Florida town turns from crime capital to cultural haven
Opa-locka hopes to lure artists and galleries from nearby Miami
By Julia Halperin. Web only
Published online: 11 December 2013
A former Florida state senator is teaming up with the Miami-Dade County cultural department to lure artists and galleries to a small town 13 miles north of Miami.
Opa-locka, which in 2004 had the highest rate of violent crime in the United States, has received more than $20m in federal funding to promote affordable housing and cultural development. Two recent grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) are supporting more than ten public art projects there. The artist Walter Hood is creating a landscape design in order to prevent the streets from flooding, while Jennifer Bonner and Christian Stayner are converting abandoned houses into small businesses to be managed by locals.
“Because we are a nonprofit, we’re looking to do this in a sustainable way,” says Willie Logan, the chief executive of the Opa-locka Community Development Corporation. “We aren’t going to kick artists out to build condominiums once the property values go up.”
Logan’s team has been driving artists from Miami to Opa-locka to show them available spaces—and word is travelling fast. Since purchasing studio space in Opa-locka two months ago, the artist Carlos Betancourt, who formerly had a studio in Wynwood, says he has “received several inquiries about studio space from artists as far away as Williamsburg [Brooklyn]”.
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