Miami’s Art Deco Weekend began as a grassroots festival to bring awareness to South Beach’s movement to preserve the plethora of neglected Art Deco buildings and hotels. It has now grown into the largest celebration of historical structures from the 20s, 30s and 40s-era.
Although True Art Deco aficionados prefer to delve into the more “serious” events surrounding the weekend, namely the lecture series, the event has evolved to include musical performances, fashion shows, various walking tours, movie screenings, lecture series and antique cars, which evoke that bygone time with sleek lines and over-sized headlights. Over 400,000 people attend annually and it’s a must-see event for locals and tourists alike.
Initially, the impetus to recognize South Beach’s Art Deco architecture was spurred on by activists Barbara Baer Capitman, John Capitman and Leonard Horowitz, who founded the Miami Design Preservation League (MDPL) in 1976. Two years later, they held the first Art Deco Festival, which was actually a week long event. As the festival grew, so did the preservation movement, and since 1992, South Beach’s Art Deco buildings are no longer in danger.
Another component of Art Deco Weekend is the Music Festival, which is led by Musical Director Doug Wimbish, who handpicks lively musicians to jazz up the soiree. There is also a film series, with era-appropriate movies like “Annie,” “Chicago,” and “The Great Gatsby.” And the fashion component, which was introduced in 2011, has proven to be quite popular, with local designers presenting Art Deco-inspired clothes during a runway show.
Of course, the best way to appreciate the Art Deco treasures South Beach has to offer is to see them up close. There are various walking tours offered all weekend, all led by local architects, historians and preservationists. Through these tours, you will gain a better understanding of the unique characteristics of Miami’s Art Deco architecture and its importance. Plus, there are themed tours that span the Art Deco District through the lens of organized crime, gay and lesbian, Lincoln Road, Jewish Miami, neon lights, Espanola Way and even a cocktail “crawl.”
Altogether, the weekend is a true appreciation of how South Beach’s Art Deco architecture has impacted the oceanfront resort destination. This streamlined style of buildings was influenced by the ocean, sand, foliage and weather. Today, due to the hard work of the MDPL, Ocean Drive remains aglow with the neon and pastel colors of these colorful buildings. South Beach has the largest concentration of Art Deco buildings in the United States, and the Art Deco District was understandably placed on the National Register of Historic Places for this very reason. The forthcoming edition will take place next 17th – 19th of January 2020.
Latest Event Date: Jan 18 – Jan 20, 2019