"It doesn't get much cheaper than this," declares furniture designer and artist Matthew Zbornik. "There's so much openness to create here. If you have an imagination and you have the energy, it's like, do it." Zbornik "does it" -- making curvy yet functional furniture from wood and metal -- at the two-story Bakehouse Art Complex, where for the past three and a half years he has happily maintained a studio. Zbornik has been a guiding force in drumming up enthusiasm among his colleagues for renovating the aging Bakehouse facility, located on NW 32nd Street in the somewhat ramshackle Wynwood neighborhood and currently home to 50 artists -- sculptors, papermakers, painters, and others.
From the Twenties to the early Eighties the Bakehouse was just that -- headquarters of the Flowers Baking Company, a bakery. In 1981 the company moved out and the building sat empty for four years. Then it was discovered by a splinter group of working artists from the South Florida Art Center. Driven out of Coconut Grove by high rents, some SFAC artists relocated to South Beach; others chose to stay on the mainland and search for a space where they would not be vulnerable to the caprices of the volatile real estate market. Led by weaver Helene Pancoast and arts administrator Faith Atlass, they formed a private nonprofit organization, purchased the former bakery, and began to spruce it up.
In 1987 the 2.2-acre facility opened as Florida's largest working artists' space. Sixty artists moved into the first floor; a theater company occupied and then vacated the second floor; a few years later another troupe moved in -- and out. That space was also converted to studios. (The facility has room for 70 studios in all.) Monthly rents, ranging from $100 to $400, have barely increased in ten years.
This Sunday artists will celebrate its longevity by presenting the Bakehouse Tenth Anniversary Show. The public is invited to stroll through studios as well as visit exhibition areas, which will feature a juried show of works by 36 resident artists and a separate show spotlighting Caribbean artists. There will also be food and music.
What do the artists hope the public will take away from the open house? "Art! Art for cash," jokes Zbornik. "No, really, we're a group of artists who want to interact more with the community, and the more we can get out of this survival mode based on volunteering, the more we can be a helpful, active force. If the artists could sell more, they can eventually take on the contemporary idea of what it means to be an artist, which is to relate to society in some meaningful way."