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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Jorge and Darlene Perez are well known for their philanthropic support of the arts in South Florida.

The foundation, the Fountainhead Residency, is investing in the future of art locally by connecting global artists with Miami.

“To be able to see the process of them making their work from the initial idea to their first brushstroke, or their first line of a pencil or their first nail in a sculpture, it’s to be able to see that entire process is just unbelievable to me,” says Kathryn Mikesell, co-founder and Executive Director of Fountainhead Residency.

Since 2008, her organization has been bringing international artists to live and work in Miami for up to two months.

Mikesell and her husband Dan, also a co-founder, provide a house for them in a residential neighborhood in Morningside where the artists find new inspiration, conduct research and create new work. The Mikesell’s are passionate about art and artists’ methods.

Currently, Cuban artist Jairo Alfonso’s is one of the visitors at the Residency. His work entitled “494” – named for number of items featured in the piece- is on display in the workshop. His drawings reflect his vision of humanity’s obsession with collecting objects. He described the tedious process.

“In this case, this took four months every day. I take a photo in the store and then after in the studio drawing, drawing, drawing. A lot of work. Mucho trabajo!”

His month-long visit is funded in part by Miami’s most recognizable art lovers, Jorge and Darlene Perez. The Jorge M. Perez Family Foundation recently awarded one million dollars to several local non-profits, including the Fountainhead Residency. Jorge Perez shares why this is important.

“Many times, people invest in museums and invest in other things, and they haven’t really invested in artists, which is the basis of everything. Without them we don’t have anything.”

Mikesell explains how the interaction with the artists is so important to her.

“So often, in the art world you’re only seeing the final product. You often, don’t even have the opportunity to see the person behind the work, much less, to be able to learn anything about them, about their past, about why they do what they do, about their life experiences, and through Fountainhead you can. I mean it’s priceless.”

Cuban artists Jairo Alfonso (left), Haitian curator Giscard Bouchotte (center), and Gwladys Gambie (right) a painter from Martinique are the visiting artists at the Fountainhead Residency. (Source: CBS4)

Alfonso’s fellow houseguests are Giscard Bouchotte, a Haitian curator, and Gwladys Gambie a painter from Martinique. Sharing the space artistically leads to a lasting bond for these artists.

Darlene Perez, who is actively involved in the Foundation, sees the results of the collaboration.

“When I get here, I just love the fact how they all really become a family. They are working with each other, learning from each other, and the exposure to the community and people coming in to see them.”

As collectors who have donated many pieces to the namesake museum, the Perez’s understand these connections result in much more than anything money can buy.

“It has been proven that art is a powerful builder of better people,” says Jorge.

Darlene adds, “What they’ve done for the hundreds of artists is, like you said, unparalleled. There aren’t, that I’m aware of, too many places that exist like this. “

More than 370 artists from 43 countries have taken part in the Fountainhead Residency to date.

Click here for more information about the Fountainhead Residency.

Click here for more information about the Jorge M. Perez Family Foundation.

Rudabeh Shahbazi

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