Exile Books, an “experimental artist’s bookstore,” on Friday opens in Little Haiti its first brick-and-mortar shop.
Originally a pop-up, Exile founder Amanda Keeley said the prospect came for a permanent store when local husband-and-wife gallerists Brook Dorsch and Tyler Emerson-Dorsh purchased the building at 5900 NW Second Ave. in Little Haiti.
“I wanted to try this on an experimental level,” Keeley said. “I knew I didn’t want to run a full store but I figured I would do it as a project. I started at Locust Projects in the lobby. The great thing is, as a pop up, it didn’t tie me in to having to pay rent and we would just use the existing staffing. I designed a store that was easy to move around to every space and carry books made by artists.”
Keeley said she wanted to move into the space next to Emerson Dorsch gallery because the couple doesn’t want to expand or over-develop.
Exile’s new home base will be a hub for creativity, a bookstore and a place for collaboration, Keeley said, who wants many local artists, including Haitians, work and collaborate with Exile.
“With each space we kind of integrated into their business so it worked well as a starting business model because it relieved us a lot of the structure of starting a new business,” she said. “We said we would do it as an experimental project and have it move around Miami and it kind of took on its own momentum.”
An artist herself, Keeley got her start in publishing at Printed Matter in New York. She wanted to expand into working directly with artist publications. Keeley returned to her native South Florida in 2014 after living in New York for 16 years. In South Florida, she noticed the absence of artist bookstores and wanted to increase the art-book presence. She started Exile as a pop-up artist bookstore, migrating from site to site.
Exile branched out to locations like The Standard in Miami Beach, Books & Books, and Miami Dade College’s Book Fair.
“They are really helping Miami find a unique voice in the small press and independent publishing community. They focus on projects that are specific to the community they represent and showcase local talent as well,” said artist Alfonso Duran, who has participated in the annual Exile Books Zine Fair, which is presented in partnership with University of Miami’s Special Collections and O, Miami Poetry Festival.
“Their events are exciting and they have been growing every year,” Duran said of Exile Books. “That platform has grown and given an opportunity to local talent to showcase which is the area Miami needs help with. I’m excited they’re going to have a brick-and-mortar store and to see what projects they release.”
Keeley and the Exile team will work out of a permanent location they say is representative of Miami and the neighborhood.
The store will have a range of projects Keeley calls “Tropical Titles,” dinners on the rooftop and mixed-media presentations for artists to explore their creativity outside the conventional bookstore model. Books will start at $2 and go up to $300.
For the Exile grand opening on Friday, Keeley will present a work by Lawrence Weiner, a central figure in the formation of conceptual art during the 1960s.
Weiner and Keeley go back to her time in New York. He created a vinyl wall piece he dubbed, “BOOKS DO FURNISH A ROOM,” for Keeley to take to pop-up events. Keeley turned that title into Exile’s motto and asked local Haitian artist Serge Toussaint to paint the words — in Creole — on the wall above the displayed books, “LIV FÈ CHANM BÈL.”
“I thought if we were going to move into Little Haiti, we should have it in Creole,” Keeley said. “Libreri Mapou (a Little Haiti bookstore, gift shop and cultural center) translated it for us. It’s a play on words “Books Give Beauty To Life.” It’s poetic. We want the community to know we are here and we are open to meeting them and encourage them to stop by and get to know us. My No. 1 desire is to find out how we can best serve our community. This has been the perfect fit.”
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