Outsiders typically look upon Miami's local art scene with derision. The influx of patrons from cosmopolitan hot spots for Art Basel Miami Beach notwithstanding, local institutions have a fair amount of trouble crafting a name for themselves on the international stage. Common Field, a national visual arts network, is looking to boost the credibility of local institutions by hosting its annual conference here, at the Little Haiti Cultural Center — right on the latest frontier of Miami's art boom. The event features several days of programing, including panels, workshops, and tours meant to highlight the enterprising work of artist-run spaces across the nation.
"The community is deeply anchored by figures who have been a part of it for decades," explains Naomi Fisher, director of the Bas Fisher Invitational, a coproducer of Common Field Convening along with Dimensions Variable, Cannonball, and Locust Projects. "However strong the scene is, there is still fragility, which is why it is so important to bring Common Field to Miami."
Following stints in Minneapolis, New Orleans, and Chicago, Common Field plans to inject some much-needed visibility and organizational heft into smaller institutions that are dwarfed by museums and established galleries. Over the course of several days, attendees will brainstorm, plan, and begin implementing ways to strengthen the local art scene by way of mutual support and cooperation.
Protesters warn that Little Haiti could be heading the way of Wynwood.
photo by Tim Elfrink
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One of the issues sure to be a topic of discussion is the effect of gentrification that participating institutions unwittingly inflict on locals in depressed neighborhoods. This past year, a number of galleries left Wynwood for new spaces in more affordable neighborhoods such as Little River, Allapattah, and Little Haiti. Locals from the latter areas met their new creative neighbors with trepidation. Sometimes seen more as encroachers than collaborators, gallerists and artists tread a fine line with Little Haiti's old guard. Support from the immediate community, as well as the art world at large, is one of the many challenges faced by Miami's art scene.
Whether the upcoming Basel season will go on to extend the city's artistic credibility to the world falls largely on a smattering of small warehouses, converted loft spaces, etc., that nurture Miami's creative talent. Common Field Convening Miami will do a great deal to ensure they're taken care of despite what the Basel crowd might think.
Common Field Convening Miami
October 20 through 23 at the Little Haiti Cultural Center. Tickets cost $150 for the general public and $125 for Common Field members. All past conventions have been sold out, so Common Field members are encouraged to buy tickets early. Visit convening.commonfield.org.