Longform

How Flagler Village Became Fort Lauderdale's Cultural Core

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Jump the Shark's Garo Gallo is keeping original art and music alive on NE Fourth Avenue.

Pastel geometric shapes and maroon starscapes decorate the exterior warehouse wall of Jump the Shark, at 810 NE Fourth Ave. A hot-dog truck sits out front. Inside is a huge, womb-like space waiting to be filled with sound and bodies. Paintings and sculptures make it a gallery, but it feels like a home too, with a quaintly decorated kitchen. Owner Garo Gallo's office is bathed in red light and decorated with tastefully cool stuff like Sonic Youth posters. Out back, a huge stage stands next to a particularly interesting new feature: a wooden beer and wine bar with a glittery counter.

The space was popularized as IWAN (Independent Working Artists Network) the Bubble in 2009 by Gallo and his then-partner, Yvonne Colon. Together, the couple had started throwing shows and doing "weird" showcases six years before at the Fort Lauderdale Saloon.

"The space just screamed 'Freedom!' Like you could do crazy shit back here and get away with it."

"I started promoting out of necessity," he explains. He had several bands back then, including the power pop trio Dooms de Pop, and wanted to get gigs both for his and others' groups.

"When we first moved into this neighborhood, it was pretty much like warehouses, but the space just screamed 'Freedom!' Like you could do crazy shit back here and get away with it."

Gallo and Colon looked at the space now filled by Jump the Shark before the recession, but rent was well out of reach. It had previously been a mechanic's shop and a pottery place. After 2008, rent dropped, and it suddenly became a possibility. In 2009, they opened an artist-run space with plenty of room to create and showcase original work.

Gallo says the success of Miami's Wynwood Arts District encouraged them to open the Bubble, though they were technically already putting together events before that Miami neighborhood gained popularity.

At the Bubble, one of the shows they hosted was Sexy You, a play, fashion, and music show where hairstylists and artists made up visitors when they walked in. Then there was the show by Christopher Ian Macfarlane that included an upside-down forest of Christmas trees called Haunted Mirror Forest: Crap by Chris.

A few months ago, Colon and Gallo parted ways. Gallo explains that they "were no longer able to function as a partnership." He wanted to invest in the space further, and she didn't.

Gallo has implemented changes, among them renaming it Jump the Shark. The place's independent roots inspired it, he says. Artists can jump the corporate "sharks" and showcase their work their own way. He's already thrown a few events under the new name -- he calls them "beta tests" -- but the grand opening is this week.

"What Jump the Shark is really here to do is just be a vehicle for artists to have as much freedom in their expression as possible," Gallo elaborates. "We're a place for culture where you can have a beer."

He's still making music with Dooms de Pop. The group just finished a new EP with a relatively new bass player, Shane Walker. The band, like the space, is changing. "It's like a whole rebirth thing. We're just getting better at what we do and using our experience properly."

He thinks small improvements in the art walk festivities are bringing in new crowds and people from other counties. "There's a real push for the arts here," Gallo says. "The city wants it to be a place youngsters want to move to, so I guess, inadvertently, we're making it happen through these types of events."

All of this officially launches November 29 with 17 bands, 20 exhibiting artists, muralists, DJs, vendors, and, of course, hot dogs.

For now, Jump the Shark will be bringing music and arts from the tricounty area to this Fourth Avenue block of Flagler Village three nights a week. Every Friday and Saturday, there'll be programming, and on Wednesdays, everyone's welcome at Out There, an open-mic variety night.

Gallo is also hosting events with other promoters like Kevin Burns from Talent Farm and working with a gallery just outside New York City, Guttenberg Arts. All of this officially launches with Beacon, the opening-night party on November 29 that is scheduled to include 17 bands, 20 exhibiting artists, muralists, DJs, vendors, and, of course, considering the truck out front, hot dogs.

Jump the Shark has already gained credibility and is offering people a real scene. "Miami's going to shine bright, and we [in Fort Lauderdale] are going to kind of be the black sheep," he assesses. "But I think because of that, we're creating more interesting music and art. We're still the outsiders. We still have a legitimate underground feel. It doesn't feel exploited yet."

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Liz has her master’s degree in religion from Florida State University. She has since written for publications and outlets such as Miami New Times, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Ocean Drive, the Huffington Post, NBC Miami, Time Out Miami, Insomniac, the Daily Dot, and the Atlantic. Liz spent three years as New Times Broward-Palm Beach’s music editor, was the weekend news editor at Inverse, and is currently the managing editor at Tom Tom Magazine.
Contact: Liz Tracy