Story and photography by Chad Thurman
Perhaps you’ve been told that when visiting Miami, it is a must to see the iconic and historic art deco buildings along Collins Avenue, Lincoln Road, and, of course, Ocean Drive. Others would implore that it is necessary to visit Little Havana for what is arguably the “most Cuban” Cuban food outside of the island that sits some ninety miles south of Florida. Nature and nautical enthusiasts will insist that you tour Key Biscayne to see its perfectly manicured grounds, seafoam green and glass-blue waters, and what seems to be approximately three sailboats for every resident of the island.
While I can verify that the aforementioned travel advice is worthy, I emphatically insist that it is also imperative that, when touring Miami, one also experience the Wynwood Arts District and the Wynwood Walls.
My initial foray into the Wynwood neighborhood was, in a single word, magical. Coming off I-95—where it is important to note that everyone drives fast, really fast—and entering the neighborhood along Northwest Second Avenue, time seemingly slowed. I immediately had a pronounced feeling of being awash in a curious mixture of both unease and tranquility.
Every wall on every building along Northwest Second Avenue entering Wynwood is adorned with a meaningful and simply beautiful display of street art. The colors, patterns, and myriad shades of the images on the buildings welcomed me and drew me in. It was as if I was traveling up some unknown, alluring river where the banks were alive with such vivid foliage as to be reminiscent of a Dr. Seuss book. All of these hues were canopied by palms tall and short, along with pink, silver, and gold ipê (rhymes with “hippie”) trees that were in full late-spring bloom, dripping blossoms as if the artists had poured paint over them just before I arrived. The Wynwood Arts District had put me in what I would describe as “Dada and surrealism mode”—I felt I was in the urban landscape of a Spike Lee film that had just hosted a Color Run.
Every wall on every building along Northwest Second Avenue entering Wynwood is adorned with a meaningful and simply beautiful display of street art.
The Wynwood Arts District is nestled in the heart of the old garment district. It is a neighborhood north of downtown Miami that fell into disrepair and was plagued with crime for many years, until earnest revitalization efforts began in the 1990s. A decade later, this development was further nurtured along its positive path under the guidance of the late Tony Goldman, a renowned community revitalizer. Regardless of political opinions on urban renewal and the good and bad of the process, it is undeniable that the central art garrison of Miami is surrounded by an astoundingly eclectic and progressive array of over seventy art galleries, businesses, dining establishments, and bars. A Ducati motorcycle dealership neighbors a pipe and supply company, a boutique shoe store sits next to a casual fine-dining restaurant, and across the street is an art gallery, a bakery, an antiques shop, and a tattoo parlor. Talk about one-stop shopping.
Gracing the walls within the open-air exhibit is a stunning and annually rotating street museum with works from veteran and emerging talents from the graffiti and street art spheres. Wynwood is an area where even the sidewalks are part of the display.
Still, the art is what the area is all about. Every year, the Wynwood Walls become the de facto center of the acclaimed Art Basel fair. Gracing the walls within the open-air exhibit is a stunning and annually rotating street museum with works from veteran and emerging talents from the graffiti and street art spheres. Wynwood is an area where even the sidewalks are part of the display. Accomplished artists such as Swoon, Haas and Hahn, the London Police, Gaia, Cryptik, and Logan Hicks are but a few of the notable members of the elite fellowship of creators who have brightened the Wynwood Walls since 2009.
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