Opa-locka is catching art fair’s huge wave

Each year, the Basel storm rolls in over Miami’s fertile grounds with its whirlwind of gallerists, collectors, satellite fairs, avant-garde off-Basel events and private VIP parties. The affect that Basel has had on greater Miami since the Switzerland-based franchise was imported to Miami Beach in 2002 is undeniable. After the storm blows over, what does Basel leave behind? How does Basel affect our local creative infrastructure beyond the single week that everyone in the visual arts community spends all year preparing for?

Many communities in Miami, including Little Haiti, Coconut Grove, Opa-locka, Liberty City and Overtown, are using Basel’s momentum to plant seeds that will strengthen their community’s creative economies and use.

The Little Haiti cultural complex always delivers engaging programming during and beyond Art Basel week. For the past few years during Basel, it has presented the Global Caribbean Exhibition, which has featured the work of Edouard Duval-Carrié. In July, the Caribbean Marketplace had its grand opening and provides support and a beautiful venue for artisans and vendors.

The Yeelen Gallery is an inconspicuous jewel in Little Haiti, home to a curated collection that includes dynamic contemporary artists such as Jerome Soimaud, James Clover, Tim Okamura, Joseph Adolphe and Michael Sole. Yeelen also collaborates with institutions and arts groups with a parallel vision for cultivating robust cultural dialogue in Little Haiti.

A few miles north, Willie Logan, Stephanie Baldwin-Williams, the Opa-locka Community Development Corporation (OLCDC) and the city of Opa-locka are working collaboratively to foster a creative economy that supports the untapped innovators in the Opa-locka community.

OLCDC has developed a strategic plan that was initiated in 2010 and has established the Department of Arts and Creative Industries to support a public-arts program that empowers the creativity of local artists and artisans. OLCDC will provide project management and creative direction for the incorporation of artist-driven, site-specific works and creative programming throughout Opa-locka’s landscape. This initiative aims to challenge and inspire community members to imagine their work and daily lives from an unconventional and potentially transformative perspective.

Since Opa-locka is a small community with a population of just 15,000 residents, the impact of this initiative will be directly felt as programs are developed and implemented throughout the year. In the past, Opa-locka’s annual Art of Transformation has been a single-day affair. This year, Opa-locka is projecting this celebration of its revitalization and rebirth into the community to get its residents involved. The Art of Transformation Series includes a contemporary visual- and performing-arts exhibition curated by Tumelo Mosaka and a talk by urban planner/designer Emmanuel Pratt, who has done extensive work with aquaponics and urban farming in Chicago for many years. An aquaponics and urban farm will be housed at the newly established Arts and Recreation Center next year.

This year Basel goers should go beyond the traditional boundaries of Basel events and get a taste of the unexpected.

Mikhaile Solomon is director of public art for the Opa-locka Community Development Corp.