Space Mountain Miami Opens: "An Opportunity for Spontaneity" in Little Haiti

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Miami is home to some of the best dance clubs and art galleries in the nation, but there still aren't enough places where 305 artists can freely and boundlessly express themselves.

That void is what inspired Alicia Apfel to launch Space Mountain Miami, a gathering point for the Magic City's creatives.

Not to be confused with the ride in Mickey Mouse Land that travels to "outer space," this exhibition and performance space opened its doors just north of Little Haiti during Art Basel 2013. And in its six months of existence, the 1,000-square-foot arts hub has already made a statement.

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"What's cool about it is that it's really been driven by the community," Apfel says. "Basically, it's a self-generated space."

"I always kept on calling it 'the space' and Autumn Casey [Space Mountain's creative director] kept trying to come up with a name for it. Then I started thinking about it more as a concept of being a mountain, something that can't be pushed around."

And like that, one of Miami's newest venues for total artistic expression was born.

"We've seen people do really cool things. It's creating an opportunity for a lot of spontaneous things to happen because people feel free to express themselves."

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Maybe Space Mountain's anything-goes attitude has something to do with creating that exuberant atmosphere.

"There's a Submit Ideas section on our site where we ask people to send us proposals," Apfel explains.

"If it sounds awesome and has a great concept, go for it. We don't create barriers where you gotta show us a sample or anything."

Of course, though, Apfel doesn't do it all on her own. Her creative director and "right hand," Autumn Casey, plays a major role in the curatorial process.

"When I come up with concepts for an exhibition, they're kind of a little all over the place," she laughs. "They usually have a more fun and playful kinda vibe. It sorta depends on what's going on in my own head or what I would like to see."

Musical and aesthetic liberty aside, Space Mountain is a private, non-profit organization, meaning it is run by a board of directors while funded out of Apfel's pocket and with donations.

That, in turn, "allows for creativity to be self-generated." Students from Florida International University's Bachelor of Fine Arts program in art organized their own graduating show there this past spring.

"I could go out and get a grant and funding," Apfel says, "but that doesn't tell me whether or not the artists or musicians are committed to it, and this is really about an artist-proven and generated space."

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Though it is largely an art venue -- not a musical one -- Miami's king of noise, Rat Bastard is one of the members of the board. While he fully supports all that Apfel is doing, his views are less optimistic.

"People make donations when they come to the art events," the music pioneer points out. "They like to have the space as somewhere to go and see interesting things you won't typically find in other places.

"But a place like that can't sustain rent based on donations, because people don't really give a shit," he bluntly suggests. "They will support independent artists, but they won't bother supporting the space. They couldn't care less."

Coming from someone who's experienced running performance and arts venues similar to Space Mountain, Rat makes a valid point. But Apfel isn't dismayed.

"It is an experimental space and it is an experiment that is designed for the community itself to use," she says.

"And if artists and musicians are bringing things forward, making programming happen, it'll grow.

"But at some point, if there doesn't appear to be the support for it, then that means that experiment went as far as it could."

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Opening of No Returns. With Joe Locke and Alicia Hancock Apfel. First artist collaboration produced by Science Night at Space Mountain. Saturday, June 14. Space Mountain Miami, 8363 NE 2nd Ave., Miami. The show starts at 8 p.m. Visit spacemountainmia.org.

Miami Music Club. Hosted by Roofless Records. With Dim Past, Ortrotasce, Bobby Flan, and Matthew Vincent. Saturday, June 14, Space Mountain Miami, 8363 NE 2nd Ave., Miami. The show starts at 10:30 p.m., and there's a $3 cover. Visit spacemountainmia.org.

Follow Crossfade on Facebook and Twitter @Crossfade_SFL.

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