Car plunges through Little Havana art gallery and owner tries to pick up the pieces

05/13/2013 4:36 PM

05/13/2013 4:48 PM

This is not how an art gallery is supposed to look: bright paintings amid the ruins.

Tire streaks, shards of glass, oil and gasoline shared space with works featuring flowers and foliage, some damaged beyond repair, hanging precariously from the walls of Galeria Adelmo.

Antonio Del Moral tiptoed through what remained of his 3-year-old business.

Early Monday morning an apparently drunken driver came thundering through his Little Havana art gallery, smashing everything in its path and only coming to a halt when it reached the back wall of the gallery’s art studio.

Amid the rubble: the white Express Men logo hat of the driver whose car gutted the gallery, 1165 SW Sixth St. in Little Havana.

Del Moral, 71, woke Monday morning to a missed call alerting him that the alarm in his gallery had gone off. He saw the call at 6:30 a.m. and immediately rushed to the shop.

What he saw left him in shock.

“When I came in here and I saw this I started crying because it just was too much for me to take,” Del Moral said, standing amid the mess.

At about 12:30 a.m., the driver was heading east on Southwest Sixth Street before bulldozing through the concrete and glass of the gallery’s facade — taking paintings, sculptures, ceramics and furniture with it.

Oil and gasoline mingled with the ruins of tapestries and paintings on the ground of Galeria Adelmo. The front wall was left reclining against the right wall of the gallery, its paintings slashed and ruined.

Only the paintings on the outer walls survived.

The owner could not give an estimate yet on the loss.

Police officers, patrolling nearby, heard the crash and rushed to the scene. The driver was trying to get out of the wreckage. He was arrested, Del Moral said.

A Miami police spokesman on Monday afternoon could not provide details of the crash and did not release the name of the driver.

The car missed the column outside the shop by three feet, Del Moral said. Had the column been hit, the entire building would have collapsed.

The left corner of the gallery was unscathed and along with it a small statue of St. Barbara that stood near the gallery entrance, only a foot from where the vehicle hit.

Across the street from the gallery: St Barbara Old Catholic Church.

A religious man, Del Moral put the saint in his gallery in the hope that she would help him.

“I left that for protection for everyone who comes in so nothing happens to anyone,” Del Moral said.

No one was harmed in the incident.

“If she could only talk, huh?” said Michael Hellem, co-owner of the gallery and Del Moral’s friend of 32 years.

Hellem said he’s not a religious man, but he said the damage could have been worse if the car busted through the studio wall.

“That was a sign to keep painting,” he said.

Nearby artists consoled the distraught owner.

“It’ll turn out for the best in the long term,” said Daniel “Krave” Fila, owner of the nearby El Fresco art gallery. “I know it’s hard now.”

Nothing like this has happened at the gallery since Del Moral opened it in 2010 after his retirement from interior designing.

“I painted since I was a kid and I thought this was my opportunity to do something that I like,” he said.

His shop represents eight student and professional artists. Del Moral also sells his own art. He sees the gallery as a way to showcase new artists. The art ranges from about $400 to $2,000. The most valuable pieces, located on the outer walls, were unharmed.

When Del Moral saw the little space for rental at No. 1165, he knew it the right niche for his art gallery. Now his niche is gone, he said. The gallery will be closed for at least three months.

“It hasn’t hit me yet,” he said. “It feels like the death of something that you really cherish.

“Everybody says maybe it’s the start of something new, so we’ll see, right?”

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