(Photo By: Kate Baumwell)
By: Cristina Lebron and Kristen Torres
The Coral Gables Community Foundation collaborated with the city of Coral Gables and Portugal-based art company, Sextafeira, to attract locals and tourists to the city.
Patrícia Cunha, creative director of Sextafeira, said the project originated from a challenge designed by Águeda City Hall in Portugal to increase the foot traffic in pedestrian streets and gain commerce in local businesses, thinking umbrellas would be an interesting sight to see.
“It would be a bit awkward for people to see all the umbrellas hanging, so it would raise their attention,” Cunha said.
The umbrellas were also meant to provide shade for the hot summer days and, according to Cunha, the use of vibrant colors gave her the freedom to showcase Sextafeira’s brand.
The project debuted in the 2011 ÁgitÁgueda Art Festival, displaying its first installment of these colorful umbrellas on the streets of Águeda. They canopy their streets every year to provide shade for passersby.
Since then, the art project has been spreading around the world in cities such as Lisbon, Paris, Madrid and Tokyo. Two other installments have made it to the U.S. — one in Pittsburgh and another in Pensacola, Fla.
While attending a leadership event in Pensacola, Mary Snow, the executive director of Coral Gables Community Foundation, saw it for the first time.
Snow is responsible for bringing the installation to South Florida. As soon as she saw it, she decided she needed to bring the idea back to Coral Gables.
“I fell in love with it,” Snow said.
When Snow first thought of the Coral Gables installment, she immediately contacted the Coral Gables mayor, Raul Valdes-Fauli.
“Leadership at the city has really prioritized public art and making Coral Gables, once again, an art destination,” she said.
The umbrellas are imported directly from Portugal and are suspended by very strong wires, which are attached to the rooftops of restaurant buildings in Giralda plaza. They will remain in place for a total of 60 days.
“When they sway in the wind, they give the illusion that they’re floating,” Snow said.
Since its launch, Instagram has been blowing up with images of people posing below this colorful installation. Evelyn Diaz was one of many who found out about the umbrella project via Instagram, and was astonished by the city’s initiative.
“I have seen via photos of [Chiang Mai, Thailand] that had this project and I was very impressed that the Gables was doing it as well. I absolutely loved it,” said Diaz.
Restaurants have also been seeing more people coming in and getting a bite to eat under the shade of rainbow umbrellas.
Nick Sharp, owner of Threefold Café on Giralda Plaza, said business has been booming since the umbrellas were installed.
According to Sharp, the installation has been great for Coral Gables. The city recently came out of a complete redevelopment of the downtown through its Streetscape initiative. Businesses struggled from the surrounding construction of this initiative.
“We are seeing about 3 times the people come to Threefold versus before the installation started and about double the same time last year,” he said.