My first experience at Jazz In The Gardens can be summed up in these next few words “Can’t wait until next year!” Music, art, fashion, food and black business for two straight days of fun reminiscent of a family reunion. Performances from Jill Scott, Robin Thicke, The Roots, LL Cool J and more were the talk of the town this year during the 2017 Jazz In The Gardens Music Festival. While most of us came for the headlining performances – Robin Thicke was everything I dreamed of and more – we were all pleasantly surprised by the amount art and culture practically overflowing from the MUCE Art Village.

For those who don’t know the JITG music festival is held annually in the City Of Miami Gardens and boasts some of the hottest names in music and business. Music and art lovers alike travel from all 50 states to enjoy R&B and Jazz culture in the family reunion atmosphere, so it’s kind of a big deal. In partnership with the GMCVB‘s Art of Black Miami, MUCE curated the largest installation of art, music, poetry and fashion ever to hit Jazz In The Gardens.  Centered on music with strong African American influences, the exhibition focused on works that reflect the movement of jazz and R&B music. As a recognition of Women’s history month, the exhibition also included work that explores feminine beauty and strength.

First impressions: As soon I entered the exhibition I found myself face to face with a life sized bright portrait of musical icon, Ms. Lena Horne belting her heart out…I knew instantly I was in the right place. You cannot begin to discuss historical musicians or strong black women and not mention Ms. Lena Horne – this not up for debate. Paying homage to the headliners of the festival, the exhibition also depicted musical artists Jill Scott, LL Cool J, Common and Quest Love. Some of the other popular pieces depicted celebrities such as Sade, Alicia Keys and Davis Miles. Clearly this crowd has a thing for musicians –no surprise there.

Keeping Ms. Horne company at the head of the 50 by 50 feet gallery was an array of performances. Always working to broaden the horizon of local Miami talent, MUCE offered 3 bands the opportunity to rock the stage including MUCE house band The Florensics, Free Dystopia and Steph Silva. I knew I was in the right place when during a Larry Dogg led performance the crowd began doing the electric slide. I was so into it I almost bumped into the Virtual Reality table. Luckily the folks with New Discovery Media were good sports and I was still able to try on the virtual reality goggles. Native to Miami, I opted to check out a 360 degree video scene of snow covered mountain tops made complete with the flying chirping birds and blowing wind. For those interested in Virtual Reality – you may want to look into this.

The art village embraced all forms of art – my personal favorites included the fashion and spoken word additions. The smartly curated gallery featured a fashion show depicting wearable art from L’aBelle Couture and Claire Gilles Corp. Melanin filled models strutted there stuff throughout the gallery using the art and patrons as moving props while spoken word group Art Prevails hit us with some fly poetry.

While fashion was my favorite addition, the hit of the gallery was obviously the emphasis placed on the old and the new. Curator Bart Mervil, introduced a revolutionary idea to the gallery with two different screening areas. Section one highlighted a painting entitled “13th –Let Freedom Ring” from MUCE Resident Artist Anthony Lumpkin while a flat screen television screened the popular Netflix documentary The 13th. The section was made complete with modern seating and décor. One particular young woman watched the entire documentary onsite, wrapped in a throw as she sipped lemonade. Others found what I call the “remember when section” to be much more profound. In that section “Purple Rain” starring musical icon Prince was screened on an antique wooden television, complete with traditional décor and the work of visual artists and local gallery owner, Christina Madison. The section quickly became a place to reminisce with stories of old school antennas and grandma’s cooking swirled about.

The art village was made complete with an interactive Game board sponsored by STEM for Kids Miami and MUCE sponsored black business and merchandising section just outside of the tent. Visual artists offered a number of products included prints, T-shirts and other items. I got this  really cool “As A Matter of Black” T-shirt. Purchase your As A Matter of Black T-shirt by donating $15 to MUCE. Click here.

All in all, I found the the MUCE Arts Village to be a perfect fit to Jazz In The Gardens Music Festival. Mixing art, fashion and local talent with the celebrities, food and black businesses of Jazz In The Gardens.

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Written By: Lisa Nellicliff