For my friend and co-worker Lulu, bein' part of an authentic art community is a big deal. Her first experience of teamwork was back in Montreal in ’97 when she was part of a group of thirty people buildin’ trade booths for the American Chemical Society, a client of Fresh Fruit & Architecture, G’s firm. I remember thinkin’ at the time that G might have been inhaling too much of that spray mount glue he uses cause how was this ragtag bunch he had hired for the job ever gonna accomplish what amounted to buildin’ the pyramids? They were swaggerin’, bunglin’ and fumblin’ architecture students, construction joes full of beer, cigarettes and profanities, gawky high school kids so wet behind the ears they left a trail of greasy milk solids behind them, an eccentric pot smokin’ documentary film maker/boat builder, an ex-coke addict who wrote insultin’ graffiti about the group on the workshop walls - you get the picture. They built two gigantic trade booths (least ways that’s what they called ‘em - one looked more like a Wright brothers plane crash to me), then disassembled ‘em, packed ‘em up in two 18 wheelers and drove ‘em down to Dallas, Texas where they reassembled ‘em in 5 short days at the convention center. Those booths received plenty of accolades and Lulu was overwhelmed by the experience. She realized that everyone has a spark of genius deeply embedded within themselves that was brought out by the group effort. Since then she has been seekin’ out , joinin’ up with and foundin’ artist collectives. Her and G founded Roy Street Collective in Montreal and ran that for 10 years. When they came down to Miami they joined up with the Bakehouse Art Complex, which came recommended by their new and fabulous friend, Myra Wexler – art enthusiast. Lulu and G were very impressed by the warm reception they received upon first meetin’ Lauren Wagner , one of the directors. Next thing I knew G was buildin’ a studio/showroom outside in the complex’s backyard.
Now the backyard of the Bakehouse has always had some problems - mainly that art lovers visitin’ the inside never manage to find the outside – a frustratin’ problem for the artists back there. Well G and Lulu were determined to fix this problem and so they invited some of the backyard artists over to their place for dinner. (G can’t think unless he knows he’s gonna get fed). Well, the group decided to drum up interest in the backyard artists by puttin’ on “Baked” a group show for Art Basel that took place outside the Bakehouse. You can find out a lot about a person when you ask them to participate – especially these flighty artistic types who can talk the talk but can they walk the walk. Take the McKnight brothers for instance - Don and Robert. Since the “Baked” event was last minute and they were committed to various other Basel events, time wouldn’t allow much more than transportin’ their pieces to the “Baked” show. Fair enough – no false promises. But then they showed up and painted walls, swept floors and hung paintings. G and Lulu were flattered to no end cause the McKnight brothers were authentic Miami artists. Why each time G and Lulu drove down I95 on their way to the Bakehouse they looked up in wonder and respect as they passed Rob McKnight’s huge mosaic mural of BB King. I already knew those brothers were special. They were always helpin’ people out when no one was noticin’, cleaning up the grounds at the Bakehouse and stuff like that.
Anyway the “Baked” event worked out real well and the backyard artists decided to inaugurate “Art in the Yard” a second Friday art show in the Bakehouse backyard featurin’ roasted pig and yucca cause like G, most people will do anything, even look at art, if there’s food involved. Well, that too was a huge success. They were over a hundred people out back, kids and dogs, chowin’ on pork, lookin’ at art and dancin’ to the music – a veritable inner city street party. You can imagine how excited those backyard artists were with the results. They had banded together and made a fine art party – all of it done on the DIY – with no financial help from the Bakehouse. They were a tight community now – they could go on to conquer the world with pig and art - Lulu was all jazzed up.
You can imagine her surprise when she arrived at the Bakehouse for the second edition of “Art in the Yard” only to find Robert and Don McKnight packin’ up their studio and movin’ out. Seems they were behind 3 months in their rent and cause of that they were gettin’ the boot. If you ask me it’s a big mystery cause I heard a rumor that someone from the Bakehouse inside been 4 months behind and they’re still there. But you know how gossip is - sometimes the hens'll get a hold of a juicy worm and dress it up with whipped cream, peanuts and chocolate sauce - anything to distract them from their real work. As usual the McKnight brothers are handlin’ the situation with grace and aplomb. Question is – what will happen to the Bakehouse backyard community without these valuable members? I guess we'll see at the next “Art in the Yard” event set for Friday, April 8 startin’ at 7pm. Amongst other features they gonna have a participatory paintin' installation - and that's no rumor - that's straight from the pickup's mouth. I’m hopin’ you’ll make it cause soon after the team of yours truly, Ole Blu, G and Lulu will be makin’ the great trek up north to the wild, mysterious island of Newfoundland. No matter what – life’s a big adventure so bookmark this here blog and I’ll continue to keep you informed and entertained.
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The Miss Yip kitchen staff weren't that excited about the art!
These days I been explorin’ Miami Beach and Safety Harbor on Florida’s west coast. Lulu had a show at Buck 15, a bar above Miss Yip, a Chinese restaurant in trendy Lincoln Road Mall. Durin' the day the cooks and kitchen workers nap upstairs on the bar’s couches. G steppin’ round them hangin’ pictures made a great comment on art. Goin’ back home from the openin’ we got caught in a detour cause of a fire. Now, I’m ready to admit I’m stubborn as a mule with a curious disposition - for that matter so is G. Together we make a kinda “superhero in the city” complex. Thing is - I just can’t help myself. When I see a DO NOT ENTER sign you can be sure that Ole Blu here is gonna enter. Anyway it wasn’t until we turned the corner and a crowd of bystanders screamed and whistled at us, that I reckoned we’d made a wrong move. Nobody was out there to stop us until we poked our way to the end of the road where a policeman directin’ traffic gave us the ‘who’s this wiseguy’ look . On our way back the crowd cheered cause we’d gotten away clean - once again provin' that slow can get you places speed’ll never see.
Ridin' Alligator Alley.
When we ride the open road the superhero complex evaporates into the natural landscape that borders Alligator Alley, the road cuttin’ through the Florida Everglades, connectin' the east coast with the west. I haven’t seen any real alligators but it’s a pretty ride, what with all the birds and cypress trees all decked out with air plants and lookin’ like a Dr. Seuss drawin’. Maybe they call this Alligator Alley cause of all the SUV’s sportin’ Gator football team decals. They act like they own the road. Or maybe they’re thinkin’ that decal makes them part of the Gator offence and they can tackle their way past all the rest of us. So much for nature. How I came to do all this back and forth is cause G met an interestin’ couple, Todd and Kiaralinda at the “Baked” show (see blog entry 12/15/2010) durin’ Miami’s Art Basel. No sooner had we packed up that show than we hit the road for Safety Harbor, five hours away, to pay them a visit. I heard Lulu ask G some questions like who these people were and where were they gonna stay but G just kept sayin’ “dunno”. Lulu didn’t care. That’s the way these two are – if they sense adventure in the air, then they’re just gonna jump in Ole Blu and chase it down.
Bowlin' Ball art.
“Jackpot!” said Lulu when we arrived at Whimzey, Todd and Kiaralinda’s house in Safety Harbor. I guess she could tell from the artful mosaics and color crazy painted bowlin’ balls encirclin’ the property that this was gonna be an amazin’ adventure. Well, turned out when Todd and Kiaralinda saw G’s architectural models at “Baked” they figured he might be the one to design the new art and music center they had in mind. Well that certainly put a spark under G’s butt, I can tell you, ‘cause the moment we got back to Miami he dove into his studio, head first and proceeded to assemble a model.
The SHAM model.
Lulu and G presented it two weeks later at Whimsy where a special mystery guest was performin' in a lawn concert. The guest turned out to be Jeff Daniels the movie actor and who is also a kind of comic minstrel who drives across the USA raisin’ money for his pet project and supportin’ grass root art ventures. With the help of the National Endowment for the Arts, Jeff Daniels founded, the Purple Rose Theatre, a non-profit venture that boosted the economy of the small town of Chelsea, Michigan. You could say that for Jeff Daniels art is god and he works hard to convert people. As he walked past me up the pathway to the stage I heard him ask himself, “Did I play yet?” Ha! He must’ve just come off a string of one-nighters. Still he was 100% pro and everyone got a good chuckle. I went to bed after the concert but Lulu and G stuck around to meet all Kiaralinda and Todd’s friends and supporters who were very enthusiastic about the Safety Harbor Art & Music Center – or SHAM as they are now callin’ it. Judgin’ by the spring in my gas petal as we gallop along to Safety Harbor I’d say that this is a good vibe project and that the work ahead will be hard but it will also be fun.
What’s up for the dynamic trio of Ole Blu, G & Lulu next time? Check back in a coupla weeks and I’ll let you know.
Lulu's paintin's up at Buck 15
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