An empty lot on the corner of NE Third Street and North Miami Avenue is all that remains of the Wallflower Gallery, an eclectic, indie multimedia space that thrived for 13 years. The memory of it still haunts C.D. Flash, steward of the space for much of its life.
“I ride my bike by the space and I still feel it. I still hear the music. I feel the art. It was more than just a business. It was an experiment in social creativity,” Flash says.
Flash became manager of the Wallflower Gallery in 1999 and took over when doctor-cum-artist David Haskin, its original founder, left in 2002. Wallflower helped launch the careers of many emerging musicians, painters, poets, dancers, and just about anyone with a creative spirit. If it was art and you did it, you were welcome at the multiroom gallery.
It all came to an end when the 90-year-old, two-story building was razed in 2010. “It had an old-school New York vibe," Flash says. "People referred to that energy. But for me it was always very Miami, located right at the heart of it.”
Places may die, but legacies don’t. The “homeless gallery” lives on and celebrates 20 years this Saturday at Churchill’s Pub with an 11-hour jam that features past performers, including disbanded groups, in showcase formats that were popular during Wallflower’s heyday. Interactive improv jams are part of the mix, as well as live art, comedy, dance, spoken word, and talks by community organizations that were part of Wallflower’s history as an incubator for local talent.
“It’s a family reunion,” Flash says. “You’ll see a lot of old photos. People who’ve gone gray who weren’t gray back then, those youthful faces who are now older mainstays of the music and art scene.” A slideshow will also pay tribute to Wallflower alumni who’ve passed.
“The 20th year is a great chance for people to reconnect,” Flash says. “The bonds are still there. A lot of places come and go, but not many build a family vibe.”
Since its closing, Wallflower has popped up at various events that have been energized by its signature bohemian character, including last year’s Everglades Awareness and Medical Marijuana benefit concerts in Wynwood, which were produced by Flash’s Ploppy Palace Productions.
“It was inspiring and remarkable that we accomplished what we did at Wallflower with so little budget,” Flash recalls. “People cared, and that’s why we continued in that location for so long and why we’re gathering now — a unique testament to the heart of Miami’s art scene.”
Native Uruguayan painter Anibal Fernandez is one of the artists who got his start in Miami even before Flash was fully involved at Wallflower. “Flash gave me a chance. My first art show was at Funktional Funk on Lincoln Road,” Fernandez says. “He’s the mentor, even today, driving his bicycle everywhere and promoting artists.”
Fernandez eventually became an artist-in-residence of sorts at Wallflower, a place he called a second home, which was less uptight, he says, than more mainstream galleries. “It was a totally different concept,” he adds. “It was avant-garde, no codes, no ‘do this or do that.’ I had freedom to experiment artistically.”
Fernandez once painted Wallflower’s purple orchid logo, which was based on one of Haskin’s photos, on one of the gallery’s indoor walls. It meant the world to him. Before the gallery was torn down, he removed the chunk of drywall and lugged it to his studio.
Fernandez, now a West Palm Beach resident, will be live painting at the event. He believes Wallflower’s survival as a movement speaks volumes about Miami’s artistic energy, even without a brick-and-mortar space. “It tells you that the spirit is beyond something. All the artists who’ve been involved are the core of Miami.”
That core remains strongly cohesive, even though many Wallflower creatives have moved away from South Florida. Miami native Richard Alan Sheperd, a
Sheperd was part of Wallflower’s early
After working in Los Angeles, Sheperd moved to New York City, where he used skill sets he learned at Wallflower. “I was brand new in New York,” he says. “But I started connecting with the community and putting on multimedia shows. That’s normal everyday stuff now, but in the late '90s that kind of thing was new territory.”
As for the possibility of that Wallflower spirit finding a new home, Flash remains cautiously optimistic. “If money were no object, I’d set up a new Wallflower gallery tomorrow,” he says. “But it’d have to be sustainable.”
In the meantime, he’s inspired by the enthusiastic response to the 20th-anniversary event. “I’m going to find whatever opportunities and see what I can build off of,” he adds. “Just finding new ways for people to interact artistically, which is what it’s really all about.”
The Wallflower Gallery: Gone But Not Forgotten
4 p.m. to 3 a.m. Saturday, May 13, at Churchill’s Pub, 5501 NE Second Ave., Miami; 305-757-1807; churchillspub.com. Admission $10 at door.