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Hundreds come out for night tour of Vizcaya Museum and Garden

Special to The Miami Herald
Artist Hilton Luciano remembers visiting Vizcaya Museum and Garden, a national historical landmark, about 20 years ago, on a date with his high school sweetheart.

On Wednesday, instead of looking for love, he sought motivation for his next artwork.

“The architecture and garden is inspirational,” said Luciano, 39, who describes his art work as pop art.

Luciano was just one of many who braved a rare chilly March Miami evening for the Moonlight Garden Tours at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, 3251 S. Miami Ave. The tour will be held again later this month.

“The architecture inspires borders and frames working within and outside of a box,” said Luciano, who also met with other artists. “To me, the inspiration comes from how people were able to carve all of these corals.”

Almost 200 people took part in the 45-minute tour Wednesday. Participants enjoyed a moon-lit walk through the 10-acre formal garden along Biscayne Bay, which was designed by Colombian landscape architect Diego Suarez. Vizcaya’s volunteer guides were also on hand to answer questions and educate visitors on the home built by American industrialist James Deering in 1916.

Deering lived in Vizcaya only in the winter months from 1916-25. The main house has 34 decorated rooms with 15th through 19th century antique furnishings and art.

The garden has Renaissance Italian and French design. More than 1,000 workers from the Caribbean and Europe were employed to construct the project. Vizcaya is now owned by Miami-Dade County.

During the tour, people didn’t hesitate to pull out their cameras and take pictures next to the garden, large statues and European architecture. Visitors also had a chance to mingle inside the courtyard of the main house while sipping on wine and beverage for purchase. Live music entertained the crowd before they headed outside.

The Moonlight tours are one of the few opportunities for the public to see Vizcaya at night. The museum is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Carrying a lantern pointing to the main house, volunteer Graciela Cordeiro has been a tour guide since 1997. The area is special at night, she said.

“The garden is renaissance style meaning very linear and has a lot of water ponds,” said Cordeiro, who led a group through the garden. “At night it is special because it’s an enchanted place and it’s a Garden of Eden.”

Visiting from Oakland, Sarah Shanley was notified of the tour by her uncle. “The place is stunning,” she said. “The view is incredible”

Shanley said the place is also family-oriented. “Kids would love it because it is like a fairy tale,” said Shanley, who was with her daughter Althea Hope.

Cordeiro said Vizcaya is unique and silenced those who were in doubt of its creation.

“In the newspaper in 1916, when they were building the area, it said that the people couldn’t imagine that in this type of terrain you would turn up a garden,” she said.

As for Luciano, Vizcaya is more than a romantic venture.

“If someone can form this anything is possible,” he said.

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