First Words — 07 October 2021
The future of the arts is not what it used to be

By Mark Gauert

City & Shore Magazine

On the eve of the 21st century, just months from Jan. 1, 2001, we asked our arts writers to predict the future of the arts in South Florida. Here’s some of what they – Todd Anthony, Deborah K. Dietsch, Sean Piccoli, Chauncey Mabe, Matt Schudel, Tim Smith, David Cazares and Jack Zink, with illustrations by Ericka Hamburg – whimsically said we could expect between 2000 and 2025.

By 2001: Increasingly unruly behavior at the movies prompts local multiplexes to launch an audience-etiquette campaign. When the plea-tactic fails, seats are hot-wired to allow projectionists to zap inconsiderate patrons. Theater owners also press for a law making it a misdemeanor to talk above a whisper after the feature begins.

By 2007: The musical Exile, with a score by Emilio Estefan and book by Nilo Cruz – the Cuban-born playwright who grew up in Miami – creates a sensation at its world premiere at the Coconut Grove Playhouse. Area Stage founder John Rodaz directs Gloria Estefan and Sting as a struggling couple caught up in the immediate aftermath of the Castro era. The entertainment conglomerate SFX bankrolls the musical’s transfer to Broadway, and The New York Times calls it “the most exquisite and important cross-cultural event since Fiddler on the Roof.”

By 2018: Using newly developed “virtual music” headsets and home PC plug-ins, listeners of cutting-edge internet stations such as The Womb and EyeQRadio in Miami can now immerse themselves in sensory interactive “spheres,” which they select and program from a menu of musical and visual choices. The experience is essentially passive – look and listen – but these new audiovisual webcasts nevertheless become all the rage. Kids’ grades plunge, workplace productivity suffers. Reports of “v-music” addiction and an outbreak of virtual sickness among regular users – marked by nausea, vertigo, flashbacks, optical trails and spots, and buzzing in the ears – prompts government intervention.

By 2021: Formerly known as the Broward County Library, the Bienes Center for Antiquarian Books becomes the largest repository of cloth and paper books in Florida, its collection valued at $1 billion.

By 2024: Nearly a century after the art deco style made its debut in Miami Beach, the $3.5 billion Trump Palm Beaches Resort is completed. The 50-story complex spans the Intracoastal Waterway with the new Okeechobee Boulevard Bridge running through its atrium. Oceangoing yachts, arriving through the deepened Lake Worth Inlet and Intracoastal channels, dock in the indoor waterfront lobby. The 3,200-room extravaganza causes a sensation with its radical new architecture, dubbed Tropical Techno.

By 2025: Internet advances and the ability to download any movie ever made – for free – render multiplex cinemas, video stores and cable-TV movie channels obsolete. Blockbuster, struggling for years, throws in the towel.

By 2025: An efficient, high-speed network makes it possible for an opera fan in West Kendall to commute to the Kravis Center in Palm Beach in 45 minutes to see Porgy and Bess and be home by midnight. Now rivaling Manhattan for culture and public infrastructure, the Gold Coast nickname is retired in favor of The Big Orange. Within six months of the public transportation system’s completion, Florida’s glorious sunsets return when the haze caused by former traffic congestion dissipates.

    * * *

We still have a little time on the last three predictions. I’m looking forward to seeing yachts tie up at the indoor waterfront lobby in Palm Beach. (If I can tear myself away from the “sphere” I entered back in 2018).

But I think it’s safe to say, alas, most of these predictions fell short of reality for the arts in South Florida. No one really expects anyone to ever solve the problem of people talking during a performance. No one ever could have predicted that COVID would practically shut down the arts in 2020 or that Blockbuster would still be with us today (minus the late fees).

That’s why we asked our arts writers this year – Greg Carannante, Ben Crandell, Rod Stafford Hagwood and Phillip Valys – just to look ahead to the next three months in out annual Season Preview. Looking back on predictions for the future of the arts in South Florida, that seems safe enough.

Safe to predict the arts will always be important here, too. Of course, always call ahead to confirm.





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