Coconut Grove, with its verdant landscape, serene bay front setting, and casual ambiance has always attracted artists. In the 1950’s, artists from all over the US and as far away as Europe, settled in Coconut Grove and established studios. The Grove soon became known as an artist’s colony, and it was not unusual to see artists setting up their easels on the sidewalks and painting the local scene. During the 1950’s and 1960s, Coconut Grove was a gathering place for hippies and artists. As the years passed, the area capitalized on its reputation as “the groovy Grove” By the 1960’s there were many thriving art galleries as well as Grove House, an artists’ co-op, Circa 1970, established by Ellie Sneiderman, teacher and creator of arts communities in Miami for three decades, who as an artist, ceramics teacher and Education Director seeded professional development, training, arts advocacy, and community education in visual arts in all media.
Coconut Grove was the first community to promote the business of the creative industry as a sustainable tool for economic development, not just the visual and performing arts, but also media, architectural, culinary, advertising, and horticultural arts. It is Miami’s first Arts and Entertainment District. From this sacred circle of artists, architects, designers, and businessmen and women came: The Coconut Grove Playhouse, The Alhambra Orchestra, The Mayfair, The Bayshore Recording Studio, The Flying Fendelman Bros. co-owners of the Grove Art Cinema on Grand Avenue, which closed in 1989 (Miami’s first home for independent film).
Known as the “Soho of the South”, the village of Coconut Grove is a world center of pop-culture. Like it’s counterpart in New York, Greenwich Village, it is Miami’s first artists’ community, home to its own brand of bohemian, counterculture, creating festivals and events committed to the cultural and imaginative life of the Grove and to the advancement of large-scale participatory events, i.e Fete Du Musique, Women’s International Film Festival, The Mad Hatter Pop Art Festival, The Taste of the Grove, The King Mango Strut, which began as a parody of the Orange Bowl Parade, The Miami Bahamas Goombay Festival produced the first week in June on Grand Avenue which is transforms the Grove into Nassau’s Bay Street. It celebrates the culture of Bahamian people who settled Coconut Grove in 1876, as well as its history and traditions with native straw market, exotic food and tropical drinks, fine artists and artisans, and legendary musicians such as -Calypsonian Ronnie Butler and Rake and Scrape Recording Artist, Ancient Man.
These events which have become destinations can play a major role in the economy, reestablishing the Grove as the Epicenter for the creative and cottage industry. They also address the life of its diverse people, promoting cultural pluralism, inclusiveness over selectivity and specialization, as well as establishing the opportunity to renew their relationship to the environment of Coconut Grove, and the resurrection and rejuvenation of the Grove’s spirit.
For the past 50 years the signature event of the Grove has been The Coconut Grove Arts Festival. The Festival attracts over a 150,000 people annually from the United States, the Caribbean, Canada, Latin America and Europe to view, commission, and purchase the works of over 350 of the finest juried artists and craftsmen in the world. The Coconut Grove Arts festival has the highest sale per artist of any festival in the country.
The vision for Coconut Grove is one that creates a vibrant, village-like environment where residents and visitors alike, come often to partake in a wide variety of cultural programs and activities, fine dining, shopping, art galleries or just a quiet afternoon in the park. Evenings are as active as week-ends and week-days, and becomes a place to “see and be seen”. Businesses flourish, historic properties come alive with new uses, traffic flows freely and pedestrians enjoy a sculpture park featuring the work of local, regional, national, and international artists, water amenities, a cafe, a small informal amphitheater and botanical landscape plantings, programs and activities for people of all ages; streetscape enhancements that feature new street trees, street furniture, paving and public art; transportation improvements that allow for improved vehicular traffic flow; and the sensitive integration of parking structures with ground floor offices, retail and gallery space making parking readily accessible to all.
Once known as Coconut Grove’s Mayfair Center, the Mayfair was designed by Miami architect Kenneth Treister, which consists of two separate, architecturally interesting buildings that capture the spirit, environment and aesthetics of Coconut Grove.