In late 2012, a cadre of top Miami art names packed up and moved downtown into a huge warehouse last occupied by a fishing supply company. The result was the Downtown ArtHouse, a sprawling studio space for A-list names like the TM Sisters, Bas Fisher Invitational, and Turn-Based Press. Thanks to a partnership with the Downtown Development Authority and the Miami Worldcenter developers — who own the building — the artists got a sweet deal: two years of rent free and acres of space to work.
That gig is now up. Worldcenter's developers recently informed ArtHouse's tenants that they'll need to pack up as the $1.7 billion project moves closer to a reality.
"We all have to leave. That was the arrangement from the beginning. We borrowed this space, and when they need it back, we have to make way," says Frances Trombly, cofounder of contemporary art exhibition space Dimensions Variable.
The artists and Worldcenter's developers are still working out details about how to clear out of the building, but the developer says tenants have been given six months to find a new home.
"Miami Worldcenter has developed a close relationship with Downtown ArtHouse and its artists over the years. We have supported their programs and exhibitions and even provided free space for their studios," says Nitin Motwani, managing principal for Miami Worldcenter. "With the start of Miami Worldcenter’s construction coming into view, we are working with the ArtHouse team to ensure a smooth transition and have provided a six-month relocation notice. We hope to include ArtHouse and its artists in our public art program at Miami Worldcenter."
For artists like the TM Sisters — known for staging elaborate performance art pieces with vast multimedia elements — finding a similarly sized home will be difficult. It's especially challenging because they recently built a sizable green screen in their studio to shoot video projects.
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"We were pumping out collaborations with local musicians and artists," says Monica Lopez De Victoria, half of the TM Sisters. "Unfortunately, we'll probably lose that green screen now."
But Lopez De Victoria is also quick to praise developers for working with the artists in the space since 2012.
"We're grateful to have had it as long as we have. They've been generous to let us have a dream space like this for an affordable rate for so long," she says. "It's given us an opportunity to grow in new areas."
Trombly echoes that sentiment. "It's been fantastic. We've had two years to be able to create great programming for our city," she says. "Our city is different from the rest because most others don't have developers interested in partnering with artists the way this city has."