Wynwood Art Fair's down-home hoedown October 21-23

Don't confuse the inaugural version of the Wynwood Art Fair with the snootier version for which Basel is famous. It doesn't even look like any of the other satellite tent fairs in Wynwood that sprout up like toadstools from cow patties after a flash summer rain.

No, sir. Instead, the three-day artstravaganza is a fun-first "street happening" designed for the widest demographic appeal, not unlike a county fair. But rather than livestock, sideshow performers, and a roller coaster or log flume ride, heaping servings of interactive contemporary art will bridge every imaginable medium, and it's all for a grand cause — to raise funds for the Lotus House Women's Shelter.

"Think along the lines of Lincoln Road on the weekend with the fruit and antique stalls," says Anthony Spinello, one of the local dealers who has rented a booth for the fair. "Miami's entire art community is behind it, but the fair has also garnered support from other artists nationwide."

Spinello promises "all kinds of performances, interactive art projects, and innovative programs" that involve the public in a "truly provocative and engaging way."

Forget Lincoln Road, though. Here the fairgrounds extend through Wynwood's eye-popping, mural-covered, urban environment. The fair will take place on a six-block stretch of the arty nabe on NW 6th Avenue, winding between 23rd and 29th streets.

Exhibition booths will line the entire area, interspersed with stages for performances. Ethnic-food vendors will be scattered throughout the fairgrounds, and strolling buskers, minstrels, and live painting exhibits will pepper the big show.

Visitors can expect to encounter art to not only look at but also walk on and even chew and help create.

"The Wynwood Art Fair is our opportunity to create Miami's own flavor of what a community-centric art fair can be," says Barry Fellman, director of the Center for Visual Communication. "This is not another Art Miami transplanted to Wynwood."

The event was conceived three years ago as a one-night fundraiser organized by Constance Collins Margulies, president of Lotus House and director of the Wynwood Art Fair. It was held in her husband Marty Margulies's sprawling warehouse that holds the couple's sizable contemporary art collection. Soon it outgrew the space and began spilling into the streets.

"We are thrilled over the outpouring of artistic talent and creative energy and love that the galleries, artists, museums, and art schools have demonstrated toward the project," Collins Margulies says. "We are looking forward to having fun with art, exploring art, and most of all, the opportunity to see visitors involved making art during the fair."

In addition to the city's major museums and cultural institutions, upward of 20 local galleries and more than a dozen independent art studios have been booked. Also, 30-plus performers and performance groups are scheduled to participate, many who flew in from out of town to support Lotus House.

Niizeki Hiromi promises to leave fairgoers smacking their lips over her multisensory, interactive "Gum Garden." The New York-based artist will enable spectators to taste and feel her art and assist her with creating a work confected by hundreds of colors and flavors of gum chewed by the public.

Other veteran and nationally renowned artists — such as Trajal Harrell, David Brooks, Sarah Sze, Ellen Fisher, Ben Fain, Frank Van Duerm, and Rita Ackermann — will have works featured at the fair.

Brooks is creating a labyrinthine, sculptural environment, billed as "an aviary for humans," that allows visitors to experience the animal world from the perspective of a prized, blue-ribbon steer at a county fair.

Adding to the experimental-hoedown vibe is local performance artist Clifton Childree, who plans to raise the roof with Boise Bob and His Backyard Band.

You'll forget the horseshoe pitching or greasy heart attack on a stick when you encounter the band's country-fried punk music boasting original tunes such as "Possum Meat" and "Livin' in a Swamp," all cranked from homemade instruments. Boise Bob on guitar will be accompanied by Tex Merlot on electric washboard, Owen Cash on washtub bass and oinking noises, Darnell Hot Dog on banjo, and Rufus Bacongrease on the fiddle and mandolin for a knee-slapping hootenanny.

Once you get those stems limbered from all the foot stomping, look for local conceptual artist Agustina Woodgate's game of hopscotch chalked on sidewalks to put some spring in your toes.

Woodgate will also sew four different limited-edition poetry labels, created by the women of Lotus House, into the public's clothing as part of her "Tagging" project in Spinello's booth. Woodgate has been volunteering at the nonprofit for more than a year and created a sewing workshop with the women at the center.

"For the past month, I have been working with them — helping them write short one-line poems, helping them find sentences that have given them hope and faith," Woodgate says. "The results were dozens of hours of conversation and bonding. These girls live under the same roof and barely know each other's names. This process brought them together."

Fellman, who will showcase Clyde Butcher's Florida landscapes, says the fair "is about democratizing the inaccessible world of stuffy art fairs in convention centers and inviting the large and wide community Miami has become to celebrate the visual and performing arts in our own back yard. It's also about spreading the message that art is fun, exciting, for everybody, and can engage and enrich us as part of our everyday world."

Fellman's project space will invite visitors to walk through art duo Guerra de la Paz's interactive installation, which will feature larger-than-life figures celebrating the diversity of South Florida, and to take their picture under a huge multicolored rainbow made from recycled clothes.

During the weekend, don't be surprised to be dazzled by cartoon balloon parades, kaleidoscopic bubble environments, pop-up smiley-face shops, and vaudeville hoofers, or even to fall into the embrace of a kinetic hug-machine sculpture.

And don't be shocked to see Wynwood art spaces outside the fairgrounds getting into the act. At the Alberto Linero Gallery on the corner of NW Second Avenue and 23rd Street, a leotard-clad Cristina Botero will cover herself in fluorescent paint and brush against a canvas to create her version of live-painting body art.

"She will put a new spin on the visual appeal of the Wynwood Art Fair," says Alberto Linero, owner of the space. "Her show gives audiences a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes creative process of an artist — in an unexpected way."

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Carlos Suarez De Jesus