During the height of the pandemic, flight attendant Vida Sofia was looking for a place to draw. Art always helped her collect herself emotionally. "I was, like many people, going slightly crazy," she says, laughing. In April 2021, "I just decided to create this space now called Raw Figs."
Raw Figs is a figure-drawing pop-up experience. It's part of a growing trend of DIY classes and pop-ups with lower price tags that have grown in popularity and prevalence in Miami since the pandemic. Events like Sofia's make the arts more accessible to everyone, not just those "in the know," and have created space for growing communities of people expressing their creativity with low stakes.
At Raw Figs' first pop-up event, 20 people gathered in a storefront on Lincoln Road. The events started to double in attendance after that. Sofia now hosts one to two weekly sessions for packed houses of multigenerational crowds. Raw Figs is self-guided, donation-based, and shorter than a typical figure-drawing class to make them less intense. There's no pressure to draw like a master, just to have a fun experience.
Figure drawing is so popular in Miami that another pop-up, Man I Love Figure Drawing (MILFD), will soon become founder Paola Vales' full-time job. She worked as a live art model, informing her approach to the classes. "It came from wanting to make a safe space for art models, make a safe space for artists, and new artists intimidated by the idea of drawing a human figure." In Vales' experience, art models can face sexual harassment in a school environment. "We're not posing for someone's pleasure," she adds.
"Not everyone has access to materials or can drop $20 or enroll in figure drawing at a university," Vales says.
Bringing the events to places where people gather allows for a wider audience. Raw Figs has popped up at the Pérez Art Museum Miami, the Arlo Hotel in Wynwood, and even as part of a kayaking experience with Morningside Watersports. She has plans to bring the pop-up to Los Angeles, Mexico City, and on an educational hike at Everglades National Park. MILFD is often set up at breweries in areas of the city not known as hotbeds of culture, including South Miami, Little Havana, and Hialeah.
Of Course I Still Love You Ceramics (OCISLY) also grew from pandemic downtime and has become a booming business. "You know how people got into different things. Some people made bread; some people got into knitting. We got into pottery," says cofounder Cristina Hermida of her and her partner Adam Doak's venture.
Hermida and Doak now have a team of ten and many volunteers who help them host regular classes, events, birthdays, and corporate team outings for major companies and well-known South Beach hotel culinary teams. Classes are two hours long and often themed around music, from Elvis to Frank Ocean. Doak creates his smokeware as Love Rocket, and they offer a monthly smokeware workshop, Puff Puff Pottery, where people can make their own pipes.
Like the figure-drawing pop-ups, OCISLY makes the arts more accessible to a broader audience through hand-building pop-ups at venues around Miami. "Our classes are an invitation for you to connect with your creativity," she says. "People are very artistic. I'm very impressed at the end of every class." Their crowds include founders of tech companies, people who work remotely or have recently moved to Miami and want company or new friends, but most are young adults aged 25-35.
That includes pop-ups by Miami transplants. Viva Soudan is a New Yorker now spending part of her year in Miami. A performance artist, choreographer, movement director, florist, and vintage clothing seller, she created the healing dance and performance workout class Body Roll ten years ago.
Like the other experiences, Body Roll is designed for anyone and accessible to people of all ages and abilities. "It's rooted in a therapeutic approach to how we can be in our bodies," she explains. Taking dance classes out of the traditional studio environment and making them site-specific at pop-ups allows people to participate in public art. She also offers classes monthly at the Sagamore Hotel and bimonthly at the Standard Spa, Miami Beach.
"I truly believe we are all dancers," Souda says. "Body Roll is a space that gives permission to everyone who comes to a class that you are a dancer and to feel the fantasy of that and commit to that."
"I believe collective group movement classes or experiences help us feel more connected and not alone," Soudan says. "We're coming out of a time of immense isolation [because of the pandemic], and re-entering a space of community, collaboration, and camaraderie. It's about hyping each other up and remembering that we can be gentle with ourselves and we have everything that we need."
"I'm trying to bring together community aspects that matter to me," agrees Sofia of Raw Figs. "I'm being creative in these activities, in trying to create a certain experience for others and myself. And when it comes to business, I want to keep this business going for as long as possible. Ideally, I'll be in my fifties and sixties doing this."