December Happenings: Community Cleanup, New Art, and More

We break down the latest talk of the town in the city, covering a few of the top December happenings. Here’s what went on:

Cleaning Up the Community 

Local volunteers collecting trash along Alhambra Circle.

On Dec. 4, 47 local volunteers gathered at the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce with one goal in mind: to pick up as much trash as possible. Armed with trash pickers, gloves, and garbage bags, the do-gooders were released upon downtown Gables, scanning the streets for plastic bottles, errant napkins, and discarded cigarette butts. All told, the Good Samaritans collected 209 pounds of litter over the course of 1.5 hours. Winners in individual and group categories collected prizes that ranged from $100 cash to VIP cards at Clutch Burger and season passes to the Venetian Pool.

Just two days before, the City of Coral Gables hosted its annual Business Recycling Drive-Thru, where Gables businesses showed up at City Hall with old electronics, large cardboard boxes, and documents for shredding and recycling. Several also donated suits and other business attire to Suited for Success.

More sustainable events are planned, with an invasive plant removal at Pinewood Cemetery on Jan. 19 and Christmas tree and cardboard recycling at the Youth Center through Jan. 12.

The Mice Have Landed 

December Happenings
“Waiting” by American artist KAWS

They stand 16-feet-tall: two giant mice made of cast bronze and surfaced with grey colorway. Together, they are called “Waiting,” and are the latest — and most playfully monumental — of the City’s Art in Public Places program. Created in 2022 by the New York-based American artist Brian Donnelly — who is known professionally as KAWS — the statues are considered to blur the line between pop and fine art. Donnelly’s works are exhibited in galleries and art museums worldwide.

“Waiting” was commissioned by the Agave Group, the Mexican-based conglomerate that developed The Plaza Coral Gables. Besides the giant mice, The Plaza also has public art sculptures by Tony Cragg (the golden sculpture “Mean Average”), Michele Oka Doner (“Monumental Ritual Bench”), and Leonora Carrington (“Rey del Tequila”).

“We thought this new work would add a really playful element to The Plaza, which is otherwise quite formal in its design,” said Agave partner Carlos Beckmann, who has overseen the construction and creation of The Plaza project opposite the Ponce de Leon circle south of Miracle Mile. Agave paid $2 million for “Waiting.” 

RELATED: Checkout our reel on the Bike Walk Coral Gables tour of the city’s public art!

Lunar Home from a Cuban Master 

Julio Larraz is considered one of the greatest living Cuban painters, and was, last year, the subject of the first U.S. retrospective of his work at the Coral Gables Museum. Partly in appreciation, and partly due to a personal relationship with the chair of the museum board, José Valdés-Fauli, Larraz donated one of his recent works to the museum last month.

December Happenings

In an unveiling ceremony, museum Executive Director Elvis Fuentes recounted how, when he lived in New Jersey and was part of a group of artists and curators called The Foundation, they would invariably “end up talking about Julio Larraz… so we’re extremely proud of this new acquisition for the museum.” Valdés-Fauli, who spoke next, called the painting “one of the most important parts of our collection.”

The museum’s Chief Curator Yuni Villalonga noted that the painting, called “Abandoned House at The Foot of Montes Agricola,” was another in Larraz’s series that “breached worlds, connecting the celestial with the terrestrial, dreaming beyond the confines of our reality.” Larraz declined to speak, but Villalonga quoted him describing the building overlooking the moon’s “Sea of Rains” and saying, “I thought, ‘What a perfect place to build a house.’” 

Books & Books Launches Nonprofit 

Our beloved Books & Books is taking a step forward, launching a nonprofit Literary Foundation to expand community programming, cultivate and nurture new readers, and advocate for writers, books, and the freedom to read.

The foundation has already started work, giving out thousands of banned books over the past year in an effort to curtail the State of Florida’s recent removal of roughly 1,000 “inappropriate” books from school library shelves in the last year. It’s also partnering with Design Miami to create a set of limited-edition prints that celebrate besieged titles, and with Exchange for Change, a nonprofit that helps create prison libraries.

December Happenings
Books & Books Mitchell Kaplan, Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce President Mark Trowbridge, and Coral Gables Mayor Vince Lago attend the celebrated and launch of Books & Books’ new nonprofit Literary Foundation (Photo by Johnny Louis /

The foundation will continue its work with a series of readings, talks, and other events that provide author visits and free books to schools. “Books are empathy machines,” Books & Books founder Mitch Kaplan said. “They help us to really see each other, to understand one another, which is something we need now more than ever.”