Neighborhood Spotlight: Rojas + Rubensteen
We talk about food and culture all the time here, but did you know that the neighborhood is a hot spot for local art and galleries? Little River and the surrounding areas has an increasingly growing amount of spaces that provide platforms for artists, both local and international. Right down the street from our very hall is a sweet little creative find, Rojas + Rubensteen Projects.
The gallery has been open since September, inspired from a conversation between schoolmates Eira Rojas + Aimee Rubensteen who became friends while studying Art History at the Courtauld Institute of Art. “It’s funny, we went all the way to London to befriend a South Floridian,” said Rubensteen. “We became friends quickly, exchanged our research papers for feedback and ate a lot of dessert together.” They spent the next few years talking about art, politics and pop culture, and brought that love back to their hometown which eventually turned into Rojas + Rubensteen Projects: “we wanted to create a new gallery/ project space that felt different here.” The space became a haven for art lovers looking to experience art in a different environment. “We wanted our space to question the standard art gallery experience,” she said. “We want you to walk in and feel the warmth and accessibility, whether you’re a passerby or an art collector.” From their prices and curations, to even the dialogue they perpetual in store, they’re trying to re-evaluate the traditionally exclusive art world by deconstructing it.”
Being new on the block has allowed them to create a vibrant personality that fits in with the culture and history of the neighborhood. “We wanted to grow with the change happening in Little River,” said Rubensteen. Aside from the more affordable space, the location drew them in with the proximity to the local Haitian culture and other popular galleries. The price was right for us, and we wanted to be on a street with other local Haitian and art spots. Even further, they’re fully aware that growth comes from connection with a hybrid audience: “We support local artists, collaborate with local initiatives, and try to provide events that interest locals as much as art enthusiasts.”
The space may be small, but it’s filled with some of the most uniquely curated pieces in the city. From local and international contemporary photography, painting, sculpture, mixed-media installation, and video to even performance art. Each exhibition brings different art to the gallery based on a social or political message that is timely and relevant to the community and wider world. Controversial conversations don’t intimidate the ladies, their last exhibit, Swing State, was about challenging systems of American power. Their upcoming exhibition, I Am Here: Manal AlDowayan, is the first retrospective of AlDowayan’s work in the US. “Her photographs, installation, mixed media work challenges our notions of identity,” said Rubensteen. “Now more than ever, we will use our gallery as a safe space to discuss the current political climate, and use art as a platform to better understand our community and the people who feel isolated by it.”
Whether you’re a curious creative or just in the neighborhood and looking to interact with open-minded people, pass by Rojas + Rubensteen Projects to check out the new exhibit opening tomorrow, February 17th in partnership with FIU’s Steven J Green School of International and Public Affairs for Manal AlDowayan’s solo show. “It’s important to us to educate ourselves about Muslim culture,” she said. The opening will be an opportunity to engage with FIU students, the local Muslim community as well as art collectors. “Art has the unique ability to change our perception in a way that might be simply conversational or emotionally proactive. The more diverse the art in our space is the better it represents the world around us.”