Coral Gables, Fla. (May 29, 2014)—It was an event befitting a gallery in Miami’s Wynwood Arts District. A crush of smartly dressed visitors mingled and chatted in groups while nibbling passed hors d’oeuvres. But this reception, to celebrate a new art collection, was taking place, instead, inside the Patricia and Harold Toppel Career Center.
On a Tuesday evening, nearly 200 University of Miami alumni, employees, and art enthusiasts pressed by one another, moving through hallways offices, and interview rooms for a chance to view 80 aluminum canvases, created by Miami-based cartoon artist Hugh MacLeod and curated for the Toppel Career Center by his company, Gapingvoid.
During the May 20 event, MacLeod and Christian Garcia, the Toppel Career Center’s executive director, led an impromptu tour of the brightly colored line drawings paired with thought-provoking sayings, such as “Careers are not ladders; careers are jungle gyms,” and “Quality isn’t job one. Being totally frickin’ amazing is job one,” and “This isn’t work. This is freedom.”
Playful in appearance and tone, the pieces tackle deep universal themes of the sort the Toppel Career Center staff help current and former UM students navigate every day. In one, a gray figure with a hulking frame has a red “x” on his chest; a red arrow with a heart at the other end points to the “x,” with a slogan that reads, “We do what we do because souls need to be touched.”
The mix of creative expression and energy might seem misplaced at a center for career development, but for Garcia and the creator of the cartoon-inspired artworks, it’s a perfect match, one that began when one of Garcia’s staff bought him a Gapingvoid book as a holiday gift. “I just said, ‘I want this artwork on our walls,’” Garcia told the crowd gathered in the center’s second-floor presentation area.
At the reception, UM alumnus Carl Hildebrand, B.A.I.S. ’99, found at least one artwork that spoke to him directly. Peering up at a clump of blue squares, one detached from the rest with the accompanying quote, “One day he just let go,” Hildebrand explained that he’s in the midst of his own career transition—from real estate employee to art-world entrepreneur. “I’m starting my own business, choosing to blaze my own path,” he said of his new company, the Art Butler, which offers tours of private art collections.
Jason Korman, CEO of Gapingvoid, said the installation curated for the Toppel Career Center “informs the young adults who are leaving school as to what the future might bring, what’s possible, the fact that there are risks, the fact that it’s not going to be all fun, but that the world holds an enormous amount of promise for them.”
Garcia said he’s received tons of positive feedback from students and others about the motivational artwork, calling it “the cherry on the cake” of the 12,000-square-foot Toppel Career Center, which was dedicated in February. “I have people who will come to the career center now just to walk around,” Garcia said. “They want to be inspired.”