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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Neighbors are in a race to stop over-development

3600 Hibiscus Street was destroyed last summer



Government moves slow.

Of course the Coconut Grove Playhouse comes to mind when you think of slow government and also the NCD reviews/rewrite.

 NCD3 covers all of Coconut Grove and there is an overlay called NCD2, which is Village West. NCD stands for Neighborhood Conservation District, but what is being conserved? Trees are being knocked down so that greedy developers can cover most of the lots with houses rather than have greenery remain and over-development where more than one house is built on a single plat of land. 

I asked Commissioner Ken Russell what the delay is in changing and tightening the new NCD laws, which he and others have been working on for quite awhile now.

"It may seem that the process of improving the NCD portion of our code has taken too long. I understand that frustration, but I am dedicated to a process that really involves the public. We’re seeing it in an unprecedented way with our planning and zoning department as well as my office sitting down with the various stakeholder groups of the Grove like 2030 and GroveWatch. We’ve had many meetings and worked through the proposed changes over several months," said Ken.

He went on, "Once these changes are taken into account by the department, the proposal will make its way through the PZAB Planning Zoning Appeals Board and eventually to City Commission for a vote. I initiated this process last year and have been involved throughout. It’s important to get it done, and more important to get it right. Most importantly, it needs to be enforceable and then actually enforced. In order to anticipate the loopholes that could be exploited or the manpower needed to review and enforce the new code, we’ve been as thorough as possible. The end legislation will need to survive challenge from both developers and residents."

As I write this a cool little house on Kumquat is being demolished to make way for a big white box that will most likely take up most of the property, eliminating many trees and putting another nail in the coffin of the old Grove.

The Planning and Zoning Department agreed to work on a complete re-write of the NCDs, working along with neighborhood representatives along with Commissioner Russell.  
"Preserving the historic, heavily landscaped character of Coconut Grove’s residential area,” is the goal. Grovites want the Grove to remain the Grove. The City of Miami has failed Coconut Grove. They have let an historical gem fall to developers.


David Villano, head of the Grove 2030 group says, "We've been meeting regularly with the City's planning and zoning staff, and with the District 2 office, for more than six months. And despite their assurances that new legislative elements will be added to the NCD zoning overlays to better protect the Grove's single family neighborhoods, they really have little to show for it. We do know that there has been push back from commercial and development interests who don't want to see such changes. I'm left wondering if our leadership lacks the political will to bring about real and substantive changes. I guess we'll see."


Commissioner Russell says, "I look forward to getting the final legislation complete soon after August." I hope we can hold him to that.

"The intention of this higher standard of criteria and review was a good intention, but we’re seeing that it needs to be tightened up.  Last year, I escalated one instance of lot splitting on Battersea to the point that I asked for the removal of our City Attorney. I felt that a developer was exploiting what some felt was vague language in the NCD portion of the code.  It was not vague to me. I read the code quite clearly that lot splitting as they were doing it was not legal.  That started this long process of revising the code and improving it for conservation in the Grove," says Ken.


As for the Coconut Grove NCD Working Group, it represents civic organizations community-wide including Grove 2030, the Coconut Grove Village Council, the Coconut Grove Civic Club, the Coconut Grove Treeman Trust, Grove Watch Group, Coconut Grove Village West Homeowners Association, and others.  All of these groups are on the same page - preserve Coconut Grove and drive out greedy developers.


Here are the key recommendations, which were developed through many months of outreach into the community:


·      Creation of a Coconut Grove Community Oversight Board
·      Significant massing reductions within singe-family districts
·      Protection for heritage trees
·      Increased Green space requirements in single-family districts
·      Provisions to deter land banking
·      Preliminary review for historic significance for all structures older than 50 years prior to demo waiver

Commercial interests are against any changes to the NCD. Is it any wonder? They won't be happy until the village is covered over with cement. People don't like when I call Coconut Grove "the village," but as far as I can see, we are still a village and hopefully will remain so.


The Herald explains it all in this article.

Other Related articles:

A Murder caught in the act

Community Meets to discuss Self Governance

Appealing in the Name of the NCD-3 Code

Saving an Historic House on Park Avenue

Stopping Lot Splitting one property at a time

Does the City side with the developers?

Battersea Woods re-platting denied by Commission

Housing Summit left more questions than answers

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Monday, July 24, 2017

Ground breaking for Grand Avenue project

The Grand Avenue roadway improvement project will start on Wednesday, July 26 and to start it off, there will be a ground breaking ceremony at 9 am on the corner of Grand and Virginia Street.

More on the project here, and the plans in our dropbox here.


For more info on the project, please contact the Office of Capital Improvements at 305-416-1280.

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Business Meet and Greet

H&H Jewels in partnership with the Coconut Grove BID will be hosting a Meet and Greet for Business Owners and Professionals of  Coconut Grove on Wednesday, August 2 from 1 -3 pm at H&H Jewels. 

Enjoy lite bites, champagne and sign up for giveaways from H&H and a Panama Jack Bicycle.

H&H is located at 3434 Main Highway.

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Grove NET office has new home

The Coconut Grove NET Office has moved to Miami City Hall, 3500 Pan American Drive. For more information, please contact Madelin Pacheco, NET Administrator, at 305-606-7314 or mpachecho@miamigov.com

For years, the NET office was on one side of the Glass House in Peacock Park and the Chamber of Commerce on the other side. I enjoyed many merchants and police meetings in that office. Well, maybe not enjoyed, but attended. That's where Felice Dubin started putting me on committees, right in that glass office.

Then the NET office moved to the Oak Street garage on Mary Street.

As for the Chamber, they have been on the move since they left the glass house. As far as I know, they are still looking for a location after deciding to leave their current location, which I believe is on Florida Avenue.

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Community recycling day

The City of Miami, Coconut Grove Chamber of Commerce and Woman's Club of Coconut Grove are the sponsors of Community Recycling Day to be held on Saturday, July 29, at Regatta Park. 

Bring your old electronics, televisions, printer cartridges, light bulbs, phones, cords,
chargers, microwaves, hair dryers and batteries on that day from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm to the park, located at South Bayshore Drive and Pan American Drive near the entrance of Miami City Hall.

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Sunday, July 23, 2017

LoKal is having a book event and a dog event this summer

LoKal has a couple of events coming up in late summer. On the heels of our story on the Little Libraries, it's nice to see they are continuing their love of books by having a Book Event on Saturday, July 29.

From noon to 5 pm,  Bookleggers will be joining LoKal to give books away. One book per person. If you'd like to purchase an additional one, it's only $2. Buy two, get a Pabst Blue Ribbon beer free! They are also accepting book swaps

On Saturday, August 5, from noon to 5 pm, there is a Dog Event.

They will be collecting all donations to help furry friends at shelters. Dog toys, blankets, food, etc. All dogs joining us for lunch gets half off a homemade meal from LoKal.

LoKal is located at 3190 Commodore Plaza.


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A call to artists from KROMA Gallery

KROMA Art Space & Studios extends an international call to artists for a juried art exhibition open to artists 18 years and older who specialize in oils, acrylics, watercolors, pastels, drawings, mixed media, prints, photography and sculpture. All work must be no older than two years.

The exhibit, “Felaspora”, will be on display at KROMA Art Space & Studios from September 2 to October 31.

This exhibit is a testament to the life of the legendary Fela Kuti, a Nigerian-born musician, composer, pioneer and Pan Africanist. 

KROMA Art Space & Studios is located at 3670 Grand Avenue. For more information contact Isis Ellis, Gallery Curator at 305-576-6278

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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Coconut Grove Rotary installs new officers

Richard W. Martin II was sworn in as 2017-2018 President of the Rotary Club of Coconut Grove on July 11 by Past District Governor Ellen Blasi; the ceremony took place at the Coconut Grove Sailing Club. Above,from left: Joe King VP, Randy Lakel Past President, Bob Gombosh Secretary, Richard W. Martin II President, Ellen Blassi Past District Governor, Phil Everingham Treasurer, Tim Crowther Sergeant at Arms.


Richard W. Martin II, President; Helene Dudley, Casa Colibri Board Member with a photo of the Mobile Medical Van purchased by the Rotary Club of Coconut Grove that is being used in Guatemala.

In his remarks to the assembled Rotarians, Martin emphasized Service Above Self, the spirit of Rotary. “It is an honor to be President of the Rotary Club of Coconut Grove; during my tenure I plan to continue our ongoing support of the Casa Colibri clinic and, on a local level, of Casa Valentina," he said.

The Rotary Club of Coconut Grove has provided missions and financial support to the Casa Colibri clinic in Nuevo Eden, Guatemala, serving the indigenous Mayan population. Last year, the club donated a medically equipped van to provide pre-natal care to the residents of the highlands of northwest Guatemala. The van is operated by a nurse practitioner who speaks the local dialect and who provides midwife training and performs free pre-natal care including screenings for birth defects such as club foot and cleft palate. 

Casa Valentina, located in Coconut Grove, serves youth who have aged out of the foster care system, giving them the care and support they need to reach their full potential.  It provides safe housing in its residential facility as well as life skills training and support services so that they can transition to independent living.  The Rotary Club of Coconut Grove has provided financial support as well as hours of hands-on volunteer work.

The Rotary Club of Coconut Grove provides service and financial support to initiatives within the community as well as to various international humanitarian  projects. Locally, it has funded after-school programs, youth sports, and health initiatives. Meetings are held every Thursday at 12:15 pm at the Coconut Grove Sailing Club, 2990 S. Bayshore Drive.

Photos by Don Kesler

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Friday, July 21, 2017

Coconut Grove Homecoming

The Coconut Grove Homecoming community Picnic is Saturday, July 22 at Armbrister Park.

There will be lots going on from the Junkanoo Kids to Field Day and the City of Miami Police will have a community softball game.

It's a free, family-friendly event from 11 am to 6 pm.

Armbrister Park is at 4000 Grand Avenue.

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'Tree devouring white boxes" subject of Herald story

“What they’re doing is hollowing out parts of the Grove, lot by lot,” said David Villano, a longtime north Grove resident. “One of these things is fine, two is fine. But at some point the Grove won’t be the Grove anymore. They’re parasites. They’re sucking the life out of what makes the Grove special. And they’re profiting from what they’re destroying.”

This is from an excellent article in today's Miami Herald regarding the over-building in Coconut Grove. 


You can read the article here.

It really touches all bases on the main issue facing Coconut Grove today - over-development and greed and the disappearing greenery around the village. Developers are just out for the quick buck, many building shoddy structures to capitalize on the village's charm, taking that charming and destroying it. They don't care, they don't have to live here.

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Trains or buses?

County Mayor Carlos Gimenez has to be one of the most questionable mayors we've ever had. He now claims that he prefers buses to trains. So He feels that adding more rail lines is going backwards. "Trains are 19th century technology," he says. But aren't buses just modern day stage coaches?

So he claimed in his campaign last year that we need "More Rail Lines."  And just look how he has handled the Coconut Grove Playhouse.

Ironically, Elon Musk, who I daresay knows a bit more than the mayor, has verbal approval to build a NY-DC Hyperloop, that would be underground and transport people back and forth between the two cities in about half an hour!

I don't think I have ever ridden a Dade County bus but I sure have ridden Metrorail. Up north in New York, DC and all over New England, the fastest way around is by rail. You can take the train to the plane, you can be in Boston from Maine in an hour, it's only a few hours from Boston to NY and so on. The speed and efficiency are amazing.

I just thought it was ironic that one of the most forward-seeking guys is trying to build a new transit system up north and down here, the mayor thinks buses are the way to go other than fast, efficient and clean rail lines.

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Did I tell you about the time I had dinner with OJ?

So OJ Simpson will be back on the streets October 1, he received parole from the Nevada prison where he has been incarcerated for the past nine years. This reminds me of the time I had dinner with OJ.
Well, it wasn’t really dinner, but we sat at the same table at Flanigan's (the Loggerhead), right here in Coconut Grove, maybe 12 years ago. It was crowded,  there was a football playoff game on.
There were the usual tables around the place and the bar and at the back, there was one very large table, which consisted of a bunch of tables pushed together. There’s were we sat together. I was with a friend or two and we ate and drank and sort of across from me, maybe one person over, was OJ.
He just acted as if everything was normal. This was of course, after the murders, so I’m not sure how he would show himself in public, but there he was, cheering his team on. I wanted to talk with him, I never spoke to an alleged murderer before.
At one point, they turned to the weather channel, so I asked OJ why they changed to that from the game. He said, “We want to see what the weather is in Philadelphia, that’s where the next game is.” Then he explained some things about the current game that was going on.
That’s the extent to our conversation. At one point he got up, I guess to go to the bathroom and all these fools in the restaurant were falling all over themselves to get to him, he shook hands as he slowly walked to the bathroom, with is head up. No guilt, no shame. Just another OJ day.
The next day, my friend Victor who was with me said, “That was smart of you to agree with what OJ was saying, he knows what he’s talking about.” I looked at Victor and said, “Did you think I was going to disagree with him?”
I had seen him off and on a few more times when he lived in Miami. I saw him driving out of a school once, his kids went there and another time I saw him at the Pinecrest post office. After he left, the clerk at the counter said, “People are so excited. I guess they like seeing a murderer!”

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Summer reading; Little Free Libraries

I have a friend who is fixated with the little free libraries that you may have seen around the village. There are only four of them, this one shown here is in the South Grove, but now his, and I guess my objective, is to have more added. Places like Lake Worth have as many as 80 around their town! It started small and grew from there.

According to former Grovite AnnaMaria Windisch-Hunt, now a Lake Worth resident, Palm Beach County has a REAP program (Resident Education to Action Program) that funds the boxes now through grants. The libraries started off with three, where AnnaMaria had a couple of sailors build the boxes. 
 "The three were hand built with re purposed items and dumpster diving. One looks like the replica of the owner's home. The other was done from a hope chest and mine incorporated [AnnaMaria's late husband] Fred Hunt’s dresser," she says.

She went on, "We ask all the talented artists in the community to paint one and they all come out.  Now we have someone local who is able to build them.  The only ones what required variance were in public right of ways. i.e Forestation, the ones by City Hall.  Everyone is on board.  In fact the Library used to divest of books via selling or trashing  if they were in good condition they would now be kept and picked up by the Library Steward." It’s so popular that she can no longer get books at the library but now they are looking to publishers for donations. 

She has a story about the library boxes in her Lake Worth Every Minute blog


These Little Free Libraries or "book boxes," as they are called are loved by the neighbors. I won't give out the Grove locations because they seem to be a private sort of thing - you know, for the neighbors in a particular area or street. There is one public one at LoKal, the burger place on Commodore Plaza, they call it the "bootleggers library." That's Adrian from Lokal, he enjoys the library and has some great suggestions. Ask him about his favorite books when you stop by.


The advantage of these little libraries is that neighbors meet neighbors through them and in a way, they are sharing more than just neighborly visits. Books are being shared that were read by neighbors who are now sharing the books with fellow neighbors. It would be interesting to see what books are being shared in which neighborhoods.

A nice project would be to have a bunch of the libraries sponsored and then maybe painted by artists, like we did with the peacocks a few years back. In this digital age, its nice to hold paper and ink in hand, have the smell and feel of an actual book and enjoy sharing it.


Hopefully it will catch on. In Lake Worth, the Palm Beach County School District collaborates with residents. It's a perfect  thing for a small village like Coconut Grove.

There are more than 50,000 book boxes around the world in 70 countries; they are in all 50 US states. 

This is an excellent idea to share the books you already read and loved.

Related posts:

Little Free Library


Plans and tips for library builders

Set of plans 

The Danger of Being Neighborly Without a Permit

The Low-tech appeal of Little Free Libraries 

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Paris Saint-Germain Watch Party with Players

Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) is hosting a watch party at Monty’s Raw Bar in Coconut Grove for their soccer match against Roma tonight at 8 pm. Fans can join PSG soccer players as they watch the PSG vs Roma match.

Happy hour specials, including half off drinks and beers, will be available all night and for the first 100 fans that show up, you'll receive free food and drinks!

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Grove BID is looking for a new permanent director

The Coconut Grove Business Improvement District (BID) is searching for an Executive Director. As you may remember, the last director, Manny Gonzalez moved on to Wynwood to direct their BID and currently Tim Schmand is holding down the fort until a new permanent director can be found.

The BID is a semiautonomous board of the City of Miami, dedicated to protecting and enhancing the vitality of Coconut Grove’s commercial core (the District). Established in 2009 by its property owners and merchants, the BID has developed a variety of programs to keep the District clean and secure, fund marketing projects, beautify streetscapes, manage capital
improvement projects, collect and disseminate economic development research and information, facilitate access to parking, foster new business relationships and partner with national, state and local organizations.

The Executive Director exercises supervision over and is responsible for the day-to-day management and operation of all BID activities and facilities. There is a Board of Directors that meets monthly. Their next meeting is Tuesday, July 25 at the Mayfair Hotel (3000 Florida Avenue) at 3:30 pm, it's open to the public. The Board consists of property owners, business owners and the like from the Center Grove.

The successful candidate will have a Bachelor's degree in Public Administration, Business Administration, and/or other related field and preferably a minimum of five (5) years experience in the management and operation of a Business Improvement District or like operation. Additional work experience may be substituted for education.

An employee in this class is appointed by the Coconut Grove BID board of directors, subject to City of Miami Commission approval. Salary is negotiable and commensurate with education and experience, it is usually in the $80,000 to $100,000 range.

Please refer to MPA web site for more info: www.miamiparking.com

Forward resume to:
Miami Parking Authority
Attn: Dir. of Human Resources
40 NW 3rd Street
Suite #1103
Miami, FL 33128
Fax: 305-371-9451
Email: employ@miamiparking.com

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Opening on Village Council for temporary seat

There is an opening on the Cocoanut Grove Village Council. This is to fill a vacated seat and it's for three months only. The elections are in November and the seat will be up for election then.

If interested, please email Coconutgrovevillagecouncil@gmail.com


The Villge Council meets this Friday, July 21 from 6 to 8 pm at City Hall (3500 Pan American Drive).

On the agenda:
Treasury & Budget Update
Police / Net Office Report

Discussion Items
By Law Additions / Standing Committees (first reading)
Resignation / vote on new board member
NCD Review update

Old Business
QuickBuild Crosswalk Update

2017 Elections / Candidates forms

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I'm missing my Healthy Hen bowl

I'm hoping someone in town can duplicate the bowls they used to have at The Bookstore. I lived on those things! I used to get the perfect mix of veggies - sweet potatoes, broccoli, avocado and other things, sometimes squash, peas, carrots and green beans and also, corn, with a bit of chicken or salmon and it was perfect. Very healthy. Now I cannot find that anywhere. It's sort of a paleo meal.

I know, I can make it myself, I tried awhile back and I thought I was stir frying, but I was deep frying and my cholesterol went through the roof. I suppose I should try again, the right way this time. What I did was I would heat up the left overs from lunch, but I was doing it the wrong way.


If someone can duplicate these stir-fry bowls and make them between $10 and $12, they will get lots of lunch traffic. A lot of the office workers seemed to stop by for them daily, they looked to be their number one seller. I wish I had saved the old Bookstore menus because it listed everything that was in each bowl. There was a chicken bowl, a fish bowl, beef, even tofu and quinoa. You could make the bowls from scratch, too - just add what you wanted.


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Monday, July 17, 2017

City is sponsoring art contest

The City of Miami Arts and Entertainment Council is sponsoring its sixth annual juried art contest.

The deadline to enter is August 9, 2017.

Contest Guidelines:
- Subject: The inspiration for the painting must be a location within the boundaries of the City of Miami 
- Medium: Solely painting. Other mediums such as drawing, collage, etc. will not be considered.
- Size: The smallest side should be not less than 20 inches and the largest side should be no more than 48 inches.

How to enter: Click here to apply paintmemiami.com/entry-form/

Exhibition: The finalists & winners will be exhibited at the Little Haiti Cultural Center from September 2nd to September 9th, 2017. Cocktail Reception and Awards Ceremony: Saturday, September 2nd, 2017, from 5:00 to 8:00 pm at the Little Haiti Cultural Center.

Don’t miss this great opportunity for exposure as an artist in Miami and to exhibit your work alongside other local artists!

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The conscientious cop

On Sunday morning, I went to the gym about 7 am. Across the street, there was a cop car stopped in front of CocoWalk and his red and blue emergency lights were blasting away on top of his car. He was giving a ticket to a driver who was stopped in front of him. What was odd was that there is no traffic at that time and they were blocking a lane of traffic. I think the cop would normally have had the guy pull off the road if they were blocking traffic. So he was giving the driver a ticket, most likely for blowing passed stop sign at Grand and Virginia, which people do daily.

For the next little bit of time, the cop drove around the Center Grove. Just checking things out, which is a good thing. He was his own security patrol. A bit later, as I was coming around the block, I saw him coming toward me and the lights were on again. No one else was on the road, and I wondered what I had done.

It turns out that there was some activity with cars and/or vans at the loading dock at the Mayfair on Mary Street. This was interesting to me because I didn't notice it and most people wouldn't and if there was some shady business going on at that early hour on a weekend, most people wouldn't notice.

I liked the fact that this cop stopped to check it out. Were those people robbing the place? What were they doing at 7:00 am in the loading dock with what looked liked three vehicles.

I'm not sure why the cop felt the need to light up the emergency lights atop his car to stop and check out the loading dock situation. But it made me laugh because the cop is a small guy and perhaps the lights give him a bigger presence.

Either way, I was glad to see that someone is that conscientious on the police force and protecting the neighborhood early Sunday morning and hopefully at all times of the day and night. I didn't stop to ask his name or ask him what he was doing because I feared getting a ticket for not minding my own business. He means business.

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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Community Budget Meeting at Virrick Park

FROM COMMISSIONER KEN RUSSELL'S OFFICE

Of all the legislation passed by the City Commission, the most important is the annual Budget - the one document that puts your money to work behind all the policies we debate throughout the year. As residents, you have the right to know what’s in the budget and how it shapes your quality of life.

The City is hosting a series of Community Budget Meetings to present the proposed budget for next year, which begins on October 1. The meeting for District 2 residents will be held July 18 at 6:30 pm at  Elizabeth Virrick Park (3255 Plaza Street). (Community Budget Meetings Info) It’s a great opportunity to learn about the  budget and have your questions answered.

On another note, I’ve been reading through the 49-page list of capital projects the city and residents have identified as potential projects funded by the General Obligation Bond the Commission will be approving later this month for the November ballot. There are a lot of great ideas on the list, from street projects in every neighborhood to affordable housing, historic preservation and resiliency. Not all of them can be funded from this bond, but I salute the residents who participated in workshops over the past few months to help shape our priorities.

Finally, on this week’s agenda, there are several complicated potential ballot questions related to leases on City waterfront properties. I’ll be advocating for a robust public education effort to ensure that voters are fully apprised of the details of each of these questions.

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Art Box has a lot going on this summer

Art Box held the Family Art Workshop last Saturday. They had a great time learning about Cubism.  These are some photos from that event.
Art Box offers these workshops on the second Saturday of every month. Join them again on Saturday, August 12 at 10:30 am.

Also coming up is Intro to Printmaking on Thursday, July 20. It's a lesson for adults. This is from 7:30 to 10 pm. BYOB welcome. Cost is $20 per person.


And there are five weeks of summer camp left. Kids can learn about traditional art from around the world as well as some of today's most renowned contemporary artists. Cost is $260 for the week. Art materials and snacks are provided. Campers bring their own lunch.


For more info on any of these events and to reserve slots, please email Sofia at: sofia@artboxmiami.com 

You can also call 305-778-1270

Art Box is located at 2911 Grand Avenue, suite 400E in the Mayfair Promenade. 






YOU MAY NOT LIFT THE PHOTOS & TEXT. IT'S COPYRIGHTED INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY. YOU CAN HOWEVER SHARE A STORY ON SOCIAL MEDIA BY USING THE LINKS HERE.
For linking to this one story, just click on the time it was posted & just this story will open for sharing - only through social media. Not copying and pasting.