I hate the semi-professional cheek kiss. Hate it. It’s terrible, and it makes me nervous. You know the one. This is the thing where, at a certain sort of business or cultural event, rather than shaking somebody’s hand you are meant to swiftly sweep your lips by their cheek while they do the same to you.
It’s not a proper kiss, but you also can’t just blatantly kiss the air two inches from the person’s cheek. The goal is to lightly, almost imperceptibly graze the cheek of the person you are meeting. Which might be fine for you if you are not some oaf with bad coordination and minimal depth perception.
I just can’t pull it off. I either miss the other person by a full foot or I just about knock heads with them. So I try to avoid the situation altogether by being ready, in all situations where the semi-professional cheek kiss might come up, to instead exchange a hearty handshake. It’s not ideal; look too eager to shake everybody’s hand and you risk coming across like a particularly unhinged mayoral candidate. But if it keeps me from inadvertently head-butting gallery owners or public relations professionals, it’s a small price to pay.
I bring it up because Art Basel and Miami Art Week are upon us, and this is prime semi-professional cheek kiss season. It’s also the time when the great and good of the art world descend on Miami and, increasingly, Fort Lauderdale as well. In this month’s issue, Christiana Lilly looks at the ways local arts leaders are tempting the Baselrati northwards – and how that fits into larger plans to let more of the world know about our long-established arts scene.
Local artist, curator and cultural consultant Tara Chadwick also writes about the importance of what’s happening. One line in particular stands out for me. “Public art,” she writes, “ is our multigenerational playground, a place where we explore the things that matter to us, like the parts of our heritage and history where we find threads of stories that can be woven together to create a common understanding.”
We want more people outside our community to know our art – and, let’s be blunt, pay the kind of money that allows our artists to keep making it. But it’s us who benefit the most. Local artists tell our stories; when we interact with them, we know ourselves better.
So I’m looking forward to the big South Florida art season. Not because bringing in high-dollar art enthusiasts is the goal in and of itself, but because we want to see our art community continue to thrive and grow. So Baselrati, I welcome you. With this, a firm handshake.