Home / Arts & Life / Irma-Proof Armor and Nights at the Museum: Shielding Florida’s Arts

Irma-Proof Armor and Nights at the Museum: Shielding Florida’s Arts

“It can handle up to a Category 5 because of its cement base,” Franklin Sirmans, the museum’s director, said in a telephone interview from Atlanta.

The state’s many al fresco artworks posed special challenges. On the northern tip of Miami Beach, a new luxury complex called the Oceana Bal Harbour took no risks with its two Jeff Koons sculptures, “Pluto and Proserpina” and “Seated Ballerina,” which are both exposed to the elements. Each piece was cushioned in foam and covered with an anchored metal box draped in fabric. “We wanted no surprises, nothing left for the last minute,” said Ernesto Cohan, the development’s director of sales.

Many arts groups in Florida attributed their relatively good fortune to the twists and turns Irma took — with some areas that had expected to be walloped being spared. But other areas, including Jacksonville, were hit much harder than expected. Officials at the Jacksonville Symphony, which is supposed to open its season Saturday, did not return several emails seeking information about the condition of its hall, or whether the show would go on.

In Key West, some cultural organizations served as shelters for those who did not evacuate. Ten people who rode out the storm at the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum emerged unscathed, as did the property’s famous six-toed cats.

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The sign for Artis-Naples, a cultural campus in Naples, Fla., that was in a mandatory evacuation zone. “Our sign was clearly not up to hurricane standards,” said Kathleen van Bergen, the organization’s chief executive.

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Artis-Naples

Quincy Perkins, the director of development of the Key West Film Festival, said that the Tropic Cinema, the Studios of Key West and the Key West Art and Historical Society suffered what appeared to be only minor damage, while the studios served as an impromptu shelter for some 20 people. “For some reason, arts groups are in some of the strongest buildings,” he said by telephone Monday from North Carolina.

In hard-hit Naples, Artis-Naples — a cultural campus with five buildings, including a fine art museum and a concert hall where Gustavo Dudamel is to conduct the Vienna Philharmonic later this season — was in the mandatory evacuation zone.

Kathleen van Bergen, its chief executive and president, said that the organization had worked hard to prepare, consulting with Arik Levy, the artist it is presenting in a big exhibition. “Some things were moved inside, some things were moved upstairs, some things were taken off walls and put in large bins,” she said, relieved that initial reports, done by flashlight and backup generators in its shutter-darkened buildings, suggested they had been fortunate. But there was some damage outdoors, including a toppled sign on Pelican Bay Boulevard.

“Our sign was clearly not up to hurricane standards,” she said

Having steeled themselves for the worst, the major family collectors that fuel Miami’s art scene were collectively exhaling when the storm passed.

“Our team decided to stay till the very end,” Mera Rubell of the Rubell Family Collection, located in Miami’s Wynwood district, said in an interview from Los Angeles.

Ms. Rubell said she and her husband, Donald, were traveling when the storm landed, but that her staff hunkered down in the Rubells’ home behind the gallery, which she referred to as a concrete bunker.

“I said, ‘Listen, guys, there comes a point where your life is more important than any piece of art in the collection,’” Ms. Rubell said. “‘Stay if you think you’re going to stay safe, but don’t stay there to protect the art.’”

Norman Braman, whose home on the east side of Biscayne is filled with an impressive collection, removed all of the paintings from the house’s first floor, confident that the outdoor sculpture would be resilient. “We did not expect the Richard Serra to move, or the de Kooning,” he said.

Craig Robins, who spearheaded the rejuvenation of Miami’s Design District, said he expected that Art Basel Miami in December would proceed.

Asked whether Miami’s vulnerability made residents rethink whether to stay in the city long term, Ms. Rubell said: “It’s an existential question. Ultimately, how can we predict what’s going to happen anywhere?”

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