For Karen Deilke, Coconut Grove's monthly drum circle isn't just a key piece of the neighborhood's tight-knit artistic community and a vestige of its fading bohemian roots. The acclaimed Texas-born painter sees it as a way to give back and unite the area — especially the past two years, when the circle has gathered in a parking lot on the corner of Grand Avenue and Commodore Plaza.
"We finally found this perfect spot," Deilke says. "It's just been an absolutely amazing thing."
But now the circle could be out of a home, thanks to a sudden — and mysterious — complaint from a neighboring business. Deilke isn't sure whether the circle will have a spot when their usual date rolls around later this month.
"I don't understand," she says, "why something that is so good is being perceived as such a problem."
It wouldn't be the first time the circle has found itself homeless. Deilke, who moved to the Grove in 1996, connected with local drummer Mark Richards in 2008 and started the circle. Numbers ballooned from a half-dozen to several hundred within a few years, but its popularity also inspired noise complaints, and the group was forced to bounce between numerous parks, plazas, and promenades.
Around two years ago, the owners of the salon Coiffure & Nature said the group could use its large parking lot, and the group thrived in its more permanent space.
On August 2, though, Deilke was getting ready for the monthly gathering when her husband called. With 100 people standing around ready to drum, a security guard told the group it had to leave immediately (a confrontation first reported on the blog Coconut Grove Grapevine). "I said, 'Let's just go on," Deilke recalls. "Everybody said, 'Yes, yes, we'll be glad to be arrested.'"
Fortunately it didn't come to that. The group played its usual three hours, but Deilke fears the incident is a clear message the circle won't be allowed to return.
What's less clear is who's sending that message. Manny Gonzalez, the executive director of the Coconut Grove Business Improvement District, which coordinates security for the area, says a local proprietor that evening asked guards to break up the gathering. "We've got to do the request of the property owner," he says. "Even if we don't like it, we've still got to do it."
But Gonzalez doesn't know who complained. Deilke isn't sure either but says the salon recently changed hands and "word is that the person who bought the salon thinks we are a liability." (Managers at Coiffure & Nature were not available for comment, and the president of PointeGroup Advisors, which manages the property, did not respond to a message left by Riptide.)
Deilke still hopes to work out a solution with the property manager so the drummers can stay.
But even if they can't, she says, the circle will go on. "We'll find a place one way or another. We're committed to it because it's something we want to give back to the Grove."