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Art at the Library, Miami-Dade Public Library System

Miami-Dade Public Library System

Problem Statement

In 1973, officials estimated there were only 104 arts and cultural organizations in all of Miami-Dade County. There were few art exhibition venues, and fewer that emphasized and took seriously the work of local, African-American and Latino/Latin American artists. The Library’s Artmobile, permanent art collection and exhibitions program were established in the 1970s to address this need. In 2010, our now predominantly-Hispanic county has over a thousand arts organizations, thanks to massive growth and immigration from Latin America and the Caribbean. As our community and its artistic production have become larger and more diverse, the need to document and understand them has also grown. Literacy itself has become more complex in an increasingly networked and media-driven society. More than ever, our community needs civic spaces where people of all ages and walks of life can connect with others, exchange ideas, acquire visual literacy skills, and engage with arts and culture in a meaningful way.


MDPL’s Art Services and Exhibitions Department curates a year-round program of exhibitions, performances, lectures, panel discussions, and community art projects, all free and open to the public. Every year, MDPLS invites artists, organizations and schools throughout the community (and beyond) to participate through a widely-publicized call for proposals. Art Services programs 12-25 exhibitions and site-specific installations in 5-10 library branches a year. Library staff partner with artists and organizations to develop special programs and host community discussions, using exhibitions as a catalyst for community engagement. For over thirty years, Art Services has also acquired, developed, and maintained works for the Library’s permanent collection of over 2,200 works of art. Installed in 42 branches, it has earned national respect as an important reference collection that chronicles social, cultural, and artistic change in Miami for over forty years.


In 2008-09, over 15,000 Miami-Dade residents (not including ongoing viewers of exhibitions at branches) attended art outreach activities, exhibitions and 27 related programs featuring the work of 104 professional artists and over 150 K-12 students from 23 Miami-Dade County Public Schools. As a result, library patrons participated in constructive discussions about homelessness and housing issues, Braille literacy, mental illness among children and teens, and civic/political literacy, among many other locally relevant topics. Through the Miami-Dade County Public School’s Museum Education program, Art Services provided exhibition tours, arts curriculum, and library orientations to 495 Miami-Dade County K-12 students and teachers from 17 schools. Through Art at the Library, MDPLS partnered with and/or participated in outreach and community programming in conjunction with, among others: Lotus House Women’s Shelter; Sweat Records; Talking Books and the local chapter of the Florida Council of the Blind; Career Day at Toussaint L’Ouverture Elementary School; the Miami-Dade County Public Schools Museum Magnet Program; the Miami-Dade County Department of Veterans Affairs; the Miami-Dade Public Schools Clinical Art Therapy Department; the Adrienne Arsht Performing Arts Center; Miami-Dade County Animal Services; the Humane Society; the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators; and Miami Poetry Collective.