We had the good fortune of connecting with OLIVER SANCHEZ and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi OLIVER, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
I was a waiter during college, learning early on to quickly read people and treat everyone the same-ish. After graduating from MDC I moved to NYC in 1980 and began working in the arts industry in various capacities as a freelancer. The Big Apple was a gritty welcoming mess, a fruity cocktail of colorful characters spiked with effervescent urban erosion. One could work a few days a month to earn a living and afford good food, cheap rent and go out. Aside from a long list of awesome clients and challenging projects, I’ve never had a salary job. It was normal have feast or famine lifestyle. Honestly, who would hire me full time?
What should our readers know about your business?
I began Swampspace in 2005 as a place where the creative community could gather to engage in dialog and share ideas in a non-commercial venue. It was located in the crappy storefront of my art studio in the Miami Design District. From the beginning, I was interested in celebrating the bohemian, avant-garde new and experimental ideas that are the genesis of creative processes. I wanted to offer contrast to the institutional rigidity and politics of the established status quo art industry. Today after three location and nearly 80 cultural events featuring visual art, performance, music, literature and more, Swampspace is now a pilar of fun and a safe house for the formulation of ideas. It is a known destination for world class seasoned art lovers and the novice newcomers from down the hood. It is a place where everyone’s a winner. It has not been easy to run a no-budget place subsidized by my fabrication business and artistic practice. We have the support of a few patrons but the old adage that artists are starving still rings true. Yet with a few lemons we make some pretty darn good lemonade. As a fabricator, I earned my reputation with my hands. I did not set out to be a conduit for other artists but coincidence is fate. Having been in the company of really talented people has been a privilege. Working on sculptural projects with Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, Daniel Arsham and so many others has been amazing. Working with museums, galleries and art fairs was also formative experiences. As an artist, I have been on my own always. As a counterpunch to Covid, I’m really excited to announce a new long haul project that will help everyone cope with style. Swampspace is thrilled to partner with artist Jody McDonald to house his Love Worn brand, a delightful Vintage Clothing Shop for Fashion and Music lovers of all stripes. LoveWorn is the Sanford and Son Second Hand Shop from Thrift Heaven. Come through and get a swampy makeover!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
There are basically two types of visitors and natives. There are those that want to go to the beach and those that are here for some other inexplicable reason. Sure its nice to shop at Brickell mall or hop aboard a caribbean cruise ship or game your luck at the Seminole hard rock casino. It’s nice to live in Moral Gables or a high rise luxury condo in Shady Isles and never set foot on the beach. But its no secret that our number one amenity is the ocean and the fresh air. It is the valued elixir to the weary travelers, the snowbirds of the Americas and european ancestors and gipsies. So by beach don’t mean SoBe entertainment zone with all the glitz and glamour and hoochy coochy brawling bacchanal. Although if the visitor has been asleep for 100 years then by all means go there. So first on the swampy itinerary is sand between your toes, SPF 30, Sargassum pedicure and near naked people watching. Next on the tour are all the gastronomic destinations. In the interest of full disclosure, we are in a global pandemic of epic proportions and so I can’t speak to the current availability of food joints and dining establishments. But back in the good old days before the Rona, there was a cornucopia of eateries among the contrasting budgets and neighborhoods that make Miami so enticing. Real staples such as Sylvano’s Italian near Collins Park in Sobe, and Sason Cuban on North Beach, Catana Suchi near the Normandy Fountain an so many others. On the mainland there’s a ton of kitchens ready to serve or to go. Cafe Limone or Mandolin and OTL in the Design District; romantic Cafe Roval, Andiamo pizza and Bar Meli in the MiMo district as well as Sherwood and Naomi’s Garden in Little Haiti. Downtown and Brickell for urban latin manhattanish, Solo Pomodora used to be awesome and Garcia’s for fish by the Rivers is super local. It wild and wily Wynwood you can eat out at Coyo’s or Joe’s but don’t sit still or you’ll get spray painted. In the Grove there is the Last Carrot which is also the first place there. The Gables would be great if you’re dressed appropriately, behave decent and can find parking, it would be a miracle. Of course no tour of Miami is complete without a visit to the original Palacio de los Jugos on Flagler and 57 Ave. for those who love pork and are ok with a heart attack. If our intrepid visitors want to really empty their wallets, I would take them out at night. We start at Swampspace with cafesito and shots, then uber over to Gramps. From there we scurry mythical Ocean Drive and hit 10 or twelve bars for tropical UrbanRitas wrapping up the binge at Mac’s Club Deuce to toast the MBPD. After that its back to the mainland for noisy nausea at Churchill’s, Las Rosas and Ball & Chain. Finally we return to Swampspace to use the restroom, charge our phones, another cuban coffee and go home, rest and get ready for the next day for a swim and very swampy art and culture tour of necessary stuff. Finally we go and pay our respects to swamp at the Well of Ancient Mysteries and the Indian Circle to discuss the next visit that will include alligator wrestling in the Everglades.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Aside from God who everyone must thank eternally for awards and blessings, I would like to thank my mother who never complained. Lawd knows having me was reason enough to kvetch, but she was like a nun. I also would not be me without the coddling of a squad of drag queens friends of my brother who mentored me into a traumatic adolescence. Back then i read the entire library sections on self-help, how-to-do, and fiction. I plowed through encyclopedia Britanica and devoured Funk&Wagnalls. I would walk a mile barefoot for the latest copy of Interview Magazine, Architectural Digest and Popular Mechanics. We would fall asleep watching the Late Night Show with Johnny Carson. When i was down only a really depressing book by Doris Lessing or JG Ballard would offer comfort like a sledge hammer of intellectual remedy. Thankfully, my success is due in no small part to my dear wife, Min from Minnesota. I met this diminutive giant of a lady in the most disgusting and destitute place imaginable; the East Village of the 80’s. We collided like a bullseye and cupids arrow in an art show, a basement concert, the Mudd Club or Central Park. According to her recollection which is always clear, I was dumbstruck and mumbling incoherent Spanglish. We hung out at the infamous Club 57 with our new family, Keith Haring, Jean Michel Basquiat, Kenny Scarf and a melange of misfits. Some of us are still here! She must love me because in ’92 we moved to Miami and had a perfect child who is now a grown famous artist. Together they are my rock and my star. Min is the most understanding b-buster and supportive person in my life. I sometimes say that i would be dead without her. But after 40 years of loving cooperation i’m pretty sure she’s trying to kill me as there is only enough savings for one of us to retire. I really love her to death. Finally, thanks to the patronage in the Miami Design District who extend their support for me with a affordable artist studio where coffee is always free.
ALL IMAGES COURTESY: SWAMPSPACE