Miami Art Week gives local community of creatives hope during coronavirus pandemic

MIAMI – With contemporary art galleries and nightclubs struggling in South Florida, Miami-based artists, DJs, and musicians are also having to adapt during the coronavirus pandemic.

Eric “HUE” Houston, a former University of Miami player, enjoys layering oil and acrylic paint. He describes his work as a “melting pot of pop urban culture and iconic figures in America.”

Most recently, he used markers to paint a portrait of Kamala Harris, after she made history as the first Black Asian-American woman to become the U.S. vice-president-elect.

“I appreciate any opinion or any conversation that my art could be a catalyst for,” Houston said, about his need to connect with others through his work.

Art Basel Miami Beach has made it exciting to have an art career in Miami. Although the coronavirus pandemic forced the international event’s cancelation at the Miami Beach Convention Center, Miami Art Week is forging on until Sunday.

Art Basel’s nightlife usually would have kept Rahsaan “Fly Guy” Alexander busy this time of year. The sought-after DJ played at nightclubs like LIV and Karu&Y. He played alongside DJ Irie, and he couldn’t keep up with demand during the Super Bowl LIV.

Rahsaan “Fly Guy” Alexander has a photography exhibit on Saturday in Brickell. (Copyright 2020 by WPLG - All rights reserved.)

The pandemic delivered a devastating blow to his career, which for months was limited to playing sets for his 16,000 fans on Instagram. After working in the entertainment industry for a decade, he couldn’t find any jobs. He was on the brink of having to depend on food stamps.

“It makes me literally want to cry sometimes because I know how hard we have all worked to establish an identity of entertainment in this city,” said Alexander, who knows he is not alone.

This weekend is an opportunity for Alexander. He is showcasing his photography during the “To Miami With Love” exhibit from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, at 1395 Brickell Ave. He will be displaying some of the photographs that are in his new 256-page book, which include images of the Black Lives Matter protests and pandemic life in the city.

“These are the images that are going to captivate people, I hope, and they are going to really tell a story of what it’s like to live here in the city right now,” Alexander said.

Alexander’s event was included in the Art of Black Miami event schedule, which also includes The Voices and Votes: Democracy in America, a Smithsonian’s traveling exhibit that is on display at the Haitian Heritage Museum at 4141 NE 2nd Ave., until Feb. 6

In an effort to adapt, Art Basel is running OVR: Miami Beach 2020, which includes online viewing rooms, online conversations, and virtual events until Sunday. To support Miami Art Week, Art Basel is also co-hosting a few events.

There are also exhibits at the Moore Building and ICA Miami in the Design District, the Gary Nader Art Centre in Wynwood, Miami Dade College’s Freedom Tower in downtown Miami, the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami, Studios on Miracle Mile in Coral Gables.

Michael Spring, the director of the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs, is concerned. He said Miami-Dade County’s art and culture scene generates about $1.4 billion in local economic activity and supports tens of thousands of jobs.

The Miami Art Week events require the use of face masks and social distancing. Houston and Alexander both have hope in the area’s ability to recover and in the power of community support.

“Part of people’s healing and part of this city’s healing will be to, you know, experience art together and I think that that’s what Miami Art Week is about,” Houston said.

About the Authors:

Alex Finnie joined the Local 10 News team in May 2018. South Florida is home! She was raised in Miami and attended the Cushman School and New World School of the Arts for high school.

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.