Meet Christopher Norwood, founder of Hampton Art Lovers

📷 Photo courtesy of Christopher Norwood

Hello, Christopher. Who are you? What do you do?

I am the founder and curator of Hampton Art Lovers at the Historic Ward Rooming House Gallery.

What neighborhood(s) are you reppin’?

Overtown, Miami Lakes, and Brick City (Newark, NJ).

What brings you most alive about the 305?

Art and culture. There is a vibrancy that electrifies our community in ways that are both flamboyant and beneath the surface. Both sides of this coin illuminate.

We have outstanding emerging art institutions that celebrate mainstream art and entertainment, but there is also an underground current of organizations that keep everything grounded in reality and in neighborhoods. I love and admire both, and that’s a part of the makeup of the Miami way of life — we have RANGE.

Most cities are monolithic, but there are about 10 Miamis in Miami. I love the fact that you have to explore the city to actually know what I’m talking about. It’s not always easy to find, but that’s why it’s special.

What’s your favorite Miami memory?

American Airlines Arena on July 10, 2010: the Welcome Party of the Miami Heat “Big Three”: Chris Bosh, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade.

It had the vibe of a Marvel Universe opening scene with hip-hop music. The Big Three entered the building with Pharoahe Monch’s “Simon Says” instrumental playing “get the **** up.” It was a real vibration; it was like a free Saturday night party at the Arena. I was there, and I’m not even a Heat fan, but I love basketball and I knew this was the harbinger of a seismic shift in the balance of power in the basketball universe. More importantly, we partied with thousands of Heat fans for hours! That was a Miami moment.

If you could eat only one meal from a local restaurant for the rest of your life, what would it be?

B&M Market on 79 Street. It’s a small restaurant in a Caribbean market owned by a Trinidadian couple. The food is awesome and feels homemade, and supporting this couple and their business is a pleasure. They have salt fish and ackee every day and I could eat that for the rest of my life if need be.

They also serve a few things special for me, but that’s between me and them. You have to go develop your own relationship with them to get that treatment.

Outside of the obvious stop above, share your other top three destinations for where you’d go on your perfect Miami day.

1) Everglades National Park’s Flamingo Campgrounds: it’s a jewel at the bottom of the Everglades where you can pitch a tent right on the Gulf and see the stars clearly at night. You enter through the Homestead entrance of the Everglades and the drive all the way to the Gulf is pure nature and beauty. I’ve done that drive with my 1978 International Harvester Scout Terra with the top off. It’s nothing short of electric relaxation.

2) The Rustin Inn Crabhouse in Broward — I love crabs.

3) Museum hopping! Try…

The Wolfsonian Museum has a show that I curated called “Silhouettes: Image and Word in the Harlem Renaissance.” The flourishing of literary, visual, and musical arts between the 1920s and ’40s known as the Harlem Renaissance projected a new picture of Black life to the world. “Silhouettes: Image and Word in the Harlem Renaissance” considers the role of art in this movement, paying special attention to the collaboration between artists and writers on illustrated books — works that reached a broad audience with stories and images that challenged demeaning stereotypes and asserted African Americans’ capacity for self-determination.

The Historic Ward Rooming House Gallery in Overtown is our epicenter. Hampton Art Lovers operates and curates this space. We currently have an art exhibition, “For the People | 700 the Arts,” which celebrates the African-American art collection from the Miami-Dade Public Library System’s Permanent Art Collection, curated by Hampton Art Lovers. Immerse yourself in a diverse showcase of art, featuring thought-provoking pieces from Bob Thompson, Richard Hunt, Sam Gilliam, Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, Gene Tinnie, Al Loving, Jacob Lawrence, William T. Williams, Raymond Saunders, and others.

The Lowe Museum at the University of Miami is a gem. It’s the oldest art museum in Miami-Dade and its Director and Curator Jill Deupi is forward-looking. I love her shows and I’m fortunate to serve on the Lowe Museum Advisory Board so that I can contribute to her work as a volunteer. Her past show on the great Charles White was masterfully presented and the book she edited for the show was magnificent.

The Perez Museum is a beauty — the physical beauty of the museum itself is delightful and Franklin Sirmans’ leadership, especially in the programming around African-American Art, has been delightful to witness. I would love to see him curate more shows for the institution and beyond.

What’s your favorite local social media account to follow and why?

I’m not very active, but I will say that the local Miami joints like @onlyindade are a guilty pleasure.

If you could give any one piece of advice to locals, what would it be?

See the world outside of Miami and the island or country you come from. Miami is weird in that people come from all over Latin America and the Caribbean, but once here, they won’t leave Florida; most won’t go past Palm Beach.

I think this stunts community growth tremendously. We have to see the world to see possibilities and to see our strengths through comparison.

How does Miami help you do what you do or influence your work?

Overtown inspires me every day. The legacy of Miami flows through Overtown whether people acknowledge it or not. There is no Miami without Historic Overtown, which provided 40% of the required vote to charter the city in 1896. The African-American community pioneered the City of Miami and is a vital part of its foundation. That is a phenomenon that most major cities in America cannot say.

If there was one thing you could change, address, etc. about Miami, what would it be?

I want others to see what world-class public transportation systems look like by visiting other American and international cities. See the economic value, see the social value, and then create that system here regardless of cost. Because it’s costing us more in missed opportunities *not* to create it. The political solution will never happen; it requires community action. The price tag is too much for any politician to sustain the hit.

What are you looking forward to in 2024?

Watching the Dolphins!!!! 🏈

That’s a wrap on this week’s Locals to Know. Know someone who ought to be featured or would like to be featured yourself? Reach out by sending an email to [email protected] with the subject line “TNT Locals to Know 2024.” If chosen, you might just see yourself or a friend in a future newsletter.