Inaugural exhibition, Culture and Change in the Early Americas, now on view in national historic landmark Freedom Tower in downtown Miami
May 15, 2018
Miami – Miami Dade College paid tribute to Jay I. Kislak and celebrated his landmark gift to the college during the dedication of the Kislak Center at MDC Freedom Tower on Tuesday, May 15, 2018. The event featured the unveiling of the newly completed gallery and the inaugural exhibition, Culture and Change in the Early Americas. Announced in January 2017, Kislak’s gift of his internationally significant collection to Miami Dade College and the University of Miami established a community partnership designed to engage local and global audiences and scholars in the appreciation and study of Florida, early American history, and the cultures of the Caribbean and Latin America.
In the early 1950s, Kislak moved from New Jersey to South Florida where he built a hugely successful real estate enterprise and assembled a collection that reflected his interest in his new home state and its historical and global connections. The collection encompasses the early Americas from the indigenous cultures through the colonial period to independence and includes rare books, maps, manuscripts and other objects of such great historical importance.
About 13 years ago, Kislak decided it was time to make his private collection public. He and his foundation and family began looking for institutions that would be strong partners in preserving, protecting and promoting the collection. After establishing a permanent exhibition at the Library of Congress, and creating the Kislak Center at the University of Pennsylvania (his alma mater), Kislak completed the circle with the MDC and UM Kislak Centers in South Florida.
During the dedication ceremony, MDC President Dr. Eduardo J. Padrón expressed great appreciation for the Kislak gift and thanked his longtime friends Jay and Jean Kislak for their generosity and vision. Paula Kislak, daughter of Jay I. Kislak and chair of the Jay I. Kislak Foundation, spoke about the family’s deep roots in Miami and its connection with the Freedom Tower. She also noted her father’s extraordinary ability to identify and acquire materials of the highest quality with great historic significance and, just as importantly, put them together in ways that tell illuminating and thought-provoking stories. Arthur Dunkelman, director and curator of the Jay I. Kislak Foundation, provided guests with an overview of the exhibition, which presents perspectives on the complex, historic processes of European expansion to the New World and the cultural encounters that followed.
Kislak’s gift to Miami Dade College also included funding for the new gallery, which was specially designed and constructed to provide museum-quality care and presentation of the collection, while at the same time making it accessible and inviting.
In his remarks to the guests, Kislak praised MDC for establishing an impressive national reputation. He noted MDC has the largest undergraduate enrollment in the country, which, combined with its highly accessible location, will help make the collection available to visitors of all ages from throughout the community and the world.
Located in the MDC’s national historic landmark Freedom Tower in the heart of downtown Miami, the Kislak Center will host exhibitions, lectures, workshops, and other college and community programs and events. The 2,600-square-foot permanent gallery is on the first floor of the Freedom Tower, adjacent to its ballroom and historic New World Mural, which celebrates Ponce de León’s 1513 landing in the place he named Florida. For information about Kislak Center exhibitions, events, hours, admission and other details, call MDC at 305 237 7700.