Las Olas Art Walk: All Hail the Village's Queen

A street painter at work.
A street painter at work.
Photos by Reed Fischer

On Thursday, Mickie Centrone attended the Las Olas Art Walk in Fort Lauderdale. 


A lot happens on the ritzy one-mile stretch of land referred to as South Florida's Rodeo Drive : People wine, they dine, they shop at Tommy Bahama and eat at the Cheesecake Factory. It's Las Olas Bouelvard -- the street with trees wrapped in twinkle lights. But these people don't enter the galleries. 

"People are used to being spoon-fed out on the street," says Robin Merrill of Upper Room Art Gallery. She's talking about the famous Las Olas Art Fair, which lines up hundreds of artists in tents in the middle of the Boulevard a couple times a year.

The Las Olas Art Walk, which is held the third Thursday of every month, is already changing that. This art walk is "not trying to copycat anybody" -- but they couldn't even if they tried. Did you know that there was a coup?

A different ambiance swarms the area once you cross over the little bridge near Eleventh Street, and continues until about Sixteenth Street. They call themselves the Las Olas Village. "We are our own nation," says Robin, who also goes by Sister Robin because she was a missionary in the Philippines. There's Prince Stewart, King Solomon, the Village Crazy Guy (the man who runs the Macabi Cigar Bar), and Robin, who also goes by Queenie Robinee.

Meet Queenie Robinee and Gregory. With Bongo Logic beating on drums outside Upper Room during the art walk, this gallery is not left in the dark. People strut over the bridge and "break out spontaneously into dance."
Meet Queenie Robinee and Gregory. With Bongo Logic beating on drums outside Upper Room during the art walk, this gallery is not left in the dark. People strut over the bridge and "break out spontaneously into dance."

The Village is "the red-headed step-child," she says because it's more mom-and-pop, more original. Upper Room Art Gallery is a non-profit collective of eight artists who showed artwork together in Asia, a tribal and ethnic store. Here, they don't believe in focusing their portion of the event around drinking (and, indeed, you won't find free art-walk wine in there), and the proceeds of their art goes toward helping create jobs for the poor. Pieces in here on the wall can cost $3,200, and $650 for a free trade lamp.

Albert, behind the mic, said: "Welcome to our spaceship. We're in charge of taking good art across the cosmos."
Albert, behind the mic, said: "Welcome to our spaceship. We're in charge of taking good art across the cosmos."

How long will the gallery (pictured above) owned by a retinal surgeon last? Who knows on "ELO" (East Las Olas)? This gallery is also a non-profit with all the cash going to the Macula Vision Research Foundation. Since this gallery is temporary, it's more of "a pop-up place," says PR gal Sarah Shake. It's current lifespan has been two months. 


Oh, Las Olas' ice skating rink...
This ice was not cold, incidentally.
This ice was not cold, incidentally.

Was it wax or plastic? Two things were certain: It was white -- and it was not ice. The benefit of this was shown by the four people on the rink who wore shorts comfortably. A little boy skating around stopped a moment and touched a white piece of "ice," which separated from the rest of the flat surface, saying: "Snow cannot break. This is broken." Many people said, This is not real. 

Going Public was a group of pop-up artists. There was live doodling by Jose Lopez. Here's Steve Baum.
Going Public was a group of pop-up artists. There was live doodling by Jose Lopez. Here's Steve Baum.

Another official art walk stop was New River Fine Art. It is a large gallery that boasts  artwork and busts and marble statues ranging upwards to $55,000.  They donned 70 Picassos on their walls once -- and they are proud of that. In here, Christmas satellite radio music from Michael Bolton and Trans-Siberian Orchestra filled the air. New River Fine Art coordinates their art openings on Art Walk nights. Although mostly  existing clientele attend, they do get passersby. (Great traffic for a Thursday night is around 50 people.) If you're looking for art that costs more than your car, here's the man you want: "You need [art] on the moon, we'll make it happen," said David Harrah, Art Consultant.

Look for these.
Look for these.

The Bellagio International Gallery -- existing only eight months -- flies artists in. They hosted an artist from Quebec City, Canada. Joelle's style of art is "urban abtsract cubist." She uses a pallet knife ("like a spatula") instead of a paint brush. Both her and her translator traveled with two beautiful little dogs.

This is her first black, white, and yellow piece. It's called "Bite of the Apple." Visit joelleblouin.com.
This is her first black, white, and yellow piece. It's called "Bite of the Apple." Visit joelleblouin.com.


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