Listening Gallery


LISTENING GALLERY (2011-2015). During its 3.5-year-run Listening Gallery transformed ArtCenter’s facade into an instrument that articulated sound art from under the awnings 24/7—offering countless “audible moments of zen” to millions of unsuspecting Lincoln Road visitors


sound emanates from under the awnings at the corner of Lincoln and Meridian when does it become art? the moment of conception? upon first hearing? when suddenly it hits us?


Listening Gallery is South Florida’s first multichannel sound art lab for the creative engagement of acoustical public space. You will find it year-round in the heart of Miami Beach at the corner of Meridian and Lincoln Road, enveloping the facade under the awnings of ArtCenter / South Florida

Listening Gallery is the audio equivalent of street art.  It plays nonstop, exposing millions annually to the experience of sound art.  Composers and sound artists collaborate to design new pieces for it during residencies down the street at our Audiotheque Studio

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The idea began in 2009 as an individual artist commission to Gustavo Matamoros from the ArtCenter. It soon evolved into a community design project with a Knight Arts Challenge grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, awarded to SFCA [] for the installation and operation of the project under the direction of the artist.  Listening Gallery has operated without interruptions since November 5, 2011

Listening Gallery was established and continues to operate thanks to generous support from the following  public and private sources:

John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, by the City of Miami Beach Cultural Affairs Program and Cultural Arts Council, by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture, and by Miami-Dade County Mayor, the Board of County Commissioners and the Cultural Affairs Department, as well as by Sennheiser, manufacturer of state-of-the-art tools for audio professionals. It is also possible with the generous support of our partner organization Artcenter / South Florida


Obviously, sound is invisible, and it behaves in ways different from the physical world that can be seen.  In listening to speech our minds focus, not on the sound of the words themselves but on their content, on their ability to paint concrete images in our mind.  Similarly, when listening to music we listen for meaning, for what elicits a certain desired psychological state or emotional response.  Nonetheless, there are aspects of sound that are tactile and analogous to our visual experience of the physical world.

Sound artist Russell Frehling describes sound as a massless object with the ability to occupy and define space and function in three dimensions.  Sound art is a creative discipline that uses sound as its raw material, and is as diverse as the nature of sound itself.  Sound art has its roots in music and in the development of audio technologies, but the exploration of sound for its soundness, for the experience of its physicality, may be one characteristic of sound art that distinguishes it from music.

Interest in sound art continues to grow among practitioners, art venues and audiences alike, yet it remains somewhat rare and inaccessible, partially because presenting sound art in museums and other visual art spaces is complicated.  It requires specialized resources and an art-form-specific way of thinking about curatorial exhibition design that is slowly taking hold.

In my experience as composer/sound artist and curator, I have witness speedy growth and great diversity in sound art practices.  I have also experienced the practical challenges art museums and alternative spaces continue to face in their attempts to show it well.  This gap needs to narrow for the benefit of the art form, its artists and the development of a wider audience.

The news is that we at SFCA have taken on a new project designed to provide infrastructure for exploring the complexities of sound art and its presentation.  We call this project, Listening Gallery.

Listening Gallery will consist of 24 autonomous sound sources affixed to the façade of ArtCenter/South Florida’s 800 Building, which will work together or independently to broadcast sound art continuously to the estimated 7 million visitors strolling about Miami Beach’s Lincoln Road annually. Some exhibitions will be curated and adapted from works and recordings in SFCA’s sound art collection.  Most importantly, it will become a venue for our artists to experiment and create new works.

Our goal is to open Listening Gallery in the summer of 2011.  The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has placed its confidence in this project through a Knight Arts Challenge award, solidifying our commitment to @L by offering to cover half of the funds needed to kick start it. The City of Miami Beach soon responded with a partial match through its Cultural Arts Council’s Arts Gala program.  With additional support from Sennheiser Electronic Corporation and from ArtCenter/South Florida, SFCA is now within a few thousand dollars from our required Knight Arts Challenge match.

In the meantime, we are preparing @Listening S(((o)))UNDAYS, a monthly series of comparative listening discussions at ArtCenter/South Florida to begin in April.

Consider making a donation toward our efforts to make sound art more accessible to all.  We love to be able to say: We’re funded by listeners like you!

Article by
Subtropics Artistic Director
Gustavo Matamoros