By Ciara LaVelle
By George Martinez
By Kat Bein
By Ciara LaVelle
By Travis Cohen
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Monica McGivern
By Travis Cohen
Some people are scared of the bad aspects of gentrification: the displacement, the Gaps moving in, the homogeneity. We're a poor city with a nasty history of highway construction policies.
TG: I think the arts community does need to come together almost as a community development group, and we would like to help and participate with that. We need a balance between the community vision and what you call the "romantic developer" vision. This shared vision needs to be built into the plan. I'm talking about a place that has a broad artistic base. Not gentrification, but "gentlefication," which would be a redefinition of the term. I introduced this idea to the National Trust, this point of view that as you improve the quality of the buildings, you won' t displace the people who have roots in the community. They provide sense of color, of diversity given by the embedded family. There needs to be a proactive approach with the community, because government will respond to what the community thinks it needs.
What can be done?
TG: We want to create a community development corporation that is designed to create a balanced vision between experimental, low-cost commercial facilities as well as housing and studio space.
How would the process evolve?
JG: Well, we're in the process of looking at the whole master plan to decide what we want to do and be patient about it and let things happen naturally.
TG: Yeah, it's about not forcing things.
JG: Perhaps over the next three years we'll see a lot of things happening. The area needs to slowly move from soft bubbly to effervescence. I just approved a lease for a new café to open on 27th Street and NW Third Avenue. We are in the process of getting other structures ready.
What kind of design do you have in mind?
JG: Quality architecture. I like to look at architecture as an artist looks at a painting. If you can be thoughtful and plan for something different and fresh and special and creative -- that is exciting. Whatever gets developed in Wynwood needs to be architecturally interesting and responsible, in the sense of bringing air, light, and incorporating well-thought design. Wynwood needs to become and remain pedestrian. If we go taller, we should treat it artistically. Of course, you have to take your time. Building is not just putting up concrete, steel, and glass. The challenge is to find the best architects, even architects from all over the world. But they must respect human scale and understand what it means to build a community.
How's the future?
TG: We need to keep a balance. The development is good insofar as it promotes and enriches the interaction of the protagonists in situ. Development needs to go in the direction of "gentlefication." We don't want the national chains coming and taking over. There must be a judicious diversity. I'm in favor of heterogeneity as opposed to homogeneity. We need more Bakehouses [the Bakehouse Art Complex], more artists' housing as live-work studio space that ensures the artistic community prospers -- this together with the blue-collar community and the service community that will work to support it. The area should maintain an edge. It doesn't have to be perfect. I think it has to be unpredictable, with an air of danger, so you don't become complacent.
How about zoning?
TG: There needs to be a zoning component so the community doesn't get super big and then we end up displacing the necessary ingredients. Take the less affluent -- there needs to be a creative sector of the community that is not necessarily affluent. Creative affluence is equally as important as financial affluence. It may be the government or a public-private partnership to get the city to share in some of the needed resources.
JG (referring to zoning): My vision involves a range mixture, to see part of Wynwood becoming higher density, low to midrise, and other parts of Wynwood being low-rise residential. You create a balance between the two. We need to solve the parking problem. We own a piece of land to build a parking facility when the time is right.
What is artists' housing?
JG: It's about stimulating the environment and helping the community grow with less expensive options for people to stay and to flourish.
What ideas do you have for your warehouse in Wynwood?
JG: We just opened the [Jules] Olitski retrospective. I think he's amazing.
TG: Jules is an underestimated painter. I've known him for 25 years. He always stays original. He is not pushing to make noise. His art is outstanding. Look at his treatment of form and texture and the paint and the flow. It almost looks flat but it's got tremendous breadth. The energy and emotion of his work are enough for me to live with them.
What do you look for in art?
TG: Elegance and uniqueness. But mostly I look for color. The exchanges of color, the way they meet, refract, and recede on the canvas's surface.
Tony, you're a fan of abstraction.
TG: Yes. Abstraction is about the pigment and the form. There's a line between the color extension and what you do with that, and your own freedom. But I look for unpredictability, those things that are aesthetically risk-taking -- to stay fresh and on the edge. Artists need to risk to achieve greatness, to make something exceptional. I don't go with the fad. It has to be more long lasting.