Who Art Miami 2020: Eddie Arroyo by Abigael Derlise

Artist Quote

“Be more aware of speaking with people and not to people.”

“Be unpredictable, be real, be interesting, tell a good story!”

Eddie Arroyo

Student Biography

Abigael Derlise is a current senior at Florida International University, majoring in International Business with a certificate in International Trade and Investment. After graduation, my plan is to pursue a career in Corporate Banking, although that may change after graduation. She has a passion for improving learning for children; she hopes to create a Non-Profit Organization to help children get a better education in her hometown. She is currently working on her own business that will enable her to resell art from Haiti. A perfect day for her is a day at a botanical garden, state park or at a museum.

Artist Biography

Eddie Arroyo
Image Credit Sharif Slimting Source New Academy of Art

Eddie Arroyo was born in Miami and grew up in Little Havana. His mother is Colombian, and his father is Peruvian. Arroyo comes from a family passionate about painting. His father was a painter, which is why he became an artist. Arroyo obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting from Florida International University. His painting focuses on the effects of gentrification through landscape. Arroyo had the chance to exhibit some of his work at the Girls’ Club Collection, Bridge Red Studios, Spinello Projects, Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, Florida Atlantic University, Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum, and the Little Haiti Cultural Complex. 

Key Figures of Personal Importance

Eddie Arroyo has had some impactful mentors who have contributed significantly to his success in landscape painting. One of them being his professor, John Bailey, who taught him in a painting and printmaking class at Florida International University. John Bailey was an MBA graduate from Yale who used the skills he had acquired from Yale on Bachelor of Fine Arts programs, which made his classes more intense compared to those of other professors. Another critical mentor was his father, who was not a professional painter but did painting as a hobby. He could talk to Arroyo about art theory and its history, which gave Arroyo a real solid foundation. Moreover, Arroyo is very conscious of using Edward Hopper as a source of inspiration to contextualize or help people comprehend what he is trying to say to the world. Edward Hopper is a renowned American painter of the twentieth century whose technique was mainly focused on lighting shapes and architectural structures that characterized the American art at the time people did not see much of it.

Historical Context

Eddie Arroyo, 5901 NE 2nd Ave. Miami, FL 33127, 2019
Courtesy of the Artist and Spinello Projects

Arroyo is mining history by painting actual buildings and structures in Miami, and mainly those of Little Haiti, including the vanishing, family-run storefronts, botanicas, and restaurants, all victims of the gentrification that is quickly eating up that neighborhood. He thought it was essential to use Edward Hopper’s work to try and address what essentially became gentrification. Hopper is an artist whom Arroyo thought was active within the context of his history by basically addressing industrialization and primarily the Industrial Revolution, or particularly the American industrial revolution. During the Industrial Revolution, the rest of the world was curious. Eger to know what American art looks like. Since they wanted to see the artwork, they would not stop questioning it. Paris was seen as the center of the art world in those days. It came to a point where Europe was asking whether America had any artwork. Based on the research, one can say today that Edward Hopper is one of the artists that was being used as an example of what an American artist looks like, as opposed to other artists at the time. 

Arroyo took that kind of concept which exists today within the art world that when people look at an artist like Edward Hopper, they mainly see him as American. He also wanted to take the issue of what American art looked like and talk about it on those terms within his work by using Edward’s approach to painting and framed it under the context of what America is today. Arroyo specifically considered Miami, in proximity in the borders of the United States, which just evolved mostly to become impulsive, trying to figure that out. Firstly, Arroyo was impressed with the evolution that had happened since then, which made it easy to infuse the narrative of gentrification through his work that he thought made the most sense. He did that because gentrification was receiving much denial. Many people doubted if it was taking place. And due to several challenges within the art community in Miami, he wanted to infuse that in his work, which he thought would as well address the same. 

Cultural Context

A group of people standing in front of a sign

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Eddie Arroyo, 8395 NE 2nd Ave. Miami, FL 33138, 2019
Courtesy of the Artist and Spinello Projects

Arroyo was afraid that the poverty-stricken population who were mainly from the residential neighborhood of Little Haiti would face a significant challenge trying to endure the invasion of developers. Still, he later realized that his fears were baseless. Thus, part of his practice was to do the commemorations and history of the city, which Arroyo termed as recording the community and culture. He mainly did this to those areas which did not have enough resources and were unable to do such a thing by themselves.

The work of muralists inspired Arroyo so much. They brought together art and activism by leaving paint on walls of buildings and signs to mark both the realities and memories of a given place. Being born of Colombian and Peruvian immigrants, Arroyo did his first solo painting show in 2010, and he has as well participated in several group shows (Tschida, 2019). The majority of the paintings in his studio portray signs, the hand-scribbled and tell-tale marks of a working-class neighborhood that are likely to face many challenges. One of his signs read, “Restaurant space for lease.” The one he had was on its way to the Whitney, which is a community leader, Speak Early/Speak Loud/Speak Proud, contrary to the Magic City Innovation District expansion.

Contemporary Context

Eddie Arroyo, 5825 NE 2nd Ave. Miami, FL 33137, 2019
Courtesy of the Artist and Spinello Projects
Eddie Arroyo, May 17, 2019, Chinatown
Courtesy of the Artist and Spinello Projects

Among the 75 artists who were invited to take part in the 2019 Biennial, two were from Miami, who was Eddie Arroyo and Agustina Woodgate, both represented by the advanced gallery Spinello Developments. Other Miamians, including Robert Thiele (1975) and Adler Guerrier and William Cordova (both in 2008), had also been chosen in the past for the Whitney Biennial. However, in the real sense, Arroyo is still considered to be the most representative of Miami so far. In 2009, Biennial’s key themes included “the mining of history to re-invent the present or future, thoughtful and unrelenting consideration of issues of equity together with fiscal, racial, and gender disparity.” And Arroyo indeed mined history by painting actual buildings and structures in Miami, and mainly, those of Little Haiti, including the vanishing, family-run storefronts, botanicas, and restaurants, all victims of the gentrification that is quickly eating up that neighborhood. Also, Arroyo does not shy away from the activism that is part of his art, and he talks about it his home on NW 2nd Avenue.

Use of Formal Elements of Art

Arroyo made good use of bright tropical oranges and yellows to cover the Café Creole. On one of those walls was the mural of Mecca, the Haitian poet, and rapper, wearing military attire, both as the mural would have appeared originally, then as it later looked, ruined. He is currently documenting the effects of gentrification through landscape paintings. He as well used new white or slate-gray colors to paint buildings, which turned out bland with generic spaces. The fact that some features were fast vanishing made him feel that lovers of Miami’s diversity were going to miss the fruit carts, botánicas, as well as the music that was always coming from the storefronts.

Eddie Arroyo, 5825 NE 2nd Ave. Miami, FL 33137, 2016
Courtesy of the Artist and Spinello Projects

Most of Arroyo’s work of gentrification is innovative because it focuses mainly on addressing the issues of transforming neighborhoods. For instance, his work on places like Wynwood and Little Haiti has made these areas to rapidly lose their distinct neighborhood character and are currently home to high-end restaurants, homes and art galleries accommodating both domestic and international wealthy residents. It is an original work because as much as they appear to be bland, it has really managed to transform that area. Arroyo sees a downside as well. New proprietors, including art organizations, regardless of how amicable, they want their newly built properties to be amidst up-and moving businesses. These do not necessarily have to be mom-and-pop stores and Laundromats. And since an increase in the value of a property is directly correlated to rents and property taxes, more evictions, unemployment, and a loss of the neighborhood’s social structure are likely to be experienced in such areas. Arroyo is aware of the fact that gentrification is almost inevitable in the current real estate industry, specifically with Little Haiti’s closeness to the business district, Wynwood, and the Design District. But from the interview, he seems to disagree with how the process takes place. For instance, people can show appreciation for the idea of galleries now standing on their spaces, blocking them from the development cycle in which the investors elevate their projects by asking artists and galleries to let space at huge discounts. Then once the projects begin and property values rise, they no longer need the artists who are forced to relocate due to rising rents. For this reason, Arroyo explains that owning an art gallery, studios, house, can ensure greater stability for artists.

Artist Current Work

Eddie Arroyo currently does not have an exhibition on display. However, he does have his new collection on his page for sale. The project was inspired by his recent insolvent in different originations that are advocation on gentrification. It all started after experiencing the official designation meeting of Little Haiti in 2016, Arroyo has been of the activist organization, and he has been volunteering for the Haitian Women of Miami. Since then, Arroyo has been very active in the Haitian community. After he realized how unaware segregation has kept of the Haitian history, he was determined to change his knowledge and to share gentrification in Little Haiti with others. Arroyo’s current works are mostly focused on cultural identification and gentrification in Little Haiti and Chinatown in New York City. His new painting reflects on advocating for his community. Arroyo found himself becoming more conscious of his role as a citizen.


Eddie Arroyo, FTP 2 (2019)
Courtesy of the Artist and Spinello Projects

In this painting, “FTP 2 (2019).” Arroyo was inspired by revolution. Little Haiti is about culture, it’s about family and now their neighborhood has been taking over by people who do not care about the history of the place. This painting shows the community’s anger, their commitment to fighting in order to keep their place safe. According to the residents, the investor should invest in Little Haiti instead of trying to rebuild it.

Eddie Arroyo, “June 20th, 2019, Little Haiti is not for sale”
Courtesy of the Artist and Spinello Projects

Arroyo’s work is reflecting the people fighting against the threats of displacement. In a documentary, “Little Haiti Confronting Gentrification” by FIU, the community came together to express their concerns. They said that Little Haiti is their home and they will not abandon it. Arroyo shared the video with me when asked about his project inspiration.  “June 20th, 2019, Little Haiti is not for sale” to “FTP 2 (2019)”

Experience with the Artist

Working with Eddie Arroyo was a fantastic experience and it was most educational. He was friendly with a very positive attitude.  His work is advocating on social issues in our hometown, especially gentrification. The fact that Arroyo is using his skills in painting to uplift those neighborhoods is quite inspirational and meaningful. As a Haitian immigrant, I was able to relate to his work in a meaningful way. I was even learning about my own history from him. Arroyo is very well-informed and takes pride in his responsibility in his movement for cultural identification and gentrification. He inspires me to be more active in my community.  

Above all, I am glad that I had the chance to learn a lot of new ideas on painting and how gentrification is affecting the lower class in Miami. After the interview on zoom, I felt like I had a lot more to learn. 

Works Cited

https://eddiearroyo.com/

https://www.pamm.org/calendar/2019/08/local-views-pamm-eddie-arroyo

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