Miami's Most Creative Young Minds
BY JON WARECH
Haitian-born DJ Michael Brun is set to make a name for himself in South Beach and around the world.
Michael Brun at LIV at the Fontainebleau, where the DJ has taken up residency after rave reviews and a stellar 2013 debut at the megaclub.
Two years ago, Michael Brun was a premed student at Davidson College in North Carolina when DJ Dirty South discovered his electronic dance music debut track, “Dawn,” and decided to bring the young Haitian-born DJ-by-night to the big leagues. By March 2012, Dirty South was playing Brun’s second track (and first on the Dirty South Phazing label), “Rise,” at Ultra Music Festival, and Brun knew he had a choice to make.
“I was next to him when he was playing it, and there were, like, 10,000 people,” Brun says. “It was crazy. It was the most people I had ever seen in one place, and the reaction was so good. I had to make a decision, so I talked with people at school and they really supported my music. They allowed me to take a leave to test it out, and so I’m on leave right now.”
While “on leave,” Brun has created a remix for Calvin Harris, released his first solo EP, Gravity, which includes his first vocals track, “Halfway,” and collaborated with Alicia Keys and Maxwell for the official remix of “Fire We Make”—all this at just 21 years old, the age at which his growing fan base is just beginning to stir its vodka tonics with glow sticks. Recent headlining gigs at LIV at the Fontainebleau stand to be not only a homecoming of sorts but also an arrival for the Bal Harbour resident: He’s the main attraction for New Year’s Eve at Wall at the W South Beach, a perfect way to end 2013 and start 2014.
For Brun, though, the music has been in him since childhood. His parents put him in piano, violin, and guitar lessons by age 6, and as a teen he was already mixing beats and attending EDM shows in Haiti. He even opened for Avicii early on in the “Wake Me Up” DJ’s career. It’s the opportunity that Haiti provided Brun, yet fails to provide so many others, that will keep him grounded next year while he tours the world and becomes a household name to club kids everywhere. It’s also why he plans to someday return to his roots.
“The whole reason I got into medicine is growing up in Haiti I saw really tough conditions all around me,” he says. “I saw the situation and it’s close to my heart, so I hope in the future I’m able to continue with medicine.”
Interior designer Lindsay Pumpa parlays a TV gig into design domination.
Interior designer Lindsay Pumpa, surrounded by the hanging fabric panels at the Romo Florida showroom. “I go there the most,” Pumpa says.
Lindsay Pumpa was a young talent with a keen eye for modern design when she joined the team at Tui Lifestyle in 2008 after graduating from Florida State University. She didn’t have television experience or even many years of design under her belt by 2012. What she did have was a boss who believed in her, Tui Lifestyle CEO Jason Atkins, so when HGTV’s Urban Oasis Giveaway was on the hunt for someone to design the condo during the Miami season of the home-design show that gives away a high-end fully furnished residence, Atkins threw her name in the ring.
“I was blown away when they chose me last year,” she says. “I never had experience, but it’s one of my favorite things that I’ve ever done. If I had my own way, I’d work on a show on the network permanently.”
Wishes may come true for 27-year-old Pumpa, who, after the Miami season received 18 million contestant entries to win the Pumpa-designed home (4 million more than the previous season), was asked to stay on to design the 2013 home in Boston. The extra television time gave Pumpa the exposure and the confidence to go out on her own in the design world: In April she opened the doors to L. Pumpa Designs.
“I realized I could do this,” says the self-described monochromatic modern designer, who counts design team Yabu Pushelberg and designer Kelly Wearstler among her influences. “If I have this many people agreeing with the way I design and like my design, I decided that I can support my own business and be my own boss.”
While it’s still unknown if there are more seasons of Pumpa on HGTV in the future, it is very clear that her 2014 schedule is filling up. She is at “max capacity” of clients around South Florida and has high hopes that good reviews on the Boston season will lead to even more work. She’s already planning on bringing in a partner next year to help her company expand further.
“I’ve been swamped since the show aired,” she says. “It’s a wide range of projects, but I’m definitely full-time busy. Miami is very design oriented and is still a strong market, so I’ve been picking up clients left and right.”
Poet P. Scott Cunningham not only crafts words, he’s crafting a masterpiece out of Miami’s poetry scene.
P. Scott Cunningham at Panther Coffee in Wynwood, a perfect urban Miami setting in which to develop Miami’s burgeoning literary scene.
Every day, poet P. Scott Cunningham achieves his goal in life by killing two birds with one stone—he brings contemporary poetry to the streets through his University of Wynwood project and O, Miami Poetry Festival, and he does it in Miami, a city he is helping gain street cred in the poetry world.
“I think both Miami and poetry get a bad rap,” says Cunningham, whose own poetry has appeared in Harvard Review, The Awl, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. “People think Miami is soulless and that there’s nothing to do here except get drunk and go to clubs, when in some ways I think it’s the most culturally rich city in the country. I really believe in Miami, and I really believe in contemporary poetry.”
The University of Wynwood Project, was Cunningham’s outlet to bring poetry lovers together and create programming for all of Miami to enjoy. It was a side job for the Florida International University master of fine arts graduate (along with writing poetry on the street during Art Walk with a group called the Miami Poetry Collective) until the Knight Foundation caught wind of his work and offered a grant that made Cunningham, 35, the driving force behind Miami’s poetry scene. In 2011, with the help of Knight money, he started the month-long poetry festival O, Miami (which in 2013 brought in everyone from President Obama’s inaugural poet Richard Blanco to Parks and Recreation writer Megan Amram), and in 2014 he plans to use the $200,000 grant plus other donations to turn the biennial event into an annual affair for the first time.
To get to this point, Cunningham did whatever it took to literally get the word out. His team has flown poems behind airplanes, read poetry over a bullhorn from inside a rented Ferrari, and sewn poems into random pieces of clothing in thrift stores—a gimmick that led to a viral video with more than 100,000 views. The grassroots campaign will continue as Cunningham attempts to bring versions of O, Miami to other cities and launches a publishing imprint that extends the festival’s philosophies to the publishing world.
“We’re going to continue to try to grow O, Miami to make it something that people know about not only locally but nationally and internationally,” he says. “We want to keep it independent and flexible, but we want to keep seeing where this can go.”
As Miami street artist Typoe matures, his unpredictable work is catching eyes well beyond South Florida.
Artist Typoe at Spinello Projects gallery in Miami, in front of his latest work—a wall consisting of nine games of Twister.
Until he was 20, Typoe was an artist of destruction. The Coral Gables-born street artist was smoking crack by age 15, robbing people, and landing in jail for vandalizing property in the name of street art. “It wasn’t really art; it was just destroying things,” he says. “I did that for a solid decade—just destruction—but I think that kind of helped fuel what I’m doing now.”
Today, at age 30, and 10 years removed from checking himself into rehab, Typoe retains a street-honed edge in his art, but he’s making waves in cultural circles well beyond the spray paint community with paintings and sculptures that capture the dark side of his youth and the playfulness that comes with success by turning everything from spray can tops to milk crates and toy guns into art. After linking up with gallerist Anthony Spinello, he became a hit in the art show world, and by 2013, Typoe had collaborated with Del Toro shoes on a shoe design, curated a major public art project in a high-end retail mall in Chicago, and wowed crowds at multiple Basel-week shows with work created in a downtown studio accolades beyond anything he expected in his youth.
With his rising level of success, one would think Typoe would hit the delete button on Miami, but he’s opted to stay put and help continue to build the art scene in the city he once enjoyed destroying. “I want to help Miami grow as much as possible,” he says. “There’s something major happening here.”
There are major things happening for Typoe, too. His current Art Basel show, “Game Over,” is bringing a dark humor to the “life and death” theme through drawings created with gunpowder, sculptures parodying death and consumer culture, and an installation that features a giant Twister board, a “Have a Nice Day” face to face with a bleached skull, and a neon text sculpture that quotes Walt Disney’s “To all who come to this happy place, welcome” inside a room within a room made of full black plexiglass. In the coming year, he’ll also unveil a cookie he’s creating in conjunction with Om Nom Nom, venture deeper into fashion by designing a women’s line with 10 Corso in Los Angeles, and show his artwork internationally. But no matter how far he spreads his wings, Typoe always plans to return home, and no matter how much he grows, that defiant kid inside of him will call the shots.
“My work is going to be changing as I change,” he says. “If I end up making work about me going to Bed, Bath and Beyond when I’m 70 years old, it is what it is, but I doubt that will ever happen because I’m fucking insane.”
Emilio Estefan’s latest star, Fantine, prepares to make it big.
Singer Fantine at Miami’s Crescent Moon Studios, which most recently produced and recorded Gloria Estefan’s The Standards album.
Born in Russia of Dominican descent and raised in Australia, Fantine is such a cornucopia of musical talent that it was only a matter of time before the singer would be discovered in the United States. Her big break came in April when Miami music legend Emilio Estefan came calling for her indie/electro soul sound.
“One day I’m working in Australia just doing my own little thing, and then the next day, through a friend of a friend of a friend, I somehow managed to get a meeting with Emilio,” she says. “Emilio was showing us footage of some of the things that he’s done, and I’m just like, ‘I know what you’ve done.’”
Apparently he knew what the 29-year-old singer had done as well. Fantine, who had vocal coaching since she was 15, was studying law and accounting by day and singing in dive bars by night—never resting on her studies or her passion because, as her mother always said, “idle children get in trouble.” But after earning her bachelor’s degree in 2006, she decided to follow her dream.
“When I finished my degree, I just said I want to make my hobby my job, so I studied at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts for a year. I don’t even now how I managed to get in there because they only took two vocalists and I was one of them, thankfully.”
That launched an Australian career that included several singles and performances onstage with acts like Erykah Badu and Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics. But it’s Estefan who is making Fantine’s sweet dreams come true by producing her most recent album, right here in Miami, which includes songs in both Spanish and English and adds Latin percussion to the soulful sound that Fantine has perfected. Since then, the singer has split her time between Miami and her home in Australia, working with the immigration board to move here full time.
As music videos continue to be released and tour dates are set, expect big things from Fantine because, as she’ll tell you, with Estefan “big” is the only way they do it. (He’s worked with Marc Anthony, Jennifer Lopez, and Ricky Martin, among other music-world superstars.)
“The scale and proportion and quality of stuff that we’re producing has definitely stepped up,” she says. “With the videos, in the past when I had an idea and said, ‘Here is what I think we should do,’ I would normally get, ‘Oh, I don’t know, the budget…,’ but here they just go, ‘Yep, done.’”
PHOTOGRAPHY BY GARY JAMES; Makeup by Ilde Goncalves using Sephora/AB TP.com; Hair by Alexander Sampson using L’Oréal/AB TP.com
Cover shoot: Behind the scenes with Pitbull for the October 2014 issue of Ocean Drive magazine.