A few years ago, Ric Herrero was involved in a program to help entrepreneurs in Cuba. "I wanted to help bring 3D printers to the island," he says. "As I was doing research for it, the more I learned about the maker movement." This maker movement he speaks of is a growing trend aimed at celebrating people who make things — from furniture to robotics — themselves. The movement is spreading and growing across the country, sprouting up fairs in cities all over the world. Herrero wanted to bring the movement to his hometown of Miami. "We needed something like this here," he says. "There are all these tech companies, craftsmen, and artists here, but they are all Balkanized. We wanted to help the local makers connect and put them on the map."
The first Miami Mini Maker Faire was held in 2013. Each year, the number of attendees grew. Now, Herrero is expecting 6,000 people over the weekend of February 20 and 21 for the 2016 fair. This year's edition of the do-it-yourself extravaganza will have a musical element for the first time, with a concert Saturday night, though Herrero says adding rhythm and beats was always a goal for the event. "From the start," he says, "we wanted to promote musicians who are uniquely creative with their stage design or wardrobe and had the maker spirit."
The Music Makers Showcase is free for all Miami Mini Maker Faire ticket holders, along with those who register for complimentary concert admission through eventbrite.com. It will feature local electro-funk duo Afrobeta, whose theatrical concerts are already familiar to anyone with a smidgen of exposure to the Miami music scene. Herrero was equally excited about introducing South Florida to someone it hasn't seen in coheadliner X Alfonso. "He's a multi-instrumentalist who plays a fusion of hip-hop, rock, and funk. I saw him play in Havana at the Peace Without Borders concert, where he played in front of over a million people." Herrero says it's not just X Alfonso's musicianship that will impress us. He also founded Fábrica de Arte Cubano.
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"Fábrica de Arte Cubano is a mixed-use space in Havana," Herrero explains. "It is part-art gallery, part-maker space. It's a café, a movie theater, and a discotheque all in the space of an old peanut-oil factory. It's the hottest place in Havana, according to Anthony Bourdain on his TV show Parts Unknown. It's a world-class model of collective ingenuity, not just by Havana standards but by global standards. There's no place this cool I've seen even in Miami."
X Alfonso will also hold a lecture about his experiences in Havana and will help to organize a sort of pop-up rendition of Fábrica de Arte Cubano to entertain the more than 100 exhibitors who will be showing off their trades at Miami Mini Maker Faire. "We're creating a PVC tube structure to house a lot of the makers. The Frost Museum will have their own pavilion featuring ecologically conscious projects like recycled clothing. Last year, we had a robotics hall where several local high school's robotics clubs came with their robots, and we had a battlebot exhibit where they put their bots in a cage and had them engage in combat. There's all this interesting activity you're not aware of in our city unless you go to the fair."
And it all started with Herrero trying to bring 3D printers to Cuba, an attempt, he thought, that proved unsuccessful. "Two of the artists coming over from Cuba make chairs," he says. "They do it out of steel. But it turned out they made their prototype using a 3D printer."
The Music Makers Showcase With Afrobeta and X Alfonso. 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday, February 20, at the National YoungArts Foundation, 2100 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-377-1140; makerfairemiami.com. Admission is free for fair ticket holders and for those who RSVP via eventbrite.com. Tickets to the Miami Mini Maker Faire cost $12 to $18 plus fees via eventbrite.com.