As we enter 2012, things will feel different in the Wynwood Arts District. Most things will look the same, but there will be one establishment in particular we'll miss. The nonprofit Edge Zones on NE 25th recently announced the end of its run as a gallery.
The Edge Zones entity itself is not going anywhere, though. Opened in 2003, Edge Zones was created to support ideas, people, and projects -- not to be held to the constraints of a single building or space. Founded by artist Charo Oquet, Edge Zones had a mission to foster artistic ties between Miami and the Caribbean. Times are tough for gallery owners, and the economic market has an increasing chokehold on their success, but that's not stopping Edge Zones from staying true to its initial purpose -- to help artists, both locally and abroad, in the development of their careers.
We spoke with director and interdisciplinary artist Charo Oquet for a look at its past as a forward-thinking gallery and its bright future as an international exchange project.
New Times: Why is the space closing?
Charo Oquet: We basically just evaluated the current economic circumstances and what
it was exactly we were doing in Wynwood. We tried to rethink our
strategy in compliance with what would best serve our mission, and we
just didn't feel that it was what we should be doing anymore. We had a
good run and a great location, but at the same time, the way Wynwood is
developing and the direction it's going in, I think it's turned into
something that in a sense we didn't feel so much a part of.
Has the popularity gained by Art Basel and the Wynwood art community influenced this other direction you're looking to go in?
To a certain degree, yes. Don't get me wrong -- I'm not criticizing the
popularity it's gained. I think it's a good thing that art has become so
popular and that a lot of people are enjoying it and exposing themselves
to it. At the same time, I don't think it can sustain the amount of
galleries that are currently there. I think the kind of work that we're
representing is not necessarily kind of "fun" -- it's more for period art
lovers and people who really are interested in what's going on, rather
than just the party.
Although this whole party scene has been really
good for the populists, I do think it's been really negative for the
true collectors. Our audience is not even necessarily true collectors,
but people who are really interested in art in terms of what's going on
with current art and the development of it. If you're not into the party
scene, then you're sort of left out, and I think our audience has shrunk
because of it.
We also weren't really satisfied. I, myself, felt under
the pressure and in need of a small break from the gallery life in order
to rethink where we should really be working and what other areas in
Miami we could help develop their art community.
What would you say were Edge Zones' greatest accomplishments?
The creation of a platform that took risks at the time that
it did, and to actually fuel the development of Wynwood. When we were
there, we had this enormous, three-story building, and because we had this
incredible space, we were able to do very large installations, have huge
bands and huge crowds. It was fun, it was open, we were able to take
risks because we weren't necessarily paying rent, and things were just
different at the time.
Also, one of the important aspects of our mission
was to link with the Caribbean communities around us, and we succeeded
thanks to international exchange projects that we plan to continue as an
organization. We were also among the first to make prints in Miami, and
with artists that weren't necessarily well known. We started printing in
2005 through 2008. After us, Gean Moreno also started doing the print
thing, but we can say that were the first to start that.
We were also
always very community-centric. Everyone pitched in and helped each other,
whether it was by putting something together or making food. Because of
our democratic nature, we were able to help a lot of artists launch
their careers, and not only nationally, but internationally as well. I
can name a whole lot of people [for whom] we were very influential in the
development of their work internationally, and I think we set off a lot
of the international projects. When we all started to go to art fairs
around 2004, there weren't really that many people going to Art Basel or
going to art crawls -- we were actually in the forefront of that, and we
actually participated in them, not just as a vessel.
We've also helped
launch the careers of many international artists. We did a parallel
exhibition that brought a lot of people to the Dominican Republic. We've
helped these artists from small island nations such as the Dominican
Republic participate alongside top-tier American artists, and introduced
them to a whole different network of people they would have otherwise
never had the opportunity to [meet]. We've always had the vision of looking
beyond the United States and in other directions -- from hosting art fairs
in Puerto Rico to taking our artists to El Salvador to giving them an
exhibition space at Zones. We were also one of the first ones to
actually start a local art fair concurrent with Art Basel that actually
competed against it. As small as it was, it was still an art fair that
used to be on everyone's calendar, and it was local and about local
What's next now for Edge Zones as an organization?
We're all about development, and we're looking for other areas that we
can develop. We are going to take a slight sabbatical to really assess
what's needed and what's next. We're asking ourselves what it is Miami
is lacking right now, where can we become agents of activating something
new, and in order to do that, you have to sort of lay low and just listen.
If you're moving all the time, or sitting in a gallery, you don't have
the opportunity to see what's going on.
Right now, it's really important
for us to see how we can expand into neighborhoods that are not as
popular, such as Allapattah, or even coming back to Miami Beach where the
art scene is kind of dried-out to a certain degree. I mean, we will
continue with our international exchange project, and perhaps be more
flexible, and take art where an art scene is not the norm. It's all about
finding a new location and new venues. I think it's a really exciting
and creative time for contemplation and a motive to grow.
Aside from your future endeavors with the Edge Zones organization,
what's next for you as an artist? Are there any new projects you have in
I'm also going to be taking a small sabbatical. I'm an artist, and I have
been trying to activate my career a lot too. We were doing so much
before that it slowly started taking away from my own work. I don't even
know myself what it is I'm really going to do. I do know what I don't
want to do, and it's basically to not continue in the path we were going
in and under my leadership. I've been looking for other people to take
over, and it's been difficult because we're not a very wealthy
organization. Times are tough right now and there's not a lot of money,
so people are not willing to put in a lot of time and work for free. I
feel like I've really worked hard and thrown in a lot of my own energy,
but I'm not saying that I'm over, I just feel that I need to replenish.
think Art Basel has been really great for Miami in so many ways, but I
think that because of it, we've also sort of lost our innocence. The game
has changed dramatically because you're dealing with the top art
business in the world -- you have the most important dealers and the most
important galleries and auction houses, and everybody just shows up here
once a year. This has all affected us in a big way. We have all had to
quickly catch up to that level, whether we wanted to or not. Not
everybody necessarily wants to be at that level, and not everybody
necessarily wants to be a part of that whole machinery, but it seems
like regardless of whether or not we want to, it's still omnipresent. As
an artist, you don't always want to see the business side of art because
it will affect you in negative ways. This whole game is played by big
boys and big international names, and who are we? We're just, to a
certain degree, little pumpkins compared to them. Art Basel has been a
good thing for Miami, but it wasn't particularly good for us. We saw a
lot of people, but they weren't buying. The whole year is sort of
reduced to four days, so you have to evaluate what is you're doing. It's
sort of scary, but you have to think fast and decide whether or not you
want to get on that bandwagon and where it is you stand amongst everyone