The First Wynwood Art Fair

By Juliana Accioly

Things have been busy for Constance Collins Margulies. For the past year, the president of the Lotus House Shelter has also been working on a project that, she hopes, will turn the Miami art world upside down. She is the ringmaster for the staggering array of art that from October 21st through 23rd will spill onto the streets of the Wynwood Art District – an “art happening,” that could just become an unprecedented annual playland for local and international art enthusiasts. The first Wynwood Art Fair is expected to enthrall, as well as educate.

“Our main goal is to utilize art as a creative medium to explore our humanity, but we also want people to learn something about contemporary art,” she explained, “especially that it’s not just something that is up on the wall, but also a personal experience.”

Margulies anticipates attendees to this first Wynwood Art Fair to experience a feeling of walking onto a big stage, where part of the joy will be the spectacular diversity of activities. She conceived the idea for the project a year ago to include a cross section of art mediums: drawing, painting, sculpture, dance, music, installations, all designed to engage the audience in the creation of interactive pieces.

“This event will freewheel space for self-expression,” said Antonia Wright, a guest curator for the fair. “The first and foremost criterion was interaction – all artists involved will surrender an element of control and creativity to the audience.”

The street-fair-like scenario of this event she explained, builds on the concept of a “Happening” coined by Allan Kaprow in the 50s – a spontaneous creation of art – shaped by artists as well as audiences, mixing aesthetic forms and everyday life such social interaction, recreation, education.

The thematic it turns out, will be the only thought-out element of the fair, a tribute to women, home, and community. The choice of the street as an art venue provided the perfect connection to Lotus House. Connections with artists worldwide have been an integral element to the institution’s programming since its inception in 2006, with guest artists providing enrichment activities for the homeless women and children during their stay at the shelter.

Anchored by its galleries, restaurants, and shops, Wynwood’s natural fabric will provide the perfect backdrop for the endeavor while the event will create a new energy for its streets. “Wynwood has matured enough,” she said, “a live, work, and play environment- convergence and explosion of the contemporary art world in Miami.”

Situated on NW 6th Avenue, between 22nd and 29th streets, the event will kick off with a Friday night VIP champagne launch party and Sotheby’s benefit art auction at the Margulies Warehouse in Wynwood. The three-day fair will run from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., with a parade incorporated into the weekend programming. The $10 admission fee to children over 10 and adults will benefit Lotus House and its activities, as will the proceeds of the silent auction of the art produced by artists and fair goers, to take place in the VIP tent on Sunday. The challenges to putting the project forward, said Margulies, were none. “The city embraced the idea of art as a medium to help dissolve, remind how the community is interconnected,” she said.
In preparation for the fair, Margulies has drawn in a safety net of institutions to ensure a safe, family-oriented atmosphere. Euleen American will provide security along with the Miami Firefighters’ Benevolent Association, and Bank of America will have tellers to help with admission. Shuttles will transport attendees to and from adjacent parking lots.

The fair’s Honorary Host Committee is co-chaired by art collectors, Jeffrey and Debi Wechsler, and is a who’s who of Miami’s contemporary and philanthropic community, including among others Debra and Dennis Scholl, Audre Carlin, Hadley Martin Fisher, Rosa and Carlos De la Cruz, Evelyn and Bruce Greer, and Mayor Tomas Regalado.

What Margulies hopes will become “the greatest show in Miami” will incorporate character, narrative, and even philosophy in its trickery as more than 100 artists and exhibitors will set up tent during it fist year. The roster of worldwide artists will include Trajal Harrell, Ellen Fisher, Ben Fain, Marc Grubstein, Steve Johnson, Lee Walton, Jerry Misrach and David Ellis.

All art at the fair will be child-friendly, and Miamians of a certain age might just head directly to Ellen Fisher’s tent, where the New York artist will be telling stories through solo dance. Against backdrops created by the women and children from Lotus House, audience will be invited to ask questions about the narrative and come up with sequences to inspire her series of acts.

Fisher said the endeavor will provide contemporary artists with the opportunity to interact with audiences a much more intimate approach than usual.
“Art takes a lot of courage as artists bare their soul through their creations. This could be very challenging for an artist in its very idea that the audience is less controlled, free to get up and move on,” she said. “It is challenging and humbling to artists at once, as you learn that sometimes you can’t reach everybody.”

Agustina Woodgate from Argentina will also keep the kids – and the big kids – entertained with a walk installation of an infinite hopscotch game. Inspired by her research of the hopscotch’s original purpose – a tool designed by Roman warriors to help perfect their balancing skills and develop their footwork – Woodgate will paint a gigantic hopscotch game for the audience to play on the sidewalks of Wynwood.

A test of endurance, the hopscotch game aims at creating the illusion of taking one on a “never-ending” path as the sequence of numbers goes on. The piece also alludes to the enduring essence of the human spirit.

The work of Ruben Millares, a Cuban-American visual artist, will be one of the highlights for music lovers at the fair. His interactive sculpture of a steel ribcage will feature a center drum circle of 7 percussionists who will perform the Rumba throughout the event – a representation of the fair’s “heartbeat.” Fair goers will be invited to write on the wooden petals Millares will be incorporating to the piece.

Margulies highlighted that the women from Lotus House will also run away and join the street fair. They will be involved in every step of the way as staff, volunteers, assistant to the artists or artists themselves, working together to create a shadow painting as an interactive installation at the event.

More than anything, she added, the Wynwood Art Fair will be a spectacle with a heart, a timeless approach to fun that in the hands of the performers and the multicultural audience, will be allowed to soar.

And for some art enthusiasts the fair might just be a breath of life as it will showcase a wide diversity of art flourishing below the artistic radar screen.

“This is also about bringing artists into the public realm, about highlighting Miami talent,” said Kimberly Marrero, a New York-based guest curator for the project. “It is interesting to be an outsider, see this city in a different perspective. Because Miami is primarily known as sand and sun, people are transient and you often miss what is in your backyard. Events like this make people see what is right under their noses.”

The intensity of the response of sponsors and the art world goes to show that Miami’s art ring is growing to encompass and engage more of the local community and that it can fit a lot more under its ring.

“If art is going to have a home in Miami, that cannot happen only once a year,” said Margulies. “The Miami art world is broader than that.”

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