A year has passed since Max Mara opened its store in the Miami Design District and presented its first Backyard Ball, the annual fund-raiser for the locally based National YoungArts Foundation. The brand felt such a profound connection that last week it signed on to sponsor three more galas and established the Max Mara Young Visionary Award. The $10,000 prize will be awarded to one of 170 finalists who were invited to participate in National YoungArts Week in Miami this month; the winner will be revealed in several weeks. The invitation to mingle with famous mentors in every genre and to perform throughout the week is an honor in itself, considering there are 12,000 applicants from across the U.S.
Invigorated from a holiday at a kite-surfing school in Nicaragua, Maria Giulia Maramotti, North American retail director for Max Mara, flew in to unveil the newly created award at this year’s gala on Saturday.
“YoungArts is a significant investment for us, and we like its national reach,” said Maramotti, who sees a kindred spirit in Sarah Arison, a YoungArts board member and the event’s chair, whose grandparents founded the organization 35 years ago. “[Sarah’s] level of investment is an inspiration, and we share the same values in supporting young people and the arts. I only wish something like it existed in Europe.”
If anything was an indicator of how fruitful the partnership will be, it was the parade of notable YoungArts’ alumni in attendance and on stage. Between the night’s tap and cello performances, master of ceremonies and 1987 YoungArts alum Billy Porter of “Kinky Boots” presented Tony Yazbeck with the 2016 Arison Alumni Award. Yazbeck was a 1997 YoungArts winner before starring on Broadway in “Chicago” and “On The Town.”
Rosie Perez, who lamented not having YoungArts when she started out, had to shush the infamously noisy Miami crowd several times while accepting the 2016 Arison Award.
As he received the same award amid the din, Robert Wilson, founder of the Watermill Center, tried the silent approach with an uncomfortably long pause before lighting into his speech regarding art’s mark on memory. “In years to come, no one will think about Donald Trump, but what artists were doing,” he said.
Max Mara has always been right there with him, whether hosting a reception for a William Wegman exhibit at its new boutique in Palm Beach in December, or an upcoming dinner at the Whitney Museum of American Art in April. The Optiprism sunglasses collaboration with artist Maya Hayuk launches in Miami soon, and Maramotti predicted its Peggy Guggenheim vibe will resonate with locals and international tourists who favor runway fashions and shop with a buy-now-wear-now mentality. She recently invited two staff members from the design department at the headquarters in Reggio Emilia, Italy, to visit the Miami store and walk around the neighborhood.
“Sometimes Italians think Miami is all sunbathing and dancing in clubs, but it’s also into art and very global,” she said. “You really have to experience it to get it.”