Knight Arts Partnership: Bas Fisher Invitational
Naomi Fisher and Jim Drain, two coordinators of Bas Fisher Invitational.
Founded four years ago by Miami artists Hernan Bas and Naomi Fisher, the Bas Fisher Invitational is an independent gallery offering artists unrestricted freedom. Since its inaugural exhibition the space has earned a solid reputation as a thought-provoking venue that consistently provides the community with challenging shows of fresh and exciting work.
Currently run by artists Naomi Fisher and Jim Drain with Kathryn Marks and Agatha Wara, Bas Fisher Invitational has thus far hosted solo shows by no less than 23 artists, in addition to curated group shows such as ‘CoOperate’, featuring 41 local artists, and ‘Mod 11’ which consisted of work inspired by artist interactions with incarcerated teenage girls.
Recently, the were fears that the space’s lease would not be renewed owing to commercial development, but now with a staggering $150,000 grant from the Knight Arts Partnership, its standing has been brought to the fore. In a statement publicized by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, it is claimed that “the grant will support the gallery’s operational costs and the creation of its website to attract a broader swath of artists and aficionados. The founders want the space to become a self-sufficient institution that will inspire and galvanize Miami’s creative consciousness.” We interviewed Naomi Fisher and Jim Drain to find out more:
New life has been breathed into an otherwise threatened space, but will Bas Fisher Invitational remain in the Buena Vista Building?
Jim Drain: The BFI would not have started without Craig Robbins’ and DACRA’s help. Now, the space would not be able to continue without the Knight Foundation Arts Partnership Grant. It would be great to be able to stay in our space in the Buena Vista Building but we also want the Design District to do well. The short answer things are still being determined and the BFI is flexible.
You now have the opportunity to expand upon previous programming. What improvements can we expect in regard to Bas Fisher Invitational exhibitions?
JD: Don’t expect gold plated door knobs and vintage champagne. We have a lot of
infrastructural improvements we need to change to make everything kosher. The
biggest thing we are excited about is overhauling our website and being able to
help artists with shipping costs.
Naomi Fisher: One great thing about doing this space is how it has really brought the community together to help fill in the gaps. Artist Tao Rey has always custom made our vinyl lettering, DACRA has made sure there is a bar downstairs every second Saturday, the Moore Space used to bring us the leftovers from their sushi boats, Kathryn Marks has been helping us connect the dots…. We are still a no frills operation and will be counting on community support to keep us going. The next month is about us focusing on creating a stable structure to work from. In January we will have a press release that announces our future plans.
Will you now be offering residencies for artists and inviting curators?
JD: We have offered residencies in conjunction with the Moore Space for a few artists. We really
enjoyed importing new blood to Miami. We’d like to continue that and have been
talking with a few people to coordinate a similar arrangement.
NF: Mike Taylor, a Providence based artist we showed in 2007, came to Miami for a month long residency and liked it so much that he is officially moving here next month.
You both have a wealth of resources outside of Miami. Has this grant helped to open up channels of those resources to Miami?
JD: We have asked a number of people outside of Miami about their experiences
running artist-run or alternative arts spaces. It is surprising how many people
are aware of what goes on down here. There is a lot of interest in Miami.
NF: Remember, the grant has only been official for two weeks! Without the Knight Foundation’s help it would have been unlikely that we could re-open. The South Florida arts scene has been reaching a critical mass over the last few years, and this grant has certainly been our tipping point, giving us the opportunity to continue our work to give young artists a space to freely experiment. Now, with the news that we have support, we are just starting to build a structure from which we can reach out locally and abroad in the coming months.
What are your goals for 2009?
JD: There is a large learning curve ahead of us. We are putting together a print
portfolio of BFI alums we will make available in the spring to raise money to be
matched by the Knight Foundation. Naomi and I are not doing it alone. Kathryn
Marks and Agatha Wara will be helping us get the space off the ground.
Our goal is to champion local talent, providing a space for artists to challenge
themselves away from immediate commercial concerns. Later in the year, we will begin to bring people outside of Miami down to show at BFI. Moreover, our
primary goal is to feed peoples’ minds.
NF: One particular thing I am especially psyched about is restarting “Theory Night.” It functions like a book club where we have weekly readings of texts and meet to discuss them. Ruba Katrib, the assistant curator at MOCA started the group, and the BFI will be able to be a more permanent space for it to convene after having shifted between various locations.
Who will be your next exhibition?
JD: Our current show, “Rad Moon Rising” will close on January 10th. It is a show curated by Nathan Howdeshell of the band, The Gossip. It features 16 artists from Portland, Oregon. The show for February will be announced the first week of January.
NF: Be sure to stop by for the closing reception during the Gallery walk on January 10th from 7-10pm.
The Design District is increasingly art-orientated. Wolfgang Roth and Partners, a large international art gallery has just opened across the road from Bas Fisher Invitational and both Craig Robins and Rosa de la Cruz will soon house their collections in the area too. As an independent gallery, what are your hopes for the area?
JD: It has been amazing to watch it grow in the three years that I have been here. Personally, I will be happy if the dumpsters stay unlocked– I have salvaged a
lot of my art materials and much of our office furniture that way [.]
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes excellence in journalism worldwide and invests in the vitality of the U.S. communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. The Knight Foundation focuses on projects with the potential to create transformational change. The Knight Foundation Arts Partnership is a five-year, $40 million initiative to transform the South Florida arts. The effort includes endowment grants to leading arts institutions, plus a community-wide contest to fund the best arts ideas.
For more information please visit www.knightfoundation.org