Second Saturday Art Walk is a week away, but you don't have to wait to get the arty-party started.
Every first Saturday of the month, You and I Are Love packs the TSL Lounge with a pop-up show featuring 12 local artists, both established and up-and-coming, for a truly communal, grassroots experience that's fun and meaningful for everyone involved.
Their hand-picked line-up of artists show and sell their work at no cost, and the dedicated crew bring drinks, music, and live painting to liven the atmosphere.
The non-profit does everything out of love and just wants to strengthen the local side of Miami's art scene in the purest way possible.
"Everyone is so greedy, and the art world is a business," co-founder Justin Hamel said, "but that doesn't mean you have to take away the love that's there."
Hamel, 29, and his partner Yess Miakoda, 27, keep love at the center of everything they do. Hell, it's in their name.
"What it really represents is the connections between two human beings, two souls, it could even be a dog," Miakoda jokes. "Really what drives us is love, and with love, you can accomplish anything. What we're trying to accomplish is bringing our art community together."
Hamel is a private chef who's carried an avid appreciation of the arts for years. Miakoda started her life as a child actress, then switched from performing arts to physical while attending school. The two met through mutual friends in Wynwood, and once they got to talking, they realized a partnership was inevitable.
"We have the same intentions as far as giving back to the community," Miakoda says. "He's very appreciative and passionate about the art movement here in Miami, and I'm an artist myself. I have that drive to give back, to make a difference in our community, and both of us coming together, it was like magic."
Since September of 2013, You and I Are Love has been hosting their monthly pop-up exhibits, giving local artists at every level the chance to show and sell their work at no cost to themselves.
"We're doing something that this community needs ," Miakoda says. "You see all these galleries, but what we're doing with You and I Are Love is giving these artists an opportunity that no one else is giving them."
Each month, the cofounders sift through artist applications submitted through their website, looking for artists with potential, vision, and sincerity. Many of the artists they work with have never shown before, and for them, that's half the fun.
"Some of them are very introverted, and they're really talented, but they don't know how to talk to people," Hamel said. "When they start seeing other people selling work, and they see how other people are selling work by talking and interacting, then all of a sudden, you see these other artists start talking. We're inspiring these other artists to become better at what they do, and through that, we become better at what we do."
Hamel and Miakoda see themselves as ground-level supporters of the local scene, and they believe that as Wynwood changes, it's important to keep the local element alive and well. As the shows continue to grow, they see what works for these artists, what can help an artist sell. Through their experiences and observations, they can help guide an artist with properly pricing his or her work, interacting with customers, and the like, although they always leave it up to the artist in the end.
"Knowing the artists story, knowing their background, we want to be able to do that," Hamel said. "That's something we've come a long way with. As everybody else is learning, we're learning, but were taking everything we're learning and giving it right back to the artist. That knowledge is valuable. They don't teach you that stuff in art school."
Hamel and Miakoda love that they can give back to the community that inspires them, and if anything, the hardest part of their job is curtailing their enthusiasm. At the end of the day, they have to curate a reputation among would-be collectors, and they want to create a strong foundation wherein the up-and-coming artists they champion can realize success.
"That's the hardest thing about what we do, we're both compassionate and we're both such sofites, we want to help everyone," Hamel says. "The formula that we've come together with is, if you have ten artists, six of which are up and coming but talented, you can see the potential, then you have four or three artists already established, living off their work. You bring those ten people together, and now what you've done by having these three or four emerging but sustaining artists, you put them with these young artists who are nervous. You're giving them this confidence because they see these other artists they're showing with."
Of course, the next You and I Are Love event is Saturday, April 5, and this month's show features works from Aquarela Sabol, Miss Lushy, Alesandro Abate, Marcos Conde, Rei Ramirez, Coinslot, and many more. Live painters will be on hand for entertainment, as well as music provided by Don Redfox, Skinny Hendrix, Galactic Effect, and more. There's also visuals, art installments, drink specials, special raffles with prizes provided by local business sponsors, and all this for just a $10 donation at the door.
"Our motto is, 'it's through giving that you receive,'" Hamel says, and the pair live by their words.
In the future, You and I Are Love hopes to give back even more. They're saving what's left of door donations, after covering space rental, supplies, and hanging costs, for the creation of art adoptive workshops for at-risk Miami youth and disabled hospital patients. They want to keep art at the center of the Wynwood community, and they want to continue to use the love of art and community to strengthen Miami in positive ways.
"We're here to keep it real," Miakoda says. "We want to deal with people who are real. We are always going to stay true to our vision no matter what, and to ourselves, and to our community, because that's what we are about. We don't want to lose sight of that, and we won't allow anybody to influence us otherwise."
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Visit the You and I Are Love pop-up art event Saturday, April 5, at the The Social Lubricant at TSL Lounge, 167 NW 23 St., Miami. The show starts at 8 p.m., and cover is a $10 donation at the door. Raffle tickets, drink specials, and art pieces are available for additional prices. To learn more about becoming involved with You and I Are Love, either as a sponsoring business or showcasing artist, visit the crew daily at the Rise-Up Gallery, 187 NW 27 St., Miami, or visit youandiarelove.com.
Follow Kat Bein on Twitter @KatSaysKill.