The Faena District is a new $1 billion, six-block zone of condominiums, luxury hotels and cultural venues in mid-Miami Beach, a place where a penthouse sold for $60 million, and where Madonna will perform next weekend with Chris Rock, Ariana Grande and Sean Penn in a 50,000-square-foot performance space designed by envelope-pushing Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas.
But when the Faena District makes its formal introduction to the community on Sunday, Nov. 27, it will do so with that most democratic of activities: a parade. And in another indication that there are other ideas at work here, the elaborate, interactive processional along Collins Avenue, involving hundreds of dancers, acrobats, musicians and artists, will move to a soundtrack crafted by guitarist and composer Arto Lindsay, the Pied Piper of dissonance who helped create New York's avant-garde No Wave scene in the 1980s.
Born in Virginia, raised in Brazil and a longtime resident of Rio de Janeiro, Lindsay does love a good parade.
"They're beautiful, and they can make you think, or feel different or notice things differently, think about things differently, like any art form does," Lindsay says.
Sunday's processional, titled "Tide by Side," will take place from 3 to 6 p.m. on Collins Avenue, between 32nd and 36th streets. Others taking part include Miami artist Carlos Betancourt, Carnival Arts, Brazilian visual artist Ernesto Neto, Italian performance artist Marinella Senatore and the Havana-based collective Los Carpinteros (the Carpenters), who will lead a backward conga line up Collins Avenue, with the audience encouraged to join in.
Organized and designed by artistic director Claire Tancons, a native of Guadeloupe now based in New Orleans, the parade was initiated by Faena Art, a nonprofit with wide-ranging ambitions as a catalyst for creative ideas in South Florida and throughout the Americas. Its artistic director is Ximena Caminos, a prolific international arts benefactor (she is a founding member of the Guggenheim Museum's Latin American Circle), who also runs Faena Art Buenos Aires.
Caminos is the wife of Alan Faena, the cultural innovator who teamed with billionaire philanthropist Len Blavatnik, to re-create on Miami Beach the urban development model they used to reinvigorate the Puerto Madero docklands in Buenos Aires. Blavatnik, owner of Warner Music Group, this year was named one of Billboard's 10 most powerful people in the music business.
The Faena District includes the Faena Hotel, the Casa Claridge's hotel, Faena House condominiums, the Koolhaas-designed Faena Forum (where Madonna will hold a Dec. 2 fundraiser for her Raising Malawi charity) and a retail complex.
It was after they worked on a record together in the early 1990s that Brazilian rock icon Caetano Veloso invited Lindsay to the six-day carnival in Salvador, Bahia, which got Lindsay hooked on parades as an art form. He moved to Bahia for several years and helped put on carnival parades, doing everything from hiring security guards and carrying costumes for the seamstresses to performing.
In 2004, Lindsay began doing his own parades around the world, including processionals in Salvador, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Paris, Frankfurt and at the Venice Biennale. Incorporating elements of theater, opera, dance, sculpture and performance art, a successful parade also incorporates local people, local history and local issues, Lindsay says.
"A parade has many functions. Obviously, it's a way for people to be together, and it's a way to change consciousness, like many kind of live performances will. If you dance for hours, you're a different person than when you started," he says. "And it's a way to reflect on political situations and social-economic conditions, because it's all so out in the open. It's a chance for people of different classes to get together."
Caminos says she and her creative team, including her husband, wanted to make a prominent opening statement for the Faena District, one that assured the community that their relationship to culture goes beyond hanging art in a hotel lobby. Faena Art, she says, has worked with more than 30 local arts organizations over the past three years, from Miami City Ballet to high school marching bands, and has given grants to Miami Dade College, Florida Atlantic University and other groups.
"The heart of our mission is to plant interesting ideas into society and to develop them in collaboration with strategic partners … fostering connections and nurturing things that we believe the city is in lack of and ready to receive," says Caminos, recommending the book "Urban Acupuncture," about the transformation of Curitiba, Brazil, in the 1970s and '80s.
All Faena Art events will be "public, immersive and free," Caminos says, beginning with Sunday's parade.
"Parades and processions are part of our human tradition. They exist all over the world," she says. "But we wanted to do something new, to show the community that we are really celebrating them."
The "Tide by Side" processional will take place 3-6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 27, on Collins Avenue, between 32nd and 36th streets, in Miami Beach. Admission is free. Go to FaenaArt.org.