I recently returned from a 5 day trip to Miami – a trip that coincided with Art Basel and Design Miami – but was primarily about exploring the possibilities of a new market. After 17 years in the Berkshires we’re spreading our wings and 2012 should find us with a foundation presence in Miami. So here’s a confession – I had never been to Miami before – my impressions of the city were as a pure outsider and I came away impressed.
Why Miami? We’ve been getting this question a lot in the last month. Here’s why – it’s a city, it’s creative, it has a vibrant cultural community, it invests heavily in the arts, and it is filled with color. And of course – it’s not the NorthEast. There are certain people here at Studio Two who are not big fans of winter (this group does not include yours truly) but it sure is nice to get off the plane into the tropics.
I arrived without expectations – in fact I was ready to be disappointed, but I was not. We explored the city from top to bottom, over to Miami Beach and South Beach – and we barely slept. The non-stop nightlife culture of Miami tied with the art crowds and energy of Art Basel meant that everywhere you turned there was something going on – an opening, a party, a show. And everywhere we went, we found a vibrant, engaged, creative community working in a culture of permission – and this was the most unexpected thing.
We spent a lot of time in the Design District which is north of downtown and midtown Miami – an area that was historically about light manufacturing, offices and warehouses but fell into hard times. The district has been revitalized by the very dynamic Craig Robbins, who clearly understands the role that creativity has in development and creating opportunity. The mix of offices, retail, restaurants is still a work in progress – and that’s the best part. You really get a sense that the answer to the question, “hey, how about we put a cool mixed-use arts center right here on this block” would be an unequivocal “yes”.
We spent some time in Wynwood as well – an area just South and West of the Design District – which is being revitalized by an innovative project called “Wynwood Walls” – developer and creative visionary Tony Goldman has taken this blighted warehouse district and turned it into a giant public art project – hiring some of the greatest graffiti artists in the world to decorate these vast blank canvases. We went down one evening to walk through the area and it was literally standing room only – people of every age, a rich mix of the overlapping cultures, and a palpable excitement and engagement. It was fantastic. Again, you could imagine another developer or community looking at the Graffiti and fighting it tooth and nail, trying to achieve a uniform row of grey, utilitarian boxes. But not Miami.
We’ve seen the idea of “yes” work here in the Berkshires in the last 10 years – the revitalization of Pittsfield and Great Barrington and North Adams have all been, in part, to creating a culture of permission – dismantling the liquor license monopolies, allowing kids to skateboard on the sidewalk, a willingness to host a street party for the film festival. But compared to the sense of entrepreneurship and opportunity that you could see at every turn in Mimai, this region has a long way to go – and may never get there. It’s not in our DNA as New England to let go – we are constrained by our own maturity, history, and solitude.
For me, I know that what I am looking for in 2012 and beyond is “yes” – I want to find those dynamic, adventurous partners out there who believe that trying, doing, and taking some risks in the process is the best way to pursue a creative future. Thanks – Kevin