Ultimately, the bottom line won. "For sure I gave up the 'hip factor,' " said Benitez. "In the end, if I'm in a mall and can sell more art, I'll give up hipness any day of the week."

Benitez said city codes prevented the artists' work from spilling out into the street. Even those stop-sign paintings he did worried a few of his FAT Village neighbors, who didn't want a bad relationship with the city. Similar codes prohibit vendors from setting up tables at art walks, and tenants are not allowed to hang large signs off the buildings.

Slowly, people are moving forward anyway: Local graffiti artists have been painting murals on the backs of the warehouses, facing the railroad tracks and the Regal Trace housing complex. McCraw and Leah Brown, of 18 Rabbit Gallery, are planning murals on the front sides, facing the avenue. McCraw recently received a set of street-improvement grants to install glass doors and roll-down aluminum grates over the entrances.

Doug McCraw owns most of the buildings in FAT Village.
Photo by Michael McElroy
Doug McCraw owns most of the buildings in FAT Village.
After a dispute about rent, Adam White moved to a cheaper and busier space at Galt Ocean Mile.
Photo by Michael McElroy
After a dispute about rent, Adam White moved to a cheaper and busier space at Galt Ocean Mile.

The tenants all agree that a vibrant-looking streetscape would draw more traffic. Still, they find it hard to reach consensus. Jim Hammond, owner of the Puppet Network puppetry and scenery shop in FAT Village, said somebody needs to take the lead if the appearance of the neighborhood is going to change, even if permission from the city doesn't come.

"Maybe the artists have just been too well-behaved," he said.


While Fioretti welded, another nocturnal transformation was taking place. A hundred feet up First Avenue, light poured out of a small door at the front of the largest warehouse, now emptied of artwork. At the center of it, in a small leather club chair, sat McCraw. He ate takeout pizza under spotlights as workers in black moved velvet screens into place all around him.

He had been talking about this for months. The workers were setting up the display and seating areas for an expensive whiskey-tasting event, sponsored by Dewars. "Very slick, very high-end," cooed McCraw as he spoke about the event. McCraw liked the whiskey-tasting because it paid good money, and it would bring the attention of well-heeled Floridians with disposable incomes. But some FAT Village tenants didn't think this move toward money and luxury and away from direct support of the arts was a good idea. Was McCraw selling out his goal of giving creativity a place to flourish?

"He's renting to a gym and a tequila company now," said White in his new gallery. "That has nothing to do with the arts in any way, shape, or form. He can't figure out what he wants to do with the space."

In fact, McCraw's vision for the village is hard to pin down, in part because he's a businessman who has learned to hedge his bets. After getting stuck with a couple of blocks of warehouses he can barely afford, McCraw will not act on idealism alone. When first asked by New Times about his vision for the future of FAT Village, McCraw was vague. "Well, I'd like to get a couple more high-tech companies in here..." He trailed off.

When asked again a few days later, he painted a more detailed picture. "I see murals, lighting on the street. Boutique restaurants, maybe a microbrewery. Tech companies, artists, studios... I'd like to see it be permanent, not just something that's around until the rents go up. But you have to get critical mass."

McCraw seems to have decided that the possibility of a pedestrian-based creative district is worth the money he's sunk into it. But unless artists stay and people visit, calling something a "creative district" won't accomplish anything.

One of the neighborhood's newest tenants, with a gleaming space anchoring the north end of First Avenue, was run by McCraw's idealistic younger counterpart.

Travis Webster is 29 years old, a clean-cut young professional — though he'd cringe at the term yuppie — with long brown hair. A self-described "business guy," he helped found the Collide Factory, which he calls "a creative and collaborative idea incubator." Like McCraw, he has business acumen that's stretched to its limits by the scale of his plans.

In the summer of 2010, Webster and a few friends, including local singer/songwriter and coffee-shop owner Ryan Alexander, converted the trapezoidal warehouse into a slick, air-conditioned space dominated by two shipping containers expertly covered in graffiti. Webster needed the space for his business, Collide Brand Partners, which would provide marketing and branding services. He decided to turn that into something far bigger by renting out desks to other "creatives."

"I thought, what if my office was everybody's office?" said Webster, sitting at a table made of rough-hewn wooden planks that he and his friends nailed together.

There was an element of subdued terror in Webster's voice when he arrived in the empty space after a cathartic bike ride on an afternoon in late February. He said he had put nearly all of his money into the space, and it was still too early to know if the pipeline of clients he envisioned would flow though the Collide Factory, enabling him to continue paying his rent and hosting shows or concerts during art walks. "I'm going to wait," he said. "I look forward to the day when it's actively working and breathing by itself."


« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
11 comments
Captain Sandbar
Captain Sandbar

How can Adam White say "I was paying rent"? READ: Around the corner, a storefront on Andrews sat dark and empty. It used to house Gallery 101, Taped to the door was an eviction notice, claiming $18,788.07 in unpaid rent, signed by P. Douglas McCraw. White sounds like a dead beat to me based on the article...Creepy

R. D. M.
R. D. M.

I bet if you had a few food trucks there you could get a few hundred people, but what do I know? I've never been bankrupt.

Miami Beer Tour
Miami Beer Tour

Thanks to Doug, Travis and everyone at FAT Village. Murals out back of FAT Village walls and containers inside Collide Factory created by MBT (Miami Beer Tour), a group of artists based in Tokyo, Miami and Ft. Lauderdale. Murals are always changing and living outdoor installations with the use of tape which preserves parts of the murals before them. Artists include La Mano Fria, Broke, Team Panza, Marvel, Neon 7...For more info and images check out:http://tokyobeertour.tumblr.co...and follow MBT on facebook:http://www.facebook.com/profil...

Bap1346
Bap1346

Is this where the New Times office is? Otherwise I can't see why they wrote about this.

New Times
New Times

The name is an acronym for "Flager Arts and Technology".

steroids
steroids

excuse my stupidity but why is it called fat village ?

D.F.W.M.
D.F.W.M.

The rents at FAT may be higher in some places, and for good reason as it sits in a very booming area with recently a 20 million dollar residential building is under construction.

Adam White didn't do the right thing and quietly moved out and snubbed McCraw of almost $20,000.

What an opportunity to see the character of a so called "business owner" that Adam White is!

McCraw should file charges against White and take him to court for unpaid back rent.

counts
counts

Well... they couldn't event support their area... I wonder... Oh!!! it was was the new guy Stephan who wrote the article.... He doesn't even know that The Galt area is dead!

Michelle G.
Michelle G.

I think you have a foggy perspective of Adam and Doug's dispute and posting you're opinion of a great gallery is hardly doing good for the area. We need to be supporting artist and galleries and not landlords. Let the landlord manage and mitigate whatever the dispute was.

D.F.W.M.
D.F.W.M.

The "great gallery" you claim White's had, apparently wasn't that great since it didn't attract enough people to sustain it -- hence one of the other reasons why he moved.

Maybe it was great for Adam White himself, as he was pocketing a large portion of the artists money with commissions and the cost he charged for them to hang their art on the walls of his gallery.

The area has continued to build momentum and foot traffic with the artwalks and other events there, but this article and the writer certainly hasn't helped the "struggle" by maliciously espousing only a negative view of the area. The area has much to offer and is getting better with city improvements by the week.

There's a reason a $20 million dollar development is going up right across the street.

Everyone who leaves FAT Village seems to only speak of the negative side of the equation. But there are two sides to it, and the benefits that White gained from being at FAT Village -- from the artwalks and events and foot traffic that steered them into his gallery, shows us how positive that area was for him from the new clients he gained that came to the events which he took with him to his new gallery.

If White would have stuck it out and supported the efforts of FAT Village like he said he did, and not left the property owing $18k in back rent thus being evicted on bad terms, then he truly would have been doing something positively benefiting everyone involved.

What Francisco is doing with that space is amazing and I applaud his efforts!

 
Loading...