Crime

Little Haiti gallery vandalized with swastika during Miami Art Week

A Miami art gallery was vandalized with a swastika and vulgar language on Saturday morning during Miami Art Week.
A Miami art gallery was vandalized with a swastika and vulgar language on Saturday morning during Miami Art Week. Photo provided to the Miami Herald

A Little Haiti art gallery that focuses on the “celebration of diversity” was vandalized Saturday morning with a spray-painted swastika, the F-word and other unintelligible symbols.

A responding police officer said the vandalism at the Yeelen Gallery on Northwest 54th Street appeared to be an act of hate, according to the gallery’s owner. It happened during Miami Art Week, a countywide event that attracts large crowds every year to pop-up installations and gallery tours.

Karla Ferguson, founder and CEO of the Yeelen Group, said she noticed the graffiti — silver paint on a black exterior wall facing the street — about 10 a.m. Saturday and called police.

Ferguson said her gallery at 294 NW 54th St., which advocates for empowering the marginalized, appears to have been targeted.

“I’m a black woman with a strong platform and reputation for activism,” she said. “In life there are often no coincidences.”

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Yeelen Gallery owner Karla Ferguson in a Miami Herald file photo. Her Little Haiti gallery was vandalized with a swastika on Saturday during Miami Art Week. Photo provided to the Miami Herald

The gallery had been closed all week because Ferguson has been busy with speaking engagements for Art Week and is preparing for a future show. She said police will keep an eye on the property in the coming days.

The Yeelen Group, which Ferguson opened in 2008, gets its name from a phrase in the Bambara language of Mali in West Africa that means “brightness” or “light.”

The gallery has received acclaim for its use of figuration realism and social practice art styles to depict the African diaspora. In 2015, throngs of spectators came to the gallery for its “Back to Black” Art Basel show.

Ferguson said she appreciated the empathy shown to her by police. A Miami Police spokeswoman confirmed that police received a report of vandalism at the gallery and responded to the location about noon. No other information was immediately available.

Despite the defacement, Ferguson said she is focused on her mission.

“The hate is real and we need to fight back.”

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Yeelen Gallery on Tuesday, October 21, 2014. Al Diaz Miami Herald Staff
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