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Thursday, November 27, 2014


      For fifty years the West Grove has been Coconut Grove's forgotten Bahamian village.
That's over. It ended at Kroma last Thursday night.

     "Kroma" is the new art gallery located at 3670 Grand Avenue, just west of the Ace Theater.
   Its grand opening represents the tipping point for a new West Grove. Standing there with dozens of gleeful art fans, I witnessed the future of Coconut Grove.
                                  Opening Night

    No longer are we a wealthy seaside village conjoined with a small, somewhat forsaken African-American community. That's changing  quickly.  We are becoming "One Grove".  Money, new construction and new people are pouring into what some call the "Village West". 

       I saw it all while standing in front of Kroma's large art space last Thursday evening. Just east of me loomed Gibson Plaza, the first new significant structure in the West Grove since 1975. It is near completion. It will have affordable housing (forty apartments) and an education center.  
    They're finishing up the "Cuisine Cafe" across the street.  It is specifically designed to provide job training for young people.
     Near Douglas on Grand Avenue I saw new people passing on foot, bicycles, and skateboards, folks who dared not to visit the West Grove a year ago.  I've seen nothing like this in my forty years here.

      For more than a century there have been two Coconut Groves, one black and the other white.  They have been slowly seeping into each other since the 70's in some residential areas. Business in the white part has prospered while many West Grove businesses failed or stagnated. Potential customers  have not felt safe there.
    Crime has long been a problem west of 32nd Avenue.  Now, with a West Grove police station, that unfortunate situation is improving. I've long said, "When the people who spend money feel safe shopping in the West Grove, the place will take off".

      It's taking off now.  I felt the plane accelerating on the runway last Thursday night and it was exciting to be on it. People of all shades were crowded happily in the new art space.
  Francesca with Homestead artist, Alan Laird No longer do you have to go to the Perez or Wynwood to have an outstanding art experience.  We've got it in the Grove on Grand Avenue.


     Why not join us at the gallery's next big gathering?  We won't miss it.  It's this Friday, November 28th. 

Kroma is hosting it's "Black Friday" event from 7 to 9 pm. 

  The Miami Herald's Carl Juste and Marie Vickles have curated the current photography exhibition that examines the lure of the urban landscape.  It is amazing and runs through January.

  In the back half of the mega-gallery are 12 mini-galleries featuring the works of individual artists.


  In one we discovered  South Florida's own R&B diva, Betty Wright.  While she just finished recording an album with Jimmy Fallon's house band, The Roots, she is a visual artist as well. Francesca has taught three of Betty's grandchildren at her North Miami school.
    The gallery is open from noon to 7, Tuesday through Saturday.         Center Grove's Edith Georgi
    We hope you can join us there tomorrow night to begin this coming week's Art Basil experience.

    The rebirth of the West Grove has started.  Miami's oldest African American community now faces the challenges of gentrification.  How do you keep the area's people and Bahamian charm in the west village?
     Jihad Rashid, president of the West Grove's Collaborative Development Corporation told me, "We're doing what we can to preserve a good part of Village West for our people.  Our group is  limiting the ill effects of gentrification by creating attainable housing and jobs." 
 The CDC is the prime mover behind Kroma.
     The Grove guy with the CDC's Jihad Rashid and Uta. 
Below, paper mache vessels buy Grove artist, Uta.


Looking at the happy faces enjoying last Thursday's art show, I'd say they're doing a good job.  West Grove leaders are working hard to create a new Village West that we all can be proud of.
                        See you at Kroma!

Reporting from West Grand,
The Grove Guy

PS:  Kroma will begin its Art Basel week with a party.  The public is invited. Come to the gallery on Tuesday, December 2, 7-10 pm.
   The gallery will also be open
at its usual hours, Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 7.


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