At first, you may think you’re stepping into the Dade County Federal Credit Union. In fact, the little gem of an artist compound and exhibition space is just next door at the Flagler Arts Space. The property owner/manager of the Thomas Center-Miami, Henry Block, had communicated with local artist and Brown graduate Annie Blazejack. “Thanks to Juan Travieso’s (one of the studio artists) dad and uncle (they are a general contractor and electrician, respectively), we were only required to pay the utility bills and cover the liability insurance until a paying tenant was found,” she explains. “This is a temporary space, but we’re using it as much as we can.”
The most recent show at the 3,000 square-foot space, Muralis, was a delightful interactive experience where visitors contributed to the existing imagery on the drywall. All manner of media: paint, tape, aluminum foil, collage were used to express the creative meanderings of dozens of guests. But the true magic behind this creative space lies in the back of the house where resident artists Blazejack, Leo Castañeda, Renier Gamboa, Noah Garcia, Ray Lopez, Nicole Mucher, David Olivera, Nicole Serize and Travieso are set up. Gamboa’s exquisitely drafted shipyard paintings and elegant abstracts appear in one corner. Nicole Mucher sits on the floor opposite, ironing a fabric collage amongst the glorious chaos of textiles in varying prints and textures. Blazejack’s tiny space is littered with photographs, painted sketches and her laptop on a fold-out table. In the adjacent room, a circle of masking tape remains on the floor where Travieso had instructed a group of third-graders.
“It’s really a nice place to be,” Blazejack comments, “we all come from different art schools around the country: Brown, Cooper Union, New World, but we’re devoted to being a part of our community here in Miami.” A full kitchen, bathrooms and storage areas are all readily accessible. With such an impressive facility for nine young creatives, its hard to imagine that it could all disappear in a single day. Once a tenant moves in, the artists move out. But that hasn’t dimmed their resolve: actively engaging in their craft and reaching out to enthusiastic supporters has transformed a neglected block next to the Credit Union into a local cultural privilege.
Indeed, the space is privileged with not just emerging artistic talent, but a prime location near the current Miami Art Museum complex in downtown. And the placement of an emerging artists’ space next to a city landmark is surely no coincidence. What better way to expose the local community to art than modern masterpieces on one side of the street, and future treasures on the other.