Bakehouse Art Complex marks 35 years with big plans for the future
The founding artists are pictured in front of the Art Deco-era bakery building in Miami that they named The Bakehouse. (Photo courtesy of Bakehouse Art Complex)
When Chire Regans was creating a mural to cover 245 feet of the outside wall of Miami’s Bakehouse Art Complex in July 2020, something interesting happened.
Her public art memorial project, “Say Their Names,” on the west-facing wall along Northwest Sixth Avenue attracted the attention of passersby who watched as she painted the names of people lost to hate crimes and gun, police, gender and domestic violence.
Then they would comment, said Laura Novoa, curatorial and public programs associate.
“They’d say, ‘Where’s the name of my uncle, my brother, my cousin?’ ” Novoa remembers.
It became a community effort, she said, with people helping Regans (also known as VantaBlack) add names. “Say Their Names” took six months to complete and was unveiled on Dec. 5, 2020.
The story is illustrative of the direction in which the nonprofit artist studio and residency complex is headed as it marks 35 years in what’s become known as Wynwood Norte, a 35-block area that runs from Northwest 29th to 36th streets and Interstate-95 to North Miami Avenue.
Cathy Leff, director of the Bakehouse Art Complex, said Regans’ mural and a second one, entitled “Ode to Bakehouse” by poet Arsimmer McCoy and visual artist Chris Friday, use art in outdoor spaces as a way to invite the neighborhood in, so to speak.
“Ode,” situated on the building’s north-facing wall along Northwest 33rd Street, is expected to be unveiled Friday, Nov. 12, as part of the complex’s 35th anniversary festivities.
“This is an effort that we’ve been very dedicated to that, both literally and metaphorically, breaks down barriers between us and the neighborhood,” Novoa said.
The Bakehouse campus encompasses 2.3 acres that wrap around Northwest 32nd Street. The primary building, which houses artists’ studios, galleries, a print shop, ceramics, woodworking and welding facilities was once home to an industrial Art Deco-era bakery built in 1926.
Leff said its founders, who got together a contingent of other artists, had the foresight to realize that the only way to have permanence was to own their own site.
“Thirty-five years ago, a group of artists recognized when they were evicted from a rental space that they had gotten kicked out once, and it wasn’t going to happen again,” Leff said.
A warranty deed shows a $10 transaction in 1985 between The Bakehouse Art Complex Inc., and the Miami Baking Co. According to a 1998 New York Times story, the appraisal of the land was $900,000.
The Bakehouse group then reportedly received grant money of $225,000 from the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County to ensure the building could be retrofitted and renovated to create a working space for artists.
Now, Leff said, the time has come for Bakehouse to move into its next chapter, which includes growth not only for the organization itself, but for the neighborhood that surrounds it.
A sold-out fundraiser on Friday, Nov. 12, with tickets at $500 per person, kicks into gear a full-steam-ahead approach to a strategic plan adopted by the board on Jan. 28, 2019. And a recent green light for rezoning has Leff and the board chomping at the bit to get moving.
“We realized that we had an underutilized piece of real estate and, if we could change its use, that potentially we could add housing for artists,” Leff said. “I started talking to the city to see if there was an appetite and if this was something that was viable.”
In March 2021, Miami commissioners approved the Wynwood Norte Neighborhood Revitalization District. As part of the overarching plan for the area, Bakehouse’s application for rezoning and land-use conversion was also approved.
Most importantly, Leff said, this will further the vision of Bakehouse administrators and its board to build “a significant amount of attainable housing” on the complex for its artists as part of a five-year plan.
“The rezoning of the property and the change in land-use gave us a lifeline,” Leff said.
The plan includes renovating the nearly 100-year-old building as a 21st century art-making facility,” Leff said.
On Nov. 2, Bakehouse received $200,000 from the Jorge Perez Family Foundation’s CreArte program. The money is, in part, to bolster master planning efforts for the historic building renovation, expand the complex facilities and ensure its long-term sustainability.
“We were recipients in their first round of funding—two years ago– receiving $100,000 over the two years. Now, we just were awarded another two- year grant for $200,000 ($100,000 per year) to continue to provide affordable spaces for artists to work, as well as advance the plans for our future campus,” Leff said. “This is a very significant gift for us . . . We are overjoyed by the support and affirmation that we are on the right path and filling an important gap in the ecosystem.”
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation also assisted with the development of the five-year “Vision of the Future” strategic plan, according to Leff, providing a $150,000 grant that brought in curators to work with artists in creating a site-specific project to help Bakehouse become a more integrated part of the neighborhood.
At its 35th anniversary celebration on Nov. 12, as part of its fundraising and revitalization efforts, Bakehouse will unveil the new Fresh Goods Gallery. Within it, the exhibition, “Fresh Goods for Sale,” is scheduled to open to the public at noon Saturday, Nov. 13. Leff said “Fresh Goods for Sale” will be a pop-up of sorts now and again inside the Bakehouse, but items will be available for purchase continually online.
It’s an extension of a virtual gallery created during the COVID-19 pandemic, to sell donated works by Bakehouse artists and help sustain the complex and its studios. The in-person Fresh Goods space will also feature vintage and contemporary photographs from Miami-based art collector Martin Z. Margulies. Margulies donated 55 photographs from his collection for the organization to sell and keep the proceeds.
Also on Nov. 13, Bakehouse will present a group exhibition of 25 of its artists. “Viewpoints: Expressions of an artist community” is co-curated by Novoa and visual artist and Bakehouse board member Edouard Duval-Carrié.
Both “Fresh Goods for Sale” and “Viewpoints” will be on display through March 2022.
At any given time, Bakehouse has about 100 artists working in-house: 70 artists have studio space; some are in shared spaces. Rents vary from low-cost to wholly subsidized.
Another 30 artists have associate member status. “They are able to use our facilities 24 hours, they just don’t have a dedicated space,” Leff said.
Miami artist Rhea Leonard, who arrived at Bakehouse after graduating from Florida International University, said her subsidized studio was bestowed to her in the fall of 2018.
“I count my blessings,” she said. “If I didn’t have the studio, I wouldn’t have been in the orbit of the people who have really helped me progress as far as I have since graduate school.”
Leonard hopes to one day live and work at Bakehouse. She currently lives about an hour away and remembers having experiences in artist residencies where she was able to be in the same space as her work: “Being able to wake up and not have to go too far, or you get an idea and think you want to go right to the studio and work on it . . . that would be a gift.”
“Fresh Goods For Sale,” Fresh Goods Gallery, from Nov. 13, 2021, to March 13, 2022
“Viewpoints: Expressions of an artist community,” Audrey Love Gallery, from Nov. 13, 2021, to March 27, 2022
HOURS: Studios open to the public daily from noon to 5 p.m.
WHERE: Bakehouse Art Complex, 561 NW 32nd St., Miami
SAFETY PROTOCOLS: Masks are required at all times, both indoors and outdoors at the Bakehouse Art Complex. One-way traffic flow in indoor galleries in place to ensure social distancing.
INFORMATION: 305-576-2828; bacfl.org