The momentum has been there but something really “ignited” this weekend in the Miami art and creative community.
The first ever “Night of Light” held on June 25, 2016 organized over 20 venues - galleries, artist studios, workspaces and generally speaking creative places - with hubs in Little River, Little Haiti and the Upper Eastside, respectively. We had the privilege of attending a handful of the spaces and were truly impressed by the fervor and excitement evidenced by the guests, also known as “light-crawlers”, and the hosts alike. One such individual responsible for all the radiance, Alex Mitow, defined the occasion best: “Night of Light was an extraordinary exercise in community arts programming as well as reciprocal marketing. We, the Superfine! and JAMM Project team, acted less as traditional event organizers and more as facilitators - stoking the fire and fanning the flames of creativity among the many participants in the event.”
Los Bandidos began our “light-crawl” at MADE at The Citadel which featured a Mini Pop-Up SummerStock Art Show, open studios, and an improv theater group upstairs. In particular, we peeked into the Goddess Fashion Factory studio where Loreal Banks was a gracious hostess. The proximity of the neighborhood was ideally set-up and so from there, we made our way to FU Gallery, just up the block. FU showcased their “NOT THERE” exhibit which even contained some limited affordable artist proofs for sale. The sun was beginning to set and an ethereal light beamed through the gallery’s barred windows while children giggled and a positive vibe was not to be missed.
Next up was Studio 84, open to the public for the first time. Studio 84 is a shared studio space featuring the collage works of Deming King Harriman and paintings of Alex Zastera. We chatted it up and then it was time to soak in some more art. We concluded the crawl with a tour through the open artist studios at Laundromat. As Laundromat-based mixed-media artist David McCauley’s work says “Lose Yourself in the Things You Love,” and we sure did because time flew by and the night was no longer young.
It may seem nearly an insurmountable task to awaken Miamians from their groggy summertime-induced stupors, but the inaugural installment of “Night of Light” could not be deemed anything less than a success. For starters, much attention was garnered for the hosting venues and their respective neighborhoods. “As far as attendees go, we started the night with more than 5000 RSVPs so I would judge the inaugural Night of Light as a very fair success for everyone. My team and I attended at least 15 of the spaces, visiting old friends and meeting new ones as we explored the neighborhood that we've so fallen in love with,” Mitow explains.
While there was a certain geographic consideration to the event’s layout and organization, the “Night of Light” was more community-focused than neighborhood-focused per se. “All told, Night of Light was not about a specific neighborhood and its boundaries but about illuminating a path slightly less traveled and exposing light-crawlers to the amazing efforts of the myriad artists and artrepreneurs who call these creative enclaves home,” Mitow enlightens.
One buzzword overheard amidst the hum of the crowds was definitely “grassroots.” It is welcoming to attest to this local community-based support in putting together such an effort. Whether or not you buy into the “Basel effect” theory for the proliferation in Miami art or not, it is clear that no meaningful progress could actually take hold without the strong local grassroots support that events like Light of Night are testament to.
One such mention of “grassroots” was in conversation with local artist Deming King Harriman in her open studio (Studio 84). Her work is comprised of mixed-media collage and she even produced affordable pieces specifically for sale at the “Night of Light.” When we asked Deming where she was from, as it never seems that anyone is truly a local, she gushed with pride, “Miami!!” The artist was quick then to also talk about the strength of the grassroots movement in driving forward the Little River area as an art hub. In retrospect, it’s a really nice thing to have such personal and unstuffy interactions in the art space.
Apart from the positive “buzz” generated for the community, it is also to “Night of Light"'s credit for organizing a comprehensive map for curious attendees to make sense of the neighborhoods’ offerings. “Night of Light” represented a simultaneous engagement in responsible integration with the local communities. Furthermore, its approach to art could be described as egalitarian and its platform and format were welcoming.
The future is very bright for the “Night of Light” as its founders and organizers have their sights set on bigger and better. As Alex puts it, “next time around, we hope to come at the event with a larger budget and potentially get the city involved so that we can facilitate more public art similar to the "NoWhere to Go" piece by collective Nice'N Easy that graced the pool at The Vagabond hotel.”
"Night of Light” was that cool refreshment that we need in Miami, especially on a hot summer eve. We look forward to getting our shine on with everyone in the future.
© Los Bandidos del Arte, 2016.