Many business owners in Miami closed and limited themselves to making basic expenses during the pandemic, but others saw the opportunity to create what they felt the city was lacking.
Javier Gonzalez Polo and Viviana Fernandez, a married couple who came from Cuba about 11 years ago, were working as designers and marketers but lost many of their clients because businesses stopped their activities due to the economic crisis.
Left to survive on unemployment benefits with two children who needed care and time, they came up with the idea of renovating the yard outside their storage unit in Allapattah into a place where not only adults but also kids could enjoy Cuban culture.
The Creative Yard is an affordable place designed for gatherings and artistic collaborations by small business owners, painters, writers, musicians, teachers and performers.
Within its walls, the owners have hosted events like book signings, yoga lessons, music and dance classes, concerts, painting workshops and stand-up comedy, many free, others, such as yoga classes, costing up to $50.
They also have a bazaar where customers can buy handmade jewelry, clothes and accessories — or even sit for a tarot reading.
Gonzalez says Miami lacks places where people can really interact with artists while having a conversation and sharing time .
The Yard’s mission is to give new Miami artists and entrepreneurs the opportunity to grow and share their work with the community in an affordable space.
“I’ve gone to art fairs,” Gonzalez says. “I get out and I feel empty.”
Although the Yard is a work in progress, the core values of the place have not changed.
The owners want to keep being affordable so Miamians can go, enjoy, take home a great experience and with luck, come back to be part of what they like to call the Creative Yard’s family.
Yissy Garcia, one of the youngest and most influential drummers in Cuban music, leads percussion and drum workshops for children in the Creative Yard.
Garcia came from Cuba about two years ago and was invited to play at the Yard with her band, Bandancha. That gave her the opportunity to share her music and become part of the Yard’s family.
“I think Miami needed a place like this, where people from different branches of art would come together,” Garcia says. “The truth is that I know few places that support artists of genres such as jazz, fusion and alternative music.”
Jessica Navarro, Garcia’s wife, created her vegetarian catering business, Las Plantinas, with chef Claudia Casal at the start of the pandemic in 2020 and brought it to the Yard.
“I was fascinated when I entered the studio first, ” Navarro says. “They had the bazaar with different artists full of dreams and talent. It was like my cultural and multifaceted Havana. “To be able to find that concept in Miami is just wonderful.”
Navarro also hosts “Sweet Karma,” with Garcia; life coach Yvette Valverde; and Marlys Clemente, a baker known for her delicious flan.
Sweet Karma, Navarro says, offers a “safe space” where people can enjoy a meditation ritual, where they can open up about their feelings, then do 45 minutes of yoga and finally enjoy a piece of Cuban flan “to sweeten good karma.”
The Creative Yard is like home, Navarro said, “because not only has it been the headquarters of those who are already recognized in the art world, but it is also an engine for those who are starting, like me.”
Navarro said that having such a place is part of a cultural revolution that was paralyzed for a long time in Miami, and spaces like this give “the Magic City” a connotation beyond beaches and nightclubs.
Lexter Savio, who is working on a doctorate in nuclear physics at Florida International University, and also an author presented his book of poems and essays “Ultravidas” at the Yard.
He is also part of The Creative Yard’s family and goes almost every Saturday to enjoy what he considers an alternative space with exceptional music.
“I consider The Creative Yard one of the places where the best live music plays in Miami,” said Savio. “Nothing bad happens there because of the good energy of the people that go there.”