Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 9 a.m.
The Wallflower Gallery, downtown Miami's improbable pocket of bohemia, has faced any number of challenges during its existence. For one, it's a venue that doesn't serve alcohol, in a town bent on partying. It inhabits a lonely corner in a neighborhood that until very recently was a complete ghost town after dark. It's a multipurpose, nonprofit organization that lends its space to everything from live music to underground visual art to independent theater and beyond -- all forms of expression that are not exactly among the city's cultural priorities.>
Still, the little gallery that could, helmed by its single-monikered "Funk Finder" and founder Flash, has stuck it out for almost 13 years. More than 10 of those have been spent in its current location at 10 NE Third St. But all that may come to an end soon, after Flash and company were dealt a recent crushing blow. The building itself is slated to be demolished in April, the owner announced. The Wallflower Gallery must either raise enough money to convince him to change his mind, or raise enough money to find new digs.
"I'm a bit beside myself," says Flash. "I had plans of what I was going to do through the summer: another series of renovations, get more people working together to get the finances in order and work out some sponsorship packages."
Instead, his priority now is figuring out how to keep the programming running with minimal interruptions. The Wallflower Gallery often donates its rooms to community groups who depend on its space for meetings. A number of out-of-town performers are booked to perform, and plans for the 13-year anniversary party are also already underway.
A move would certainly be to the detriment of downtown. "Compared to most businesses, we have a community dynamic. We're not a bar; we're a cultural institution," Flash says. "I don't think what we do is going to be replaced by anything else. People say all the time, 'I wish I knew about this place earlier.' If people want a hip and culturally creative downtown Miami, they've got to support places like this."
Still, he is open to other locations -- he notes that he would especially like a place that is more handicapped-accessible and offers better parking. But he readily admits he needs help. "Money is the quickest thing, because I want to make sure that I can move to whatever new place, or pay for here. Or people that want to help, physically, who just want to get here and do certain things, help move, if necessary," Flash says. "We've been fighting the good fight for 13 years, and it's sad that now the walls are literally coming down around us."