The Miami New Times:Which Miami Neighborhood Will be the Next Wynwood?Apr 26, 2016
Tuesday, April 26, 2016 at 8:05 a.m.
Little River artist Marcus Blake uses tape to create psychedelic patterns.
Photography by Stian Roenning
The low-rise warehouse district on East 45th Street in Hialeah is filled with noisy clutter from auto mechanics' shops and cafeterias during the day. But on a recent Saturday night, the humid air was glued to the concrete. It was quiet. At 11th Avenue, the faint vibrations of hip-hop bass filled the air.
Mint-green lights and live percussion boomed in a white tent in front of Art Central Miami's rusted warehouse. Inside, a laid-back crowd of writers and musicians vibed with buoyant rapper Markus Caesar. "Reckless" was printed across the front of his navy tie-dye T-shirt, and his dreads were pulled back into two perky buns as he laid low. He was focused and precise as he performed one of his more playful singles, "Panties," about promiscuity. The crowd shouted along, "Safe sex only/I'm taking requests/You're taking OG/Then I hit the reset."On a concrete wall of an adjacent warehouse, a hand-drawn sign in pastel-pink and green chalk read, "Welcome to Kulture Miami." Inside, magenta lights illuminated a chalkboard defining the night's mission: to celebrate the feminine. "What do you love about women?" it read. Yonic swirls, drawn in dreamy pastel chalk, covered the black wall.In the same room, Marvin Vega, a local artist, exhibited his work, including Art Is Your Destiny, a small print showing a Nicaraguan yellow-brick road lined with thorny vines and flowers and leading into a psychedelic honey pot. It was inspired by a psychic. "She told me I would find my path one day," Vega said. "I felt like I was getting drifted away."
Back in the tent a few minutes later, the vibe shifted. Caesar's dreads were loose, swaying side to side as he transfixed the crowd through a sexier, heavier track, "Belladonna." An audience of about 50 loyal friends and followers chanted along with the bars: "Bonita Applebaum/Would kingdom come/If I made you?" Slow nods and mellow smiles floated through the crowd as 21-year-old Mulatta, her gold body chain peeking out from a red crop top, offered a light, fresh signature cocktail to anyone who entered the room.This scene might have been found in Wynwood, Miami's internationally renowned creative hub, where murals and other artistic works have spawned a culture of restaurants, coffee shops, and a walkable urban scene. But other areas have made strides in cultivating their own communities of creatives. Hialeah is just one. Little Havana, Little River, and Little Haiti are other resting grounds for artists seeking refuge in more affordable parts of the city.For years, before the arrival of Art Basel Miami Beach — and art fairs that stretched across the bay — in 2002, Wynwood was largely a low-income Puerto Rican community. But then the conversation shifted.
By 2005, art galleries had settled in and Second Saturday Art Walk had become a monthly cultural staple. By 2009, real-estate maven Tony Goldman had opened the first full-service restaurant in the area and unveiled Wynwood Walls — courtyards dedicated to street art on warehouse façades.The neighborhood changed, and prices soared. Many families were displaced. Some art galleries headed for Little Haiti and elsewhere. Others closed. But some remain, and the murals have turned into a veritable outdoor art museum. It's become a Williamsburg-esque hipster hot spot."We've had people who come in right from the airport, and they ask to leave their bags here," says Gregg Shienbaum, owner of Gregg Shienbaum Fine Art, which shows modern and contemporary masters such as Wifredo Lam and Salvador Dalí.
For Shienbaum, the constant foot traffic is a boon.According to Wynwood Business Improvement District Vice Chair Albert Garcia, the neighborhood has "experienced a great renaissance in the last ten years, with over 80 galleries in addition to independent retailers, breweries, and unique shops."For Garcia, Shienbaum, and real-estate mogul David Lombardi, who began buying property at $40 a square foot, this marks "the natural evolution of a neighborhood." But for others, prices have gotten out of hand."In Wynwood, the only way to get in there is to be known," Hialeah artist Marvin Vega says while celebrating his recent commission to paint a wall for Rupees Inc. on the corner of NW 27th Street and Fifth Avenue. "If they don't know you, they won't give you the opportunity."
In the past month, Gallery Diet and Pan American Art Projects, two longtime Wynwood galleries, have joined others such as Yeelen Gallery and Spinello Projects in an exodus. Others have purchased their own spaces in a move of self-preservation. For better or worse, Wynwood's explosion has sparked a domino effect of groundbreaking art and real-estate development in South Florida. Miami is in the midst of a cultural renaissance, and it's blossoming beyond Wynwood.
Marisol Blanco passes on the beauty of Afro-Cuban dance every week in Little Havana.
Photography by Stian Roenning
Little Havana, the Dark Horse
Friday evenings in Little Havana, intrepid 5-to-13-year-olds spin upside-down on the tops of their heads. On SW Sixth Street at 12th Avenue, Brigid Baker and a cohort of low-key, like-minded artists are bringing art to the neighborhood. Contrary to what the New York Times' travel section would have readers believe, Little Havana is not just Calle Ocho.A mural painted in 2013 by artist Yatika Fields that shows a fairy goddess amid a sea of diamonds adorns the staircase leading up to the Sixth Street Dance Studio. A sign that says "Stop and Smell the Roses" is propped up against a rose bush. White shoes hang by the doorway. Inside, Baker's contemporary dance studio awaits. Twenty mannequin heads, lining a ceiling rail, watch over the worn black floor.
The place feels like an orange that grew mold but bloomed into something more potent and exotic.Baker, a contemporary choreographer whose swan-like poise is wrapped in New York City brashness, hails from various parts of Manhattan. She grew up in the '70s, jumping from neighborhood to neighborhood with her first-generation Irish mother. She moved to Miami in 2001 and took over the Little Havana studio space in 2004. That year, she partnered with South Florida's chapter of the Zulu Nation, an international hip-hop awareness group, to offer a free weekly class known as "TruSchool." Once a week on Friday nights, her studio is ruled by four words, reiterated at the beginning and end of each class: peace, love, unity, and culture.Baker's essence is tranquil. Wearing a simple white T-shirt and oversize taupe pants, she sits on a couch while her chocolate Dachshund puppy incessantly nibbles at her fingers.
Behind her, a class of 15 eager youngsters rushes into the room. She looks at the feisty group and mentions that many of her friends died during New York's AIDS epidemic in the '80s. "I always wonder which one of you is a reincarnated version of someone from my era. Our generations have a lot in common — we're fighters."The young dancers prepare playfully, sliding swiftly on the floor. Newcomers nervously take off their shoes.
Joshua and Antonio, seasoned 8-year-olds, instinctively walk to the side wall. Behind a purple velvet sofa hide two panels of brown cardboard. The young half-brothers, whose father is a barber in the shop around the corner, tape the panels to the ground. The older break dancers who lead the class, Eros "Stepz" and Fernando Placencia, stroll in about five minutes later. Joshua and Antonio immediately run to greet their mentors, who turn on some '80s hip-hop. It's go time. Stepz and Placencia lead the group in a dynamic stretching routine and tumbling formation. It's not until everyone has loosened up and let go of their pena that they finally begin breaking.Downstairs in this two-story building are sculptors Carlos Alves and JC Carroll.
Next to them is Galleria Adelmo, showing emerging artists and offering water-based acrylic painting classes. Behind Baker's studio is Adel Delgado's 6th Street Container, a Lower East Side-like hallway gallery.Adjacent is Daniel "Krave" Fila's studio and retail space, marked "El Fresco" on a wall facing 12th Avenue. Fila was an artist during Wynwood's early days of illegal wall art. Since then, his murals, such as Sunbather, have become Miami icons. But after seven years in Wynwood, he left in 2013. "I didn't move out because the rent was changing — it just all changed," he says. "This is ours."His Little Havana outpost is part retail store, part flex workspace, with enough room to rearrange for the opening he'll host May 13.
It's intimate and secluded — a safe haven from Calle Ocho's tour buses and speeding cars.The neighborhood used to be synonymous with crime and recently arrived Cubans, but since 2000, Little Havana has been housing relocated artists. Real-estate developer Bill Fuller began buying property in the Cuban community back then. In the past 16 years, Fuller's company, the Barlington Group, has purchased the spaces where Azucar Ice Cream Company, nightclub Ball & Chain, and the Sixth Street Courtyard Shops now stand. Today, Fuller runs his company out of an office above Futurama, an incubator gallery space on 16th Avenue.
Fuller, who grew up in Kendall and frequently visited his grandmother's Shenandoah home not far from Calle Ocho, is familiar with the neighborhood. In 2000, he began buying small houses there, fixing them up, and renting them. He moved on to apartment buildings and then mixed-use buildings and developed a connection with the small-business owners. He insists real estate in the neighborhood has remained affordable but admits space along the strip of SW Eighth Street that hosts Viernes Culturales, a Friday-evening art walk, is more expensive."Between what we call the historic and cultural district, which is between SW 17th and 13th avenues, rent can be as high as $35 a foot," Fuller explains. "
We get 3.5 million visitors a year. You're paying for foot traffic, paying for eyeballs."His cluttered office is adorned with works from local artists. One piece spells out "Fuller" in carved wood with eight-ball figurines between each letter. Over on Sixth Street, he has made sure to protect the artists. It's part of his long-term vision, he insists. He says he spent five years working with Fila to bring him to Little Havana while other developers sought him out."We want sustainable rent for our artists," Fuller says. "We don't want to be that neighborhood where artists are an important part of a renaissance and then all of a sudden they get priced out."A few months ago, developer Andrew Frey persuaded the city to amend zoning to allow housing for low-to-middle-income families and limit parking spaces. The change will permit some larger buildings and a higher density of people."
This is a special place, and we don't want it to be corrupted or changed," Fila says. "Everything is bourgie — I can't stand that shit. This is not bourgie; this is the opposite."Just a few blocks away from Fila's studio this past December, dancer Marisol Blanco channeled Ochún at bar and lounge Hoy Como Ayer. Born in Havana, she now spends her days dancing and teaching across Miami. "To transmit Cuba's story, that's everything," Blanco says. "If you don't know where you come from, you don't know who you are."Fuller, the property owner, says Little Havana is huge, encompassing enclaves such as Shenandoah, Riverside, and Lummus Park. Now that developer Avra Jain has purchased the Miami River Inn on SW South River Drive and First Street for $8.6 million, he expects those historic names to make a comeback, just as she has accomplished with the Vagabond Hotel near Little River.But there's a problem. North of SW Eighth Street, there is only about 50 percent home ownership, according to Fuller. As a result, civic organizations that make sure residents have a voice are weak."We are victimized and suffering from attacks from predatory development," says Marta Zayas, founder of Friends of little Havana, a community group with about 800 members. "This is beyond gentrification."
Across the street from Baker's dance studio, San Lorenzo Restaurant, a cafeteria run by three sisters, provides food that's fresh and cheap. A cup of café con leche and a tostada don't even add up to $3, but Baker stops in for the conversation and community."My children's programs are free because I like to open the door and bring young people in," Baker says. "I want to be in Little Havana because it still understands the value of story, eye-to-eye, of walking."At the end of the TruSchool class at Baker's studio, the youngsters gather in a circle. It's time for the cipher, a moment when each student showcases his or her prowess. The boy who nervously removed his socks earlier enters the circle and break dances with the confidence of the more seasoned members. That's what Baker's space allows for.Once the two-hour class is over, Baker reminds them: "Peace, love, unity, and culture." Everyone gathers their belongings to go home, but Joshua and Antonio run to hug their mentors and Baker.
This is their home away from home.Little River, the New North EndThe pocket-size backroom lounge just off NE Second Avenue at 83rd Street was packed. A hushed jazz beat lulled the audience of about 40 kindred spirits lounging on couches and leaning against walls. Artist Marcus Blake, dressed in a red jumpsuit, black latex gloves, and large-framed white glasses, cooed into the microphone:When beauty is in abundance,Expect strangers to follow,Expect neighborhoods to getSwallowed and become hollow...Things and peopleDisappear into thin air,And new things and peopleReappearLike they were always there.Sometimes life can be so unfair.That was the scene this past April 12 inside MADE at the Citadel, a two-story office building that — along with a companion structure across the street called simply the Citadel — has become a creative hub for makers, artists, designers, and entrepreneurs since opening in 2014. Some of Miami's most vital creatives rent space here: Villain Theater, an improv performance group; III Points, a music, art, and tech collective; and Blake's weekly open-mike night, which he calls the Imperial, a reference to the high-caliber performers.
Despite MADE's success at enlivening the neighborhood, one problem lingers. The building next door, owned by the same company, displaced a Haitian church. Currently, there are no locals or local businesses from the Little River neighborhood renting in the building. Though the co-working space fosters creative energy in Little River, it remains to be seen if that energy will include its neighbors.It's difficult to define Little River, whose name comes from a murky stream that runs through Hialeah, passes under I-95, and empties into Biscayne Bay. Historically, it's an area that runs north of NE 71st Street along Second Avenue. It has changed from an agricultural wetland in the early 1930s to a commercial warehouse district for Haitian and Caribbean-owned businesses.
Today developers have set their sights on the neighborhood's convenient location and large warehouse spaces as a frontier for Wynwood's exodus.Before there were new artistic ventures such as MADE, there was Fountainhead Studios, a large warehouse of studios at NW 75th Street and Miami Court. Miami-based art collectors Kathryn and Dan Mikesell, along with developer Steve Rhodes, opened it in 2008. They named it after Ayn Rand's dystopian novel and intended it to fill a void left after the closure of ArtCenter/South Florida, Miami's largest residency and studio space for artists, which had been forced out of its Lincoln Road location when rents in that South Beach neighborhood rose.Few other artistic enterprises arose in the neighborhood until October 2014, when Thomas Conway, a real-estate developer born and raised in Coconut Grove, along with Joey Butler, the previous director, opened MADE. Conway says he wanted to create a platform for locals and others to grow the city's entrepreneurial and creative culture. "I want to see Miami grow up," he says.Last August, Jeff Quintana and Peter Mir, two Miami-raised comedians, cofounded Villain Theater, a black-box performance space located up a set of stairs in the back of MADE at the Citadel. The budding theater has hosted Chicago-style improv, sketch, and standup shows while also offering workshops for aspiring performers. Their select improv groups include the all-female Orange Is the New Wack, which presents a wry take on female inmate culture. At Villain, each set lasts an hour, which is more than the norm at many local comedy clubs. They pride themselves on long-form improv, teaching character development and narrative structure through an amalgam of theater techniques.
"I feel like we're doing so much," says Mir, who studied theater at Florida International University. "We already have 100 students under our belt, and we're just trying to get more people into it."They built a ticket booth in front, painted the whole place black, and brought in lighting equipment. Shows are generally scheduled for Fridays and Saturdays."It's us in Miami doing it ourselves," Quintana says. "We're not waiting for anyone to come bring it."Across the street is the Citadel, a huge gutted warehouse. There are no doors to walk through as you enter. A wide-open storefront leads into a space that has been used several times for art projects. It was here during Art Basel 2015 that Alex Mitow, an art curator and entrepreneur, activated SuperFine! House of Art & Design, an art fair that blurred the line between art and design.In February, SuperFine! House of Art & Design returned with an interactive art show, "Doors of Perception," which featured 30 doors acquired from the Citadel's raw space and reinterpreted by artists addressing the question of perception. The title of the exhibition was inspired by the William Blake quote "If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite." The exhibition was organized in less than three weeks, a feat for a curator who only recently began putting on shows. But this space will soon be turned into a Chelsea Market-like food hall by developer Conway.
Danny Agnew, one of the founding members of the Roots Collective, a group focused on building community, rents space at MADE. It's affordable, he says, but his reasons run deeper. "Little Haiti is a predominantly black community, and developers have swept the properties from under the feet of the people who have been there forever," Agnew says. "I'm just trying to have a little sprinkle of blackness in the building. If we're not there, it's gonna look like Wynwood, and we can't afford to have that."From the opening of Fountainhead Studios, Little River has been a place for emerging and international talent, says Eurydice, a petite and strong-willed artist who has been in the neighborhood for years and also has concerns. She learned street art as a raucous teenager in Greece. The hallway leading to her place in Fountainhead is dark and quiet. Inside, embroidery, canvas, and pencil work fill the space. Some of her feminist pieces depicting cunnilingus — which have adorned the walls of the Wynwood club Bardot since its inception — are propped against the wall.
Developers Matthew Vander Werff and Avra Jain acquired this space in a large portfolio including more than 70 properties they purchased in 2014. They have converted front-facing studios into retail spaces where a high-end nail boutique and an athletic training facility now exist.But an entrepreneur is not an artist. "At ArtCenter/South Florida, we were a tribe of artists," Eurydice says. "That doesn't exist here."The new space has no walk-through traffic, limited accessibility to the public, and lacks constant programing."If the area becomes more popular, in the way Wynwood did, I expect this will change and we artists will cross-pollinate more," Eurydice says. "But then we may no longer be able to afford our rents."
Little Haiti, the Heir Apparent
A line of thousands of people snaked down Little Haiti's NW 54th Street onto Third Avenue. It was December 5, 2015, and the eager patrons waited to get into Yeelen Gallery's "What's Inside Her Never Dies" Art Basel party, Back to Black. The exhibit included about 45 paintings paying homage to the beauty and resiliency of the black woman.That same week, Karla Ferguson, the gallery's owner and curator, hosted a panel discussion, "Saving Tomorrow Today," a conversation including artist Sylvia Parker Maier and a group of mothers who had lost their children at the hands of police brutality. Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin's mom, was joined by four others onstage wearing pins commemorating their slain sons. Maier's rich and evocative portraits of the mothers' faces on reimagined currency hung on the wall behind them."I couldn't relate to the faces," Maier said. "I want you to see these people as human beings... I want each mom to be represented as an individual with her son and their names to not be forgotten."That critical dialogue is characteristic of Ferguson's Little Haiti space, which officially opened in 2012. Ferguson was one of the first gallerists to move to the neighborhood from Wynwood in 2011. Her husband, artist Jerome Soimaud, would ride his bike two miles north from Wynwood to 54th Street. He soon befriended locals and documented them in a series of photographs he exhibited."He saw Little Haiti as this place where people from around the world got together and were still living an authentic existence," she says.
The two say they were driven to leave Wynwood when they began seeing an increasing number of drunk teenagers at events. It was a "legal issue waiting to happen," says Ferguson, who graduated from Tulane University Law School in 2004 and is still a member of the Florida Bar. But more important, it was messing with the couple's creative energy, so they thought, Let's go here.Since then, Little Haiti has popped up in Vogue and the New York Times as an Art Basel destination. The Little Haiti Mural Project completed 20 outdoor wall paintings around the neighborhood and launched the Northeast Second Avenue Partnership, an initiative that aims to empower residents and business owners.The change comes at a time when Wynwood departees are dominating the conversation about arts in Little Haiti. On April 9, Pan American Art Projects opened its new Little Haiti space to more than 200 waiting guests. A $2.5 million center will be built across the street, and a colossal public sculpture is planned nearby.
Meanwhile, Big Night in Little Haiti, a monthly celebration of Haitian Culture, ran out of funding last month.As these galleries quickly reassemble along Little Haiti's NE Second Avenue, local artists and curators envision a bold future focused on civic engagement.Power couple Aja Monet and Umi Selah now call the neighborhood home. Monet, a Cuban-Jamaican poet from Brooklyn, was at age 19 the youngest individual to win the legendary Nuyorican Poet's Café Grand Slam title. Selah is a cofounder and organizing member of the Dream Defenders, a collective launched in response to the murder of Trayvon Martin.Together, they opened Smoke Signal Studios in 2015, a "shrine to soundcology," as the couple describes it, which was funded by an Indiegogo campaign garnering $10,000. Large stone turtles line the walkway to the couple's Little Haiti home.
Inside, A Tribe Called Quest's record Midnight Marauders and the official soundtrack from For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf are perched above their living-room fireplace. Last week, the couple opened their Little Haiti home for a second time, featuring food, live tattooing, a band, and an open mike. All guests had to do to attend was RSVP via email."A smoke signal is something that someone sends up when they're stranded, when they have lost all hope and they're looking for somebody to take notice and rescue them," Selah says. "We always wanted to create a space for other people to join in and create with us."Selah, who moved to Miami from Chicago, has been fighting to preserve Little Haiti's artistic culture.
Last month, he spoke at a Miami Commission meeting to pressure City Manager Daniel Alfonso to reinstate Little Haiti Cultural Center director Sandy Dorsainvil, who was ousted April 4 without explanation. "The community will not sit back quietly and watch this firing go away in silence," Selah said.Indeed, Dorsainvil has been the heart of Little Haiti's cultural renaissance. A first-generation Haitian-American whose parents hail from Grand-Goâve and Saint-Marc on the island, Dorsainvil was born in Manhattan and raised in Brooklyn. She became the center's managing director in 2013. There has been no justification for her firing. "Little Haiti is no longer a crack-infested, drug-ridden, gang-violent area of the city," Dorsainvil says. "It is an up-and-coming art space where artists and producers of cultural events have found a home."Back at Yeelen Gallery, Ferguson stands beside a shrine to Babalu Aye, a Yoruban saint known for healing the sick. She describes local young men who have tended bar at her openings and are now artists' subjects. She's glad to have welcomed them into the art world. For her, serving the community is part of art's imperatively critical function."I don't want people to walk in here and say, 'Oh, it's a black gallery... When you want to categorize things, it's to marginalize it... For me, it's about talking about the issues plaguing our contemporary society."
Grisell Gajano, Hialeah's renegade artist, demands a place for locals in the Leah Arts District.
Photography by Stian Roenning
Hialeah, by and for Locals
It was a month before the Leah Arts District unveiling in May 2015, and Grisell Gajano, a school counselor-turned-Hialeah artist, was determined to finish her mural. She went knocking on warehouse doors in the recently created seven-block district next to Flamingo Plaza between East Tenth Avenue and the railroad tracks. At each stop, she showed the owners her work. Gajano, whose brazen nature knows no bounds, didn't stop until she heard "OK, paint."A self-described guajirita from Hialeah, she ran to her papi and said, "Vamos. I'm going to piss on that wall like a dog marking its territory." They drove to Home Depot, bought red paint and brushes, and then Gajano, who had never worked with aerosol cans before, bravely painted her mural one stroke at a time."I call my art 'kinder urban,' because it looks like an urban kindergartner painted it," Gajano says. "I'm like a 9-year-old trapped in a 46-year-old body. My world is the kid world."Last May 16, Gajano was putting the finishing touches on her mural Lucky Cat ("Make Coffee Not War" it reads) when a car pulled up behind her."
This guy gets out and stares at me. And he says, 'Who are you?' The guy was Councilman Paul Hernandez, a 28-year-old who is one of the youngest elected officials in Miami-Dade. Since he won his city council seat in 2011, Hernandez has made it his mission to bring arts to Hialeah. He grew up as a straight-edged kid near East Tenth Avenue and went to punk shows at Churchill's Pub in Little Haiti in the mid-2000s. He even played bass for what he calls an "inconsequential" group for a few years. "I noticed Hialeah kids were always at the shows and always a part of it," he says. "I got to see how these two communities were together."He has since stopped playing bass in bands and hasn't gone to a show in more than ten years. But his love for the arts moved him to create a safe environment for the young people of Hialeah. "It was cool when I was younger going to Little Haiti," he says, "but I don't want children hanging out in a dangerous neighborhood."
In December 2013, Hernandez was supported unanimously by council colleagues and the mayor. The area from Ninth to 17th streets between Tenth Avenue and the railroad tracks was zoned as a live-and-work arts district.Hernandez invited local and national artists to paint 25 murals. JennyLee Molina, a public relations agent and cofounder of the Leah Arts District, has hosted two community block parties, including food trucks and drawing a total of 3,700 attendees, to promote the district.But new artists haven't taken the bait. Original merchants, including an antique store and a tire shop, are still renting from property owners."Ideally, yes, our focus has and continues to be bringing in artists and giving them a place to stay," Hernandez says. "Originally, we thought we could just set zoning and people would come in, but, no, people need assistance."
The councilman has been meeting with property owners to get them onboard. "When they have open space, we have talked about subdividing spaces to rent to multiple artists at a time," he says. "If you have 5,000-to-6,000-square-foot warehouses, artists aren't looking for something that large."Gajano, who was able to finish her mural on time for the Leah Arts District unveiling, now leads bike tours of the district with ¿Que Pasa Hialeah?, a community meetup group. She's eager to find studio space in the district or in the area nearby."I'm la colada, and since I crashed the party, I might as well go behind the counter and start serving myself drinks, you know," she says. "Pero that is Hialeah."A few streets north of the sleepy Leah Arts District, Art Central Miami's warehouse thumps in the night. In June 2015, creative partners "Mulatta" and Markus Caesar decided they wanted to open their Hialeah warehouse to friends and local creatives for a peaceful night of art-making and celebrating. They approached Sunshine, a local artist and friend, and asked her what she wanted to be surrounded by while painting. Within three months, the trio built a stage and shelves and opened the space.Mulatta, one of the fresh-faced cofounders, says she was motivated by the creation of the Leah Arts District. She had a studio near the warehouse district but wanted to activate the space consistently. "Leah Arts District has had so much going on," she says. "Why don't we pull it down here, and we can reunite in one way?"Her goal is to offer an open space for artists to perform and network but still keep its underground charm."Once you enter Hialeah, it's a culture shock," she says. "I love it. It's pure. It's raw. It's life."