Gary Farmer is the Cultural Affairs Program Manager for the City of Miami Beach, FL. He has been coordinating the National Arts Program® exhibition for the City of Miami Beach employees and their families since its inception in 2005 with continued success.
This year, the City of Miami Beach celebrated their Fifth Anniversary with the program. In honor of this achievement, Gary was presented the NAP's Fifth Anniversary award for all his hard work coordinating the exhibitions over the years.
Gary Farmer has tremendous passion for the arts and loves the opportunity the National Arts Program® provides city employees and their families. He is a true example of what being an NAP coordinator is all about!
Q. What makes the National Arts Program® different than any other art exhibit displayed in City Hall?
A. It’s the only show each year by and specifically for city staff – and it’s by far the most popular show of the year.
Q. Why do you feel that displaying employee artwork is important? A. It creates a sense of community that crosses departments and job grades, allowing us all to get to know each other better; and of course it allows quality “shine” time for the participating employees. It also encourages and nurtures artistic talent: this year’s first place Amateur win, for example, was made possible by photography techniques learned from a scholarship awarded in last year’s show.
Q. How have employees and their families responded to the opportunity to display their artwork in City Hall?
A. We’ve had very positive response since our first year, when Nikki Martinez, a 12-year-old welder (and daughter of a City Clerk’s Office employee,) won Best of Show and was featured in local newspapers and on television. Although we haven’t had a huge annual increase in the number of participants, more and more people attend the reception and exhibition every year, and this year, due to popular demand, we’re keeping the exhibit up for three months instead of only one.
Q. Can you tell us how art has had a positive impact on your personal life?
A. At this point in life I would have to say that it enabled me to get my dream job!
Q. How did you get started in the art field or have you always been involved in the arts? Are you an artist yourself?
A. When I was a kid I made friends with the kids whose parents took them to art museums, and I started making art in grade school. I was lucky enough to study with top artists, historians and critics at University of California Irvine, and left school to take a job at Universal Limited Art Editions in New York, where I met Robert Motherwell, Jim Dine, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns and others. That led to a job at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which started my career in arts administration, marketing and development. Ten years ago I had the opportunity to finish my art degree (with a concentration in sculpture) at Southern Oregon University, but these days I find I get far more satisfaction from putting art into other people’s lives than in making it myself.
Q. Why do you think displaying artwork in a city government setting is so important?
A. It emphasizes the City’s endorsement of the fact that art is a vital element in the overall quality of life for our residents and visitors. Our Cultural Affairs Program offers cultural grants, arts education programs in our schools and parks, and free performances and exhibitions throughout the year, all with strong support from the Mayor and Commission and from the Administration. I’m extremely proud that Miami Beach is the only municipality in the State of Florida whose arts budget was not reduced this year.
Q. What is your favorite aspect of the National Arts Program®?
A. Besides seeing the Mayor and Manager so happy? I love seeing the staff get excited about art. Everyone can relate to the exhibit because the artists are people they know, or family members of people they know – it demystifies the art experience and makes it fun and accessible to all.
Q. Do visitors to the building respond to the exhibit?
A. Every visitor to the 4th floor stops to look at something in the show, and most are surprised that it’s an employee show.
Q. Is there anything else you want to add? Comments about the program, etc.
A. What a great program! I’m surprised that every city in the country doesn’t take advantage of it, especially nowadays, when cities everywhere are slashing their budgets. Our National Arts Program ® exhibit is the most effective teambuilding exercise we have, and all it costs us is a few hours of staff time. Thank you, sincerely.