As the first and only host of Art Loft since 2013, Kalyn James has her finger on the pulse of South Florida’s art scene. The former Miss Alabama, the first and only black woman to hold the title, is especially immersed in all things artistic in Miami. Professionally, in addition to her hosting gig on Art Loft, (seen on Friday nights at 7pm on WPBT, Channel 2), she’s the coordinator of donor relations at the Adrienne Arsht Performing Arts Center. Personally, she’s been dancing since childhood and teaches a class that fuses muscle toning ballet movements with pilates. She’s also the mother of two very artistic daughters and the wife of her business and creative partner, Rico James.
James spoke with the South Florida Times to share her thoughts on the arts in Miami and why she’s so excited about them.
How did you land the Art Loft hosting gig? I approached the former president of WPBT2 and the former content director of the station at a viewing party at the Little Haiti Cultural Arts Center. I spoke to them about the vlog my husband and I produce called Fashion Style Miami and my desire to host a TV show that focused on Miami’s creatives. They listened and said the timing was perfect. A few months later, I did a screen test and the rest is Art Loft history!
What are your thoughts of Miami’s arts scene? Miami’s art scene has evolved so much since I moved here in 2003. I remember attending Art Basel in the early years and watching Wynwood become what it is today. New World School of the Arts, Miami Arts Charter, Miami Norland Senior High, Coral Reef and other schools have produced amazing talent – and the fact that Miami now has a viable arts and culture scene with shows like Art Loft and institutions like PAMM (Perez Art Museum, Miami) The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts says that Miami has arrived as a “real” city, with much more to offer than clubs and beaches. I like to say ‘Miami has grown up’ and that is most prevalent in what it offers in terms of arts and culture.
What can viewers expect from watching Art Loft? Art Loft is continuing to reinvent itself, just as South Florida’s art scene continues to change. As it moves forward into the fourth season the audience continues to grow, and Art Loft will offer new segments on local artists, new graphics and special features that spark engaging conversation with arts and culture leaders of South Florida.
What are the specific arts events that you look forward to experiencing each year? The annual Arts Launch is always fun. Downtown becomes alive with arts at this time each September. Of course, Art Basel is always fun and I get VIP access to Art Basel, Scope Art Fair, Art Miami and a few others. It is a great time to be in Miami, see some of the most fascinating works of art from all over the world and watch the city bustle with celebrities and international visitors who are chic and creative.
Why are the arts an important part of a community? The arts speak to the diversity of cultures in the city. The arts have become a universal language that transcend all barriers that we, as a society, create for ourselves. The best art unites us, makes us think and celebrates the creative spark that can ignite an artistic fire filled with beauty, depth and emotion.
Do you feel that the arts are a significant part of a black family’s life? The arts are a significant part of every family’s life…but I feel black families have always used the arts to connect to each other. From our slave chants to the early gospel hymns, we have used music as a way to communicate, learn and pass down history. Even today, music, dancing and fashion are a way for us to express ourselves…and let’s face it…artists of nearly every race have adopted some of the most distinguishing characteristics of what was once considered typically black music and self-expression. I LOVE it. They say imitation is the biggest form of flattery and I agree. Black culture has always had a pulse and soul of its own that is often imitated but rarely replicated.
What role do the arts play in your family’s life? The arts change lives. The arts put food on my family’s table and pay the mortgage! I grew up in a single parent home and my passion for dance helped me develop motivation, discipline and determination. My daughters sing, dance and play musical instruments. My older daughter, Phoenix attends a performing arts school. We all love the arts and understand the happiness that comes from being creative. At my house we dance, sing and laugh out loud all the time because the arts bring us pure and unrestrained joy. It has been that way all my life and it will never change.