With nearly one month to go before the international bonanza called Art Basel begins, the anticipation for the arrival of the freshest work in contemporary art is palpable.
What many art lovers don’t know is that. Wynwood is a year-round stronghold of avant-garde and novel work and tucked away in that neighborhood is the Bakehouse Art Complex, which has been dubbed by many local art connoisseurs as the “hippest place no one knows about.”
As the official season kicks off in November, the Bakehouse puts on a showcase of some of the most inspired art in Miami during Lucky You! 5, its annual art raffle.
The fundraiser features work by more than 70 local artists and most of them are residents at the 25-year-old organization. The 30,000-square-foot facility is transformed into a whimsical playground, where hundreds of guests meander through the halls to see what more than 60 artists are dreaming up and developing in their studios.
The artwork up for grabs at Lucky You! is on display in the main Audrey Love Gallery. Regular prices range from $800-$6,000, but guests have the opportunity to purchase raffle tickets for $10 each or $120 for a baker’s dozen. They are instructed to drop their tickets into the corresponding box for the piece they want to win and at the end of the night host Roxanne Vargas of NBC South Florida pulls the winning ticket for each piece.
“Guests truly resemble kids in a candy store at this event. There’s so much excitement as they all converge in the main gallery to see if they won their favorites,” said Vargas, a longtime Bakehouse supporter and host of Lucky You! for the past three years. “The joy you see on their faces when they win an original piece of artwork is quite memorable. Each year that goes by, it’s really these moments that I look forward to most.”
Popular Bakehouse artist Mike Rivamonte donates one of his highly coveted robotic characters to Lucky You! each year. Using found vintage objects from around the world (think old radios, speakers, microphones, camera lenses, bicycles and binoculars), Rivamonte creates a singular piece that evokes an undeniable personality and features modern capabilities, such as playing music from an iPhone on a Bose speaker system.
This year, Rivamonte, who just finished two pieces for Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak’s techy firm Fusion-io in Utah, is donating a shimmering blue rocket ship with LED lights along with a wooden robot. “You can’t put your stuff up on a pedestal at this event and have it be awful. That defeats the purpose,” said Rivamonte. “By donating a great piece of my work, I know it’s going to help a place that has given me a whole lot of opportunities. I want people to go ‘wow’ and I want that reaction to help the Bakehouse. I think most of the artists feel the same and do the same for this event.”
Carrie Sieh, another well-liked artist at the Bakehouse who explores traditional handiwork with industrial era technology, donates her time to the event committee to make sure her fellow artists are represented throughout the planning.
“One of the coolest things about this event for our guests is the opportunity to win amazing art and interact with all of the people who have made it,” said Sieh. “It’s more than just a great party. It’s really focused on the art and the artists.”
Look for her embroidered cityscape at this year’s event. From a distance, she wants you to think it’s a pen and ink drawing, but in fact, she’s created the image with thread. Sieh says the piece combines ideas of urban and masculine imagery with what’s generally considered a feminine way of working.
Arlys Raymond, executive director of the Bakehouse, and a team of staff and board members develop the event in a way that illuminates the organization’s artists and their work.
“We want to give people a chance to experience the Bakehouse and commit to us. Just like with anyone’s career, a fast, meteoric rise is not what we’re looking for. We’re careful about how we evolve. Keeping the artists in mind while we look for ways to stay relevant in the community is always a priority,” said Raymond.
Staying relevant also requires renovations to the facility as the old building grows into its 90s. With a $250,000 grant from the Audrey Love Foundation, the Bakehouse is in the midst of improving its façade, including an expansive entrance ramp that will provide visibility and access to the main gallery, built-in seating, and glass doors, which will provide much-needed natural light to the entryway.
Architecture firm Shulman + Associates, whose work can be seen at the Soho Beach House in Miami Beach and at the Rubell Family Collection and Residence in Wynwood, handled the design.
One thing that differentiates the Bakehouse from other art facilities is the opportunity for artists to cross over. There’s a photo lab, print room, welding area and ceramics area on premise, all of which are difficult for artists to come by in an affordable setting.
“For me, when artists start to talk to each other or collaborate with each other, that means that the conditions are ripe. That means that the artists are looking outside of their canvas to evolve, outside of their own studio walls, and working to create something bigger and better in terms of art,” said Raymond. “After all, you can’t artificially create an environment for people to be happy in. It happens organically.”
Roxanne Vargas of NBC 6 selects a winning ticket during the 2011 Lucky You! event. Photo: George Martinez