Dejha Carrington is one of the most dynamic and dedicated young leaders in the South Florida cultural arts community. Her years of marketing and PR experience pay dividends for her many corporate and non-profit clients. She’s currently the Director of PR and Marketing for the National YoungArts Foundation, while also using her innovative ideas to create meaningful artistic collaborations that are helping transform Miami into a cultural destination.
You’re originally from Canada, aside from the heat and the beaches, what was the attraction of moving to Miami?
Visiting my pen pal from my tween years brought me to Miami on vacation almost 10 years ago, but driving across the Julia Tuttle Causeway to volunteer with Art Miami and their PR agency – before the fair moved from Miami Beach to the mainland – was like finding my tribe.
There’s almost no way to separate the heat and ocean from the art and opportunity that landed me here, especially since at the time, it was a frigid January in Montreal and I was a publicist at the National Film Board of Canada. I thought of Miami as a gateway to established markets in the U.S., and made this magical place my home.
After working in PR for a couple powerhouse agencies, what made you decide it was time to join the client side?
For a long time, I thought my best skill was multi-tasking. Maturing in my career, I want to spend more time doing mission-focused work and feeling fully immersed in my projects. National YoungArts Foundation is going into its 35th anniversary, and there’s a confluence of elements – increased arts appreciation in Miami, social and cultural shifts around the country, a pervasive need for more access to opportunity – that’s making this moment especially significant for the organization.
This application cycle, which just closed in mid-October, YoungArts received a record number of entries from thousands of artists aged 15 – 18 years in 10 disciplines. This means that the young filmmaker in Gary, Indiana or a designer from Williams, Arizona may have a chance to share their work with peers who are just as passionate and promising, learn from master teachers in their field, and ultimately, receive a cash award up to $10,000. Unlike scholarships, that money can go toward buying a new camera or drafting table, or it could pay tuition or outstanding expenses that a scholarship may not cover.
Emerging artists need to know that there’s a support system and professional network that’s rooting for them.
Do you have any exciting projects lined up for the week of Design Miami and Art Basel?
The Future Was Written by Daniel Arsham – an interactive exhibition with nearly 2,000 pieces of chalk and black chalkboard-painted walls – will be on view at the YoungArts Gallery, and we’ll be announcing another exciting project on campus very soon.
FADE TO BLACK, an event that Donnamarie Baptiste and I created three years ago with Esther Park, will also be returning at a new location with the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts. In 2012, we held our first edition in the Miami Design District, and have since been championing high-level creatives of color in an inclusive platform to network and unwind – FADE has become somewhat of a de-compressor for the industry during Basel. Our ambassadors have included Wangechi Mutu, Hank Willis Thomas and Sanford Biggers, to name a few.
What are some of the trends you’re noticing in Miami’s social and cultural arts scene?
This November 10 – 15, my partner Kelly Nunes and I will be taking over the InterContinental Miami’s digital exterior to present an interactive installation inspired by Isaac Newton’s ideas correlating color and sound. Newt Miami: Experiments in Light, Color & Sound will screen rapid-motion animation across the hotel’s 19-story LED canvas, with an original composition that can be heard on a smartphone or web device at projectnewt.com. Designed for viewers from multiple lookout points – from the third floor balcony at PAMM to residences along Biscayne Bay – to experience NEWT collectively, this project has also become a catalyst for programming around performative architecture, branding and identity, urban planning and transmedia.
Having gone through the sponsorship, crowd-funding and grant application process to make NEWT possible, I’ve learned just how invested locals are in making design decisions and in taking ownership of social and cultural experiences that affect their community.
Also, in seeing how the Miami Design District has progressed and with its Site-Specific Performance Series, there has been a clear shift in aesthetics and in the local narrative. Miami is becoming increasingly flexible during these growth years.
Where are you finding inspiration now?
I’m inspired by the collaborative process and how artists find common ground in developing work together: Paula Crown’s installation in the Miami Design District with Theaster Gates in Transposition; the upcoming dance residency with YoungArts alumni Desmond Richardson and master choreographer Dwight Rhoden for Complexions Contemporary Ballet; and leading textile designer and master-craftsman John Allen for Loewe are great examples.
I’m reading Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis and M Train by Patti Smith.
I also love listening to music. Curtis (Curtis Mayfield, 1970), Songs in the Key of Life (Stevie Wonder, 1976), Purple Rain (Prince, 1984), and also, (Stevie Wonder, 1976), Purple Rain (Prince, 1984), and also, For Emma, Forever Ago (Bon Iver, 2007) are among my favorites.
If you had some time to relax, how would you spend your perfect day in South Florida?
Checking things off my task list, preferably in a reclining position, followed by a couples massage with a friend.
What do you think of the transformation of the Miami Design District into an important shopping, architecture, and cultural destination?
With Zaha Hadid’s installation at the historic Moore Building, a higher-tech version of Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome, Xavier Veilhan’s angular sculpture of Le Corbusier, and fashion-forward shops like Alchemist, I love how the Miami Design District has become somewhat of a bridge across time. To my mind, the design decisions tell a larger story of Miami in élan -- and that’s exciting.