Yuval Ofir has been refining his description Yo Miami for years. “It’s an ecosystem for all things creative,” he explains with certainty four years after its inception. “Whether it's visual arts, music, craft beer, food, entrepreneurs, PR, or almost anything else that you can think of — the goal has always been to try and connect seemingly disparate elements of life in Miami in a way that allows each to achieve its fullest potential.”
At a time when the Miami art crowd seemed impenetrable to many, Yo Miami brought new light to an art scene that was popping up all around our feet like tiny dandelions breaking through the sidewalk. He created a bouquet that fit perfectly on every table — from those of business owners to street artists. “I guess,” he continues, “it's become my outlet for creating, by building something out of all these different moving parts.”
Ofir is celebrating his not-so-little ecosystem's anniversary with a bash that honors local artists and the evolving community. He is unveiling the Yo Miami Permanent Collection, focused on artists from the 305, including by Ruben Ubiera, CP1, Rei Ramirez, Nicole Salgar, Trek 6, and others. The highlight of the collection is 15 seats salvaged from the Miami Marine Stadium on Virginia Key. The seats are decorated with work by locals that reflect what it’s like to live in this tropical enclave. Yo Miami calls the show, "What Remains", “a perfect metaphor for what the collection is trying to accomplish, the seats will become figurative souvenirs of our cultural history affixed to physical remnants of our city's history.”
The seats were donated by the artists. Ofir's personal collection — which has outgrown his living space and two offices — will compliment these works that capture some well-known artists' nascent visions. “The works it contained were for the most part pieces that were from critical periods in the artists' careers where they were first finding their stylistic voices,” he says. His collection includes creations by Kazilla, Tatiana Suarez, LEBO, Alex Yanes, Ernesto Kunde, and others.
He’d like to one day have them be part of a separate entity that will ensure, he explains that “they're made available for the public's education and enjoyment,” and that they continue to reflect the community at large. “That's why I'm also showcasing works from my own personal collection in the anniversary show: To illustrate the range and import that I envision for the collection.”
Yo Space, the center of activity for Yo Miami, is located in Little Haiti, but not because it’s the newest (or most affordable) hotbed for artists these days. Ofir's dad, who passed away when he was younger, once owned a commercial flooring business out of the Yo Space warehouse. His mom, raising three kids on her own, had been renting it out, but eventually handed it over to her son once the Yo Miami ball started rolling in 2011. When asked about what he sees as the future for the area, Ofir says, ‘’I try to stay positive, or at the very least keep my eye on the silver linings. While there's definitely going to be a Wynwood-esque development boom [in Little Haiti] (which is already under way let's face it), I think that the community is trying to take steps from now to preserve at least some aspects of the Haitian and Caribbean cultures which make up so much of the area.”
He hopes that the general Miami community takes more pride and effort in supporting the arts scene down here. “You always hear about our artists moving to places like L.A. or N.Y., and the truth is there really are more opportunities for artists to earn a living off their work there. I think the artist community is going to branch out more in the next few years, seeing the establishment of ‘artsy areas’ in more areas of Miami (Little Haiti, Hialeah, Downtown, Bird Road, Fort Lauderdale, Boynton Beach)," Ofir explains. "As other cities see how integral the arts were to the boom in Wynwood, they're all trying to carve out their own versions within their borders."
And Yo Miami has certainly brought in a different crowd than the one that was was first was plucking away at the scene, one that is both committed and interested.
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He says the upcoming bash will be not only a chance to see early works by artists you've likely seen only on buildings all over town, but also live bands, a mural installation by Raul Santos II, local beers and food, and, well, you can’t beat free. Raise a glass from a local brewery to Yo Miami and its ongoing mission to make Miami a place you want to stay put.
Yo Miami 4-Year Anniversary Bash 6 to 10 p.m., Sunday, May 24, at Yo Space, 294 NE 62nd St., Miami, with JUke, Elastic Bond (Acoustic Set ft. Komakozie), Raffa Jo + Jayjohero, and DJ Mr. Jolt (Jolt Radio). Food trucks include Ms. Cheezious and HipPOPs Handcrafted Gelato Bars. Beer by Wynwood Brewing Company, MIA Brewing Co., J Wakefield Brewing, and Concrete Beach Brewery. Visit Facebook.
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