The Monday-morning commute is universally maligned as the most miserable time of the week, but local arts nonprofit PAXy wants to change that.
For the third year in a row, PAXy (Putting Art in the galaXy) will host Wake Up Miami!, a free Monday-morning performance series presenting local artists from diverse musical and dance backgrounds at the Government Center Metrorail and Metromover station. The 2017 series will kick off with an unplugged performance from hard rockers Deaf Poets.
Wake Up Miami! grew out of a desire to unite Miami's diverse communities through artistic outreach. These communities, according to PAXy cofounders Maudie Valero and Yaima Arbona Bello, are too often segregated within the city on the basis of class, ethnicity, or background. Valero and Bello aim to make art and music accessible to all members of the Miami community regardless of financial means.
"The idea is for everything to be free," Valero says, "because in reality, there are a million great things to do in Miami, but the majority cost money. People who don't have a lot of money can't spend $30 on a ticket. The idea is for those people to also have access to Wake Up Miami!"
Metrorail, and the Government Center station in particular, provides PAXy with a cross section of Miami's diverse populations, from commuters who use public transportation as an affordable alternative to cars, to white-collar workers heading to work in Brickell office cubicles.
"You realize that in that spot, there are so many people with different levels of education, backgrounds, ethnicities. In the end, everyone enjoys the same things, and they have that in common," Bello says.
PAXy strives for an interactive experience between artists and observers, and the public is often happy to oblige.
"There are some members of the public who go every Monday," Bello says. "We had one guy who went with his little cart. All of a sudden he started dancing, and after a little while, he took out a flute and started to play. The musicians stopped playing and let him play."
PAXy must adhere to guidelines agreed upon with Miami-Dade Transit officials. Sets may include no more than four performers at a time, must last about an hour, and must be performed acoustically. Still, PAXy gets creative with the art it squeezes into those parameters.
"We try to introduce new things," Valero says. "Everyone has heard salsa music in Miami, but maybe a lot of people who've never paid for a ticket haven't seen an opera. Of course, you can't perform an entire opera in an hour at Government Center, but you can maybe perform an operetta or something smaller."
That's another aspect PAXy prioritizes with the Wake Up Miami! series: the element of surprise.
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"When you go to Wynwood, you know you're going to go see art. Not here," Valero says. "Here you're going to work; you're usually in a hurry. And then you stumble upon this. It's a different approach to engaging with art because the art finds you; you're not seeking it out."
Valero remembers a time when PAXy's nontransactional approach to art was met with suspicion. People were hesitant to linger because they thought the performers would try to sell them something. "Now they interact, dance, and sing," Valero and Bello say, smiling.
"It's different for the crowd and the musicians," Valero continues, "because it's not like a concert, where people can stay there for the whole hour. You have to command the attention of the people walking by. It's very different. Even then, people will stay. They'll stay and be a little late to work."
PAXy's Wake Up Miami! Concert Series
8:30 a.m. every Monday July 3 to December 4 at Government Center station, 101 NW First St., Miami; 305-891-3131; paxy.org. Admission is free. For a full schedule of performers, visit paxy.org.