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Robert John Sindelir

Robert John Sindelir passed away on Friday October 15, 2021. Robert, born in 1932 on a farm 100 miles west of Minneapolis, Minnesota, was the youngest child of Josephine and Anton Sindelir.

As a youth, Robert was interested in the animals of Africa. He read extensively about all aspects of the continent and responded especially to the visual art. From there his interests expanded to include ethnic art of other cultures as well and, closer to home, contemporary art.

At the very young age of 16, he departed for Miami, Florida, to study law at the University of Miami. His education was interrupted when his Army commission became active and he never returned to the law, instead settling again in Miami where he eventually turned his deep interest in art into a series of business and educational endeavors which enriched the South Florida art world.

Robert was a pioneer in the Miami-Dade art scene. In 1960, at the age of 28, he opened his first commercial art gallery, 19 Arcade Gallery, in Coconut Grove. In 1963 he opened the Sindelir Gallery in Coral Gables. In 1970 he began teaching Humanities as well as starting the first art gallery at the South [now Kendall] Campus of Miami Dade Community College so that students could “see real art and not just bad slides”. He became a partner and the Director of The Gallery at 24 in Miami in 1976.

In 1973 he became the first Director of the Miami-Dade County Art in Public Places program. One of the first public art programs in the country, Miami-Dade Art in Public Places was established in 1973 with the passage of an ordinance allocating 1.5% of construction costs of new buildings for the purchase or commission of artworks. Under Robert’s leadership, various important community constituencies were brought together to further the program. Subsequently, a museum quality collection of African textiles was acquired and installed in the new Model Cities Branch Library. He selected work by Alma Thomas and Sam Gilliam for other walls in the Model City complex and added work by Beverly Pepper, Robert Huff, William King, Michael Katz, Craig Rubadoux, and many others to public buildings and spaces throughout the county laying the foundation for what is today an internationally lauded program.

Throughout his career, Robert supported visual art, representing some of the most important and accomplished artists in Florida, including Robert Huff, Emilio Sanchez, Cesar Trasbares, Ron Fondaw, Andy Sweet, Christine Federighi and Jill Cannady who later became his wife. He was instrumental in bringing to Florida exhibitions and lectures by internationally renowned visual artists such as Lee Krasner, Duane Michals, William Wegman, Christo and many others.

In the early 2000s he was hired by the State of Florida to curate the work of twenty-five artists from the over 200 who had received Individual Visual Artists Awards for an exhibition to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the program. The exhibition toured every part of the state showing in mostly small museums so that no one would have to travel more than 100 miles to see it.

After his retirement, Robert and his wife, Jill, moved to DeLand, where he continued to devote much of his energy toward support of art, artists and the Museum of Art, DeLand.

Robert leaves behind a legion of friends and colleagues, all admirers of his devotion to art and artists and his willingness to share his love and encyclopedic knowledge of art with all who had the great good fortune to know him.

A celebration of life is planned for a future date.

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