A Miami native with ties to the city dating back to the early 1930s, Linda Levy Goldberg has dedicated her time to improving the quality of life for residents and visitors to our community. Whether it’s through her philanthropy working with charities like the American Cancer Society or the Ronald McDonald House, or cultural organizations like the Florida Grand Opera and the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, Levy Goldberg is a tireless community leader whose example should inspire us all.
Aside from her dedication to helping people and important cultural institutions, Levy Goldberg is an avid traveler, a dedicated collector of Cuban art, and a highly engaged parent. We know you’ll enjoy this unique opportunity to learn about one of the truly amazing women leading Miami into the future.
You’re a Miami native, what are some of the most amazing transformations you’ve observed in your hometown?
While I have seen many transformations, my Mother and her siblings have seen Miami go from a small town to a bustling metropolis. Her family moved up from Key West in the early 1930’s. I am super excited about the transformation of the Miami Design District and the Upper Eastside. When we moved over the Julia Tuttle Causeway from the Beach to the Miami side, 15 years ago, we were quite limited with shopping and restaurants. Now we have so many choices, everything from luxury brands to a tremendous variety of restaurants, we never have to leave the area. I also love that Miami has become a major cultural player. The addition of the Adrienne Arsht Center has been amazing and a joy for seeing shows and enjoying the Florida Grand Opera. We used to have to go the Dade County Auditorium. I almost cried with joy, the first Opera season in the Arsht. Now with PAMM and the future Patricia and Philip Frost Science Museum, as well as the Miami Children’s Museum, we truly have something for everyone. Miami is a world class city culturally, civically and a true destination, with a lot more to offer than just the beach.
You’ve dedicated a significant amount time and energy supporting charities like Ronald McDonald House, the American Cancer Society, The Junior Opera Guild, Fairchild Tropical Gardens, among a host of others. What motivates you to invest so much of yourself into these organizations?
Funny, I Just came back from a Red Cross Gala meeting and I was so excited to hear of new sponsorships coming in to help support the gala. I honestly feel so blessed and grateful in my life to have been given so many wonderful opportunities, so I feel it is my duty as a human being to help support organizations that help to make people’s lives and our community better. When I visit the Ronald McDonald House I am awed and humbled by the families dealing with children with life threatening and tragic situations, yet, they maintain hope, strength, and perseverance. There are many amazing organizations in Miami and so many incredibly philanthropic people it’s an honor to be able to do something that helps a group to achieve its goals. Also, what would life be like without music, museums and gardens? It’s so lovely to have these wonderful things available for all to enjoy. I am a believer of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and to get to the level of esteem, you need to respect yourself and others, which I get from helping out wherever I am able.
How did you get started in philanthropy? What can someone with limited time or resources do to support important causes?
When I was 16 years old, WPBT (PBS) used to have a televised auction to raise funds for public television and I was a board pointer (pointing at the auction item board) on air. Things were a lot lower tech back then. My Dad is sight handicapped, so I became a WLRN Radio Reading Service volunteer in college. There are so many opportunities to get involved and much of it involves giving of your time, however much you can give. Even a few hours a month can be a great help. Of course, writing a check helps too, but if you can’t do that there are a million ways to get involved. Volunteer, decide what you are interested in. For example, the homeless, museums, organizations involving children, animal rescue, call the organization, find out what type of volunteer activities are available. Often there are support groups that would love to have new members. If you relocate from out of town, it’s a great way to make new friends and do something worthwhile. If you have children, it is a wonderful chance to show how them to give of themselves and raise productive members of society. I think selfishness is a very ugly trait and it’s important to know even small things make a difference. If everyone gave a little, in terms of time or money, it will add up to a lot! Talk about the group to your friends, attend events, stuff envelopes, and ask for auction donations, all of these are cogs in the wheel that keep things rolling.
You collect Cuban art, how did you get started? Who are some of your favorite artists?
So many island based artists have so much focus on art, they are producing amazing pieces. I love the young, contemporary artists that are passionate about their work. I have several artists now, here in Miami, who are producing a very high quality works. Coming from a business background I have always been intrigued by the artistic mind. Even though I collect Cuban art, my taste in art is eclectic. I love Richard Estes, Red Grooms, Man Ray, Seurat, George Rodrigue, Velazquez, Rick Garcia, Frank Chinea, among others. The original owner of Seurat’s” Sunday Afternoon …”and several other contemporary pieces, wanted to donate the pieces in the 1920’s to the Museum of Art in Chicago and they didn’t want the paintings. The donor had to make a $1 million donation and build a wing to get them to take the paintings. If the Seurat was auctioned now, it’s valued in the billion dollar range. Also, thanks to Design Miami I have become a huge fan of Jean Prouve’s Mid-century furniture. I spend an inordinate amount of time visiting these pieces during Design Miami. I can’t omit my favorite sculptor, John Henry. Whenever I see one of his sculptures, it makes me happy - small or large. Not only is he a spectacular artist, he is a marvelous human being and an amazing mentor to young artists and huge supporter of Young Arts Foundation, formerly NFAA.
Some people feel the art world is intimidating and inaccessible, what advice can you offer to help them get started?
My number one recommendation is, buy what you like. The grandest collections started with a first purchase. Go to galleries, museums, art shows and see what you like. I think the worst thing would be to buy something on someone’s recommendation and then you get home and hate it. Art is extremely personal and entirely dependent on one’s taste. About 25 years ago there was a small gallery on Lincoln Road, and there was a really amazing video art piece by an artist I had never heard of, but I just loved it. The price was $3,000, which wasn’t crazy, but for a young family it wasn’t practical. The artist was Nam June Paik and the piece is now worth in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. I still kick myself over that one. Buy things that make you happy or evoke some sort of feeling. Also, it’s great to support artists and own original art. My eldest son was 10 when he insisted on buying a Vesna Vera painting with his birthday money. He was offered double what he paid at 12 but refused to sell. He still loves the piece.
Do you have any favorite designers?
I prefer classic pieces in fashion that are timeless. I love Oscar de la Rente, Stella McCartney, Celine, Marni, Manolo Blanick and, of course, Christian Louboutin. I believe a great handbag should be in every woman’s closet. I’ve always been a fan of Gucci, Luis Vuitton and Hermes, the craftsmanship and leathers are exquisite. On an industrial level, everything Zaha Hadid designs is spectacular. Locally, I admire Laurinda Spear from Arquitectonica. She is very low key, but a brilliant architect who understands the importance of green space in design. I love Michael Wolk furniture and interior design, as well as James Murphy (who is also incredibly philanthropic and a great guy).
Is there anyone or anything you’re currently inspired by?
I am constantly inspired by people who deal with all sorts of adversity yet manage to keep upbeat and positive. That is true courage.
How would you spend your perfect day in Miami?
I love spending time with my family and dear friends. A perfect day would begin with pilates or bikram yoga, boating, a swim in the ocean, reading a great book, a bike ride, and a nice dinner with family and friends, and a great bottle of wine or champagne.
You love to travel, what’s the best trip you’ve ever taken?
The best trip ever was a family trip the summer before last. We started in Zurich, with stops at Art Basel, Lucerne, and then an amazing trip through Israel with a great group of friends, Tel Aviv, a kibbutz on the Sea of Galilee, and a week in Jerusalem. We ended the trip by renting an apartment off Paseo del Prado in Madrid. Incredible!
You have very eclectic tastes in music. Who are you listening to? Anything campy?
Classic rock, old school rap, Latin classics, Phish. I have a 14 year old that commandeers the radio in my car - Curse bluetooth!
Photo credit: Justin Namon