Give 20 high school art students three weeks to create an installation, and who knows what they'll come up with?
"Our piece is very abstract, it's very weird. I mean it's kind of reflective of the times, really," explained Theo Rodino, a student at Terra Environmental Institute High School.
Walk through the exhibit at Locust Projects, in Miami's Design District, and you'll see some interesting things. An uprooted palm tree suspended in a sling, an old fashioned Florida room complete with a lounge chair and black and white television, a paper mache flamingo in chains, and a lot more strangeness. The assignment was to create a large-scale, professional-caliber installation with guidance from real professionals.
"We try to speed them forward like 30 years into their career and show them what it's like as a real working artist," said Monica Lopez de Victoria, the Locust Arts Builders project director.
So the kids came up with a theme, Weird Florida, which we all know is an easy target in our state, and also a topic on which all the student artists could collaborate.
"They're used to working by themselves on a small scale and here they have this giant space and so they're able to work very large scale and they have to kind of expand their brains and expand reality and expand their possibilities," Lopez de Victoria said.
In one part of the room, there are cement flamingos in pieces, arranged in a circle on the floor, like some sort of flamingo-henge. All part of the broken Florida theme. One huge wall is covered entirely with printouts of tweets from @FloridaMan, which are actual, real, bizarre news clippings from the Sunshine State. A corner features an abstract depiction of a strip club, rated G.
"Having this experience with other people, it opens your mind completely, like what other people think instead of like, just your ideas," said Valeria Fernandez, who just graduated from Michael Krop High School and will study graphic design at New World School of the Arts College.
One of her colleagues said she learned what's expected of a professional artist.
"Also, I learned how to work with other people, which is really important of course, and I learned a lot about myself," explained Kelly Eriksen, who graduated from Palmer Trinity School and is heading off to the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design in the fall.
Tons of kids applied for the Locust Arts Builders program, which is free, thanks in part to funding from the Children's Trust. The lucky 20 who were accepted now know what it's like to have the public judge their work.
"It's also taught me to be patient with art, you know, it takes time," said Ezekiel Jabhari Binns, a junior at Design and Architecture Senior High.
There's some truth to that, and when it comes to appreciating local weirdness, it's not a science, it's an art.
The Locust Arts Builders installation can be viewed through Aug. 8 at Locust Projects, 3852 North Miami Avenue.