Press Release

Oct 25, 2023

Miami artists and art teachers receive share of $500,000 to bring ideas to life at The Ellies, Miami’s Visual Arts Awards, presented by Oolite Arts

The big reveal took place during an art-filled, inaugural fundraiser for Oolite Arts at Pérez Art Museum Miami

(Oct. 25, 2023) MIAMI – Oolite Arts announced the 2023 winners of The Ellies, Miami’s Visual Arts Awards, at a dazzling event at the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM). The Ellies provide $500,000 for career-defining projects by Miami-based artists and art teachers, helping them bring their biggest artistic ideas to life.

With new funding, twin brothers and artists Elliot and Erick Jimenez will explore the blending of Catholic saints and Afro-Cuban Orishas in a photographic installation. Filmmaker Monica Sorelle, whose award-winning film “Mountains” is traveling to film festivals across the country, will examine the human history of The Everglades in a new work. Meanwhile, Sean Mick will use augmented reality to create a virtual sculpture of banned books, and Elle Barbieto will produce a series on Florida’s women cattle farmers, rodeo queens and motorcyclists, which will serve as an exploration of people and place in the quickly growing state.

These artists are just a few of the 45 artists winning awards.

“Miami’s reputation as a vibrant arts scene is a reflection of its artists. The Ellies play a pivotal role in nurturing their aspirations and turning their visions into reality,” said Marie Elena Angulo, Oolite Arts Board Chair. “This year, we’re thrilled to support 45 talented individuals, aligning with the vision of our founder, Ellie Schneiderman, to ‘help artists help themselves.’

All were feted at PAMM, with a moving ceremony and a Miami-infused party with music by Grammy-winning music artist Walshy Fire, and artistic activations by Ellies alumni Leo Castañeda and Diana Eusebio. Sponsored by Bacardi, PAMM, Plant the Future and South Beach Wines, the event’s proceeds support Oolite’s holistic program that helps artists excel at all stages of their careers.

At Wednesday’s event, Oolite Arts also bestowed significant awards – including a new honor – to three arts pioneers in Miami-Dade County:

  • Service to the Arts Award: This new award honoring contributions to the arts was given to Dennis Scholl, the organization’s former president and CEO, who transformed the nonprofit into Miami-Dade’s largest support organization for arts. As part of the honor, Scholl was given the opportunity to grant $10,000 to an artist of his choice, former Oolite Arts resident Gonzalo Fuenmayor.
  • Michael Richards Award: Margarita Cano, a Cuban-American artist, curator and scholar, won the award given to an artist who has reached the highest levels of professional distinction while giving back to the community. A prolific painter, Cano also is known for launching Miami-Dade Public Libraries’ art collection and helping to grow the market for Latin-American artists in Miami.
  • Social Justice Award: Dinizulu Gene Tinnie, an artist and activist, won this award that recognizes those who work for equality in their daily lives and artistic practice. A member of the Miami Black Arts Workshop once based in Coconut Grove, Tinnie is known for a longstanding Middle Passage Ship Replica Project.
  • In addition, with Oolite funding, four Miami-Dade County art teachers will travel around the world this summer and bring back their experiences into their classrooms to share with their students.

    More information on all the awardees is below.

    Named in honor of Oolite Arts’ founder Ellie Schneiderman, The Ellies are bestowed in five categories: Creator Awards, for artistic projects, Teacher Travel Grants, the Michael Richards Award, Social Justice Award, and now the Service to the Arts Award.

    Over the past six years, Oolite Arts has invested $3 million in funding to artists through The Ellies. Past Ellies recipients have exhibited their work during the Venice Biennale and at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, on screens across the country through Amazon and Apple TV, and in Miami have turned the concrete columns beneath the Metrorail into playful Dominos.

    Michael Richards Award Winner
    Margarita Cano
    Cano is a much-loved and celebrated artist, curator, scholar, and former Miami-Dade Public Library System liaison. She played a formative role in developing the library’s formidable art collection, also overseeing innovative public programs, commissioning murals, such as Purvis Young’s, and hosting the first exhibition of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s famous Surrounded Islands project, which Cano and colleague Barbara Young also helped facilitate. Cano’s tireless contributions to Miami’s nascent art and literary evolution, including leadership roles in the Miami Book Fair, Cuban Museum, and Center for the Fine Arts, led to a CINTAS “lifetime achievement” award – more than a decade ago When NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale hosted her 90th-year retrospective in 2022, Director and Chief Curator Bonnie Clearwater characterized Cano’s work as “a portal into a celestial world, in which memories are transformed into sacred visions of life and loss.” Cano’s vital, ongoing practice – comprising drawings, photos, books, sculpture, prints, and painting – often features detailed, dream-like landscapes, nostalgically evoking her Cuban childhood.

    Social Justice Award Winner

    Dinizulu Gene Tinnie
    Tinnie is a New York-born, Miami-based visual artist and designer, writer, retired educator and community activist in historical preservation, cultural affairs, and issues of social justice. His academic background is in foreign languages, literature, and linguistics. His lifelong attraction to artmaking, however, was reawakened as a Fulbright scholar in Europe and continued to grow in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, and, ultimately, Florida, where his local career – especially as a proactive force for historic change – was catapulted when he joined the Miami Black Arts Workshop in Coconut Grove in 1974. Here, his art became inseparable from social action and includes, most significantly, a longstanding and ongoing Middle Passage Ship Replica Project, “a journey as much as a destination” to “tell the story that must be told,” virtually and physically, of our shared collective heritage.

    Service to the Arts Winner
    Dennis Scholl
    A seasoned arts leader, Dennis Scholl is the former president and CEO of Oolite Arts, where he oversaw a major expansion of programming that elevates artists’ work at all stages of their careers through studio space, financial support, and professional development. Before joining Oolite Arts, Scholl served as Vice President/Arts of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, where he led the foundation’s national arts program, providing grants to cultural organizations totaling close to $200 million. Personally, Scholl has created a series of initiatives dedicated to building the contemporary art collections of major museums, and has served on the boards and executive committees of the Aspen Art Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, and the Pérez Art Museum – among others. In 2022, Scholl and wife Debra were named Members of the Order of Australia, one of the country’s highest honors, for their significant contributions to advancing and promoting indigenous Australian art and culture in the United States, where they developed exhibitions of contemporary Aboriginal Australian art that traveled the U.S.
    As a documentary filmmaker focused on arts and culture, he has received 22 regional Emmys from the National Academy of Television Arts and Science. A visual artist with recent exhibitions in New York and Berlin, Scholl is preparing for upcoming solo exhibitions in France and the United Kingdom. In his early career, Scholl was an accountant, attorney, and entrepreneur.

    Creator Award Winners
    Phillip Agnew
    For a national print and digital publication produced locally and containing original art and articles by Black and Latino creatives that capture the pains, passions and possibilities of Miami

    Susan Kim Alvarez
    Big Silly Willy Paintings
    For a large series of paintings that explores the artist’s family’s rich, multicultural background and humor, developed through each generation

    Elle Barbieto
    Florida Girls
    For a series focused on women born and raised in Florida – the cattle farmers, rodeo queens, motorcyclists and more – that sheds light on the complex relationships between people, place and progress as the state faces additional development and growth

    Jennifer Basile
    The Last of Loop Road
    For a series of works on the disappearance of South Florida’s natural, untouched areas, focused on west Dade’s Loop Road

    Carola Bravo
    We Are Here
    For a project that continues to rethink monuments and traditional commemorations by researching and creating monument models that honor immigrant groups in the U.S. that feel invisible to the public

    Beatriz Chachamovits
    To have and to hold
    For an exhibition that reinterprets centuries-old European “cabinets of curiosities” to have them showcase Florida’s endangered marine life – as an inspiration for environmental preservation

    Gregory Clark
    Good Miami Project
    For a project that offers pro-bono portrait photoshoots to Miami-based non-profits, to help them tell their stories while inspiring others to contribute to their local communities

    Yanira Collado
    Transformative Elements
    For an experiential and interdisciplinary project that explores how textiles have served as instruments of subversive resistance and identity reconciliation, disrupting colonial, authoritarian rule in the Americas

    Nicole Combeau
    La Delicada Armadura de la Abuela (Grandma’s Delicate Armor)
    For collaborative photo series that documents the beauty and self care rituals of local Miami grandmothers

    Xavier Cortada
    Underwater Florida
    To better prepare Florida for a future of rising seas by bringing his participatory art project, “The Underwater,” originally launched in Miami-Dade, to coastal communities around Florida

    Samuel Lopez De Victoria
    For a video game art project with a peaceful narrative based on a distant future, where natural plants have merged with digital computer code to create new, sustainable power. Players become responsible for the cultivation of these plants to hack into and repair the world

    Aldeide Delgado
    El Picnic: Nereida García Ferraz, Eugenia Vargas Pereira, and Laura González Flores
    For a photobook that pays tribute to and analyzes the feminist practices of the 1980s from the perspective of three Latina women artists whose trajectories intersect Miami’s cultural history. The book includes Polaroid photographs, taken in 1989 but never exhibited, that capture the artists sharing a meal in nature – as a reflection of sisterhood, feminism and sense of place

    Agua Dulce
    Semillas del Sol
    For a series of metalworks inspired by pre-Columbian indigenous designs and created through found and industrial material that explore topics of transness/masculinity, accessibility, heritage/ancestry, and reclamation/empowerment

    Alicia Edwards
    Birds of Paradise
    For a short, hybrid documentary highlighting the contributions of Haitian pilots recruited during World War II who served as Tuskegee Airmen

    “Did You Eat?”
    For an interactive installation that takes the form of a communal meal – paying homage to Black mothers who have fed the community over the years

    Luis Gispert
    Espejos Ciego (Blind Mirrors) the restoration of Sergio Giral films
    To restore films by Afro-Cuban filmmaker Sergio Giral, considered one of the most important and shunned figures of Cuban cinema

    Aaron Jackson
    I Don’t Live Where You Vacay
    For a photo project showcasing different sides of Miami that tourists usually don’t get to see, and focusing on problems that Miamians face every day

    Joshua Jean-Baptiste
    The Grande Frolic
    For an artful dance and experimental film celebrating Black men joyfully engaging with nature, as a way to encourage more people to embrace the outdoors and experience nature’s beauty without reservation or restraint

    Elliot & Erick Jimenez
    La Capilla Amarilla/ The Yellow Chapel
    For a photography installation that explores the intersection of art and religion, specifically the Orishas within the Afro-Cuban Lucumí, syncretized with the Catholic saints in Cuba

    Edny Jean Joseph
    For a suite of collages designed to explore the nuanced power dynamics at play within the United States, through the lens of a young, Black, male adult

    Diana Larrea
    For a short documentary that tells the story of two families, with ancestral ties to the Mayan and Incan civilizations, recounting their journey to the United States and their determination to acclimate to a new life in Miami while preserving their heritage

    Maria E. Lino
    Wandering Strangers
    For a video art piece that is an animation of dolls and drawn figures representing migrants of diverse cultures traversing unknown landscapes

    Sydney Maubert
    Queen of the Swamp: The Saltwater Railroad
    For a project that explores Miami’s Bahamian history and its vital ties to a larger cultural geography of Caribbean and Southern Black aesthetics

    Yucef Merhi
    For a Miami-specific installation that will combine 3D modeling, video and sound – and focuses on the sea and the act of breathing

    Sean Mick
    Uncensored Reality
    For an AR project that creates a large, 3D stack of banned – or pending – books that serves as a virtual sculpture symbolizing resistance to book banning, and grants instant access to the content of some of the books

    Sue Montoya
    s.a.d in the tropics
    For a multi-disciplinary exhibition that uses photography, sculpture, and light-based media, as an ode to what will be lost in the future due to changing climate patterns

    Motyko Morales
    Las olas no tragan/ me escuchan
    For a short, experimental documentary offering a portrait of undocumented Cuban-Americans and an exploration of living in between the ambiguous designations of chosen family, Little Havana, queer identity and belonging

    Carmen Pelaez
    For a short film about the multi-generational, immigrant staff of a Cuban cafeteria in Miami, forced to come to terms with each other and the city they built – when an undocumented employee is targeted by the Department of Homeland Security

    Devora Perez
    Our Landscapes
    For ephemeral, site-specific installations of artificial landscapes in South Florida, composed of industrial materials – in response to the social and political realities of Florida’s immigration debate.

    Jennifer Printz
    As imperceptibly as grief
    For an installation at a local church exploring the intersection of time and spirituality through video and mixed-media textile art and culminating in a series of public engagements

    Chire Regans
    For a series of sculptures exploring the cultural significance of hair braiding in the Black community, as an act of resistance and empowerment, inspired by the artists’ interactions with women in the community

    Tom Scicluna
    Intermediate Bulk Container Fountain
    For a public sculpture that features a group of used IBC tanks containing water sourced from a publicly accessible fountain

    Anita Sharma
    Reframe/Refocus – Mapping Legacy in Miami
    For a research and curatorial project that focuses on the artistic practices of women artists who have contributed significantly to the cultural landscape of Miami

    Monica Sorelle
    Untitled Everglades Triptych
    For a three-channel video exploring the human history of the Everglades and its surrounding area, told through distinct but parallel stories of migration, refuge, and displacement

    Kareem Tabsch
    Story Hour
    For an intimate, short-form documentary following “Kyle” as they explore their hometown of San Francisco – and by extension the United States. The story is told through the lens of a permanent outsider – a queer, Asian, gender-nonconforming person.

    Roscoè B. Thické III
    Fabrication of Fatherhood
    For a photo series that refers to the idea that cultural, social and economic factors shape and influence our understanding of what it means to be a father. The series explores how fatherhood is a social construct that is constantly being constructed and reconstructed

    Elisa Turner
    Miami’s Cultural Renaissance: Art Made It Happen
    For a publication that captures the creative spirit distinguishing prominent artists active in Miami during two pivotal decades, documenting contributions by diverse curators, galleries, museums and non-profit spaces, and conjuring the inner workings of an evolving art community moving toward international prominence

    Alexander Zastera
    Portraits of South Florida Climate Resilience
    For a a large-scale historical painting featuring community leaders working to build coastal and community resilience while decarbonizing Florida’s energy systems

    Teacher Travel Grant
    Rafael Alvarez
    Hialeah Middle School
    To travel to France to attend the summer school program on Japanese carpentry at Domaine de Boisbuchet, organized by the Michelangelo Foundation

    Felipe Navarette
    Mandarin Lakes Academy K-8
    To travel to Egypt to study its art history and art making practices

    Mirena Suarez
    Glades Middle School
    To travel to Greece to learn about ancient Greek art and poetry – specifically Hellenistic art and the poetry of Sappho

    Augusto Zambrana
    Dr. Carlos J. Finlay Elementary School
    To travel to Oaxaca, Mexico to study the artistic contributions of the Zapotec, learn about the properties of natural dyeing and find out how these dyes promote a healthier environment

    About Oolite Arts
    Oolite Arts strives to empower artists and enrich communities. Established in 1984, Oolite’s mission is to support artists and advance the knowledge and practice of contemporary visual arts. Oolite Arts creates opportunities for experimentation and innovation, and encourages the exchange of ideas across diverse cultures through residencies, exhibitions, public programs, education and outreach.
    Exhibitions and programs at Oolite Arts are made possible with the support of the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs and the Cultural Affairs Council; the Miami-Dade County Mayor and Board of County Commissioners; the City of Miami Beach, Cultural Affairs Program, Cultural Arts Council; the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Arts and Culture and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture; the National Endowment for the Arts; the Jorge M. Perez Family Foundation at the Miami Foundation; the Lynn and Louis Wolfson II Family Foundation; and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
    For more information, visit Follow @oolitearts on social media.


    Marika Lynch, [email protected], 305-898-3595
    Images and video available upon request