In the '80s, the area around SW 72nd Avenue and Bird Road was dotted with empty warehouses. The cheap rent attracted artists, many of them recent transplants from all over Latin America. They transformed the huge spaces into lofts where they lived, worked, and exhibited their work. As the community grew, so did the galleries, frame shops, antiques dealers, and furniture design stores. In June 2000, the area was officially designated the Bird Road Art District, and the streets were opened up for studio tours and monthly art walks.
But the artist studios were sprawled over a large area amongst industrial warehouses, and as more centralized art districts grew in other locations, the walks quickly terminated and many artists moved to new areas. Though studios and galleries continued to operate, they receive much less attention.
Recently, however, there's been a push for a resurgence of the district, partly due to several newcomers eager to bring together a larger indie fashion and art community in South West Miami. As jewelry designer Nina Cortes explained, most people are unaware of what's available in their own backyard.
She, along with other shop owners on 48th Street and SW 72nd Avenue, are putting together a free monthly block party on the rectangular stretch of warehouses known as Lakeshore Industrial Park. The spaces were previously live/work artist lofts but have since been converted to indie boutiques, antique stores, and craft shops.
Nina and Iliana Ruiz own Nina Loren, a shop of individually crafted rings, bracelets, and necklaces. Yari Riguero, a fashion designer working on her own line, operates Prinzzesa, a boutique that stocks hard to find brands like Olive Olivia, Bianca Coletti, and Blank. There's also Viva Verde, an eco chic boutique, and Shoes to You, which features local shoe designers like Aily V, Leah Vixamar, and Sergio Zelcer behind its bright pink Buddha door.
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Aside from creative shops, more than 30 artist studios and two galleries have decided to bring back a monthly art walk in late fall. Clustered mainly around Bird Road and SW 75th Avenue, artist studios will open their doors to the public and offer a variety of exhibits.
Current highlights include the Cuban artist MANO whose "ID: Self Identification" was recently exhibited in Arizona and explores the hybridization of identity and immigration through passport photos Ana Candioti, an Argentinian contemporary painter, investigates patrimony and cultural roots in a series based on indigenous groups all over the world. And Rafael Consuegra, whose abstract and figurative sculptures have been commissioned as public art all over Miami, has several smaller-scale sculptures on display.
While exact plans for the block party and art walk are still in the works, most shops and studios are open throughout the week.