Joining a wave of migration to Little Haiti — one that includes galleries such as Emerson Dorsch, Mindy Solomon, and Nina Johnson, as well as other cultural organizations — Exile Books has opened a storefront in the heart of the neighborhood. After three years in a small Wynwood studio, the small publisher is spreading its wings with a location that incorporates offices, work spaces, and a shop for its collection of artists' books, zines, and other print projects. The new space will also house a rotating display for concrete poetry — a medium that employs visual representation in conjunction with the written word to communicate poetic meaning — from Miami’s Sackner Archives.
“Our office space in Wynwood was slated to be torn down, and we needed to relocate,” Exile Books founder Amanda Keeley says. “We have been partnering with the Little Haiti Cultural Complex over the past several years, so it's great to actively work in the neighborhood while continuing to strengthen our connection to it.”
To inaugurate the space, Keeley has planned a series of programming by local women artists that underscores alternative narratives about Miami while highlighting the city’s unique voice. She also plans to give artists free access to design and content consultation and food-based programming. It’s a format with which the publisher has already begun to experiment.
Last week, Exile Books hosted a dinner at the Standard Spa Miami Beach in collaboration with the Sackner Archives. The five-course meal paired a piece of concrete poetry from the archives with each dish. Attendees opened sealed envelopes before each course and read the poem aloud before servers presented them with the poetic dish. For example, during the main course — grilled octopus with pomegranate and squid-ink hummus, served with a three-bean salad — guests read Bean Piece by Allison Knowles.
Exile Books' unique programming ideas will be a welcomed addition to Little Haiti’s burgeoning arts scene. Yet as the neighborhood began gentrifying several years ago, residents met their new creative neighbors with a sense of trepidation. The influx of galleries and studios responded in kind with outreach efforts designed to make the community as much a part of their programming as the art scene.
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“The Exile team is spending the summer engaging community members directly as we develop our future programming,” Keeley explains. “I am absolutely sensitive to issues surrounding the move of arts and cultural outlets into the area. And relocating here was not done so without a lot of thought and care. Above all else, Exile looks to be an asset to Little Haiti.”
Apart from forging close collaborations with local community leaders, Keeley is planning a writing program with local public schools. These youth events look to build a connection between students in Little Haiti and Opa-locka by way of a pen-pal series.
The slow migration of art from Wynwood to adjacent neighborhoods continues amid the summer heat. Exile Books is not the first, and surely will not be the last, Wynwood-based studio to move to Little Haiti in search of more affordable rent. How the community responds to the evolution will determine not only the future of art in the city but also the future of residents, for whom art becomes a more relevant facet of their daily lives.
Exile Books is now open at 5900 NW Second Ave., Miami. Programming at the shop begins September 1. Visit exilebooks.com.