The paella was delicious and libations from the Mini-Gramps bar flowed freely at the O, Miami Clubhouse opening on April 3. The event featured an exhibition by Guatemalan artists Buró de Intervenciones Públicas (more about BIP’s mission and inspiration here), a Bookleggers DJ booth, and readings of poems.
In the days preceding the opening, workers cleaned the tennis court, fixed broken lights, cleaned the swimming pool, hung hammocks, and painted colored lines leading to places like the bay and a small nearby market that serves food. A meditation/yoga room was created on the second floor to be used by artists-in-residence for the month of April, and a Bookleggers library was given its own room on the first floor.
“The house was a wreck when we arrived,” said Stefan Benchoam, one of BIP's creators. “People really came together to help out.”
Benchoam and Christian Ochaita (another of BIP's creators) said neighbors told them the house—slated for demolition in a year—was once a rehabilitation center with bunk beds stacked four high. “This place,” they said, “has a history of community.” Their goal: to “de-elite-ify art”. They want their interventions to feel invisible, to “make a place that’s cool for people to hang out in”.
The Guatemalan-made hammocks hanging are “painterly, playful, fun,” Ochaita said. And the painted lines lead to a better-connected neighborhood.
“You know that show Pimp my Ride?” said Benchoam. “This is kind of like Pimp my Street. Good things happen when every day you see the taco lady, play a friendly game of basketball. The neighborhood becomes safer, people have a greater sense of pride.”
Benchoam and Ochaita don’t view what they do as political, but as an “art gesture”. Talking about a similar intervention they did in Guatemala, they described a day when all the hammocks slated for that project were stolen from their truck. “This was another way,” Benchoam said with a rueful smile, “of interacting with the community.”
When asked if they liked working for O, Miami, the team said: "It's been great! As you can see" [laughing] "we've been having a lot of fun."