“Any major city wants to have organizations and institutions that respond to the local public and to the larger global community,” says Mello. “Museums and arts organizations can really reflect the identity of a city. I think our part of that is … [that PAMM] becomes a permanent location for the exchange of ideas that are progressive, innovative and social.”
Miami Dade College was a cultural pioneer when it launched Miami Book Fair International at the Wolfson Campus in the 1980s. It has extended its reach by turning the historic Freedom Tower into a headquarters for live arts programming and the Miami Film Festival International as well as a visual-arts gallery and venue for speakers from Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez to First Lady Michelle Obama.
“We seized the opportunity to make it a cultural center, but also to make it the center of what we envisage the community to be in the next five years,” says Alina Interian, MDC’s senior executive director of cultural affairs. “There is this renewed excitement in the downtown community, and we are reflecting that.”
A monthly listing of arts happenings published by the DDA has doubled from 50 to 100 events in the past year. A centerpiece of the agency’s efforts is Downtown Art Days, an annual weekend of art openings, tours, performances, public art projects and other events that winds up its second edition today.
The DDA’s Bogensperger introduced the Arthouse artists to the owners of Miami Worldcenter.
“We started getting calls from artists looking for space, who were attracted by [PAMM], and we started making calls, and introducing them to developers,” she says. “Mostly they say, ‘I get it, let’s do something.’ ”
Stepping around homeless men huddled in the sparse shade along Northeast Seventh Street, Bogensperger heads toward the new home of Primary Projects, a former Design District gallery that sponsored many of the murals that fill Wynwood. Inside, paint-splattered co-owner Books Bischof is preparing the space, also provided rent free by Miami Worldcenter, for its debut this weekend.
“Downtown is where it’s at,” says Bischof. “Everyone was asking, ‘Where are we gonna go?’ Everyone was looking for a new area. But I think Miami was always looking for a downtown city area.”
Among the more enthusiastic business supporters of the arts is Sean McCormick, whose family has filled McCormick Place, a former U.S. Customs warehouse on the Miami River, with a design firm and artist studios. He is hoping that young, affluent, culture-hungry downtown residents will flock there for the First Friday Art Walks he’s started.
“Ultimately I see a shift happening here in downtown, these residential towers filling up with high-end renters or owners and a niche that needs to be filled,” McCormick says. “Wynwood does a fantastic job, but it’s been pricing a lot of these art endeavors out. I see it burning out up there and I think it’s all going to come downtown.”
The area is still a patchwork, with independent artists and groups trickling into empty spaces around the big institutional building blocks of PAMM, YoungArts, the Arsht Center and the Freedom Tower.