Move over, Wynwood. There's a new, burgeoning neighborhood in the 305 with a promising future that's already proven to be fruitful to both new and established artists.
Big things are happening in Little Havana. Slowly but surely, artists are creeping in and turning it into a place where new art meets a longstanding culture.
At first sight, Little Havana may seem like an unlikely area for the next artist colony. (Domino Park, Versailles
, and Tower Theatre
are essentially frozen in a time when the first wave of Cuban immigrants arrived in Miami in the 1960's.) But take a closer look. Culture is already abundant, with fairs such as Viernes Culturales,
the Little Havana version of Art Walk. Tourists and locals alike are actually stepping outside of Versailles restaurant after their Media Noche
sandwich and exploring Calle Ocho
by foot with one of the many walking tours now available.
Daniel Fila of Krave Art, known for his signature character, Fresh Monkey and his semi-nude mural "Erin" and the subsequent series that it inspired it, has known about the impending greatness of Little Havana and its revival for a while now. Now, he has moved out of his Wynwood and Design District studio spaces to a bigger and better project space in Little Havana where he will showcase his work collection, including illustrations, paintings, and urban sculptures. The new minimalist space will highlight Fila's works, as well as the works of artists with whom he collaborates.
Aptly named "El Fresco" (The Fresh), Krave's studio is the newest addition to the Little Havana arts area. Neighbors include art galleries, ceramic studios, indoor and outdoor exhibit spaces, a Hispanic theater, and a variety of non-bougie yet charming cafes and restaurants.
We called up Fila to talk about the big move and what he thinks the future of Little Havana is.
New Times: What made you decide on Little Havana for your big move?
Fila: Well, I had been doing a couple of murals in that area and always liked the area. I feel that's it's a real cultural destination in Miami and it's just true, real Miami culture. I think that's what I was looking for, not to mention the fact that it's one of the last unexploited areas in Miami. You can get great food for a good price--the prices all around Little Havana are good. It's a working neighborhood. There are just a lot of reasons I chose Little Havana.
Did it have anything to do with Wynwood's skyrocketing rent prices, or the feeling among some gallerists there that the area isn't what it used to be?
I kind of want to stray from saying anything negative about Wynwood. I've been there for eight years. Do realize I moved in the Design District in '04 and I had a studio in Wynwood, then in '05 or '06 is when I opened up in Wynwood, so I really watched it grow and turn into something massive. It's great, but my time is just done there. I'm really looking to pioneer something new. You know, the cycle. The artist movement is in an industrial area that they built up. The prices do go up and it is does push the artists out of it. I was at the Bakehouse Art Complex, so I really wasn't having a problem with rent or anything like that--they have such a nice rent for the artists there. But Wynwood is just a different animal than when I first moved in and I'm just no longer interested.
What is the future of Little Havana to you?
I really think it's the next area to come up, hopefully in the right way. It's just five minutes from Brickell and there's already so much happening there, and the growth has to go in that direction with the new stadium and everything. I see it as a place that's going to maintain a certain cultural resonance because that can't change. It's established but not commercialized. Although you have a few commercial companies there, it still has a certain purity to it, which is good. I don't really know the future of it, but I do know the future of what I'm doing and I'm contributing to it.
So it's been a well thought out move?
So far, it's been a really good idea. I was hesitating a bit at first because it was a big move for me. The space is twice as large, it's a lot more for me, but the chemistry is right and everyone is really excited about it. Like I said, I feel like I'm pioneering and doing something that was destined to happen with or without me. The block that I'm on already has a lot of galleries and art studios on it like 6th Street Container. It's actually been going on for like 10 years. I'm looking to bring new youth and energy to it. I'm more inclined to bring new life to the area and get some crowds out there as well.
Should we expect to see more murals in Little Havana?
Absolutely. We already have the Welcome To Havana sign done by my friend Atomic. The local Miami artists--and this is an integral point that I can't stress enough--have seemingly pushed out of Wynwood and one of the destinations is Little Havana. A lot of people are going there and doing more work there. There's a good wall, which is the Good Will building and Ballarate came in and painted there. There's a lot of new, local artists there already putting more energy into that area. I hope to see it be like the hub for when people come to Miami and they want to see the real Miami, they can go there. Wynwood is great for a lot of murals by artists from out of town, but hopefully Little Havana will be the place where people can see work done by the native and local artists.
Tell us about your first artist collaboration.
I've been working with Surface Merchants for a couple of years, but I'm doing work with people that are more into sculptures and wood workers. The main person I'm collaborating with now is Raymond Adrian, who goes by Gems. He and I make up Surface Merchants. What we usually do is, we just brainstorm ideas and get out projects in a fresh way every time and that's how the name of this place came to me, "El Fresco," because it's always fresh. It's like a founding principle for us. We consistently progress, change, and just don't stick to what just works and people like. We make sure the energy is always fresh and that's my main collaboration as I move forward.
What can we expect from your new space at El Fresco?
What I'm telling people to expect is that when they come in everything is going to be fresh. We're going to have events and music going on in the back lot. I'm interested in honing into that untapped current of the movement down here that hasn't really been featured by galleries or organizations. I haven't seen it done, so I'm just really using it as a platform for everything that I believe in beyond just my artwork. If I can bring in the musical component, then I will and I am. Also, graffiti artists and street artists that I feel I can help them deliver in a better way. I mean, they just go paint on the streets, but I can give them a little bit of direction being that I've already been doing this for a long time. I want to just feature the kind of stuff that I like and also project the stuff that I like. The main thing is the vibe. The vibe is always going to be good.
What are you hoping to gain from your new space?
I've been dying to put a spotlight on that of which I believe is dope. It's so difficult when you're working with forces that are beyond my control, but now it's in my control and I've earned it from the ground up. I think I'm going to be surprised at what I do. I'm still doing this--right now I'm building this massive street installation with fire hydrants that are 16 feet tall and painting them and just getting my version of a cityscape. When you walk in, the whole wall is painted. I don't have to clear it with anybody, I just do it and if a good guitarist is playing on the street I invite them to come play. It's very open ended like that. What ever naturally and organically happens will happen. It's just nice to have that kind of control.
"El Fresco" will hold a launch party on Friday, February 22, from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. during Little Havana's Art Walk.