from the moment they announced the event would happen here,” said Forchion. “Ultra did a great job working with us to protect the natural environment here as well. They did all they could to protect the area and make the event as ‘green’ as possible.”  

He said the music festival had a minimal impact on the Historic Virginia Key Beach Park venue, though a more comprehensive assessment of the event’s impact on the property would follow.  “With several more days of production breakdown and loadout, we look forward to the opportunity to review the property in its entirety,” he said.

Outside of providing a fantastic venue for music and arts, the park is also crucial to the study of rising sea levels. “There has been an incredible change in our shoreline in just the last eight years,” Forchion explained. “The park is a living experiment in this regard, and the University of Miami has had classes come and spend a week on the beach each year to do research on rising sea levels, as well as on the aquatic ecosystem here.”

The park was also recently awarded an Institute of Museum and Library Sciences grant to digitize its extensive photo archive. And future goals include the establishment of a full-blown museum — a project Forchion and the city have been working on. They’ve already drafted legislation to fund the planning and construction of the museum.

The park generates “a lot of revenue,” Forchion pointed out — a fact that can only help their cause.

To help preserve the park’s legacy and enrich its future, locals can make donations to the park by visiting: https://virginiakeybeachpark.net/donate/

Atlanta’s Booming Entertainment Industry

By staff writer

March 2019

The entertainment industry is often very loyal to the areas that give birth to its craft. Nashville, for instance, is the birthplace of country music, while Detroit is the home of Motown. And the motion picture industry is no different.

From its black-and-white beginnings to the modern advancements of computer-generated imagery, the film and television industry centered in Hollywood, California is synonymous with all things visually entertaining. Yet recently, that industry has found new places in which to create its masterpieces.

Among the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains and the southern ridge of the Chattahoochee River is one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas on the eastern seaboard — and a rising force in film and television. Besides a cultural heritage steeped in southern charm and the City of Atlanta’s diverse population, the area also has become a booming business and industrial zone.

With the average cost of creating a blockbuster surging to around $30 million, it’s no wonder investors are moving their projects to other places. And Atlanta has created everything from production companies and music studios to innovative educational opportunities meant to support the vibrant industry.  

Sensing the growing demand for cost-effective alternatives to the highly-taxed entertainment industries of California, Georgia took the initiative to create and pass the Entertainment Industry Investment Act in May of 2005. It gives a 20 percent tax credit for companies that spend a minimum of $500,000 on production or post-production activities in Georgia — as well as an additional 10% credit if the finished project includes promotional material provided by the state.

This almost unheard-of financial nod to the entertainment industry not only has bolstered the area’s already-surging artistic vibe, but it has catapulted it to the top of the movie industry’s filming locations. In fact, in 2016 Georgia was the setting for more feature films than any other state.

The state of Georgia saw such massive growth in the film industry after the passage of the act that, in 2017, the Georgia Music Partners (GMP) successfully lobbied for a version of their own. The resulting Georgia Music Investment Act, which came into effect in January 2018, offers a tax credit equal to 15 percent of a music production company’s qualified production expenditure. While it’s too early to tell whether the act will have the same kind of ripple effect, proponents are hopeful that the music scene will follow suit.

Following the passage of these two incentives, colleges and universities have scrambled to create a workforce that’s both knowledgeable and invested in the entertainment business. Clayton State University, for example, has created several programs focused on developing behind-the-scenes talent.

Tim Hynes, president of Clayton State, said he has already seen his university’s investment in the film and music industry pay off.

“Eighty-six percent of our graduates stay within Georgia’s state lines after graduation, giving us an advantage in cultivating long-term partnerships with local film and television production companies,” he said. “From these partnerships, we’ve been able to establish scholarship programs for our film production students.”

Partly as a result of the state’s enthusiastic support of the film and music industries, Atlanta’s economic growth has been robust. In 2017, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal announced that the combined revenue created from these two industries produced a whopping $9.5 billion windfall in that one year alone.

High Times Ahead at the High

By staff writer
August 2018 – 2 min. read

On Monday, tickets went on sale exclusively to members of the High Museum of Art for the highly anticipated Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors, an exhibition by one of the 20th century’s most influential artists. By 10:30 a.m., there were already 8,550 museum members in virtual line. The exhibit will be on display at the High from November 18, 2018, to February 17, 2019. Tickets go on sale to the public on September 17.

Infinity Mirrors, organized by the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, takes visitors on an incredible journey through 89-year-old Kusama’s six decades of work, exploring the evolution of her iconic Infinity Mirror Rooms — wild vistas of color, dimension and space. With six of these rooms on display, along with a collection of sculptures, paintings, works on paper, film excerpts, archival material and additional large-scale installations from her early career to today, this is without a doubt the most comprehensive exhibition of the Japanese-born artist’s work to tour North America in 20 years.

Director Rand Suffolk. Courtesy of the High Museum of Art.

“It’s an exhibition that has sold out at each of the five venues it has visited before,” Rand Suffolk, director of the High Museum of Art, told our Focus: Atlanta team when he sat down with them earlier this summer. “It’s truly a global phenomenon. It will be a great memory maker, not only for the museum, but also for the city.”

In addition to this world-renowned exhibition, the High has plans to reinstall its collection galleries, set to debut in October 2018, marking the first significant overhaul in more than a decade. “The reinstallation has several goals,” Suffolk told Focus:. “First, we want to provide greater internal equity among our collecting areas. Second, we want to highlight our strengths in ways we perhaps haven’t in the past. Lastly, we are blessed with the incredible architecture of our buildings, and we want people to experience that in addition to the beautiful art inside.”

Since the museum’s expansion in 2005, the High has added nearly 7,000 works to its vast collection, which today numbers over 16,000 pieces. The reinstallation will highlight iconic masterpieces, as well as artwork never before seen at the High, including a piece by Kara Walker and paintings and sculptures from the 2017 Souls Grown Deep Foundation acquisition of folk and self-taught art. Part of this effort is to help the museum connect with all members of Atlanta’s highly diverse community.

“We’ve undergone a significant evolution in the past few years, one that has caused us to re­define our business model,” Suffolk said. “While we have always had a strong reputation for delivering extraordinary exhibitions, we wished to move away from providing just that one primary gateway for people to connect with the museum. Instead, our focus is on building multiple gateways for people to connect. In other words, we’ve changed our programming in an intentional effort to become a stronger magnet for every segment of the Atlanta community. Our efforts have been affirming. When it comes to demographics by ethnicity, we’ve more than tripled the level of non-white participation from 15 percent to 50 percent. In a city made up of 51 percent people of color, that’s a direct reflection of the population we serve.”

It’s clear to us that the High Museum is truly dedicated to reflecting the diversity of its community and providing a variety of experiences and educational opportunities to visitors from all walks of life, encouraging them to engage with the world of art in whatever way is most meaningful to them.

“2019 is going to be a very exciting year for us,” Suffolk told us with a smile. We can’t wait to see what the High has in store for Atlanta!

For more information on the High Museum of Art, visit https://www.high.org/index.php#close

 

“Fly, Eagles, Fly!”

February 2018 — On Sunday night in bitter cold Minneapolis, the Philadelphia Eagles brought home their first championship win since 1960, beating the New England Patriots 41-33 in a hard-fought battle. And if that’s not enough to get you excited, Bud Light is keeping its promise. The beer company officially announced that it will be providing free beer (to those 21-plus in age, of course) at 25 bars along the parade route in Philadelphia on Thursday, February 8.

While the Eagles went into Justin Timberlake’s high-energy halftime show with a 10-point lead — thanks primarily to a surgically executed and gutsy trick play where Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles caught a pass from tight end Trey Burton on a fourth and goal — the Patriots came out of halftime like bulls out of the gate. But they couldn’t sustain the momentum, and despite Tom Brady’s history of pulling off the Hail Mary, it was the Birds who were flying high when the last second ticked off the game clock.

 

Nick Foles may have been the obvious star of the game, stepping up to play quarterback after the unexpected loss of Carson Wentz and proving that you don’t need to be a 5-time Super Bowl vet to dominate on the gridiron, but besting the Patriots was truly a team effort. As head coach Doug Pederson said, “An individual can make a difference, but a team makes a miracle!”

For the Eagles, the win means the coveted Vince Lombardi trophy, Super Bowl rings, healthy postseason bonuses and the prestige of being national champions, but what does it mean for the city of Philadelphia?

Thousands of fans have flocked to Philly to partake in the post-win festivities. Monetarily speaking, this has been great news for the city’s hospitality industry, but it’s not so good news for out-of-town fans. People seeking hotels in Philadelphia were out of luck, with zero availability in the downtown area and seriously over-inflated prices on the outskirts of the city. The Marriott Courtyard Bloomington, for example, was offering rooms for $699 a night when the usual rate is about $89 to $161 a night.

There’s no question that this Super Bowl win will provide much more than just monetary gains for the City of Brotherly Love. The Eagles not only won as historic underdogs but also beat a true football dynasty, providing a sense of community pride (and serious bragging rights) for the people of Philadelphia for a long time to come. They won against all odds and in the face of many obstacles. The boys in green have rewritten Philly sports history. And it’s not just a win for the Eagles; it’s a win for all the people of Philadelphia. Fly, Eagles, fly!

For more information about the Philadelphia Eagles, visit http://www.philadelphiaeagles.com/

“It’s Official, Miami”

January 2018 — “Today you made my dream come true,” a giddy David Beckham, suited shoulders draped in an MLS scarf, told a small crowd gathered at the Adrienne Arsht Center on Monday, January 29.

After his first announcement four years ago fell through in the face of financing and stadium site challenges, Beckham’s dream of bringing an MLS expansion team to Miami is finally coming to fruition as the league made it official.

Beckham’s ownership group is planning to build a 25,000-seat, $225 million stadium in Overtown as the new home to Miami professional soccer. The stadium plan includes a training center and academy that will focus on developing local players. The team hopes to be deeply connected to the community — not just to the players but also to the fans. The goal is to grow locally in order to compete globally.

Miami has a complicated history with soccer. Its first MLS team, Miami Fusion, based out of Fort Lauderdale, flopped in 2001 after only a few short — and underwhelming — years. In a city known for its diversity and rich Latin American influence, it’s almost unfathomable that a futbol team isn’t already a huge part of its fabric. But while friendly matches bring out fans in droves, for some reason a home team hasn’t had the same impact.

Beckham and his co-owners hope to change that. Perhaps as they sort out the still-unannounced details — team name, colors, logo, start date — they should look to another team, in Capital Analytics’ Atlanta market, for some ideas on how to make a brand-new franchise shine virtually overnight.

In 2017, Atlanta United kicked off its inaugural season, and just five months after that first game, it had become MLS’s most popular team. It boasts the highest average home attendance in MLS history and better average home attendance than any MLS, NBA, NHL or MLB franchise in the country. Its opening weekend match was the best-attended game, by a factor of two, in the league.

Reports have suggested we would be the 24th team in Europe with our average attendance,” Darren Eales, president of Atlanta United, told Capital Analytics, “and for our first game of the season, we had an attendance of 55,000, which put us at the fourth most attended game in the world.”

So how did this team go from nothing to record-breaking so quickly? Two words: community investment. They spent a lot of time meeting with fans in bars, pre-selling season seats and generally pounding the pavement to spread the word.

“From day one, we wanted to create the feeling that this was a club centered on its fans,” Eales told Capital Analytics, “so we did a lot of grassroots events focused on international games and viewing parties. We decided that if we focus on our most dedicated fans, the rest will take care of itself.”  

They also spent some time making sure that the team would be worth watching, which included recruiting a talented coach and deeply investing in young players. Team owner Arthur Blank’s resources, such as commercial sponsorship and sales and marketing departments (he also owns the Falcons), didn’t hurt either.

If Beckham wants his Miami team to succeed, he will need to rely on more than his legendary right foot. Soccer is a collaborative sport, and the Miami MLS franchise will truly need to be a collaboration between the community and the team. All eyes on are on Fútbol Miami as the details get hammered out and we looked forward to opening day!

For more information on Beckham’s team, visit https://www.futbolmiamimls.com/
For more information on Atlanta United, visit https://www.atlutd.com/

Conventional Attraction

 

 

January 2018 — In 2017, Atlanta was host to a total of 700 conventions, meetings and events according to the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau. Over the next five years, 107 additional conventions will be held in the Greater Atlanta area, 47 of which have never been held in the city. There are a number of factors that contribute to this.

Besides Atlanta’s favorable climate, variety of attractions and centralized metropolitan area, the Georgia World Congress Center Authority in downtown Atlanta is ranked the number 1 convention, sports and entertainment destination in the world. The GWCC’s “2020 Vision” consists of adding a new 100,000-square-foot exhibit hall, 48,000 square feet of new meeting space, a 20,000-square-foot lobby and a new 800- to 1,000-room hotel in order to continue to expand the tourism industry by attracting more meetings and conventions.

Another significant factor for the increasing number of conventions and meetings taking place in Atlanta is the easy connectivity promoted by the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Situated about a 2-hour flight from every major U.S. destination, Atlanta serves as the ideal place to facilitate centrally located meetings.

The city continues to promote itself in order to continue to attract more conventions and events to the area. However, despite all of Atlanta’s positive factors, there is still one problem: not enough space.

Focus: Atlanta spoke with a number of leaders in the city’s tourism industry to gain insights on how Atlanta plans to successfully attract and house more conventions. Here’s what they said:

William Pate, President and CEO, Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau

Over the next four to five years, we are going to see numerous conventions that haven’t been held here in almost a decade – some of which have never held their meeting here. A lot of conventions are now looking at Atlanta. We have a unique opportunity to show off our great city to these new meetings. If we can add some of these conventions to our current business rotation, we can see additional lift in our run rate. These are very exciting times for our destination and our hospitality industry.”

Brad Koeneman, General Manager, Hilton Atlanta

Atlanta is currently addressing the need for larger expo space. The Georgia World Congress Center is the third-largest convention center in the U.S. Currently, the halls are 400,000 to 700,000 square feet; however, clients still want more space. We need to and soon will provide 1.2 million square feet under one roof.”

Frank Poe, Executive Director, Georgia World Congress Center Authority

“We are just finishing a $25-million project to make the Convention Center energy efficient. A lot of our central plant systems have been modified to reduce our energy consumption. We are also updating our flooring systems throughout the complex. That represents an investment of $6 million. Third, we have the support from the governor’s office to receive $55 million for a project to connect our two major halls to give us the capability to have more than 1 million square feet in one building. Our last project in the pipeline is to develop our campus and connect it to our building and a new hotel.”

Joseph Handy, President and COO, Georgia Aquarium

“We have participated in a number of promotional ventures focusing on economic development for the city. The aquarium also has a large ballroom that can accommodate 1,200 people, so we host city and state banquets as well as nonprofit banquets for the local community.”

To find out more about our interviewees above, visit their websites at:

Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau: http://www.atlanta.net
Georgia Aquarium: https://www.georgiaaquarium.org
Georgia World Congress Center Authority: https://www.gwcca.org/gwcc/
Hilton Atlanta: http://www3.hilton.com/en/hotels/georgia/hilton-atlanta-ATLAHHH/index.html

Arts and Culture Heat Up Miami

December 2017 — A couple of things usually come to mind when thinking about Miami: beaches and nightclubs. The Magic City has always been known for attracting tourists seeking  warmth and a fun time. However, Miami has been drawing a new type of visitor over the past few years. Specifically, luxury tourism has boomed in the city due to Miami’s growing reputation as an arts and culture mecca.

More private jets fly into Miami for Art Basel than for the Super Bowl, and Art Basel has a continuously greater economic impact on Miami every year. According to the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, hotel occupancy rises by 30,000 on days when Basel is going on, which increases December occupancy rates from 75 percent to 100 percent. This has an economic impact of $13 million a year on the region.

 

The Pérez Art Museum at dusk

Art Basel is not the only event bringing in luxury travelers, though. With growing arts districts like Wynwood and the Design District and the recent completions of museums like the Pérez Art Museum and the Frost Museum of Science, Miami is on its way to becoming a true arts and culture capital.

Invest: Miami spoke with a few tourism industry leaders in Miami to get their insights. Here is what they said:

 

William Talbert III, President & CEO, Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau

“Art Basel Miami Beach marked the beginning of Greater Miami as a luxury destination. The show is arguably the number one contemporary art event in the world today. The Miami Beach Convention Center houses about $4 billion of art during the event. It is an event that indicates that we are, indeed, a luxury destination. Miami is a luxury destination, ranked in the top domestic markets based on hotel inventory. In 2016, we were in the top-five tourist destinations in terms of revenue, which reflects the luxury segment. Much of this is due to the strategy of year-round tourism — with each of the four quarters of the year having about the same number of visitors. Spending increases a little during certain periods, such as during the summer months of July and August, when it is winter in the southern hemisphere.”

Franklin Sirmans, Director, Perez Art Museum Miami

“One of the most important trends has been the evolution of Miami as a year-round destination for arts and culture. There was a time when one talked about an “arts season,” but over the years an explosion in the Miami arts scene has led to Miami-Dade being a must-visit location to see important work by a variety of artists throughout the year. One example of this is PAMM’s first major exhibition focused on Jean-Michel Basquiat’s notebooks that ran from August until mid-October. The beautifully organized retrospective of this very important artist and accompanying interactive gallery was well received by visitors and journalists alike during a time that was once considered “out of season.” Miami has indeed become a global arts capital.”

Frank Steslow, President, Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science

“There is a long-term vision to broaden our scope and partner with the other cultural entities in Miami to create larger, inter-organizational events. The relocation of the Frost Museum to downtown has added to what is becoming a museum campus, together with the Perez Art Museum of Miami, the Arsht Center, American Airlines Arena and even the Children’s Museum on Jungle Island. All of these institutions come together geographically and create valuable critical mass that positions us as not only a focal point of Miami but also a cultural hub within the city as well as the region.”

Howard Herring, President, New World Symphony

“New World Symphony is proud of its educational and artistic contributions to this community.  Alongside that work, it is a catalyst for an emerging philanthropic culture. Miami might be ahead of other 21st-century cities in reimagining the impact of philanthropic investment in cultural programs. Traditional philanthropy calls for generous support for the gap between earned revenue and the cost of artistic endeavors. Just now in Miami, donors are becoming investors in art forms and institutions, realizing the work of artists and institutions has direct impact on the economic sustainability and social viability of the community.”

To find out more about our interviewees above, visit their websites at:

GMCVB: http://www.miamiandbeaches.com

Perez Art Museum: http://pamm.org

Frost Museum of Science: https://www.frostscience.org

New World Symphony: https://www.nws.edu

Britweek – 4 Nations Cricket Tournament

When: Sunday, March 12th 10am – 4pm

Where: Central Broward Stadium, 3700 Northwest 11th Place, Lauderhill, FL 33311

The inaugral BritWeek 4 Nations Cricket Tournament.
With teams representing the UK, India, Pakistan and the West Indies.

 

 

BritWeek presents An Ocean Science Virtual Reality Experience

When: Thursday, March 9th from 7.00pm

Where: Villa Vecchia, 4821 Pine Tree Dr, Miami Beach, FL 33140

An exclusive evening celebrating the collaboration between British marine scientists  together with ANGARI Foundation on board their 65 foot research vessel.