Interview with Dan and Kathryn Mikesell of The Fountainhead Residency and The Fountainhead Studios in Miami, Florida

Shortly after Dan and Kathryn Mikesell were married in 1998, they developed a love of art. Their passion turned into a diverse and multifaceted art collection of cutting-edge young artists, such as Bert Rodriguez and Ahmed Al-Soudani, and important Modernist artists, like Louise Nevelson. Living in Miami with its thriving arts community, the couple founded The Fountainhead Residency in 2008.

The program not only invites artists from around the world to work in Miami for up to two months, but it also supports local museums and arts related non-profits, such as Locusts Projects and Bas Fisher Invitational.

In 2009, the Mikesells opened The Fountainhead Studios, which offers low-cost studio spaces for Miami-based artists. In late 2011, they purchased another house in downtown Miami to allow Miami-based artists to use as a studio space and for exhibitions.

Counting Figure, 2010  Artist Nicholas Hlobo from South Africa

Counting Figure, 2010  Artist Nicholas Hlobo from South Africa

Describe the first time you and your husband purchased art. Did you research the piece or did you fall in love with it? 

DKM: There was no research involved, unless of course you include looking at every work in the artist’s studio and in his storage as well. We determined we wanted two pieces from that artist and bought them on the spot.

What drew you to art?

DKM: The ability of art to grasp our immediate attention and to maintain it as well. Our broader involvement in the art world now also allows us to bring others into this complex and fascinating world.

Do you and your husband use the help of an art consultant or art dealer in making art purchases? 

DKM: We’re always talking talk with people in the art world whom we respect but we rely on our own judgment when we buy art. When we buy work, it has to move us, draw us in, intrigue us and challenge us.

What kind of advice would you give to someone who is making the decision to buy her first artwork? 

DKM: Go with your heart, PERIOD!  Your first purchase shouldn’t be about anything else. 

Do you think collecting art is only for the very wealthy?

DKM: What everyone needs to realize is that you don’t need to spend large amounts to begin a collection. Frankly, you shouldn’t until your taste and your eye are more developed. There are many great opportunities to acquire art for less than $500. Look at non-profit fundraisers and go to local artist’s studios.  There are many ventures doing limited editions and prints, which is another great opportunity to begin a collection.

How do you feel about collectors using the Internet to buy art rather than traditional galleries and art dealers?  

DKM: I still have a challenge buying art over the Internet. For prints and editions it’s fine, but for original works, I still need to see them in person. I enjoy the VIP Art Fair but, for me, it doesn’t compare to walking into a gallery or traditional fair. That said, the Internet is a treasure trove of information, right at your fingertips, and a great research tool.

Describe your art collection. Does it have a particular focus, such as emerging artists or other themes? 

DKM: Yes and no. We like work that challenges us in some way but it’s not always obvious at first glance. It may be in the subject matter or in the materials themselves and their use. The one thing that is consistent is that each piece has a story. Our house is full of art and the pieces there each have their own history.

How did you transition from art collectors into arts philanthropists?

DKM: Whenever the world is suffering, artists are always there to help lift the spirits, lend a hand and work to raise money. Artists have done so much to enrich our personal lives. We wanted to do more. The idea started off very simply -  to provide artists an opportunity to find a fountainhead, a source of new inspiration. It was also for us to be able to learn from artists and understand their practice, what motivates them, etc. Shortly after we started, we realized we could do so much more. 

By supporting local non-profit art spaces, museums and galleries, we were able to provide our community the opportunity for more ambitious shows. As well, it gives the artists and our community a greater opportunity for interaction from the simple fact that they weren’t in and out just for their opening. The rewards of having the residency and studios have far exceeded anything we could have dreamed. We can’t imagine life without it.

Tell us about a recent art buy that you are excited by. 

DKM: We recently purchased a second work by South African artist, Nicholas Hlobo. It is a mannequin dressed in leather, sewn with ribbon, and we have it peering outside our front window. We find his work captivating. His work is meticulously done and beautiful; while at the same time it has an underlying tension or darkness. His work always elicits an emotion from everyone who sees it.

If you could meet any artist living or dead, who would it be? 

KM: Jean Michel Basquiat
DM: The graffiti artists who over the years painted on the Berlin Wall, which is my favorite piece of art. I’d like to have a big party and invite all of them.