For more than a decade, Homestead’s ArtSouth complex was a cultural jewel in the city’s otherwise forgotten downtown. The arts-focused non-profit — which hosts monthly gallery shows and offers free art programs to children from poor families — was internationally recognized. Actor Gene Hackman, who has a home in the Keys, quietly signed up for a figure drawing class last year.
Then the Ernesto Perez revitalization plan came to town.
Perez, the founder and longtime CEO of Dade Medical College, pitched his for-profit school as the new anchor of Homestead’s historic district, joined by other surrounding businesses that Perez’s companies would also own. City leaders, in their eagerness to attract investment, enthusiastically supported Perez’s ambitions. The city even agreed to sell him 19 city properties at a dramatic discount —less than 40 cents on the dollar.
Since then, Perez has been arrested, his college has become the target of a criminal investigation, and ArtSouth has been financially crippled by Perez’s actions. Forced out of its home by Perez, ArtSouth may not survive past the end of the month.
“He said that we don’t fit in his vision for downtown Homestead,” said ArtSouth Chairwoman Janis Klein-Young.