Wynwood’s Bakehouse Art Complex offers essence of evolving art district

Posted October 28, 2015


Within the context of South Floridian tourism, Wynwood is arguably the fastest growing neighborhood in the area. Fashion, music, and, above all, art, have taken this area by storm, rivaling images of Miami Beach as “the” place to be when visiting the 305.

Keremcan Mutlu, an art major at the University of Miami, spoke freely about the rapidly rising artistic culture of Wynwood.

“You can’t help but stare, especially if you’re a young student that moved here from another country or even city. The idea of free-flowing, rampant art everywhere immediately appeals to you,” Mutlu explained.

Mutlu, from Turkey, is also a seasoned DJ with experience in multiple midtown Miami music venues.

“One minute you’re examining the beauty of a piece, the next you realize it’s done on the back of an abandoned refrigerator company, for free. That’s really the style of this area, from music to art. It’s not random, it’s what complete freedom looks like,” he added.

It is inescapable. Simply walking around Midtown reels in the artist’s eye in everyone. Lines of Latin poetry, movie star mug shots, and dream-induced aesthetics are some of the seemingly countless subjects of large-scale graffiti drawings on buildings and street corners. It’s a concrete jungle with its own urban flora and fauna.

Events like Art Basel and the monthly Wynwood art walk tours offer both tourists and natives a nighttime artistic escape. But with art (and masses of visitors) being everywhere throughout the district, many get a little lost in the outdoor urban museum that is Wynwood.

The very essence of this artistic district is manifested in the Bakehouse Art Complex. A not-for-profit studio and exhibition space on NW 32th Street, this complex delves deeper into the contemporary art of Wynwood than the rest of the galleries do. It’s hard to define, mostly because it includes many aspects of Wynwood’s art venues. But it’s only fair to start at the beginning.

In the mid-seventies, the Bakehouse still had its name, but only because it was an actual bakery. After being open for two years, it was shut down and made vacant for an entire decade. As with the rest of the district, dead businesses and old buildings were brought back to life through the youthful theme of art, slowly molding the district into what it is today.

Artists bought the bakery out in the mid eighties and made a stellar and professional art complex with a vision. The sparks of inspiration in this space, unlike any in the region, have always been the artists’ open door studios.

The Bakehouse is a studio space and an exhibition hall. Usually, especially in Wynwood, art spaces are either galleries or independent studios. At the Bakehouse, however, the art exhibited in one hall is being worked on in the adjacent studios, where artists work during opening hours and welcome visitors to simply walk in on the process or have a chat. Visitors are never far from the process or the unveiling of the final product.

Now, just like before, it has no entrance fee and only accepts what visitors feel is a reasonable donation at the door. The area is sleek and large, offering some the most diverse and professional art in the region.

One of the many galleries int he complex, the Swenson gallery features art created in the very same building, as the sign on the right says.

One of the many galleries in the complex, the Swenson Gallery features art created in the very same building.

The only small fee to pay would be at their receptions and farewells, which are the opening and closing events of new exhibitions.

An open bar, live music, and even short, independent film screenings fill the large white rooms as artists, students, and tourists marvel at dozens of different art forms, from ceramics to theater.

Most importantly, people get the opportunity to socialize with the artists, whether it’s over some wine or right down the hall in their working space. No one is more proud of that than Pauly Bonz.

Other than the great and fun receptions, up and coming artists have the unique chance to simply talk to our in house artists,” Bonz stated.

Bonz is the director of arts administration at the Bakehouse and a ceramics artist herself.

“We have 56 artists, and some are still moving in. Most are from the States, but others are from Japan, Brazil and Spain,” Bonz explained.

Unlike many other venues, this non-profit’s concept has remained incredibly consistent. The general theme in all of the Wynwood art venues has always been aesthetic and expressive, a stock answer from almost any young person with a paintbrush. But the Bakehouse seemed very noble with their ultimate goal, which is to create a definitive art space where the art community can interact with the public.

‘Interact’ really is the most accurate term. The dozens of spacious studios all have open doors with artists working with intense focus. Many are listening to music or flailing their arms in response to their own work.It seems that even though the doors are open; the people within are too preoccupied for any interaction.

Bonz challenges these doubts.

“Actually it’s fine! Our artists like to share their process, their materials and their artistic background. When you put them on the spot like that they really enjoy it. Artists can be a little…. narcissistic. But when they’re exposed to people that want to know more about their work it reminds them about what they’re working for, ultimately,” she said.

Bonz has been working for months at the Bakehouse and has been volunteering for years since she was in high school.

“It’s changed with time,” she said, when asked about the art over the course of three decades. “… [L]ike all art has, in movements. I’d say it progressed. The 80s were full of funk, slowly turned into painterly and abstract, and so on.”

At any given time, the Bakehouse complex has approximately eight exhibits. The art forms and types are as diverse as the in house artists’ nationalities. This month, the complex had an incredible milestone.

Bonz unlocked a couple of glass doors to reveal South Florida's first Picasso exhibition.

Bonz (shown here) unlocked a couple of glass doors to reveal South Florida’s first Picasso exhibition.

“…it’s a Picasso collection! The very first Picasso exhibit in South Florida. It took a while to set up but it’s definitely worth the 26 original paintings of Picasso’s Tauromaquia, which is Spanish for ‘bullfight.’

“It’s an exciting time for art in Miami and the Bakehouse and we hope to get everyone down here to experience it before it’s over on Oct. 28. It’s great to have it happen in Hispanic heritage month, no less!” Bonz stated.

The only thing more fascinating than the Bakehouse Art Complex’s history is it’s future. Pauly divulged the secret plan of opening a café in the complex, kicking it back to the building’s roots. All in all, the Bakehouse remains at the intersection between public space and artistic space: the very essence of a Miami region reborn from its ashes.

If You Go

The Bakehouse Art Complex
561 NW 32nd St, Miami, Fla. 33127
Open daily from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.