Fall Friday nights in South Miami are full of artsy surprises. One might turn the corner and walk onto Sunset Drive to discover the South Miami Middle School Jazz Ensemble playing Miles Davis’ Seven Steps to Heaven at Shops at Sunset Place or experience sidewalk artists at the easel painting portraits for an admiring crowd outside Starbucks.
SoMi Artwalk is not like the formal gallery tour scene found in Coral Gables or Wynwood. Going into its sixth year, it was designed as a chance for the community to experience art in retail and provide a family friendly setting for strolling around downtown among the picturesque tree lined streets.
“Our art walk is unlike any others,” said artnight coordinator and SoMi Mag Publisher John Edward Smith. “When the event was originally started by Roman Compte in June 2008, it was to bring art into retail stores and put art in private spaces like the blue mall where it all began.”
Compte is owner of SoMi So U Boutique in the blue mall on SW 57 Avenue. He began the SoMi Artwalk movement to highlight South Miami and increase traffic to his retail location. “I thought it was a great thing for South Miami and to promote my store,” said Compte. “It started on my corner and grew to four stores, then eight, then John Edward Smith saw it and it took off.”
To establish a sense of continuity between the sponsoring businesses hosting artists at their location—-who often provide refreshments as well—-Smith and his team of steering committee members unveiled the “SoMi Sidewalk Showcase” last year. “If you are walking from a retail venue on Red Road to Sunset Drive,” said Smith, “you will see student art on sidewalks, student musical groups, and it turns into what makes South Miami such a unique and family oriented community.”
So far South Miami Middle Community School (SMMCS) has once again joined SoMi Artwalk, as well as South Miami K- 8. New additions such as Palmetto Elementary and the South Miami Senior High National Art Honor Society anticipate presenting at the SoMi Artwalk Sidewalk Showcase also.
Director of the SMMCS Jazz Ensemble, Francisco Williams, said participating in SoMi Artwalk is a great experience for the students because it offers them social and emotional growth as musicians. “To have an outlet to perform is a great experience,” said Williams. “They put so much time and effort into practice and then they get to perform and entertain and receive so much in return. The response and appreciation (of the crowd) builds their eagerness to continue to learn and grow because they want that feedback.”
Art Ambassador volunteers are decked out in bright colored t-shirts with a giant question mark that reads “Ask Me.” They are visible at key spots throughout South Miami to offer maps of participating locations and guide visitors along the art walk.
This year the first stand-alone art gallery in town, Jorge Hulian’s recently opened contemporary art venue, Artdealermiami, will be participating as well. With Hulian’s vast background working with Art Basel and international exhibits based out of his original South Beach location, Smith says Hulian will add a new dimension to the event because of his ability to stage several artists at one time. “We are thrilled for Artdealermiami to be a part of Somi Artwalk,” said Hulian. “As we bring in our 15 scheduled exhibit artists this season, Somi Artwalk will blend in nicely by helping us highlight our featured artists.”
New features this year include many host sponsor venues staying open until 9pm and an “After Artwalk Party” whereby host restaurants will offer complimentary appetizers or drinks from 9 to 11pm. Town Kitchen + Bar will host the premier Fall 2012 SoMi Artwalk. Sushi Maki, Trattoria Sole, MexZican Gourmet, and The Irish Times will also host this season. In addition, Fox’s Lounge will host the “Late Night Artwalk Party” after every SoMi Artwalk from 11pm to 1am.
Event dates are the second Friday of the month from October through March, 6 to 9pm: October 12, November 9, December 14, January 11, February 8, and March 8. Co-presenters of SoMi Artwalk are Chamber South, The City of South Miami, and SoMi Magazine. To find out more about SoMi Artwalk contact John Edward Smith at 305-665-2838, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit artnightsouthmiami.com