Monthly Cultural Fridays/Viernes Culturales 15 years strong
Transforming Little Havana and its main drag Calle Ocho (S.W. 8th Street) into a cultural landscape where people congregate the last Friday of the month has endured 15 years, and still going strong. The event’s longevity is proof that this primarily Hispanic community welcomes celebrating their artistic roots.
Director Pati Vargas was brought in to head up Cultural Fridays, or Viernes Culturales, by Vivi Greer-Digon, Viernes board member and director of Raices Cultural Center, a division of Parks Recreation & Open Spaces. It was the perfect match given, Pati owns Pati Vargas Entertainment, a premier artist agency that books musicians, costumed performers, and all types of entertainers.
“I love being able to bring so many fabulous musicians and artists to such a great cultural festival month after month,” Vargas says.
She credits the solid visitors and patrons who come month after month over the event’s history for the success. Also, for the past for years they’ve had a trolley stopping at train stations in Midtown every 15 minutes to bring families and visitors down to Calle Ocho. They also keep the area hotel concierges informed of the festival. “I dare say we are the oldest running free arts and culture festival in Miami,” she says.
Serving to enrich an otherwise underprivileged area, Viernes has turned the area into a cultural hub with more than 25 art galleries, the historic Tower Theater where first-rate foreign films are screened year-round as well as major Miami Film Festival screenings. Overall, Viernes has helped attract over 1,000 national and international visitors to the area daily. “There is a great deal of pride in the effect our cultural event has had on the area overall,” she says.
A truly committed board has also been instrumental in the event’s success, says Vargas. She credits their perseverance, in spite of constantly facing financial constraints. “We have a festival no matter what; we showcase art and music every month.
As such, the festival has evolved with Vargas herself incorporating a few new additions including The Little Havana Art Walk, which she calls “my brainchild along with the artists of the Futurama Building, who felt a gallery hop on a different day of the month would be welcomed by the people of Miami.” The event is billed as a small gallery evening for the serious art shoppers, and is separate from Viernes Culturales.
However, what is part of Viernes is the new writer’s corner, something that has done very well with the event regulars. She implemented this component last year and they are doing great with this new addition, she says. Authors come from all over Miami on the monthly Fridays and they do a book signing in the lobby of the Futurama Building.
Check out Viernes Culturales every last Friday of the month. Visit their Website at http://www.viernesculturales.org/to learn more about the area and this event.