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Locust Projects Swarms Toward Miami Design District

Locust Projects’ current mural by Michelle Weinberg

Those familiar with Locust Projects know­­­ of its enduring dedication to the facilitation of the exploration by artists of new directions and the accomplishment of projects with the potential to affect change in both art and wider society. The space was among the first to be established in what is now the Wynwood Art District and has been a staple of the art community and a stepping stone for many artists since its inception in 1998 by COOPER, Westen Charles and Elizabeth Withstandley—three likeminded artists who were looking for a space to make and exhibit work that they felt was not being facilitated by the community at the time.

In the ten or so years that it has been active, Locust Projects has seen the surrounding cultural landscape evolve from Great Plains of dormant potential to verdant gorges where luscious trees of knowledge thrive in the rich humus of eclectic genealogy and bud in the imagination. In that time also, the district in which Locust Projects is located, together with Miami’s status as a burgeoning center for the arts has risen like a towering volcano; erupting with dynamism in 2002 with the advent of Art Basel Miami Beach. Now, however, when things for Locust Projects and the Wynwood Art District in which it thrives seemed to be going from strength to strength the hallowed project space is losing its principal director – the illustrious Claire Breukel – and is changing locations; trading its strong hold of NW 24th Street for 155 NE 38th street in the neighboring Design District.

Installation view of current main exhibition Subanageographica: transvirtual perspectives in a semi-tropical environment by Paul Bartow and Richard Metzgar.

One week ago today the new lease was signed. Reflecting on the circumstances surrounding the move Locust Projects’ ex-director Claire Breukel commented: “Move is inevitable and change is healthy. It has been talked about for a long while.  The building Locust has been in for the past 10 years is a landmark, however, our needs began to change and we were facing a large financial outlay to renovate the building and make it more user-friendly and up to code. We realized moving was a more viable option. Wynwood has burgeoned into a wonderful arts district, however, having spoken to various property developers and discussed the idea of moving both within Wynwood and to other areas we were not able to find anything suitable and within our budget. Finally we began talking to Dacra (a prominent culture orientated real estate company owned by Craig Robins) and they made us a good offer on a wonderful space in a very specific location in the Design District – right below the overpass and adjacent to some wonderful artist studios; the block is going to be very vibrant. I do hope that people will see the value of having a non profit in­­­­ the area – perhaps this will inspire developers in Wynwood to step up to the plate in future!”

The move is planned for sometime in April. In the meantime – beginning Monday of this week – Locust Projects new Director, Chana Budgazad Sheldon begins her task of filling the shoes whose rhythmic poundings have set the pace for what is now a thriving art community. Sheldon recently moved to Miami from New York where she had been the Director of Casey Kaplan gallery for seven years after receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. While directing the gallery she collaborated with international artists, curators and collectors to develop exhibitions and promote artwork. She said: “I have been coming to Miami every year for Art Basel Miami Beach since its inception, which has given me the chance to visit Miami’s museums, galleries, collections, exhibitions and the profusion of art fairs that run concurrently with Art Basel.  I am intimately familiar with the history of Locust Projects, which has always been a required stop in my Miami art itinerary.  My involvement with Locust Projects dates back to 2003, when I had the pleasure of helping Nathan Carter develop a solo exhibition there entitled “Delta Echo Triple One Upper.”

Installation view of current project space exhibition by Viking Funeral.

Former Director, Claire Breukel, who left Locust last week to pursue the Director of Projects position at ICArt (International Corporate Art) – a company with offices in Miami, London and Oslo who advise and compile cutting edge contemporary art collections and programs for cruise liners – expressed her sadness at leaving the space, but gave some encouraging words for her successor: “Leaving has been a tough decision as I have truly loved working for Locust. Naturally I feel sad as I am extremely invested in the organization; I was given an amazing space to run and this opportunity was and is invaluable. However, this is a great time for new energy, an exciting time for Chana to put her stamp on the place and at least now I can enjoy the second Saturday from the visitor point of view!”

In addition to Breukel’s departure, Locust’s assistant director Susan Lee Chun has also left. Quelling the notion that something rotten is afoot, Debra Scholl, Chair of the board of Locust Projects stated: “Susan left simply because she is doing an artist residency in Omaha now for 3 months and then another residency in Chicago for another 3 months. Technically we don’t have an assistant director but an assistant to the director, Monica de Miguel. I have only spent a little time with her but she is smart and very eager to do whatever is necessary.”

Locust Projects will be situated on the south side of this block. Image courtesy of Google.

Speaking of her priorities for the space, new Director Sheldon submitted the following: “Locust Projects recently celebrated its ten year anniversary and will be moving to a new space in the Design District.  This is an important moment for the organization to embrace its own history and experience, while preparing for an exciting future. Locust Projects is a place for artists to explore new ideas, create new works, pursue projects that are specific and non-specific to the Miami area, and to become agents of change both in art and in society.  As Director, I am dedicated to maintaining the core vision that has made Locust Projects the unique space it is today, to serve as a forum that nurtures contemporary visual artists’ ability to take risks with their artwork, while exposing that work to a wide audience. My primary goal as Director is to work together with the artists to make the most of the opportunities that each exhibition presents for the artists, Locust Projects, and the broader community. I am thrilled to be here!”

It will be a shame to see a space with so much history and integrity fall into the hands of what will likely be just another commercial gallery space, but on a positive note the new location, despite being smaller and less central, promises to help extend the hub of the Design District by bringing human traffic and support to the south side of a block which apart from the Buena Vista Building where Bas Fisher Invitational and a few retail stores are housed is essentially an uninviting complex of studio spaces; secret and for the most part inaccessible to those not closely associated with the residents.

Detail of Locust Projects’ current mural by Michelle Weinberg.

Touching down in close proximity to Pelusium, the fashion store/studio of Nektar De Stagni and the art studios of Bhakti Baxter (Fredric Snitzer Gallery, Miami and Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris), Jim Drain (Greene Naftali Gallery, NYC), Naomi Fisher (Fredric Snitzer Gallery, Miami), Jason Hedges, Jay Hines, Nicolas Lobo, Federico Nessi (Spinello Gallery, Miami), Martin Oppel (Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris), Tao Rey, Cristina Lei Rodriguez (Team Gallery, NYC) Leyden Rodriguez-Casanova (David Castillo Gallery, Miami), Oliver Sanchez, Frances Trombly (David Castillo Gallery, Miami) and Wendy Wisher (David Castillo Gallery, Miami), Locust Projects will no doubt be enriched and in turn enrich by virtue of an intimate progressive dialogue similar to osmosis. And with the new found support of Craig Robins, a visionary developer who thankfully appreciates the value of art, Locust Projects can enjoy a further umbrella of support that hither-to has been provided mainly by those affiliated with the organization.

For now, however, the team in charge of Locust Projects are adapting to the change in management, preparing for the move and, in the words of Chair Debra Scholl, “concentrating on the usual priorities of generating both money and great programming.”


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  • I was there

    - Wynwood
    + Design District
    I’m just happy to have seen the “rough around the edges” Locust Projects in Wynwood and I hope the move to the Design District does not remove the tarnish from the blemish. If they begin hosting Furniture Design exhibitions I hope they pull the plug.

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Locust Projects Swarms Toward Miami Design District