Mikesells enliven art scene in Miami

Kathryn and Dan Mikesell

Kathryn and Dan Mikesell in their home. The drawing behind them is by Iraqi artist Ahmed Alsoudani about his reaction to the first Gulf War.

Knowing how much work it took to raise 2 boys, I’m blown away by Kathryn and Dan Mikesell. This gracious young couple, who live in Miami, have 2 children and hundreds of temporary artistic dependents.

Before they met, Kathryn and Dan worked in different divisions of tech company Inacom. They lived in different cities. Dan called Kathryn for business advice. Over the next few months, he kept calling. They found they shared a love of art. On the road, they’d visit museums and galleries and discuss their adventures by phone. Kathryn says, “We stayed connected trying to understand art.”

The Mikesells now collect both art and artists. They started by helping out a nonprofit alternative art space in Miami’s Wynwood area. “Locust Projects was a warehouse with a storage room that served as a bedroom,” Kathryn says. “There was no natural light and it wasn’t safe to go out at night.”

Making art can be expensive and lonely, Kathryn says. An artist working in a strange city often has to pay for lodging, meals and transportation. She and Dan offered their guest room to Locust Projects artists.

The Miami art scene has since exploded. Wynwood is filled with galleries and chic restaurants, sparked by Art Basel Miami. In 2002, the international art fair began. It was modeled after a 40+ year old fair in Basel, Switzerland. (I’ve been lucky enough to stay with my dear friend Sandy and attend Art Basel Miami for the past several years.)

The Mikesells’ art commitment expanded. Though their home’s not large, the couple also offered their guest room to artists in town for gallery and museum shows. In 2008, they bought the house across the street and turned it into a home away from home for visiting artists. Three to five artists live at the Fountainhead Residency, for weeks or months, invited by the Mikesells or by a museum or gallery. The couple have hosted about 300 artists. The house is booked through 2015.

“We like mixing artists of different career levels,” Kathryn says. “More established artists provide feedback to those starting out.” So successful have their pairings been that one twosome—he from Greece, she from Spain—met and are now married. After they told their parents, Kathryn was the first person they called.

Dan and Kathryn are risk takers. “We fell in love before we ever met,” Kathryn says. “Most couples meet and develop a physical attraction. We got to know each other from the inside. This was before Google. We decided to get married before even seeing a picture of each other.” (Ed. note: On their first encounter, I’d guess neither was disappointed.)

The couple keep expanding their reach. They rented a warehouse in Little Haiti, now a hot area, and turned it into studio space. 41 Miami artists now work out of Fountainhead Studios for nominal rent. The Mikesells host frequent curatorial tours.

When not providing supplies, acting as mother hen to guest artists or, in a pinch, making beds or scrubbing floors, Kathryn is an art advisor. She also conducts tours of Miami’s art and cultural scenes. Dan, who’s from Detroit (his dad was Honigman attorney David Mikesell), works for a software company and on solar and wind energy deals.

The Mikesell home is filled with art. They surrendered their den to Miami artist Leyden Casanova Rodriguez who made it look like an earthwork. Their passion lives on in the next generation. Son Galt, 13, creates sculptures out of street signs and is represented by a respectable local gallery. Daughter Skye, 12, collects works by female artists.

Thanks, Becky Hart, curator of modern art at the Detroit Institute of Arts, for the introduction to this fascinating couple. Although Kathryn and Dan would laugh at the comparison, I’d call these devoted patrons the hip Medicis of Miami.

To learn more, visit fountainheadresidency.com. Or contact Kathryn at [email protected]

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3 thoughts on “Mikesells enliven art scene in Miami

  1. Rodney Curtis

    Fantastic. What a great couple. I love seeing art patrons who not only talk the talk, but walk the walk and live the life.

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