Miami's Folk Scene Questions Life After the Wynwood Yard

Keith Johns performing at this year's Miami Folk & Indie Festival.
Keith Johns performing at this year's Miami Folk & Indie Festival. Photo by FujifilmGirl
click to enlarge Keith Johns performing at this year's Miami Folk & Indie Festival. - PHOTO BY FUJIFILMGIRL
Keith Johns performing at this year's Miami Folk & Indie Festival.
Photo by FujifilmGirl
The impending closure of the Wynwood Yard added a bittersweet tinge to the third-annual Miami Folk & Indie Festival this past Friday. The venue was never meant to be a permanent space, yet those in the folk scene mourn its imminent end and face the looming question of what lies ahead. Folk music hasn’t always had the easiest time in the electronic music capital of the world. When the Wynwood Yard opened three years ago, it gave artists a space to show their work and art appreciators a weekend hub. Folk music found its home with this fervent audience.

Pola Bunster, the director of storytelling at Prism Creative Group, believes the Yard should be an inspiration to other venues — to perpetuate a more inclusive and diverse atmosphere in the music scene.

“I think what the Wynwood Yard has probably taught people is that the live music, the acoustic music scene is very much thriving and it does exist and is really strong in Miami,” Bunster says. “And although the Wynwood Yard does seem like a home and a supporter for that, I think it has shown people and other venues how valuable that kind of music is, and I think more venues are going to start to accept that kind of music and open their doors to acoustic, lower-tempo music that’s more family-friendly because they’ve seen that people like it, there’s a community for it.”

This past September, the Miami Herald broke the news that the Wynwood Yard and O Cinema Wynwood are expected to close around spring 2019 to make way for a towering apartment complex. The 11-story Wynwood Green, a mixed-use residential and retail development by Lennar, will include 189 rental units, 324 parking spaces, and about 17,000 square feet of commercial space.

The folk community is facing uncertainty about where it will go when the Wynwood Yard closes. Rumor has it some folk bands will move to other Yard concepts such as the Doral Yard.

Keith Johns — a folk singer who, along with Prism Creative Group and the Wynwood Yard's founder, Della Heiman, started the Miami Folk & Indie Festival three years ago at the Wynwood Yard — definitely feels the sting of having to say goodbye to the beloved venue, but he's determined to continue expanding the folk scene to keep the festival viable.

“I think everyone loves the Yard, every musician in the city loves the Yard, for the simple fact that they’re committed to putting local music on and not always just about who will perform the best or what the city wants the most," Johns says. "It was more like trying to have it be a celebration of local music and culture.”

Most folk musicians seem to agree there’s no place like the Wynwood Yard. “There’s the usual places around town that let folk bands come in that let us do our thing," he adds, "but nothing at the level of the Yard that was committed like that.”

Alejandro Elizondo, who, along with his group the Wynwood String Band, is also part of the folk community, has ideas of where he and artists like him will set their speakers down, but there’s great uncertainty.

“I’m definitely hoping to see this festival in another iteration, maybe at one of the other Yard locations,” Elizondo says. “Traditional folk music has a repertoire that a lot of people know, so it’s one of those things that organically finds an audience because there’s more people who like this than we would think, than you would even realize in Miami.”

This past Friday, attendees packed the Wynwood Yard for the Miami Folk & Indie Festival and were treated to music from members of the Florida folk scene, including Kids from Fort Lauderdale and garage soul band the Sh-Booms from Orlando. An electric energy filled the air throughout the night, making the fest's last edition at the venue memorable.

Until its 2019 closure, the Wynwood Yard is still hosting its usual programming of live shows with musicians such as Johns and Elizondo, so there are a few months left to take advantage of the Yard's programming. “I would implore people that it’s up to them... If you want to see more places like the Yard," Johns says, "you have to make that known.”

The Wynwood Yard. 56 NW 29th St., Miami, 305-351-0366;
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