Miami’s nonprofit Locust Projects relocates to expand 25 years of artist-inspired programming.
Executive Director Lorie Mertes inside Locust Projects’ new home PHOTO BY PEDRO WAZZAN
Founded by artist trio COOPER, Elizabeth Withstandley and Westen Charles, the nonprofit art space Locust Projects has become a staple in Miami’s support of contemporary artist-centric programming. The second arts space to inhabit Wynwood Arts District in 1998 alongside Brook Dorsch Gallery (now Emerson Dorsch), Locust Projects quickly made a name for itself as the experimental art space to launch artists’ careers.
These ambitious and boundary-pushing exhibitions, installations, wall murals, performances and public artworks attracted its first board of directors spearheaded by Dennis Scholl, the inaugural chairperson. In 2009, Locust Projects moved to a larger space in the Miami Design District thanks to the support of Craig Robins, formalizing its exhibitions with established artists alongside project room presentations, developing an education and Wavemaker grant program, providing legal aid to artists and more.
Today, under the leadership of Executive Director Lorie Mertes and longtime chairperson Debra Scholl (wife of Dennis Scholl), Locust Projects is making its next exciting move to an 8,000-square-foot space in Little River. Described by Mertes as an “extension of the artist studio,” this new building will provide the walls, floors and 17-foot high ceilings which the next generations of artists will brush up against, add to and, no doubt, break down.
“The new facility offers a lot more exhibition space and additional tools for our artists to expand their practices. We’re located in an industrial neighborhood that is home to artist studios, galleries, manufacturing and creative industries, so it will also allow us to reach out to and connect with the local neighborhood,” shares Debra Scholl.
Mertes, chairperson Debra Scholl and board members Dede Moss and Munisha Underhill PHOTO BY DEBRA GARCIA PRODUCTIONS
Although international, integration within South Florida’s creative communities is a priority for Locust Projects, whose 36 board members and six-person team expand on 25 years of initiatives that prioritize artist support.
Mertes, executive director since 2017 and one of Locust’s original curatorial advisers, shares, “The new space expands our role as an incubator of new art and ideas with commissioned artist projects throughout the building, including the creation of spaces and situations for artists and the public to meet and connect. For the first time, visiting artists will have access to dedicated studios and workspaces to build their projects, including a forthcoming digital innovation lab.”
Past highlight exhibitions have included an early solo presentation of work by renowned artist Phil Collins, a controversial wall mural series by South African artist Ed Young, an excavation installation of Daniel Arsham’s chalk creations, a dance performance and sculptural installation by GeoVanna Gonzalez, and many more. Locust Projects is also renowned for its not-to-be-missed Spring Fling and Benefit Dinner fundraising events that attract widespread support from artists and patrons alike and provide the organization vital funds. Assisted by a capacity-building five-year grant awarded in 2019 by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and a recent leadership gift from board member Dede Moss, Locust Projects’ move is secured by a five-year lease providing the stability to focus on expanded programming and building on future ambitions of one day owning a space in Miami. Scheduled to open this month, Locust Projects is set to grow its already spirited legacy with more possibilities, scope and... space.
The new Locust Projects is located at 297 NE 69th St., Little River. Visit locustprojects.org for updates.
Photography by: Photo By: Pedro Wazzan