Everybody wanted to cook something!
O.H.W.O.W., or Our House West of Wynwood – the name kinda says it all. This funky alternative space, opened last fall, is a hybrid cultural community center: part art gallery, part events space, part hang-out, or as the owners put it, “a social and cultural experiment like no other that takes place in a living, breathing venue that exists not just for the sake of exhibiting art but as an actual piece of art itself.” Oh, wow.
That combo was on perfect display on Feb 13th, for the one-night only happening called “Confection.”
When you walked into the densely crowded, brightly lit converted warehouse (west of Wynwood is really Liberty City in this case), you were immediately visually assaulted by Pepto pink walls, dotted with painted, colorful confetti, or maybe they were meant to look like candy sprinkles on a cupcake? Whatever, it effectively set the tone for the art show/auction/bake sale for charity event, which included live performances, video, art from locals, lots of beer, lots of sweets, and lots of people.
Just as organizer, graphic designer and creator of the pink mural Pres Rodriguez imaged it. The visitor’s entrance was intended to illicit a “happy shock,” he says, and the happening was also intended to be a one-shot deal. “If you missed it, you missed it. That was part of what I wanted.”
In keeping with the community spirit of O.H.W.O.W.’s mission, Rodriguez decided on a bake sale to benefit the Daily Bread Food Bank. After all, community and church activities often revolve around bake sales and potlucks – it’s been the traditional way to get neighborhoods together and talking. Of course, in this particular space, “this bake sale will be anything but what you have experienced at the local church.”
Rodriguez asked about 20 local artists to contribute art or confections for sale. The response was overwhelming – “everybody wanted to cook something!” People baked cookies and cakes, and when the doors opened that night, over 2,000 people wondered on through, dressed in their funkiest downtown gear and buying confections for two bucks a pop.
In one of the most memorable scenes of the night, some of the revelers could be found on the floor, eating the fudge offered up in a toilet bowl – yes, picture that imagery – in an installation courtesy of Leyden Rodriguez-Casanova and Bert Rodriguez. They smiled along with the cheeky drag photographs of Hugo Montoya, or otherwise interacted with the works of Jason Hedges (sometimes called a food artist), Susan Lee-Chun (who hosted a sort of tea party at an opening last year), Jen Stark (whose brightly and multi-colored pieces can resemble confections themselves), and many others.
In those four hours, says Pres Rodriguez, they raised about $2,000 and attracted “not just your average gallery crowd. Everyone got into the fun spirit and made the most of it.” In case that light spirit went over anyone’s heads, it was underscored on the invitation to “Confection,” which started with this line: “There are two kinds of people in the world: those who love chocolate, and communists. – Leslie Moak Murray.”
Sums up Rodriguez, “People who don’t always go to openings were saying, ‘this is amazing.’” That’s pretty much the response the founders of O.H.W.O.W. want to hear. Those founders would be New Yorker Aaron Bondaroff, known as A-ron The Downtown Don because of his collaborations with the likes of Agnès B, The Deitch Projects, Colette and Supreme; and Miami collector Al Moran.
They gave off some serious vibes with their Art Basel show “It Ain’t Fair” – the second show in the space – which intermingled Deitch Projects, Peres Projects, Nueva Galeria De La Barra with curators such as Tim Barber, Kathy Grayson, and Terence Koh in a multi-media extravaganza celebrating the downtown spirit of Manhattan.
According to the downtowners and now Miami “westsiders,” ”We’re one of the select few that can truly package the low brow with high brow, the yesterday with today, and the superficial with the thought provoking. We intend to set the pace and carry this community on our backs to push the movement forward.”
But says Pres Rodriguez, the Basel bash left the impression that O.H.W.O.W. was “so New York-centric. Everyone assumed it was a New York gallery here (only for Art Basel).
For the third show, they wanted it totally Miami-centric.” In fact, the owners claim, “New York City is our constant, but Miami is the now. The Magic City is on the cusp of a cultural revolution that’s itching to be seen and heard.” Hence the germination of “Confection,” which local Rodriguez admits was a “big experiment. There was really only one month for the artists to do work.” But the art and the crowds turned up, and the “happy shock” therapy was a success. Next up in April: a show from tattoo artist Scott Campbell, which, unlike “Confection,” if you miss the opening night happening, you’ll still get to see the art in a conventional fashion by visiting the gallery (Campbell’s Saved Tattoo in Williamsburg, Brooklyn is one of the biggest tattoo parlors in the country, catering as well to some of the biggest stars). But, says Rodriguez, “the emphasis will always be on the opening, on the interaction of the crowd. It’s the community we want to build.”