People

Mera Rubell on Art, iPhones, and Compassionate Communities

What is an urbanist? Simply put, we believe an urbanist is a person who deeply loves where they live and believes in using their work to make their neighborhood, their city, better. Through our Ask an Urbanist series, we’ll get to know the people who make our cities special. From diverse disciplines and backgrounds, they all have one thing in common: they make their communities better places to live.

Mera Rubell and her husband Don are the founders of Miami’s Rubell Museum. Their collection of contemporary art has made them serious players in the space and, as Mera shares, the museum has become a salve for the community during these difficult times. Get to know Mera below and visit RubellMuseum.org for more.

Don and Mera Rubell standing in front of a bookshelf
Mera and Don Rubell | Courtesy of: Mera Rubell

Q. What is your hands down favorite city or town and why?

Miami is my home.  It’s my adopted city since 1992 after living in New York for 30 years. 

This pandemic makes me realize that the virtual is a dream, but the reality is real and should not be taken for granted. I love imagining in the virtual—I have also traveled the world, but I want to feel the people and the place I am currently in because tomorrow may never exist, and the isolation of this pandemic has given me new appreciation for the “in the flesh” experience of life. 

Q. How would you describe the state of your city right now?

Sad. 

Like most cities, the people of Miami are suffering. Once thriving businesses are closed or shutdown. School buses are not transporting children to school. Less noise from planes and more birds can be heard.

Remarkably, the sky is still full of active construction cranes. Everywhere huge residential apartments with swimming pools and palm trees in the sky are still going up.

The state of Miami is a metropolis on the move to grow. One of the best work and lifestyle cities in the world, it’s a city that affords urbanism, open sky, beaches, and culture. 

Miami at sunset | Photographer: MustangJoe | Source: Pixabay

Q. What is the biggest challenge facing our society today?

Ego-driven politics is the biggest challenge facing societies.

The many challenges we face are global, and the survival of the earth, as we know it, is in the balance. Wise, rational solutions are essential now.

We need wise, compassionate, and selfless leaders to bring the world together. 

Caring about each other is the only way to rebuild communities.

Mera Rubell

Q. What’s the “silver lining” you find most promising?

Young people.

Q. What’s the most urgent issue to solve in our communities, post-COVID?

Divisiveness.

Q. What’s the biggest opportunity we have in rebuilding our communities?

Being human. Caring about each other is the only way to rebuild communities. 

Q. What period in time do you find the most inspiring?

I was in an American refugee camp in Germany after World War II, at age five.

The world then seemed to be without hope but then, miraculously, I left with a sense of hope and optimism for the future.

Q. What’s the innovation you find the most useful, personally?

The Swiffer and the iPhone. One changed my efficacy in dealing with my home responsibilities, and the other provides me with an endless ability to communicate, allowing me to maintain relationships with the outside world. 

Q. What innovation do you find the most detrimental, societally?

Social media.

The biggest misconception about art is that it’s about decoration, profit, or “anyone can make that.”

Mera Rubell

Q. What’s a piece that’s moved you—to tears, to act, to smile—whatever it may be?

Karon Davis — “Moses With His Family.”

Q. What’s the biggest misconception you’ve seen about consuming and experiencing art?

The biggest misconception about art is that it’s about decoration, profit, or “anyone can make that.”  

Q. Who are three artists we should all be watching for right now?

Amoako BoafoKaron Davis, and Vaugh Spann.

Q. If you had to pick one place to spend the rest of your days, where would it be?

Thankfully, I am inside the life I want for the rest of my life. 

Opening the new Rubell Museum in Miami has afforded me the opportunity to share my family’s great passion, contemporary art, with a much larger audience.

My experience as a Head Start teacher in 1964 left me with a devotion to continuing my relationship with teaching. It is a great pleasure to collocate with the Miami-Dade Public Schools and the various universities throughout the state. The annual Scholastic Awards honoring young, talented student artist exhibitions at our museum is a highlight for me. 

Now, during this pandemic, it gives me pleasure knowing that our museum is a safe oasis for people to escape isolation and loneliness.