After Hurricane Irma hit Florida and continued to churn north into Georgia, causing even more destruction, the Sunshine State’s arts institutions begin to plan repairs and reopenings. The category-five hurricane, which recorded wind speeds of 185 miles per hour, was one of the strongest storms to ever traverse the Atlantic basin. While it wreaked havoc in the Caribbean, leaving at least thirty-eight dead, it was downgraded to a category one storm by the time it landed in Florida, where at least sixteen storm-related deaths were reported.
Institutions such as the Perez Art Museum Miami, which is located on Biscayne Bay, weathered the storm fairly well. A PAMM spokesperson told the Miami New Times that it “sustained no damage to the building, and suffered no flooding. The roof held well, and there was no problem with the hurricane-resistant windows.” Because the museum was built on the waterfront, it was constructed with extreme weather in mind. The building stands on a raised platform to help protect it from storm surge and its windows were tested against category-five winds. The staff apparently felt the museum was so sturdy that fourteen employees chose to ride out the storm there. While there was some damage to its garage and landscaping, it plans to open its doors to the public on Thursday, September 14.
Elsewhere in Miami, the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, an historic 1914 mansion located on Biscayne Bay, had serious flooding in its basement. The Bass Museum and ICA Miami, which are both currently under construction, were not able to immediately assess any damage because of a city-mandated curfew. “We are thankful that our staff is safe and accounted for and our thoughts are with those who are still battling the aftermath of the storm,” Bass’s executive director Silvia Karman Cubiñá told the Art Newspaper.
Michael A. Tomor, executive director of the Tampa Museum of Art, which plans to reopen today, told Artnet that “the museum and our immediate downtown region never saw a power outage and the parks and properties surrounding the museum were spared downed trees and structural damages.” The Dali museum also confirmed that it survived the storm. Chief marketing officer Kathy Greif said that the Tampa Bay area was “lucky,” and that “it could have been much worse.”
It appears that the southernmost Florida Keys suffered the brunt of Irma’s destruction. Naples was also battered. Yet, according to Kathleen van Bergen, the chief executive and president of Artis-Naples, a cultural complex that includes a fine art museum and a concert hall, a preliminary inspection of the building determined that the damage was minimal. Most of the destruction occurred on the grounds. Key West’s cultural venues also withstood the storm surprisingly well. The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, as well as its famous six-toed cats, emerged from the storm unscathed. Quincy Perkins, the director of development of the Key West Film Festival, told the New York Times that the Tropic Cinema, the Studios of Key West and the Key West Art and Historical Society only had minor damage. “For some reason, arts groups are in some of the strongest buildings,” he said.
“Florida Museums Prepare to Reopen After Hurricane Irma.” Art Forum, 13 Sept. 2017, www.artforum.com/news/id=71080.