|Windisch-Hunt Gallery always drew a crowd - always something going on.|
By Gina Hubler
As humans we are often called upon to make decisions which conflict with our belief systems.
Sometimes those choices are deceptive in nature though I do believe that God has a way of turning thing around. Artists tend to look at life from different perspectives and view society from different heights, the responsibility which comes with this insight is to share our views with society.
When I moved back to Miami in 2000, I lived in a little neighborhood on the Miami River called Spring Garden. I had a small art studio where I taught mosaics, often neighbors would drop by to visit. This is where I met Charles Flowers who was affectionately referred to as “The Mayor." He was lobbying for a company called Wallscape Media which wanted to open the Miami market. He asked me if I could put together imagery for their company. The city had stipulated that any wallscape to go up had to be artistic in nature. I designed the first wallscape that went up in three locations in Miami, “Touch Miami." Yes, and it certainly did... I am ashamed.
I was born in this city, and raised in the Northeast, it was always my dream to move back here to the beach and swaying palm trees. When I came back for college I remember falling in love with the city, walking along bayfront park in downtown, under the palms, wide open spaces and the magnificent view to the bay. This was the city I loved. Now when I drive by Bayfront Park, I see hotels, amphitheaters, and the Bayside complex, yes there is still some green space... but would I have fallen in love with this city? Hardly.
Coconut Grove has been known for its bohemian artist colony atmosphere. It was this creative energy that enabled the restaurants and retail shopping to be successful in this village, bringing people which wanted to live in it’s environs. I remember biking by Peacock Park and seeing the open vista of the bay, I also recall the day I saw it obscured by townhomes, at the time I had a small gallery in CocoWalk... I am ashamed.
These days my creative passion is being channeled into writing. It is interesting to navigate the waters as an artist. We are the folks which come into communities when they are failing, or times are tough. The energy changes, business starts to thrive communities change, and then... they kick us out. Yes, this is a cycle I know well, either we are priced out, or too offensive with our behaviors. Coconut Grove lost a powerful community activist with the loss of AnnaMaria Windisch-Hunt, and her gallery at Mayfair. (check out all the Coconut Grove Windisch-Hunt gallery stories here, they are endless with art, fashion shows, dances, meetings, it was the center of Grove culture for a long time). I recently visited her in Lake Worth and we spoke about how sad it was to see the empty spaces once again throughout the Grove. Acknowledging that they often bring in artists and galleries at times like these to make their properties seem more successful, thus drawing in higher paying clientele with high end restaurants and retail stores. It seems time that this cycle will start once again... but then I heard that they were building a new complex “Grove Harbour” on the bayfront and I thought, this time... I will not be ashamed.
The major funding which is behind the Grove Harbour may indeed hereunto wisely be from a group of investors looking for property rights, and a way to secure them. Those with money these days have an overabundance, and their games are fast, hard and silent. The current path is a traditional route which has been taken with CocoWalk, and then Mayfair successful in the short term... the up cycle after the artists have worked their magic, but it falls into obscurity when there is an economic downturn. Is Coconut Grove a center for the 1%? In the short term, however after this boom it will lead to a dismal economic and cultural picture. Their idea to create a new center will bring folks in but will obscure our bayfront for generations with empty storefronts and... a parking garage?
What if the artists became a more permanent part of the Grove landscape creating a sustainable village center? Let’s imagine... bring in creative partners, in essence the “yogi business people.” Open the minds of the investors and have them listen... how would the community really benefit, and what would make it sustainable? Our most desirable resource is the bayfront. When the “new middle class” is in place what will make this desirable is open access to facilities and inherently its bohemian atmosphere, in essence what Coconut Grove has banked on since its inception. How about going out of the box and creating a hybrid community... yogi business folks with financial backers. Take a good look at our infrastructure, and see their investment as a community plan. What could it look like.. open air, how about some wind turbine’s, could we power the Village? Compliment the city's plan for Virginia Key? Now that sounds like it might be profitable to a savvy investor who is willing to walk a different path. And the visual could be that of drawing you into Sailboat Bay. What about some facilities for the folks an open air performance theater, take a real look at what people are doing NOW.
How does this fit into a future business plan?
With the evolving world today we are at a unique juncture, the focus is on the ecological and biological sustainability of our planet and the people which inhabit it. Funding an arts center, though the artists will evolve could be the salvation for this community, simply put art is a creative coping mechanism. All who participate get enjoyment and the ramifications of a better quality of life. It is also reflected in our society, and will always be a significant contribution to the well being of certain personality types. It is what has brought this community back from economic strife in a cyclical nature since its inception. Do we really need to keep this cycle going? How about thinking Flagship? Let’s come together as this is the future not just for the investors, which will be soon off to another location, but those which will live with the ramifications for generations. Some of those which will be most effected would be the investor’s children.
Let us not end our song in Miami as, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot." Our option is to retrieve paradise it will sustainable our melting pot!
Gina Hubler is founder of Miami Mosaic Academy, author of soon to be published "Mystic Creator, Mosaics, Metaphysics & Other Adventures," and co-founder of Creative Spirits Children’s Foundation.