One year ago, Surfside resident Oliver Sanchez rode his bike to the beach and stood with the rest of his neighbors. They watched as rescue teams worked to find survivors of the Champlain Tower South collapse.
That day deeply affected Sanchez. On Friday, he wants to help the community heal with art.
“CHAMPLAIN in memoriam” is a month-long exhibition at Swampspace, the Design District gallery and studio space Sanchez runs. The show’s opening reception is Friday evening, and it’s on view until July 24.
“Art has the ability to heal. It has the ability to inform. Really, art can move mountains,” Sanchez said. “I’m not here to move mountains, but I want to share my personal experience with others and let them know that Swampspace and artists are here to support.”
In the aftermath of the tragedy, many survivors have dealt with crippling depression, anxiety, survivors’ guilt and and a litany of health issues. Sanchez said he organized the art show to pay respects to the 98 victims of the tragedy, the survivors and the first responders.
Sanchez said that it is important for the community to share in the grieving process.
“It’s not happy at all, but I want it to also celebrate life and move forward with the knowledge that life really is precious,” he said.
Swampspace partnered with Global Empowerment Mission, a disaster relief nonprofit that provided aid to Champlain survivors. Some of the works on display are on sale, and a portion of the proceeds will be donated. Sanchez also encouraged visitors to donate directly to the nonprofit as well.
The exhibition, curated by Sanchez, includes some pieces that were made after the collapse.
Though many of the artworks are somber, they present moments of a people uniting to help each other. One photograph, taken by former Surfside vice mayor Tina Paul, shows a group of nuns, priests and community members praying. A painting by McLean Fletcher depicts a large group of people of different religions standing and sitting on the beach together. A skyline of condos stands behind them.
Miami-based artist Eddie Arroyo captured a moment in time, as well.
The day of the collapse, Arroyo scrolled through social media as updates and videos poured in. He noticed a video Sanchez posted to Facebook. A group of firefighters were walking toward Collins Avenue. One of them had the last name “Sanchez” on the back of his jacket. Arroyo took a screenshot of the video and painted the scene.
The Surfside collapse is still shocking to Arroyo, even a year later. He said he’s wary about older buildings on the beach that face the elements, especially considering the effects of climate change.
Arroyo said he is grateful to be part of an exhibition that encourages people to remember the tragedy long after the international media attention subsided. Though the show deals with a heavy subject matter, Arroyo said it’s good to reflect on the tragedy together.
“There’s always some hope attached to it,” he said.
CHAMPLAIN in memoriam
When: 6 – 9 p.m. Opening reception. Friday, June 24
Where: Swampspace. 3940 N. Miami Ave.
Open to the public. On view until July 24, 2022.
This story was produced with financial support from The Pérez Family Foundation, in partnership with Journalism Funding Partners, as part of an independent journalism fellowship program. The Miami Herald maintains full editorial control of this work.