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Cannonball Makes a Splash in Miami

By S. Mathur

The name itself is a manifesto of sorts. Cannonball is "an arts organization dedicated to supporting artists, innovative forms of cultural production, and education to advance critical discourse and understanding of contemporary art practice. Based in downtown Miami, Florida, Cannonball's artist-centric values are mirrored in its experimental programs, resources, and opportunities that respond to the needs of today's artists and reflect our efforts to better understand the nuances and textures of South Florida."

Ashley Ford, Operations and Communications Manager, says that its origins lie in the urgent need to provide free legal services and professional development programs to emerging artists. Since its founding in 2003 as a "nomadic" arts organization, Cannonball has found a physical home in a 1920s warehouse in downtown Miami, and developed a series of programs including a Residency, LegalLink, WaveMaker grants and Commissions. It has also become a re-granting organization and founded a public alternative school.

The Residency Program has the distinction of being the first formal live/ work environment in Miami. It promotes the development of Miami as an artistic hub by supporting local artists and inviting international artists, scholars, curators, and other cultural producers to participate in creative cultural exchange. The space itself, a large renovated warehouse in downtown Miami, is located in a transitional urban neighborhood in the middle of Miami's cultural landscape.

LegalLink builds on the original concerns that led to the formation of Cannonball, and supports the legal needs of Florida artists and small arts organizations. It offers legal information, advice, and referrals and links up artists with pro bono or low-cost legal help in dealing with issues like estate planning, family law, immigration, contracts, business law, real estate, taxes, copyright, trademark, and more.

WaveMaker Grants, says Ford, supports projects that are "are non-commercial, non-institutional, stimulate critical thinking and dialogue, and expose audiences to innovative artistic practices typically under-recognized by traditional venues. The very nature of these projects (unpredictable, courageous, and unencumbered by convention), spring from a cultural landscape that is endlessly diverse, nuanced, and equally defined by what is within and beyond its watery borders." The individual grants to artists from Miami-Dade County helps them to "propel unconventional art forms and artist-initiated projects that skew away from traditional funding sources and resist current demands of the marketplace."

Commissions of work from to artists-in-residence at Cannonball lead to "the production, presentation, and documentation of significant new works in under-represented and non-commercial forms, such as performances, urban and ecological interventions, and community-engaged projects."

In 2014, Cannonball launched research.art.dialogue (r.a.d), an alternative art school that is open to all. The non-degree granting program offers courses by leading figures in the cultural fields and the social sciences. Ford adds: "Less a skill-based "school" in the traditional sense, it is a forum to engage in significant dialogues around contemporary realities in the cultural sphere and beyond it, and to develop projects that shed light on the dynamics that are organizing present-day urban and global configurations."

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