By Begoñe Cazalis
They say art is life. On the second Saturday of each month in Wynwood and the Design District, art is nightlife, too - galleries stay open till late and hordes of the young, edgy and well-dressed come out to see new installations and shows.
But Wynwood isn't the only district that regularly opens its doors to art lovers - several South Florida communities sponsor monthly gallery nights, free evenings that range from a low-key stroll in downtown Hollywood to a Latin street fair with plenty of verve.
Coral Gables Gallery Walk
Coral Gables pioneered the monthly art night concept more than a decade ago, opening gallery doors to art lovers on the first Friday of each month. From 7-11 p.m., crowds of cultured folks stroll up and down Ponce de Leon Boulevard, stopping in at the dozens of galleries and artists' studios located along Ponce. Despite a few high-profile departures for Wynwood in recent years, many of the galleries here have been around for decades and most feature artists from Latin America or South Florida.
To help with parking and traffic, the city runs a free trolley service from the Douglas Road Metrorail station and up and down Ponce. Some galleries, including Artspace/Virginia Miller Gallery, Sammer Gallery, Arco Gallery, Patou Gallery, and Miarte Gallery, even offer a free minibus that takes art lovers through all the galleries that are part of the Coral Gables Gallery Association.
The Gables gallery walk also features live music, usually at Miracle Mile and Ponce de Leon or in the Ponce de Leon Circle Park, not far from the studios of Gilda Sacasas and Leonor Murciano, artists who open their workspaces to the public on these evenings.
On the must-see list: Artspace/Virginia Miller Galleries. Open since 1972, Virginia Miller is one of the oldest galleries in Miami, and it's at 169 Madeira Avenue. For information, call 305-444-4493 or visit virginiamiller.com.
Cernuda Arte is another Gables classic, specializing in Cuban art from the 18th century to the present. It's at 3155 Ponce de Leon Blvd.; 305-461-1063. cernudaarte.com
Gables Gallery Night is on Ponce de Leon Boulevard between Menores Ave. and Bird Road and also along Miracle Mile. For more information call the ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries at 305-444-4493.
Viernes Culturales in Little Havana, held the last Friday of every month, transforms Calle Ocho (SW Eighth Street) from a bustling thoroughfare to a Latin street fair with art, music, dancing, street performers, food and drinks.
Although the night officially starts at 7 p.m., arrive early to find a parking spot, then wander through neighborhood galleries that specialize in Cuban and local art, then head to the streets and plazas, where vendors sell original crafts, paintings and even hold mini art installations.
A stage in front of the Tower Theater at Calle Ocho and 15th Avenue showcases various Latin musicians and dancers each month. The theater, which is the hub of the Viernes Culturales event, also exhibits art in its lobby, and a free historical tour of Little Havana (led by Miami uber-historian Paul George) departs from the Tower at 7:30 p.m. Kid-oriented fun is just a block away: the children's corner at 14th Avenue and Calle Ocho features dancers showing off flamenco, tango, salsa, and other Latin American dance moves.
Some of Little Havana's restaurants get in on the action, too: Casa Panza, the traditional Spanish restaurant, books musicians and flamenco dancers on its two stages (plus outside seating for those who want to do some people-watching), and local stalwart El Pub presents a one-man dancing and singing show starting around 9:30 p.m.
Viernes Culturales officially ends around 10:00 p.m., but no one likes leaving a good party. If you want to continue after hours, head toward 13th Avenue and Calle Ocho, where a Brazilian samba band usually starts a spontaneous gig that gets the crowd dancing in the street.
Viernes Culturales takes place in Little Havana on Calle Ocho (Eighth St) between 17th and 12th avenues. For more information visit viernesculturales.com
ArtSouth, downtown Homestead's storied gallery and studio space, holds a regular open house on the second Saturday of the month. From 3-7p.m. ArtSouth's building, which looks more like a Greek temple than a gallery, beckons visitors with free art and live music, plus wine and cheese.
Visitors can stroll three galleries and tour the artists' studios on site. Visitors can also browse locally produced art, jewelry and photography in the gift shop.
Make a day of your trip to downtown Homestead, and arrive early to peek into the antique stores that line Krome Avenue or grab a bite at one of the local Mexican eateries.
ArtSouth is at 240 N. Krome Avenue, Homestead; 305-247-9406. For more details, visit artsouthhomestead.org
Jazz at MOCA
The neighborhood surrounding the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami boasts more vintage furniture stores than fine art galleries, but MOCA's monthly jazz night offers some of the city's finest art and music for free. On the last Friday of each month, MOCA opens its doors from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m., with live jazz on the museum's spacious front patio at 8:00 p.m.
Bring a picnic, or before the show starts, head across the street to the Luna Star Café to sample some of the many beers and wines on hand while taking in the local artwork hanging on the walls.
MOCA - Museum of Contemporary Art 770 NE 125th St. For more information call 305-893-6211 or visit mocanomi.org
Hollywood Art Walk and Art and Culture Center of Hollywood
Downtown Hollywood has just a few galleries, but on the third Saturday of each month they stay open late and put out some snacks from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. Many of the stores around the area also extend their hours and display local art.
The Art Walk is located between Harrison Street and Hollywood Boulevard and between the ArtsPark at Young Circle and 21st Ave. For more information visit downtownhollywood.com
There's more free art in Hollywood on the third Sunday of the month at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, which offers free admission from noon to 4p.m. This monthly event often features hands-on art activities for families and kids, plus free performances at ArtsPark at Young Circle.
The Art and Culture Center also holds regular gallery openings to debut new exhibits, and visitors can enjoy beer, wine and snacks along with the art. Admission is $6 for adults, $3 for students and free for members.
Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, 1650 Harrison St. Hollywood; 954-921-3274. artandculturecenter.org
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Outside the Tower Theater on Eighth Street during Viernes Culturales.