We're Already Getting In the Mood To Feel Grove-y

The Coconut Grove Arts Festival Paints Outside the Lines

Coconut Grove Arts Festival (Photo Courtesy of CGAF)


Coconut Grove Arts Festival (Photo Courtesy of CGAF)

 Irene Sperber

The 58th Coconut Grove Arts Festival (CGAF), a cornerstone to the winter season, is back on deck Saturday, Feb. 19 through  Monday, Feb. 21, 2022. Three full days should be enough time to get your outfit ready…it will be a creative crowd.

"Paint Outside the Lines" is this year's theme, so toss off any suggestion of your old self and turn on the revived you as a new day, a new year, a new Coconut Grove Arts Festival is unfurled.

The annual event brings Miami-Dade insiders and outsiders together in the bright white winter sun to enjoy all that is the very best of Miami culture from the ground up.

It’s neighborly, it’s relaxing, it shows a side from simpler days when The Grove was a creative hippy hangout, the most stylish in modern hipness in the same vein as New York City’s Greenwich Village. Artistic denizens, busy as elves, conjuring thoughts into action during long hot summers and sumptuous winters, turn out myriad multitudes of masterly métier for all to admire. So admire…and purchase.

Over 300 (chosen from a blind jury) winners stop off from other international art venues to participate. Expect mixed media, painting, photography, digital art, printmaking and drawing, watercolor, ceramics, glass, fiber, jewelry & metalwork, sculpture, and wood.

Monty Trainer and Charlie Cinnamon (Photo Courtesy of CGAF).


Monty Trainer and Charlie Cinnamon (Photo Courtesy of CGAF).

Iconic events, the backbone of a community, start with a germ of an idea. Guess who is responsible for the Coconut Grove Arts Festival? No, really…guess.

Back in 1963, Charlie Cinnamon was the spice that got this party started. Who dat you ask?

Believe it or not, fifty-plus years ago, Miami was a hotbed of Broadway musicals. Local marquees sporting names like Carol Channing, Angela Lansbury, Julie Andrews and Liza Minnelli. If you’re too young to know, I’ll wait while you Google them.

“Legendary” South Florida Press Agent Charlie Cinnamon was the thread connecting the dots, tirelessly organizing an arts show called “Left Bank” to publicize the opening of a play he was promoting called "Irma La Douce."

Cinnamon knew how to get things moving. As public relations director of the Coconut Grove Playhouse, he used the festival idea as a vehicle. A clear success, the Coconut Grove Association was formed to put on an annual art festival. It blossomed into a yearly community event ever since.

The glorious egalitarian happening reflects the meager beginnings of Miami-Dade’s footstep into the art world by working synchronically with the community on many levels. Artists and appreciators of all ages have a place in the exuberant outdoor fete.

Charlie Cinnamon for Miami Says Art, 1976, by artist Martin Kreloff (Courtesy the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU).


Charlie Cinnamon for Miami Says Art, 1976, by artist Martin Kreloff (Courtesy the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU).

Monty Trainer is a Grove-ite of long-standing and the President / CEO of CGAF. The original owner (he sold years ago) of The Grove’s famed Monty’s Conch restaurant and gas station (now Monty’s Raw Bar), he was there at the very epicenter of Grove coolness. I had a few questions for him.

Irene Sperber: “What facet of the CGAF has held steady over the years from the original idea?”

Monty Trainer: “This festival has consistently been one of the Top 10 festivals in the country. We owe that to what we’ve always believed in; that the focus needs to be on the quality of art and not the quantity. Our commitment to the quality of art has remained steadfast, and above all our commitment to this community.”

IS: “Do you have any anecdotes about you and Charlie Cinnamon to share?”

Monty Trainer: “What started out as a PR stunt for Charlie Cinnamon to draw attention to the Coconut Grove Theatre in 1963 has turned into this iconic art festival. Jump 58 years forward, and Charlie’s vision is still going strong.”

The two were fast friends by the 1969 opening of Monty’s restaurant. They’d drive around Coconut Grove in a golf cart reminiscing.

Monty Trainer: “Charlie was always amazed at how the festival went from a clothesline art show to the Grove House to the Coconut Grove Arts Festival.”

Festival Map, (Courtesy CGAF)


Festival Map, (Courtesy CGAF)

Trainer went on to add that Charlie was the first Ambassador of Coconut Grove. Monty often threw cast parties for Charlie and guests, i.e. Milton Berle, Richard Burton, and Broderick Crawford.

I wanted to know if the pandemic interim year(s) elicited any new, fresh thoughts after the enforced pause we’ve all experienced. After all, necessity is the mother of invention.

New stuff for 2022: No self-respecting art show in 2022 is complete without an NFT Collection. This year's ubiquitous commemorative poster by LeBo (aka David Le Batard) will be available as an NFT. Explore, Learn, Purchase an NFT. You must.

While we’re at it, why the choice of graphic and fine artist LeBo as the winner of this year's poster contest?

Trainer continued, “Aside from growing up in Miami, Lebo’s ability to pull from a wide spectrum of mediums (muralist, painter, sculptor) makes him the ideal creative choice to convey this all-encompassing arts festival experience,”

“It’s everything that Coconut Grove stands for, but in true festival fashion, we will unveil the poster in all its glory at the VIP poster unveiling in early February.”

Never shy with colors, Lebo draws inspiration from street art, Cuban music and line-based abstractions, categorizing his style as postmodern cartoon art expressionism, I was told.

How about this new feature to calm frazzled nerves and smooth out the experience:

The Ketel One VIP Collectors’ Club: Sip complimentary cocktails and nibble bites, discuss with an art concierge, and…wait for it… private restrooms…air conditioned….on site. Club inclusion is limited so you might want to get on this (online only) offer including $100 Art Dollars for use toward a new piece for your collection.

Or…check out The Stacks in Peacock Park. A “six container high” pyramid stack will be a giant canvas for top local muralists allowing their unique minds to paint throughout the weekend festivities. Top that off with a resident DJ and “ a unique and colorful interactive element”. (I don’t know exactly what that means either, but we will find out together as it unfolds.)

The new Kitchen Combat segment sounds like what happens in my apartment most evenings, but at the Coconut Grove Festival great chefs and mixologists, with entertaining narrator Anthony Nader, will face off with you, the audience, and MD Culinary College as the deciders for winner. Ooooo, we get to taste stuff!

No bonafide arts festival would let you go home without trying your hand at making something . The Inner Artist event is what it sounds like…give it a go with tools provided.

Held every Presidents Day weekend, CGAF, family areas keep pre-art lovers from having meltdowns when missing their nap or a snack as parents ogle the art.

In the know… Their MISSION: The Coconut Grove Arts Festival® is produced by the nonprofit, 501(c)(3), Coconut Grove Arts and Historical Association. Proceeds help fund year-round arts programs. The association also maintains the Gallery @ CGAF and presents special exhibitions throughout the year from its location at the Mayfair in the Grove. Since its inception in 1963, the association has awarded hundreds of scholarships to students who attend fine arts programs in local schools.

Location: 2700 S. Bayshore Drive, Miami (33133) and runs along the streets of McFarlane Road, South Bayshore Drive and Pan American Drive.

Hours: Open at 10:00 a.m. all three days. Saturday and Sunday it closes at 7:00 p.m., Monday at 5:00 p.m. $20 per person per day.

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