Plus, a chat with a local to know.
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🎨 Celebrating Miami creativity with YoungArts

Plus, a chat with a local to know.

By Zach Schlein

Monday’s here, Miami. 

Welcome back to a new week and the latest edition of The New Tropic’s Locals to Know series. As always, if you know someone who ought to be featured — or would like to be featured yourself — feel free to reach out by sending an email to with the subject line “TNT Locals to Know 2022.” If chosen, you might just see yourself, a family member or a friend in a future newsletter. 👀

Today’s Locals to Know is sponsored by YoungArts. Each year, this invaluable organization introduces new generations of artists to the wider world via National YoungArts Week. This year’s edition is taking place entirely online and starts on Saturday, Jan. 29.2022 National YoungArts Week+ is taking place entirely online and kicks off on Saturday, 

2022 National YoungArts Week+ kicks off at 8 p.m. on Saturday at Tune in to meet some of the most accomplished young artists across the country during a seven-part series of free virtual performances, writers’ readings, an exhibition and more.

Without further ado, let’s meet one alumnus and major champion of YoungArts, Lee Pivnik…

🗣 Locals to Know: Lee Pivnik reimagines South Florida ecology


(📸: Courtesy of Lee Pivnik)

Name: Lee Pivnik

Age: 26

Pronouns: He/Him 

Social media: @eelpicnic


What’s your favorite Miami memory? 

It’s 2008. I’m 13, and my brother Jake and I are standing inside the check-in office at the Coral Oaks Tennis Courts alongside my grandmother, who has big hopes of us being sports stars one day. It’s an unusually chilly day, and the cold snap has slowed the heart rates of dozens of green iguanas, so they’re falling from the canopies and onto the tennis courts. Their stiff ectothermic bodies are piled up next to us in a Coca-Cola cooler that’s been unplugged, emptied of beverages, and replaced with the finest warm towels so that they can stagger back to life and return roaming the courts. 

Tell us about your work, whether that’s your job and/or any volunteer work. 

 I’m an artist, and sometimes a curator. I like to think of myself as primarily a sculptor because that feels very tactile and physical and material, but I make a little of everything and hop around a lot. In 2017 I started the Institute of Queer Ecology, a collaborative organism that works to imagine and realize an equitable multispecies future. With interdisciplinary programming that oscillates between curating exhibitions and directly producing artworks/projects, the Institute of Queer Ecology lays the groundwork for a (bio)diverse utopia.

Ecology influences my practice, and my spirit, as a sort of functional cosmology — a way of not only understanding the way entities in an environment are connected, but finding the sacredness within that connection. I make artwork because I believe the only way we’ll catalyze a new, mutually beneficial relationship with Earth is through a massive shift in culture. Well aware of the scale of such an endeavor, I use my practice as an opportunity for collaboration.

Pick a favorite local outdoor experience. What is it? What’re we doing? Who’s going with ya?

I’ve recently enjoyed snorkeling off of Bill Baggs State Park, and it’s become my go-to spot to bring anyone who is visiting from out of town. It’s pretty quick to get to, and I was able to sneak away to it one morning during Miami Art Week for a cold swim with visiting artists Nicolas Baird and Utē Josephine Petit. I was a little horrified when they both swam right up to a huge moray eel, but we had some quality manatee time and saw lots of fish. 

If you want all the beauty of Miami’s urban reefs without getting wet, you can always tune into Coral City Camera, the brain(coral) child of artist-duo Coral Morphologic. The multimedia art and research tool was supported by Bridge Initiative and Bas Fisher Invitational (BFI), and I had the immense pleasure of helping to produce the project when I worked at BFI. 

What’s your favorite local Instagram or TikTok account and why? 

Hands down, the best Miami Instagram is run by @islandiajournal, a (sub)tropical journal of myth, folklore, history, ecology, cryptozoology, and the paranormal. On its own, Islandia Journal is a fantastic new publication focused on stories from Florida and the Caribbean, but the Instagram page is a whole other wormhole where Miami’s pasts, presents and futures fold upon themselves. In some of my favorite posts, you’ll learn about the “Gladesmen” and their Big Cypress hunting camps; discover a compilation of Florida Monoliths; or hear a compelling eulogy for architect Chayo Frank’s Hialeah masterpiece, the Amertec Building. 

If you could eat only one meal from a local restaurant for the rest of your life, what would it be? 

It would absolutely be the Lemongrass Chicken (Ping Gai) from Lil Laos, which is located inside The Citadel in Little River. The chicken thighs are made with lemongrass, turmeric, spices and coconut, and I usually go a step further and smother it in jaew mak len, which is a tomato dipping sauce they make in house. This restaurant introduced me to Lao food, and Miami is so lucky to have it!

What’s a project you’re working on (big or small) and how can our readers help you with it? 

As a fifth-generation South Floridian and climate-realist, my practice in many ways becomes entangled with questioning the longevity of the land I stand on. To overcome this, I’m initiating a process of rooting myself to Miami through the construction of a Carbon-Sequestering, Bio-Remediating, Abundance-producing-Home: a grand gesture of futurity in a city that is often cast as futureless.

I'm still a bit shocked and deeply humbled that last month, the Knight Foundation awarded me a 2021 Knight Arts Challenge grant to research and develop adaptive architectural solutions to Miami’s environmental precarity, and to conceptualize and design a “multi-use space for multi-species survival.” Considering that safe and stable shelter is the cornerstone of all other basic needs, my upcoming project “Habitat” will reconceive the home as a potential site for climate care, yielding a living earthwork that functions as a regenerative shelter and center for interdisciplinary art and ecology research in South Dade. The project is centered on creating opportunities for collaborative research.  

If any of this resonates with you, please get in touch and we can talk about co-creating workshops, reading groups, and presentations that allow the city to expand its imagination in relation to climate adaptation. For now, the best place to get updates is my Instagram page, as the project is still in its early stages.

What are you looking forward to this year?

Thankfully, one of my favorite annual Miami events is right around the corner, as 2022 National YoungArts Week+ is launching nightly public presentations from Saturday, Jan. 29 through Friday, Feb. 4. The multidisciplinary performances and showcases invite us to encounter the most accomplished young artists from around the country. This year the performances are virtual only and streaming online at

I was a YoungArts winner when I was in high school, and I’m so thankful that they are headquartered in Miami, because I’ve continued to work with them and deeply admire the real change they’ve been able to create in the lives of hundreds of young artists annually. As schools navigate COVID-19 disruptions and diminished arts funding, YoungArts is even more crucial as a support system for propelling the next generation of artists. 

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Meet the Next Generation of Artists

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🌊 Join Locust Projects for an info session and be among the first to know about the next cycle of WaveMaker Grants for Miami-Dade artists (Online)


✊ Learn about local advocacy during “The Future of Immigration Rights in Florida,” a virtual forum presented by The ACLU of Florida Greater Miami Chapter (Online)

💪 Meet other Miamians working to ensure a more resilient and sustainable future for the 305 during Engage Miami's first Member Meeting of 2022 (Online)

✂️ Get hip to the future of fashion and attend a free workshop at Istituto Marangoni Miami where you'll learn how to turn your unused clothing into a new design (Miami Design District)

🗣️ Connect with locals and refresh for 2022 during "The Magic of New Beginnings," the latest installment of the inspiring monthly mini-talks series PechaKucha (Wynwood)


🎹 Join pianist Zachary Bartholomew and his trio as they deliver a touching musical tribute to jazz icon Chick Corea(Cutler Bay)

🎨 Experience a performance of "Dance of the Ages" during sunset at ICA Miami (Design District)

🌀 Get lost in a maze of dance music madness during "OTHERWORLD PRESENTS: LABYRINTH," featuring the Miami debut of DJ-producer Anetha (Downtown)

🎶 Dance along to the funky grooves of Turkauz during the ensemble's two-night residency at the North Beach Bandshell — Friday, Jan. 28 and Saturday, Jan. 29 (North Beach)


🎼 Check out The Choir of Man and enjoy everything from pop and classic rock to folk, Broadway, and even pub tunes (Cutler Bay)

🚶 Explore the history of Miami Shores on a walking tour with HistoryMiami (Miami Shores)


🍷 Sip quality wine and enjoy sonically adventurous sounds during the latest Tropico Virgo at Margot (Downtown)

👋 That’s all for today

See you back here tomorrow with a return to the usual news roundup. Thanks as always for reading and have a great start to your week.


Zach at The New Tropic

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