We had the good fortune of connecting with Dennis Scholl and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Dennis, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
I came to Miami from New Jersey when I was eight-years-old. Oddly enough, for someone who has dedicated their life to the arts, as a blue collar kid they weren’t a part of my upbringing. I grew up fishing, diving and waterskiing. In fact, I hadn’t been inside an art museum until I was a senior at Florida International University, and I stumbled across the Frost Art Museum on campus. I fell in love with the cool white box and how the artworks spoke to each other, and to me! I immediately got a job at an art gallery and learned everything I could about contemporary art. Over the years, I’ve been a CPA, a lawyer, a venture capitalist, a winemaker and a philanthropist, but my passion has always been for the visual arts. I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to lead Oolite Arts at this moment in its history.

Please tell us more about your business. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today business-wise. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
When people think of Miami, they now think of the arts. The two are now inextricably linked. We wouldn’t be where we are as a city today without artists. At Oolite, we’re about the artists, the people behind it all. We started out as a work space for artists. Our founder Ellie Schneiderman, a ceramist, looked for the least expensive spot she could find for artist studios – and back then, surprisingly, it was Lincoln Road! She had a vision to create an organization that would “help artists help themselves,” and we live that mission every day. We continue to have an artist residency program, but now we’ve expanded it to include a traveling program to some of the country’s top residency programs. This month, we’re taking 14 Miami-based artists to Snowmass, Colorado to experience Anderson Ranch Arts Center for five weeks. We also offer professional development workshops, talks with leading curators in partnership with Locust Projects, and more to help artists advance their careers. I’m really excited about our next big move. In 2023, we will be relocating to a new campus in the City of Miami, which will provide us with the space we really need to help Miami artists advance their careers. We’re going to be sharing the drawings soon, so stay tuned!

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Miami’s best places to hang are out in nature. We always start with a stroll on our incredible beach, checking out the surf, then I would roll out into the Everglades and jump on an airboat ride. Yosemite and Yellowstone have nothing on Everglades National Park. It is a miraculous experience. I also send friends to Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, as it is a one of a kind place, especially for the orchids and butterflies! As a long-time winemaker, food in Miami is something I think a lot about. The great thing about our community is that it is one of the most diverse cities in the country and with that comes lots of great food. Miami used to be known for its Cuban food, and no trip to Miami is complete without a trip to Versailles. But today, Latin food in Miami means a plethora of choices from Peruvian to Argentinian, Colombian, El Salvadoran and Nicaraguan. I could go on and on. Also our fine dining scene has elevated, so that it isn’t only a trip to Joe’s Stone Crab that represents Miami’s food scene – although Joe’s is not to be missed – but chefs like Michael Schwartz, Michelle Bernstein and many others have given us extraordinary dishes. Our city also has a major museum scene, which includes The Bass, ICA, MOCA, the Frost, the Lowe and the amazing architectural gem the Perez Art Museum. We are driven by contemporary art. In addition to the museums, we have unique set of art assets, which no other city in America has, the private collections that are available to be viewed by the public. The Rubell Collection, De la Cruz Collection and others are there for all to see. This kind of openness is what is drawing the world to Miami right now. We are a city that welcomes all comers and embraces our diversity. The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I pivoted my entire life in my early 50s, moving from being an entrepreneur to a philanthropist. Alberto Ibargüen, who leads Knight Foundation, gave me the chance to begin to do large-scale grantmaking. He saw something in me that I didn’t even know existed. For that, I am eternally grateful. It has allowed me to spend the last decade and a half doing something I am incredibly passionate about, arts grantmaking. I did it at Knight, and now as my role as CEO at Oolite Arts. Our community is full of immensely talented visual artists, like Terence Price II, Gonzalo Fuenmayor (who will soon be the subject of Oolite’s first monograph), and Sasha Wortzel, who has an exhibition on display until April at Oolite Arts. And filmmakers like Edson Jean, Faren Humes and Xavier Medina. They all need our support and Oolite is here to help them realize their artistic visions.

Website: oolitearts.org

Instagram: @oolitearts and @schollcreative

Twitter: @oolitearts

Facebook: Facebook.com/oolitearts

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZvjZ9C_BO7yjuQ7z39psQg

Image Credits
Image of Dennis Scholl, president and CEO of Oolite Arts, and Oolite Arts’ Cherese Crockett in the gallery, by World Red Eye Photo Image of artist Francisco Maso visiting the Oolite Arts gallery, credit Jessica Rivas Image of Oolite Arts resident artist Gonzalo Fuenmayor in his studio, photo by Diana Larrea Headshot of Dennis Scholl, by Maribeth Koeth

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