Cine Al Fresco

Living Arts Trust, Inc d/b/a O Cinema

Funding Received: 2013
Miami, FL
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
July 30, 2013

…And the Designers Are…

The concept of Cine Al Fresco had been a dream for O Cinema co-founders Vivian Marthell and Kareem Tabsch long before they secured the grant money to actually make the outdoor extension of the theater happen. But now they’ve got both the means and the team to make that happen. That team includes architectural designers Kaelsie Saravia and Mauricio Gonzalez, and famed South Florida artist Carlos Alves.

These dreaming doers had been tossing the idea of a community-garden-meets outdoor-movie-theater since the first days of the cinema’s existence. The placemaking concept originated from a confluence of community input and the duo’s own vision. And in a serendipitous collision of creative-types, the person who would eventually be chosen as the design architect for the Cine Al Fresco project just happened to be present for all those brainstorming sessions.

Kaelsie Saravia, who together with fiancée Mauricio Gonzalez has laid out the working plan for Cine Al Fresco, had recently earned her Master of Architecture degree from Florida International University when she first crossed paths with the hip indie theater. The family furniture business Saravia was helping to run was in a slump, and she sought part-time work at the O after seeing a help-wanted ad on Facebook. Marthell and Tabsch found her to be a good fit, and soon Saravia became a steady part-timer at the theater.

“We talked about building this kind of green space a lot, even before the grant money,” Saravia says. “We thought of how nice it would be to have a beautiful garden out front with an outdoor area for the community to gather and watch movies and performances.”

Saravia was so much a part of the brainstorming process, that she doesn’t specifically recall the moment when it was decided that she would be the one responsible for the actual design of the outdoor area after the ArtPlace America grant transformed the dream to a reality. It just kind of happened.

“Because I had worked there and spent so much time there, I knew their needs,” she said. And as a person who grew up in Miami, Saravia also knew the community’s needs, making her all the more qualified to map out the placemaking project.

Since the demands of studying for her Architect Registration Examination began to take precedence, Saravia has stepped down from her post at the cinema. Meanwhile, she and Gonzalez have drafted a plan for the courtyard that will fuse South Florida foliage with a clean and useful community gathering place. There are plans to incorporate better, clearer signage to help patrons find the theater. And the outdoor movie screening wall and seating gallery are only part of what the project aims to achieve.

“It will have a lush urban garden feel,” Saravia said. “It will have a funky O-Cinema vibe, but it will be modern as well. And it will have an element of romance. There will be romantic lights strung up across the courtyard amid the tropical plants.”

A vegetable garden, a waste and recycling center, and a bicycle parking area are all “greening” elements that have been worked into the plans. Saravia says that she and Gonzalez have tried to be as innovative as possible while working within the constraints of a not-too-large space.

“O Cinema’s Cine Al Fresco will bring a much-needed and attractive public space to the Wynwood neighborhood,” Saravia said. “With the native landscape and green and sustainable features, it will bring something that there is currently a real lack of in this area. We’re very excited about it. We think it will have a great community-building effect.”

Another energizing development this month in O Cinema’s Cine Al Fresco project is the decision to bring on board one of the state’s most accomplished site-specific installation artists. Alves will be bringing his talents in the realms of ceramics, mosaics, metal, and glass to the Cine Al Fresco project, helping to revamp the signage, fencing, and to install his unique handmade tiling. His works have graced such public spaces as the Art Center South Florida on Lincoln Road in South Beach, where he created a free-flowing tile installation; The Palm Beach Courthouse, where he crafted a 16’ pineapple sculpture, as well as several murals and benches; at a firehouse in Los Angeles; and the Video Visitation Center at the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. Alves is a self-proclaimed lover of nature and the outdoors, making his participation in this exciting adventure even more fitting.

With Saravia hailing originally from Honduras, Gonzalez from Chile, and Alves from Cuba, there is already a hefty helping of diversity on the Cine Al Fresco team – an asset that is sure to result in a finished space that will be a beautiful reflection of the gorgeous melting pot that is Miami. Stay tuned for more updates on the O’s progress in the coming months.