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"I opened this place so that the local artists and performers I admired would have a space to come together," says Weiss, who launched Cornerstone in July 2005. A graduate of Columbia University, Weiss worked for Fortune magazine in New York City. Transferred to Miami in 2000, he got fed up and bagged the Brooks Brothers life. "The business world has no outlet for real creativity. Staying was a matter of life or death for my spirit," he says. "I decided to leap." That brought him to the small apartment above Cornerstone. "At the time, some local kids were leasing the space below for thrash rock performances. It wasn't my scene, but they were making something happen, and that motivated me." When the rockers vacated, Weiss and backers leased the 700-square-foot storefront.
Opening with art exhibitions that received little press but garnered impressive turnout, Cornerstone became a haven for some of Miami's most talented musicians, including Jesse Jackson, Adonis Cross, and Raffa Jo Harris a powerhouse trifecta that established Thursday nights as "Singer/Songwriter Night." Weiss then added a Wednesday-night "Open Mic," hosted by Rio Chavarro, who produces many of Cornerstone's minimalist theater pieces minimalist being the operative word.
What it lacks in décor, Cornerstone makes up in charm. Incense abounds. Art covers the white walls. Four swirly layers of multicolor paint coat the cement floor. Holding cameras or digital recorders, or nursing drinks from the BYOB shelf, patrons crash on large pillows during performances. Eschewing a cover charge, Weiss puts out his "Dharmic Donation" jar, Cornerstone's sole moneymaking enterprise. Weiss acknowledges that his noble pursuit has increased artistic awareness but has yet to raise money: "It's hard balancing art and commerce."
He subsidizes Cornerstone's activities through his full-time job teaching yoga. "A three-dollar donation isn't much to some, but for many of our regulars it is," he says. "The hope is that this becomes self-sufficient and can continue to be a haven for Miami's artistic community." Starving artists, rejoice: You have a new hangout.