From inside a penthouse high above downtown Miami, a group of local artists has done a remarkable feat: With just several weeks of planning, they have banded together to create a collective called Meetinghouse, which is making its debut with a group exhibition that hopes to connect the divide between art, architecture and design.
Meetinghouse is just one of a number of local, community-minded artistic initiatives that utilize artists’ innate resourcefulness and ingenuity to create programming that engages art lovers without the assistance of grants or other existing arts institutions. But what separates Meetinghouse from other artist-led initiatives in the community is its interdisciplinary approach that those involved have branded with a manifesto and an economic model that’s surprisingly collectivist.
The idea for Meetinghouse originated with a conversation between Jenny Brillhart and University of Miami architecture professor Veruska Vasconez, who offered her use of a space in downtown Miami to do a solo exhibition of her work. However, that idea soon involved into a collective led by Brillhart, Vasconez, writer Molly McGreevy and mixed-media artist Moira Holohan.
For the inspiration behind their group, Meetinghouse turned to earlier collectives such as the Roycroft and Shaker communities. These communities, according to the organization, had a multidisciplinary approach that embraced all forms of art. Like these movements, Meetinghouse embraces multiple practices including art, architecture and design for a more inclusive approach that focuses on craft and process of creating works. The result is an exhibition that focuses on the physical manifestation of an artist’s craft, an approach where artists create “from head to hand,” as Brillhart says.
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With less than a month’s notice, the group gathered a collection of nearly 30 artists (most local and some national), culling from their recent bodies of work. Despite the short time frame and the sizable number of participants in the show, all of the works are intimately tied to the show’s mission to showcase makers and their objects.
“We chose people who we really felt represented the idea of the collective,” McGreevy said.
For its inaugural exhibition, Meetinghouse is hosting a show in the penthouse of the Huntington Building in downtown Miami. Built in the 1920s, it is a key example of the elaborate period architecture built during the city’s land boom (which soon went bust with the arrival of the Great Depression). The newly renovated penthouse is a remarkable sight in itself; its exposed brick, vaulted ceilings and large windows with views of downtown make it the perfect setting for an exhibition where many works are from the architectural and design disciplines.
Among the visual artists on display is Kathleen Hudspeth, a local printmaker, professor and founder of Turn-Based Press. For her work, she utilizes a process that combined traditional printmaking and digital scanning in an exceptionally metaphysical way, creating works that look like simple single-color squares that might otherwise appear quickly made but have gone through an extensive, labor-intensive process. Thus the process, rather than its pictorial qualities, is the highlight of the work.
Representing architecture is Jacob Brillhart, a local architect and brother of Meetinghouse co-founder Jenny Brillhart. On display is an architectural model of the home he designed for himself in Miami. The creation of a model is an intricate process in and of itself, one that few recognize.
For design, several pieces of furniture are on display, including a minimally designed maple plywood bench 32 feet in length by Chris Page appropriately titled “Long Bench” and several pieces of furniture from Austin Matheson, a descendant of William John Matheson (whom Matheson Hammock Park is named after).
Undoubtedly one of the most ambitious ideas of Meetinghouse is its unique revenue-sharing model. Artists in the show will receive 50 percent of the proceeds of any sale, which is the traditional cut for most artists when selling works through a gallery. However, rather than the other 50 percent going to gallery owners, it will be split evenly among all artists participating in the show. Their mission is far removed from the explosive art market economy that has benefited mostly collectors and is on full display during Art Basel Miami Beach.
Although the group originally had plans to move elsewhere for its next shows, it will be holding three more exhibitions in the historic penthouse sometime before the end of summer 2015. Those shows will likely feature a plethora of different artists and types of work, Meetinghouse founders say.
“By showcasing process-based work, I hope that visitors will find the work accessible so more than just the art world people say they understand it or think they understand it. Everyone can appreciate the skill behind these works,” Jenny Brillhart said.