“Yeelen.” The word means brightness or light in Bambara, a Malian language.
Little Haiti’s Yeelen Gallery, owned and directed by Karla Ferguson, is certainly aptly named. The 10,000 sq foot complex serves as a beacon of art and inspiration to the neighborhood. What began as a private studio in Wynwood in 2008, has blossomed into an amazing and thoughtfully-curated space in its current location in Little Haiti since December 2013. This relocation is somewhat in tandem with a larger trend of galleries once based in Wynwood moving to the Little Haiti/Little River area. However, rather than complaining about gentrification, a space like Yeelen Gallery offers a symbiotic approach between showcasing impacting art and fitting into the context of the local community.
As February is Black History Month, Yeelen’s current exhibition celebrates works within this context. Of particular interest to Bandidos were the 48x48” coin pieces by artist Sylvia Maier as part of her “Circle of Mother” series. The 1, 5, 10 and 25-cent pieces are somewhat signature for the artist who already has a collection of over 30 works that continues to grow. The artist uses the phrases “In God We Trust” and “Liberty” as a way to provoke and engage the viewer in terms of greater themes. Maier’s pieces depict provocative portraits of the mothers of Amadou Diallo, Mohammed Bah, Ramarley Graham, Anthony Baez and Trayvon Martin, respectively.
Yeeleen Gallery illuminates social themes, and beams as a center of cultural enhancement and the arts, not just to Little Haiti, but to Miami as a whole. We can’t wait to stop by booth FM2 at Art Wynwood this weekend.