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MOCA curator Adeze Wilford shares her favorite Miami art and what to expect this fall

The NYC transplant is balancing large-scale institutional shows and giving under-explored artists their due.

Falyn Wood
Written by
Falyn Wood

Adeze Wilford has been busy since her appointment as curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami (MOCA) this past February. An alum of several New York cultural institutions including Harlem’s Studio Museum, the Museum of Modern Art and, most recently, Hudson Yards’ nontraditional art center the Shed, Wilford jumped right into the vibrant Miami scene, spearheading a handful of temporary public art projects focusing on local artists.

“A large part of my interest in this role was wanting to return to the museum field,” says the New York native, who filled MOCA’s curator role four years after its executive director, Chana Sheldon, came on board. “I think the field and the art world, in general, are in a space where real forward-thinking and change can take root, and I was ready to take on that challenge in a new city.”

Providing a platform for local talent has long been a priority of the North Miami museum, so it tracks that Wilford’s first order of business was plugging into the community and drawing on her experience to expand the different ways MOCA achieves that goal.

Adeze Wilford
Photograph: Rachell Morillo

Earlier this year, Wilford held an open call for MOCA’s Art on the Plaza series and featured Onajide Shabaka and Autumn Casey. She’ll make another call for new proposals for the plaza this fall, and is also currently organizing the South Florida Cultural Consortium exhibition, which will feature 12 artists selected from the Miami-Dade County program in 2023.

“So much of this work is about forging long-term relationships,” says Wilford of the role so far. “Everyone has been genuine and open to getting to know me, which has made this transition feel really positive.

Looking ahead to Miami’s busiest season for art and culture, we chatted with Wilford about what else to expect at MOCA this fall, along with the transplant’s favorite art pieces and non-art places around the city and her forecast for 2023’s biggest art trends. Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.

What's new at MOCA since you've come on board?

We are glad to work with artists from around the nation and world, but it is important to platform the local talent. I will be curating a series of works in our Paradise Courtyard that blends art and technology, so I am excited for that to be on view in the near future.

What are your favorite art pieces and/or exhibits around Miami?

One of my favorite works is actually in MOCA’s collection, but it is public artwork. It’s Mark Handforth’s Electric Tree, and it’s a really stunning intervention on a huge Banyan tree in Griffing Park, not too far from the museum. We hosted an activation of a dance performance by Pioneer Winter there this summer and it was quite special.

What's in store for MOCA this fall/Art Basel?

MOCA has an incredible guest curator program and I’m delighted to continue to bring new voices into our museum. We have an exhibition by Didier William, "Nou Kite Tout Sa Dèyè," organized by Dr. Erica Moiah James, that I am so proud of. He’s really taken some risks in his practice and made a body of work for this show that I can’t wait for the public to see.

Didier Willam, Mosaic Pool, Miami , 2021
Photograph: Courtesy Collection of Reginald and Aliya BrowneDidier Willam, Mosaic Pool, Miami, 2021.

I’m organizing a show of photographer and filmmaker Leah Gordon’s work, which includes a new film made in Jacmel, Haiti, and having these two shows in conversation feels special.

We’re also wrapping up the second season of Art on the Plaza with a site-specific installation by artist VantaBlack that focuses on hair braiding traditions, and that body of work is a great way to end a year of amazing public works.

Any big art trends you're forecasting heading into the next year?

Part of our mission at MOCA is a balance between giving emerging talent their first large-scale institutional show and giving under-explored artists their due. I’m hoping to see more intergenerational conversations, artists looking into archives or collaborating with older artists who paved the way. I am also interested in artists who are upending the traditional uses of media and pushing the boundaries of film, installation and performance.

“A Reflection of the Times” - MOCA
Photograph: Courtesy MOCA/iamwazzan“A Reflection of the Times” by VantaBlack

Any favorite non-art spots around North Miami to check out while we're there?

If you are coming to North Miami, I really love Paradis Books and Bread. They have a great wine list, amazing bread and in the evenings, a really good pizza that isn’t quite a New York slice but it is really delicious.

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