Maybe you have to be a little insane to be an artist. Maybe you have to be a little crazy to fall in love. Either way, the founders of a nascent art space in Miami are perhaps a little off their rockers. But they also have Iggy Pop on their side.
The wife-and-husband artistic team of Katy Bea and Jason D’Aquino might seem like normal, bland humans when viewed from a distance. But up close and personal, it's a different story. Their relationship reads like Sailor and Lula's in the David Lynch film Wild at Heart, with a healthy dose of Natural Born Killers' Mickey and Mallory thrown into the mix. It's a good, slightly unhinged vibe. And it extends to their artistic lovechild, Portal del Pop, an artists' sanctuary they're building, piece by piece, in a condo just north of the MiMo District.
“I'm approaching the birth of this Art Sanctuary ferociously,” Bea says of their project, Portal del Pop. “It’s the 'surrogate sock baby' that my childless body has brought back to her den to nurture. This project holds a place in my heart normally reserved for that of a first-born child.”
Portal del Pop, as its founders envision it, will offer free space to artists to create and show their work. It will charge no rent and take no commission on sales. If the two can raise $33,333 on Kickstarter by their June 15 deadline, they'll put $30,000 toward renovating and setting up the space and use the remainder to pay their Kickstarter fees. Profits from the couple's Haughtee company, through which they license and sell artists' work on shirts and other apparel, will pay the bills. The pair hopes to open Portal del Pop this fall.
But is this model sustainable? Right now, the project is a work in progress. Grand in scale and almost designed to fail, Portal del Pop currently thrives almost entirely on the couple's chutzpah and incredibly jazzed energy, which commands a dose of respect and some dollars to get the project going via Kickstarter. Oh, and an endorsement by Iggy Pop himself.
The happy couple.
Courtesy of Katy and Jason D'Aquino
Bea first made contact with Pop — the Godfather of Punk, part-time South Florida resident, and full-time hater of clothed torsos — at a private Sailor Jerry event where she threw to him a bundled-up T-shirt she'd made with a note attached. Pop was apparently intrigued enough that he contacted her. (He also wore the shirt to his consecration as Commandeur de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France this past April.) And now he’s lending the gravitas of his personality to the cause.
“I just literally cold-called Iggy concerning the Kickstarter,” she confesses. “Same way I tossed him the tee past the barricades and bouncers; I just tossed the idea out there to him.”
Aside from lending his likeness, Iggy will also display his work and personal collectibles during Portal del Pop's opening if it is successfully funded. And that's just the beginning of the quirky, bizarre perks of funding the project. Donate $555, for example, you can have an image tattooed onto animal-skin vellum and preserved in an antique mason jar so you can have that Mütter Museum feel at home. Pledge $3,333, and D'Aquino will tattoo your own skin with a fine-art print. For $9,999, the founders will name you a "patron saint" of Portal del Pop and set up a tribute to you at the in-house shrine.
Bea, an Army brat who changed schools frequently in her youth, credits the power of art as saving and guiding her career. That, she says, is what's driven her to translate her creative energy into a “safe” art space in the home she shares with D'Aquino in the Bank Lofts on Biscayne Boulevard on Miami's Upper Eastside. The hybrid space, both domicile and studio/gallery, has the pioneering feel of the first Emerson Dorsch gallery and the creative possibilities of Dimensions Variable.
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Bea and D'Aquino say they eschewed a lavish wedding and instead sank their combined capital into getting this spot up and running. The creative talent in South Florida far exceeds the number of venues for artists to hone their crafts. Portal del Pop, Bea says, will support living artists by providing a space for them to do their thing. In fact, they're promoting the hashtag #SupportLivingArtists to get the ball rolling.
“My cousin just graduated with a master’s and works with foster kids in crisis,” Bea explains. “I want to provide him a space to practice art therapy with children who don't have a place to call home. My friend is a full-time teacher but needs a space with no overhead for her volunteer side project called Launchpad that mentors underprivileged kids on how to get accepted into college. I've always been an idealist.”
Visit Portal del Pop's Kickstarter page to donate.