How to Become an Art Connoisseur

By Dale King and Julia Hebert

Kathryn-MikesellKathryn and Dan Mikesell of Miami, Florida, were admittedly novices when they first ventured into the world of art collecting 16 years ago.  “We walked into a gallery,” recalls Kathryn. “No one greeted us. Someone behind the counter looked us up and down and didn’t say much.” When the inquisitive couple said they were interested in buying a piece of art, the counter person “began throwing out references about artists. I didn’t know any of those names. The art world has an uncanny way of making you feel stupid, even if you’re not,” she laments.

But they did buy some art. And despite the inauspicious start, the Mikesells have become avid collectors and supporters of the South  Florida arts scene. Through their work with galleries, institutions, nonprofits, museums and artists, they are widely known for providing living space for visiting artists and encouraging local painters, sculptors and photographers to use studio space in their revamped, two-story warehouse .

Educating Aspiring Art Collectors
Perhaps the most all-encompassing service the Mikesells provide is an instructive one. Would-be art aficionados can call on Kathryn to arrange educational visits with artists, curators, collectors and the like inside their own studios, institutions and galleries. She offers novices to the art world a warm and friendly introduction to the art creators and purveyors she and her husband have befriended over the years. In welcoming surroundings, makers of art describe “what it means to conceive of something and ultimately to provide a body of work, a sculpture or photograph, starting with that idea,” says Kathryn.
“The annual Art Basel Miami Beach event has helped put the city on the creativity map. But Miami is still very young as art cities go.”  So, the Mikesells put their personal efforts into high gear, creating the Fountainhead Residency in a three-bedroom house they own, across from their family home in Morningside, and the Fountainhead Studios in a warehouse in nearby Little Haiti. Both serve as incubators for local and visiting artists seeking to experience Miami as a site that harbors and inspires creative exploration.

Fountainhead Studios
To date, says Kathryn, the Residency program has housed more than 300 artists from 21 different counties. Fountainhead Studios, which began as a series of virtual venues divided up by tape on the floor, now has walls and cubicles along with a steady flow of 41 Miami artists during recent years.

From the couple’s extensive meshing with the local, national and international art scene and institutions such as the Bass Museum, Perez Art Museum Miami, Frost Museum and the Locust Projects, developed an encyclopedic array of “sculptors, videographers, painters and photographers, most of whom are prominent within their genres.  These artists introduced us to other artists” and the cycle continues.

“We work to educate people about the art world,” notes Kathryn.  “Currently, when artists have finished their residencies, we hold open houses and bring people in to talk to them, with no commercial component.”

Their personal collection has grown so much, she says, that “we have art in 20 homes in Miami – 250 pieces that we have lent to friends.”  That’s fertile ground where hopefuls can begin their artistic schooling.

Kathryn says she arranges visits “based solely on what the individual desires.”  People hungry to learn about art can visit museums and gather at restaurants to talk about their experiences over lunch or dinner.

Already scheduling visitations for 2015, Kathryn will be taking people to “studios in different U.S. cities and a few international ones as well. The goal of this voyage through practical knowledge of art is to give people the comfort and confidence to listen to their own voice. It is a creative journey, an overall experience.”

For more information, go to or call (305) 776-8189.

How to Become an Art Connoisseur