David Haskin shows off his renaissance. It's a building first, a two-story former office complex in the murky shadows of downtown's federal courthouse. Outside the streets are busy with the business of making money and deploying power, the proverbial hustle and bustle of the gray-flannel herds.
Upstairs inside is culture unbound. Haskin, former honcho at the Gallery of the Unknown Artists, bought the place a couple of years ago, knocked down some interior walls, and turned it into an art gallery and fashion-design operation. Early this year he brought in a manager with vision, a guy named Flash. The duo has turned the place, called the Wallflower Gallery, into one of Miami's hippest hangouts.
Haskin and Flash guide their guest up the stairs into the reception area, where coffee, soda, juices, muffins, and the like are served. Smoking is allowed in this area (and only in this area). To the left is a sitting room with a plaid couch, ornate coffee tables, wood-framed mirrors. In front of that: two more rooms, divided like chambers in a Poe story, more fine furniture, and, at the far end, a stage where Matthew Sabatella is playing solo and where the band the Inside will soon blast out a full set.
On the other side of the complex Flash has arranged art in four rooms, each containing paintings and sculpture. "All the paintings in each room are by one artist, all the sculpture in each room is by one artist," Flash explains. "The combination provides movement." His guest is distracted by a $750 glass-and-iron lamp that looks skullish and amoebic, yet Gothic.
"Come on," says Haskin. "There's more." Down a hallway, through lacy black curtains, past double wooden doors. His guest is expecting to be murdered and tossed into the alleyway outside. Instead he finds the hidden roots of the Wallflower forest. A sewing machine, a spreader, cutter, cutting table, reams of yarn, remains from Haskin's fashion-design days. "And over here," he continues, leading his visitor back into the hallway and through another door, "is what used to be a law library, I think. We're going to turn this into a retail shop to sell local CDs, art, T-shirts."
Music room, sitting rooms, art galleries, retail, juice bar -- all electronically connected so the live music resonates (and plays on monitors in most rooms) anywhere you wander. Behind the stage is a screen on which video images are projected to visually enhance performances. Along with the music, art displays, spoken-word slams, and general elegance at Wallflower, Haskin and Flash intend to add yoga classes, acting workshops, even tai chi sessions.
Lately the gallery has come alive mostly on weekends. This Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Wallflower hosts Billy Yeager, who will show his years-in-the-making semicinema verite motion picture Jimmy's Story. The film tells the tale of Yeager's struggles with the music industry (early cuts included a scene in which Yeager mailed the testicles of a bull to music-biz bigwig Chris Blackwell) and the hoax in which he (a white man, but a brilliant guitarist nonetheless) passed himself off as the illegitimate son of Jimi Hendrix, a scam that fooled local and national media. After the screening the filmmaker answers questions and hypes his new acting workshop. Wall art by Emerson Calderon, Alex Feliciano, and Craig Carpentieri will be on display, along with accent pieces by Daniel Fiorda, Rafael Menresa, and Robert Kassover.
Friday features Ploppy's Podium, a poetry and music event with guests Lifeblood, a band that mixes jazz, world-beat, and jam sounds. Saturday music comes from Spoonbeach, Rachelle Coba, and Jeff Rollason (a.k.a Jeff and Jeff the Space Cowboy, and the sometime frontman of the Curious Hair, the Mini Drivers, Merigold's, and formerly Mr. Tasty and the Bread Healers).
"We're going for a friendly vibe," Haskin says. "We want you to be able to step out of Miami and into a place of culture."