Dog lovers, art lovers feud over South Pointe Park

'Obstinate Lighthouse' sculpture at center of debate


MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Dogs have long been a part of the area around South Point Park.

The Miami Beach Kennel Club held greyhound races there from the 1920s to the 80s when the club was razed to make way for high-rise condos.

But now, a turf war of sorts in Miami Beach is pitting dog lovers against art lovers.

A notable sculpture, Obstinate lighthouse, and an off-leash dog park now share space at South Pointe Park. But not for long, if some art aficionados have their way.

Pooches have had free reign in the off-leash area since Miami Beach city leaders approved that experiment three years ago.

"It's just a nice environment where the dogs can really play and have a little extra freedom," said South Beach Resident Alana Feuling who visits the park twice a day with her Corgi mix, Madison.

But there are concerns from the dog-"fearing" crowd.

So the city is considering installing a landscaped hedge to enclose the area. But that has unleashed a battle, a fight between animal instinct and artistic integrity.

"We hope it doesn't become a giant fire hydrant but that said, we can't control that," said Lisa Austin, an art advisor for the city, about the installation of the sculpture in the park.

That is one fear Miami Beach's Art in Public Places Committee has about the 55-foot, half-million dollar sculpture which was installed in the park two years ago. It's the first public project in the U.S. for internationally-acclaimed German artist Tobias Rehberger.

"We're not against people enjoying dogs or having off-leash dog areas," Austin said. "We just don't want it to be around the sculpture. It would really impugn the integrity of that work of art."

Beyond that, it may violate federal law, which provides intellectual property protection to the artist.

Rehberger wrote a letter to the city, insisting the site plans he was given three years ago was an "open lawn," said nothing about a dog park, and had he known, he would not have considered the invitation to submit his lighthouse sculpture.

Dog owners don't see why art lovers are barking.

"There is really nothing for them to be worried about," Fueling said. "It doesn't take away from the integrity or the beauty of the sculpture at all. If anything, it adds to it."

"It really shocks me that we just can't all kind of cohabitate, said Marc Lawrence.

But the art world has no interest in cohabitating or compromising the artist's intent and concept. They are asking the Miami Beach Commission to oppose a permanent off-leash dog park and hedged enclosure around Obstinate Lighthouse.

In the dog-eat-dog world of political decisions, this will be a tough one. The next step is a decision on a three-foot hedge enclosure at the Miami Beach Design review board.