Thursday, January 5, 2012

In the Spotlight: Norman Braman

Q & A with Norman Braman, the auto giant who helped shape Miami’s colorful cultural scene.

Q: As you are deeply involved in the arts in South Florida; what positions do you currently hold in organizations supporting the arts?

A: “I currently serve as Chair of Art Basel Miami Beach. My wife Irma has been the Chair of MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) for the past 11 years.”

Q: There are many “causes” for any philanthropist to support and you personally support the arts…why do you choose the arts in particular as a ‘focal point’?

A: “Arts are not necessarily my focal point. We contribute heavily towards many causes. Examples include the Breast Cancer Institute at the University of Miami. Recently my wife
and I launched the Suzi and Scott Lustgarten Center for GI Motility at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.” The Center will offer the most comprehensive clinical and research program
in pediatric gastrointestinal motility disorders.

Q: What ‘event’ or ‘work of art’ first inspired you as a collector?

A: “Art has been a passion of mine for most of my life. In 1974 Irma and I visited the Foundation Maeght in Saint-Paulde- Vence, France. It was there that the collection began [with a sculpture by Alexander Calder].”

Q: How were you involved in art and culture as a child?

A: “As a child my father would take me to the Philadelphia Museum. We were exposed to the arts, listened to music and opera on vinyl records. My parents did not have a lot of money.
My father was a barber. But we were always exposed to art and the Academy of Music.”

Q: The arts are a vital part of ANY community and for all of history. “History through the arts” AND it is these expressive and creative endeavours that leave a lasting impression for all generations. What do you see as the greatest challenge facing the arts?

A: Of course – it is important to have financial backing and we are lucky in South Florida to have so many supporters. The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), North Miami has received a $5 million endowment from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.” The Knight Exhibition Endowment given by Knight Foundation President and CEO Alberto Ibargüen will fund MOCA’s new Knight Exhibition Series. The endowment is part of the new Knight Arts Partnership, a $60 million philanthropic initiative created by the John S.and James L. Knight Foundation to advance the arts in South Florida through three institutional endowments and an open invitation community challenge. “These partnerships are vital to the survival of the arts. People such as Rosa and Carlos de la Cruz, the Rubells and Marty Margolis are amongst a wave of local collectors who help drive the influx of art to Miami. Wynwood is an example of the expansion of artistic expression in our community.”

Q: You personally helped set up Art Basel Miami Beach in 2002, a sister to the Swiss fair. The Art World in South Florida has not been the same since. Do you have any plans of developing other venues for artists to showcase their talent?

A: “We will always support the arts. With contributions to MOCA and the outreach programs they have to the community as well as schools, it is a sure guarantee that venues will continue to expand the arts locally.” There have been many developments in the last few years, notably the ongoing support of the New World School of the Arts expansion and the explosive growth of the design district. “Craig Robins, founder of Design Miami, is a key figure in bringing Art Basel to Miami “This is an exciting time in our community” explains Braman,
“art in South Florida is flourishing.”

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