Art venue moves to bigger space in Design District

Swampspace, an alternative art space in Miami’s Design District, is making moving to a new location that will double its size and increase its visibility to visitors to the neighborhood.

The space is the brainchild of Oliver Sanchez, an artist and sculpture fabricator who has worked with local and international art stars. It began in 2008 when Sanchez moved his studio to Design District after a stint in North Miami. As a way to be a good neighbor to the arts community, he welcomed artists to use the extra space in his studio as a venue for their ideas.

“Swampspace was created in response to a need for more community-minded art spaces and venues in the area,” says Sanchez.

Since then, the space has become one of the neighborhood’s hidden gems, a grassroots effort that aims to help bring the work of local artists to the community. With essentially no budget of any kind, it has been able hold to a number of exhibitions, performances and events that have showcased emerging and established talents from South Florida.

Swampspace is democratic in its approach to featuring artists. It has become a space for emerging artists to show their work for the first time. It has hosted group shows featuring students from New World School of the Arts and Design Architecture Senior High. At the same time, it also has hosted exhibitions featuring the works of major Miami artists such as Bhakti Baxter and Daniel Arsham.

The new location is the third since Swampspace’s inception and unquestionably the best.

Its new home is a storefront at 3940 N. Miami Ave., on a busy street featuring many popular shops and restaurants. The space itself is twice as large as the previous location and far more inviting.

It is also now just steps away from Locust Projects, an established non-profit alternative art space, and the de la Cruz Collection, which showcases works from the private collection of renowned collectors Carlos and Rosa de la Cruz. The close proximity to two popular art locales allows the new space to have the opportunity to discover new audiences from those who frequent those institutions.

Inaugurating the space is Low Tide Shopping, a group exhibition curated by Gustavo Oviedo featuring a roster of artists from South Florida. The title of the show refers to the act of retrieving debris from the ocean during low tide. Oviedo says the show is focused on how these artists depict Miami, particularly in relation to the bodies of water feature prominently in our lives.

The exhibition “is interested in the relationship between the people who live in Miami and the water. With these group of artists, I was able to find works that appear to be the product of living in a coastal city.”

Among the works are paintings by Jason Hedges that appear to be abstract at first but are actually the artist’s depictions of the scars boat propellers leave in ocean environments, which can be seen in satellite imagery in programs like Google Maps. Emmett Moore created a sculpture work specifically for the show, a metal sign recovered from the Miami Marine Stadium which the artist manipulated by adding geometric folds. Johnny Laderer showcases a wall installation that creates a smiley face created using buoys and features a quote from To Fortune by Robert Herrick, which some said was the first use of the smiley emoticon.

After the closing of Low Tide Shopping, Sanchez says he has a slate of shows and events that are already in the works that will continue to showcase a diverse array of artists from South Florida. He hopes to grow the number of events with the help of a Knight Arts Challenge arts grant which he is currently a finalist for.

While Sanchez says he is hoping Swampspace will grow, he promises that there will be more of the same kind of events that have made the space so unique. More than anything, he hopes that Swampspace will become more of a social club.

Places like Swampspace “give you a sense of not only community but also family,” Sanchez said.