On a late September Friday afternoon, Colombian President Iván Duque Márquez visited the City of South Miami’s Dante Fascell Park for a special program announcing the Colombian Sculpture Garden initiative which is a program of the Sister-City between the city of South Miami and Medellin Colombia.

Sister Cities
Spearheaded by South Miami Commissioner Josh Liebman who is an enthusiastic booster of the City of Medellín, the City Commission adopted the resolution to establish a Sister City with Colombia’s second largest city and appointed Commissioner Liebman as the first liaison between the two cities on March 6, 2018. South Miami is the first city in Miami-Dade County to have a Sister City partnership with Medellín.

Sister Cities International, founded by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956, is a nonpartisan 501(c)(3) nonprofit which serves as the national membership organization for individual sister cities, counties and states across the U.S. This network unites tens of thousands of citizen diplomats and volunteers in nearly 500 member communities with over 2,000 partnerships in more than 140 countries on six continents. Its member programs focus on four main areas of exchange: arts and culture, youth and education, business and trade, and community.

“Medellín is the best transformed city in the world,” said Commissioner Liebman at the event with President Duque. The Commissioner remarked about those qualities of Medellín that most impress him: the progressive and dynamic city it has become in the last 20 years and its culture and its people.  

The Municipality of Medellín, which is also the capital of the Department of Antioquia, is located in the Aburrá Valley, one of the most northerly of the Andes Mountains in South America. As of 2013, it has a population of 2.4 million, which is similar to the population of Miami-Dade County. With its surrounding area, the Area Metropolitana de Medellín (metropolitan area of Medellín), which includes nine other cities it is the second largest urban agglomeration in Colombia in terms of population and economy, with more than 3.5 million people. The Medellín Metropolitan Area produces 67% of the Department of Antioquia’s GDP and 11% of the economy of Colombia. Medellín is important to the region for its universities, academies, commerce, industry, science, health services, flower-growing, festivals and nightlife.

President Iván Duque Márquez
Iván Duque Márquez was elected president of Colombia in September 2018. He is an attorney from Sergio Arboleda University, with major studies in philosophy and humanities, also he studied at Harvard, earned a master’s degrees from Georgetown, in Public Policy Management, and from American University, in Economic Law. His considerable experience includes serving as the head of the Culture, Creativity and Solidarity division of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), leading themes of social innovation, entrepreneurship, youth, and creative economy. Additionally, he is the author of the books IndignAcción, Ideas for Colombia del Futuro;  Monetary Sins; Machiavelli in Colombia; Orange Effect; The Future is in the Center;  and Archeology of My Father.  The President noted that in Colombia’s 200 years as a nation, it was future President William Henry Harrison (1773 to 1841) who was the first ambassador to Colombia and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1852 to 1945) who made the first official presidential visit. Duque emphasized the shared values between the two nations and the importance of Florida as Colombia’s number one trading partner in the United States.

Colombia Sculpture Garden, Dante Fascell Park
The Colombia Sculpture Garden is designed to highlight Colombian artists by gracing Dante Fascell Park with an Art in Public Places initiative that will include appropriate programming.  Artists Dr. Santiago Medina, Luis Jimenez, and Carlos Silva are donating three sculptures created specifically for the Park. Dr. Santiago Medina, renowned for his dual careers as a medical practitioner and sculptor is the Garden’s visionary and curator. His career spans work in art, medicine, medical imaging (Radiology), medical research, and education. 

A native of Medellín, Dr. Medina comes from a family of physicians and artists. He joined the Nicklaus Children’s Hospital (then Miami Children’s Hospital) in 1999 as a neuroradiologist and pediatric radiologist co-director of the neuroradiology (brain imaging) division. He received his medical degree from the Institute of Health Sciences, CES University in Colombia and received his radiology training at the Washington University Medical Center. Later, he completed his radiology fellowships at Harvard Medical School affiliated hospitals and received his master’s degree in public health and health care management from Harvard School of Public Health.

As a child in Colombia, Dr. Medina began rigorous art training between the ages of five and 22 years of age. Yet, he entered the field of medicine specializing in pediatric brain imaging. He has been able to as he says “merge” both medicine and art which he did while working at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and studying at the Cincinnati Institute of Art. 

Dr. Medina’s sculptures in stainless steel are permanently installed at Harvard, Stanford, Tufts and Washington University. A Master Sculptor, he is the only Colombian-American to have a monumental sculpture at Harvard’s School of Public Health. His work has been displayed at major art venues such as Art Basel, the Palm Beach International Art Fair and Arte America. He uses medical imaging techniques and software to design and produce his sculptures. 

The sculptures of artists Dr. Medina, Luis Jimenez, and Carlos Silva will be installed at Dante Fascell Park during the first week of January 2020 with a city-sponsored opening event. It will be the only place in Miami-Dade County devoted to art of Colombia. 

Dr. Medina’s work entitled Amistad (Friendship) is made of Italian stainless steel and measures 10 feet in height. It has a high-quality reflective mirror finish with several of the surfaces rendered in matte steel and red paint.

Luis Jimenez was born in the U.S. and began working as an artist in the early 1990s. He studied with teachers and experts in both Colombia and the U.S. In 2000, he decided to form his own manufacturing and distribution of sheet metal products. Luis Jimenez is known for his sculptures of the iconic 1960s peace symbol. For the Park he has designed one of painted aluminum titled Colombian Peace using the colors of the flag of Colombia: yellow, blue and red.

Liberty by Carlos Silva

Colombian Carlos (Charly) Silva works in metal both as an artist and entrepreneur. His pieces are welded, bolted metal with bits of color to enhance the abstract and asymmetric. The sculpture he is donating to the Garden is entitled Liberty. 

Language Exchange Program
Commissioner Liebman is looking forward to the establishment of a language exchange program between students in Colombia and Miami-Dade County.  Although the exact program has yet to be identified, there are a number of components that the Commissioner would like to see included. Among those elements of the program is the ability to improve English and Spanish conversational skills. Sharing the Colombian and American cultures through new conversational skills can strengthen mutual understanding. The program would use video teleconferencing between classrooms in each country.

Florida’s first Colombian-American State Senator, Senate Annette Taddeo (District 40) has taken an interest in the program and was in attendance for the event with President Duque.

Feria de Los Flores
Medellín’s biggest annual festival goes on for about 10 days in August celebrating the paisa culture. The 62nd annual Feria was celebrated this year; the first took place in May 1957 in order to pay tribute to the thriving flower business in the Medellin region. This year there were 400 public and private events in celebration of the Feria that included flower expositions, parades, concerts, a car parade, and huge flower arrangements. 

Commissioner Liebman would like to have an annual Flower Festival in South Miami lasting one day or one weekend to celebrate Colombia’s “lasting spirit of generosity.”  

A New Role for the City
The persistence of Commissioner Liebman, the political will of the Mayor and Commissioner, and the goodwill of the people of Medellín and Colombia usher in a new and intriguing time for the City of South Miami. A quiet Miami suburb is moving to a wider world, one that is international, collaborative, and bursting with aesthetic, educational, and cultural initiatives.  The spotlight will shine on the City of Pleasant Living. In fact, it just became a lot more pleasant.


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