Press Release

Oct. 23, 2019

Miami artists share $500,000 through The Ellies, Miami’s Visual Arts Awards presented by Oolite Arts

MIAMI BEACH (Oct. 23, 2019) — With ideas ranging from large-scale exhibitions to projects on sustainability, immigration and cultural criticism, 45 artists are sharing $500,000 in funding as winners of The Ellies, Miami’s Visual Arts Awards.

Among them is artist Karen Rifas, who is receiving the Michael Richards Award, created to honor a Miami-based eminent artist. Rifas, who recently achieved distinction with a powerful one-person exhibition at The Bass, has taught many of Miami-Dade’s practicing artists over the years. She will receive a no-strings-attached award of $75,000, and a commission by Oolite Arts to be exhibited at The Bass.

Presented by Oolite Arts, The Ellies celebrate and elevate Miami artists by helping them bring a significant artistic project to life.

“Ambitious and innovative, these projects show the depth in Miami’s visual arts community, and the talent that has helped to define this city,” said Dennis Scholl, president and CEO of Oolite Arts. “Oolite Arts was created to ‘help artists help themselves,’ as our founder Ellie Schneiderman likes to say. This funding helps their ideas, and careers, take flight.”

The awards, presented at a celebration at The Bass, are named for Schneiderman, who had the foresight to turn empty storefronts on Lincoln Road into artist studios. Today, Oolite Arts is one of the largest artist support organizations in Miami, with a recent expansion of its programming to include The Ellies, a traveling residency program called Home and Away, a Cinematic Arts Residency, the lecture series Talks (presented in partnership with Locust Projects), and more exciting initiatives.

The Ellies are bestowed in three categories: the Creator Award, which offers project grants to realize a significant visual arts project; Teacher Travel Grants, which enable art teachers to have an art experience in another city or country that they can use to enrich the classroom experience; and the Michael Richards Award, which honors one of the city’s eminent artists.

Creator Awards: 39 grants ranging from $2,500 to $25,000

The projects will create artistic impact all over Miami-Dade County. They include an art space in Little Haiti dedicated to Haitian culture, an original score derived from the sounds of Miami’s many accents, an immersive installation for drivers going through a car wash, and a large-scale drawing depicting the oldest known site of Paleolithic human presence south of Lake Okeechobee.

Additional areas of artistic focus include:

• Accessibility and sustainability: David McCauley will present a visual exploration of transit in Miami, from the point of view of an artist who commutes regularly in a wheelchair; and Federico Uribe will create a floor-to-ceiling installation of the sea made from the plastic often found polluting it.

• Immigration: Liene Bosquê will offer community hammock-weaving workshops that provide a space to talk about immigration; and Maria Ramirez will produce a new film that is a love letter to the plight of immigrants, as they live in secrecy, yet search for belonging in South Florida.

• Life in Miami: Terence Price II’s photo project follows an African-American family’s journey through four Miami area cities, and explores the evolution of black life here; and Liz Ferrer will create a queer, Latinx music video album that brings diverse voices to the traditionally male genre of reggaeton.

The complete list of winners is below.

Michael Richards Award: $75,000 for an eminent artist

Karen Rifas receives this year’s Michael Richards Award. This award was created in tribute to Michael Richards (1963–2001), an incisive, provocative and poetic artist whose body of work primarily addresses racial inequity and social injustice. An Oolite Arts alum, Richards passed away tragically in his art studio in the World Trade Center during the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

The award of $75,000 celebrates a Miami-Dade artist who has created a recognized body of high-quality works, and who is achieving the highest levels of professional distinction in the visual arts through their practice. The award will support this practice over a two-year period, including a commission to create a work of art to be exhibited at The Bass.
Rifas, who was chosen by a jury of national and local artists and curators, has amassed a body of work that endeavors to understand and reimagine space. Well known for her minimal cord and leaf installations, and precise, methodical line drawings, Rifas began a focused exploration into the constructive possibilities of color in 2016. Her most recent solo exhibition, at The Bass

in 2018, opened to acclaim, and follows solo shows at the Museum of Art and Design at Miami Dade College, the de la Cruz Collection and the Savannah College of Art and Design.
Teacher Travel Grants: Five awards of $5,000

The five Miami-Dade K-12 visual art teachers awarded these travel grants receive $5,000 each to travel anywhere in the world to have artistic experiences they can bring back to their classroom to help cultivate tomorrow’s visual arts aficionados.
Teachers will travel to Indonesia to learn to create shadow puppetry, to Japan to learn the history of anime, and more.

The Ellies
Creator Award Winners 2019

Aja Monet Bacquie ($9,000) For a collection of poems and visual art focusing on the author’s search for identity, freedom and healing in Florida, while confronting the state’s fraught history with maroon communities

Germane Barnes ($16,000) Creating a public art installation that uses “Spatializing Blackness” by Rashad Shabazz and “When the Cathedrals Were White” by Le Corbusier as a lens to explore black domesticity

Cristine Brache ($12,000) Creating an installation focused on women who have been unjustly hospitalized, including the artist’s grandmother, who was quarantined for a month in the early days of her pregnancy because the doctor believed she was sick from an “exotic” disease

Liene Bosquê ($9,000) Exploring the complex narrative around immigration in Miami through community-based hammock-weaving sessions that create an interactive installation and a place for dialogue

Neil Brideau ($7,000) For Spiny Orb Weaver, a comic arts journal featuring interviews with and new work by South Florida cartoonists

Otari Oliva Buadze ($5,000) For outdoor screenings of films in Miami’s neighborhoods, selected for their relevance to the screening sites

Linda Chamorro ($2,500) Bringing awareness to important but often unaddressed environmental issues with small-scale public art installations that spark conversations and inspire action

Clifton Childree ($9,000) Creating an early 20th-century spoof Miami advertising agency, whose projects construct a fictional history of South Florida that is eerily close to reality

Yanira Collado ($10,000) Preserving the etymologies of five sacred narratives from the Dominican Republic by recording and sharing these oral traditions as told by Dominicans in South Florida and the island of Hispañola

Rose Marie Cromwell ($7,000) Creating a photographic project that looks at globalization in Miami and its effect on the lives of residents

CYJO ($2,500) For “Infinite Honor,” a performance work honoring the 22 American veterans who die by suicide each day with a performance piece where a bugler in military attire performs taps in their memory 22 times a day

Dana De Greff ($9,000) Showing the connections between Opa-Locka and Little Haiti through mail art, where participants create works for their pen pals in other cities, then meet in person to create a zine together

Morel Doucet ($9,000) For a solo ceramic exhibition that looks at the ecological problems Miami faces, by examining the relationship between coral reef bleaching and the experiences of the Afro-Caribbean diaspora

Marcelo Ertorteguy ($10,000) Creating a new design for Little Free Libraries to serve Miami’s community, fostering reading while becoming iconic pieces of public art

Liz Ferrer ($12,000) Launching a queer, Latinx music video album and short film that pushes social constructs by bringing diverse voices to the traditionally male genre of reggaeton

Torrance Gettrell ($12,000) Commemorating the 60th anniversary of civil rights sit-in protests at downtown Miami lunch counters by creating a video installation around the training exercises that prepared activists to participate in them

A.G. ($9,000) To publish The L.S.D. Journal by Line Script Diary, which features text-based works by Miami-based artists, alongside the contributions of national and international artists, curators and academics

Gaspar González ($25,000) For “A Date with History,” a short documentary on the lives of a white man and a black woman arrested at a Brownsville motel in 1955, providing a glimpse into Miami’s complex social history

Brookhart Jonquil ($12,000) For the Prism Chapel, a subtropical greenhouse for community connection and reflection, created in the traditions of both botanical conservatories and utopian architecture

Carl Juste ($25,000) Creating a new community art space for exhibitions and events, which both fosters the talent of local artists and promotes Haitian culture and traditions

David McCauley ($16,000) Creating a visual exploration of public transportation in Miami through a multimedia installation inspired by the city’s neighborhoods and cultures, and the buses and trains that bring them together

Juan Ledesma ($5,000) For a video performance inspired by the rhythm of speech, featuring an experimental score focused on turning Miami’s many accents into the smallest units of sound, or phonemes

T. Eliott Mansa ($7,000) For an exhibition that honors the African-American victims of state violence, using objects from grassroots roadside memorials, while referencing African sculptural art forms and the vernacular yard sculptures of the South

Yucef Merhi ($9,000) Exploring video games as an artistic medium by allowing people to combine visuals, sounds and poetic texts, using controllers plugged into Atari 2600 game consoles

Coralina Rodriguez Meyer ($7,000) Putting the spotlight on health disparities for low-income pregnant women by bringing together mothers and medical professionals in birthing confidence sculpture workshops

Emmett Moore ($10,000) Transforming the bales of second-hand clothing routinely shipped from Miami to the Caribbean and South America, by turning them into building material for furniture, sculpture and architecture

Ernesto Oroza ($12,000) Creating conversation around consumerism using 80 puppets that each hold spare parts manufactured in Cuban homes out of economic necessity

Christina Pettersson ($9,000) For a large-scale drawing of the Cutler Fossil Site, one of the oldest known site of Paleolithic human presence south of Lake Okeechobee, that captures the jaguars, mammoths and mastodons that roamed there

Terence Price II ($12,000) Documenting an African-American family’s journey through four Miami area cities that explores the meaning of community and the evolution of African-American life here

Maria Corina Ramirez ($7,000) For “Bridges,” a feature film shot in Miami that is a love letter to the plight of immigrants

Martha Raoli ($9,000) To build an immersive, motion-sensitive sound machine

Freddy Rodriguez ($9,000) To write the screenplay for “Project Ballroom,” a narrative feature film that tells the story of Miami’s gay ballroom scene of the 1990s

Leyden Rodriguez-Casanova ($20,000) Expanding the conversation around Miami’s contemporary art community with a new series that invites visiting art writers and critical thinkers to produce work alongside Miami-based artists

Gabriela Serra ($9,000) Producing an illustrated book on buenezas, the edible weeds that grow in yards around Miami, and have forgotten uses as natural dyes, medicine, food and art

Frances Trombly ($9,000) To create large-scale works for two upcoming exhibitions that examine woven textiles and their relationship to painting

Tom Virgin ($9,000) To fill a room at the Little Haiti Cultural Center with letterpress prints fueled by community voices, by using the words of people who live nearby

Federico Uribe ($9,000) For an immersive installation of a vibrant underwater world made of used plastic tools and waste, which confronts the viewer with the fragility of life and the global ocean pollution problem

Agustina Woodgate ($10,000) Creating a site-specific score and music video for a car wash that provides a theater-like experience for drivers, while questioning the future of these businesses in an era of self-driving cars

Octavia Yearwood ($10,000) Helping young Miamians tell their stories through art, by creating wooden tables decorated with items that symbolize their past and present, with an accompanying audio piece that shares the students’ stories


Teacher Travel Grants Winners 2019

Elysa D. Batista (Myrtle Grove K-8 Center)
To travel to Japan to learn the history of anime, so that her students can not only invent their own anime characters, but also understand the rich history behind this art form

Johnnie Bess (Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High)
To return to Iwakuni, Japan, where Bess lived in his childhood, to learn the city’s 400-year-old style of traditional ceramics pottery known as Hagi ware

Jennifer Gifford (New World School of the Arts)
To work in the printmaking studios of the Willem de Kooning Academie, part of Rotterdam University in the Netherlands, to become proficient in mezzotint printmaking, to create a series of figurative prints and ultimately to teach the technique to students

Mary Larsen (Miami Arts Charter School)
To attend an intensive summer workshop at The London Centre for Book Arts, to learn the art of making books from scratch

Maggie Vidal-Santos (Ruth K. Broad K-8)
To visit a small village in Indonesia and learn the practice of creating shadow puppets, or wayang, from the artisans practicing this centuries-old art form

Established in 1984, Oolite Arts advances the knowledge and practice of contemporary visual arts and culture. Oolite Arts creates opportunities for experimentation and encourages the critical exchange of ideas 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 Miami Beach Mayor and City Commissioners; the State of Florida, Florida Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs; the Florida Arts Council; the National Endowment for the Arts; and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. For more information, visit


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