The Art World Finds a New Home in Broward County

Two years ago, anyone who invited their friends to Artwalk in FAT Village would have gotten a few blank stares. Just one year ago, you couldn't have signed up for an arduino, AKA robotics, class at Makers Square, a communal tool shop where circus music blares in the background.

But now, Miami has snagged serious international art-world cred with the annual Art Basel Miami Beach, and cultural opportunities spawned from it have crept northward. Some art professionals are making the pilgrimage here because rent and studio spaces cost less than those in the 305. That gives Broward, the attention-starved misfit, its time to shine.

Major cultural institutions paved the way, and those are still kicking: The ­Broward ­Center for the Performing Arts recently expanded its downtown facility and has been bringing audiences major ­theatrical ­productions and ballet spectacles for decades. The little church-turned-arthouse movie theater, ­Cinema Paradiso, will host its 29th International Film Festival this November. And the longstanding NSU Museum of Art | Fort ­Lauderdale, which critics had called mediocre at best, is transforming into a serious institution with acclaimed curator Bonnie Clearwater now at the helm.

The Museum of Art this year started a club for the young and hip, ages 18 to 30. The JETS get together the first Thursday evening of every month for live music, hip-hop dance workshops, and DJ sets at the museum, followed by an after­party and a free drink at Bar Stache. Upcoming exhibitions at the museum include a show by New York contemporary artist Julian Schnabel, the exhibit "American Scene ­Photography," and, in February, works by early-20th-century Mexican artists such as Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.

Some city governments are even joining in the frenzy. In suburban Pembroke Pines, the city's curator of special projects, Jill Slaughter, has done some cool street art projects and is working on Inside Out, a global project, this fall. Downtown Hollywood has become like an outdoor arts safari thanks to the Downtown Hollywood Mural Project. Program manager Jill Weisberg has brought in street artists -- including Tatiana Suarez, 2Alas, Jessy Nite, and the London Police -- to do murals. The TM Sisters are slated to create one in January. "They're taking a big parking garage and putting a beautiful sunset mural on it and will change the complete look of that block on Tyler Street," Weisberg says.

Jane Hart, curator of the hip, contemporary Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, is psyched about the explosion of culture: "Together with the Girls' Club; the Museum of Art | Fort Lauderdale, with Bonnie ­Clearwater at the helm; Young at Art; Bedlam Lorenz Assembly; Downtown Hollywood Mural Project; and FAT Village, Broward is becoming a hotbed of contemporary art."

Hart's venue will host a December exhibition by Los Angeles artist Dave Muller, whose work, she says, "is very much focused on the history of music in all genres. He will be here for nearly two weeks creating a site-specific installation, as well as individual works, sound stations, and sculpture. For one new painting being made for this exhibit, we were able to get Iggy Pop to interact directly with Dave."

Out west in Davie, the Young at Art ­Museum and its alternative group, Bedlam Lorenz ­Assembly, continue to impress. Up next is pop-up show "Colorfest," which co-curator Zack Spechler says is a "three-month spectrum of programs, events, performances, workshops, cinema series, and installations by contemporary South Florida artists." Participating artists to watch this season include Alex Snowden and Christopher Ian Macfarlane. In January, prolific and emerging man-of-the-hour Sri Prabha will give a solo show at the museum. His "Orbiting Cathedrals" includes beautiful, science-meets-art, dreamy animation projections, sculptures, and installations.

Spechler says that with "the new Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) and all the great collectors in Miami, it's a very important time right now for Broward to find its own personal identity. With Art Basel becoming bigger and bigger... it's actually become one of the more important fairs in the world. Art Basel's presence is starting to project a yearlong vibe throughout South Florida that we can benefit from. In the past, Miami and Wynwood were happening in just December and only people in the art world knew about the art events year-round, but now that's changed. Miami is almost supersaturated, and Broward is local enough to create its own identity."

Artists to watch, according to Spechler, are Peter Symons and Leah Brown, who often curate shows at the Projects space and make mind-bending installations. Spechler calls them "this newer power-couple engine. To me, they're the most important people in Broward right now -- and they're doing it for the right reasons.

"And there's Francesco ­LoCastro. He's Broward-based, and he has gone through so many waves of art where he's starting to find -- in every wave he's been supersuccessful -- he's really finding his own as a professional artist, showing in fairs across the country. He has gallery representation out of state. That guy never stops working, and there's nothing too ambitious for him. He's gone the technology route, and he works well with others. And I know he has some things in store with technology that are mind-blowing."

The Art and Culture Center of Hollywood's Hart adds ­Autumn Casey, Ben Morey, Jonathan and Lisa Rockford, and multimedia artist Adrienne Rose Gionta to the list of ones to watch -- "Just to name a few!"

It's finally happened. Broward's done being overlooked by the art world and regarded as a wasteland by culture seekers. Art is here to stay.

New Party Rules for Millennials

Top 20 Sexiest R&B Songs from the '90s to Today

Ten Best Florida Metal Bands of All Time

Ten Most Annoying Drunk Dudes You Meet at a Bar