The Biscayne Times

May 31st
A Bigger Park for Art’s Sake PDF Print E-mail
Written by Janet Goodman, BT Contributor   
January 2019

Miami Shores enlarges Optimist Park for a sculpture garden

IParkPatrol_1n 2010, during a Miami Shores Village Council meeting, then Vice Mayor Prospero Herrera suggested Optimist Park at 204 NE 94th St. as a location for a sculpture garden. Thanks to the determined efforts of the Miami Shores Fine Arts Commission (FAC) and the Village’s recent acquisition of the adjacent half-acre property at 9301 NE 2nd Ave., it has become a reality.

The Miami Shores Village Sculpture Garden’s celebrated opening ceremony took place November 11, with a complimentary wine and mimosa bar. Venezuelan artist Alberto Cavalieri greeted guests and spoke about his five-piece installation of cast-iron sculptures, Solid Knots, on loan from the artist for a year.

Cavalieri, who has lived in Miami since early 2016, tells the BT that each piece weighs approximately 2000 pounds and that his inspiration comes from observing architectural elements, as well as nature. Anemoi, Eolo, and Skurge were created in 2008; Cronos and Temis Curtus were cast in 2009. “I try to make rigid materials look natural,” says the sculptor.

His artistic process is seen in a video:


Starting with a simple sketch, Cavalieri makes a small rubber model of the sculpture and moves on to 3D scanning and 3D prints of all parts of the piece. Sand molds are created, and he casts the red-hot melted iron in a foundry with the help of craftsmen. Polishing and drilling for screws-and-bolts assemblage is the final stage.

“This is a grand accomplishment for our FAC, and the Village residents are embracing it,” says longtime FAC chairwoman Susan Ackley. The advisory group was first introduced to Cavalieri through former board member Lorena Bracho-Mijares, who is also from Venezuela. Last October the FAC hosted a six-week exhibit of his smaller sculptures at nearby Brockway Memorial Library.

Ackley is excited with the installation’s locale. “When Fine Arts learned of the new passive park [acquisition], we were already in progress developing another site for this sculpture garden on a triangular open space close to the railroad tracks on NE 6th Avenue. Current board member Miryam Rojas saw the potential of the new location, which we consider to be the front yard of the Village and a more prominent exhibition space.”


According to Ackley, the artist offered the five sculptures for a two-year period with an extension possible, but the Village council approved only a one-year loan with a possible extension. She tells the BT that the FAC received two Miami Shores Community Alliance Grants -- one in 2004 and one in 2017 totaling $6500, which funded the cost of the Sculpture Garden’s five-piece installation. “No Village funds were spent, and the grants had been designated for the Art in Public Places Program. Independent contractors reduced their fees as a co-sponsorship of the Garden,” she says.

Cavalieri worked closely with FAC board members and professional architect Victor Bruce to design the placement of these organic pieces in the Sculpture Garden, among leafy shade trees, stately old oaks, and a flowering Hong Kong orchid tree. The park extension was recently sodded, and a concrete walkway will be installed as soon as both new benches are delivered, making the new garden handicap accessible.

In December 2016, the BT reported (“Quaint, Quiet, and Shady”) on the hopeful acquisition of the residential property adjacent to Optimist Park. The property owner had recently died, and the land and house were in probate. On September 6, 2016, the Village council voted to approve a staff bid on the property not to exceed $650,000 when it cleared probate. Council discussions ensued, suggesting either renting the property to an anchor tenant to generate Village income or demolishing the existing house and enlarge Optimist Park.


Miami Shores finance director Holly Hugdahl notes that on June 15, 2017, the property was purchased for $490,000, paid for from the general fund surplus. The site, approximately 0.52 acres, increased the size of existing Optimist Park to about 1.21 acres, nearly doubling its size. The cost of the house demolition was $19,245, also paid for with the general fund surplus. Sodding cost $8474.

The original Optimist Park, located just north of the Sculpture Garden, was established in 1973 with money donated by the Miami Shores Optimist Club. In March 2016, then Mayor Alice Burch initiated council discussion regarding designating Optimist Park a dog park or a dog-friendly (on-leash) park. Pet waste stations were eventually installed at Optimist Park, as well as Constitution Park and Bayfront Park, making them official dog-friendly spaces. Council approved a fenced-in dog park at the entrance of the Miami Shores Aquatic Center on Biscayne Boulevard, which opened in early 2017.

In its second year at Optimist Park, the seasonal farmers market is in full swing on Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., with more than two dozen vendors offering fresh produce, bakery goods, jewelry, plants, and gifts.


The Village has been a hot spot for public visual art in recent years, as well as music and dance. The FAC is currently seeking Miami-Dade County approval for decoratively wrapping several traffic signal utility boxes in five potential locations.

“This is a new nationwide trend to enhance the public roadways and open spaces,” Ackley explains.

The Village Hall’s lobby has a one-year rotating art exhibit and several times a year, the Brockway Memorial Library has FAC-sponsored art installations. Gallery Night is a highly anticipated, two-venue annual event. And the FAC is looking at additional local sites for future installations.

Cavalieri is also pleased with the new home for his creations. “I feel very honored and proud to have my pieces exhibited in this beautiful natural space. They are in harmony, creating a good relationship between art and nature.”

His work has been exhibited internationally and is found in public and private collections, such as the Museum of Latin American Art in California, the Polytechnic University in Valencia, Spain, and the Ciudad Banesco Collection in Caracas.

Visit his website at


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Miami Shores Village Sculpture Garden
at Optimist Park

9301 NE 2nd Ave.
Miami Shores, FL 33138


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