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Art of Transformation hopes to shine light on Opa-locka

MIAMI - Opa-locka could have been another Coral Gables, built on a dream, instead, the city's architecture is based on the Arabian Nights.

The city was the brainchild of pioneer aviator and visionary Glenn Curtis.

With street names like Ali Baba, Sharazad, Aladdin, and Arabia, the Moorish-style building are true works of art.

Opa-locka, like Coral Gables, was one of Florida's planned communities, however, the dream that Curtis promoted was wiped out by the 1926 hurricane and Florida Land Boom Crash.

Proud of his city, current Mayor John Taylor told CBS4News, "The foundation of Opa-locka was built on art. We have the most Moorish architecture in the Western Hemisphere."

And the mayor is thrilled that a huge art event is coming to his city.

The Art of Transformation project is a major headline in the Opa-locka story. There has never been an event of this magnitude celebrating Black art during Miami Art Week anywhere in South Florida.

"You would not normally see this in Opa-locka. The fact that it is coming here, it makes my heart leap with excitement," says the mayor.

Visitors this year will be greeted with art exhibits, a pop-up restaurant in the old train station. Art collections straight from Africa and Haiti, four days of serious art three blocks long in the heart of Opa-locka.

Local residents are elated. Kimly Mack told us, "I am excited for my grandkids. They do art from home. It will be somewhere they can express themselves and maybe in the future."

Many of the original Moorish-style buildings remain and are on the National Register of Historic Places.

In the 1940's-50's, the city transitioned from a white population to primary African American. Along the way, there have been struggles with poverty, crime, and corruption. All issues plagued the working-class community.

"Opa-locka has had a dark cloud over it for a while, but I am so excited with this event that it will bring light on the city," says the mayor.

For resident Jasmeka Wilson, the Art of Transformation event represents an opportunity for her 5th grader. "I have a son in the 5th grade and he calls himself an artist, so it is going to be a blessing so he can see art and maybe be inspired."

There are high hopes for The Art of Transformation Project according to the mayor.

"Bringing this to our community is just going to propel us up to where I know we are going to go."

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