By Ruth Shmueli on 12.10.2019
My name is Ruth Shmueli and I am a Junior studying International Business and Management at Florida International University. My goal is to help companies expand and grow in international markets. I love exploring different cultures through food, art and interacting with people. I am passionate about traveling, photography, and culinary arts. Photography is one of the main ways that I express myself creatively and I want to make it possible for other people to view the world from a new perspective through my photography. I believe that the world is not black and white and being able to expose the grey areas in my photography is my mission.
Wynwood Walls is located in 2520 NW 2nd Ave, Miami, FL 33127 in the vibrant Wynwood neighborhood. Wynwood Walls is comprised of several buildings which makes up the prominent mural and sculpture park in Miami. The property also contains two restaurants, Joey’s and Wynwood Kitchen and Bar. It also houses two galleries, The Peter Tunney Experience near the entrance of the walls and GGA Gallery placed at the end of the walls. Originally the Wynwood area was not the art hub that it is today, but with the inception of Wynwood Walls, the area has grown exponentially. There has been an increase in tourism which resulted in an increase in development of this Miami neighborhood.
Wynwood wasn’t always the art hub that it is today, it once was a district riddled with windowless warehouse. However, the late Tony Goldman saw this as an opportunity to revitalize the neighborhood. In 2009 Tony Goldman created Wynwood Walls which currently features six different buildings between 25th and 26th street. Back in NYC, Goldman was a real estate developer who revitalized SoHo and the NY Financial District. He then moved his efforts over to Miami where he revamped South Beach and then focused his efforts on reinventing a desolate warehouse neighborhood that no one knew about and turned it into the Wynwood that we know and love today. However, modern critics bring up the issue of the role of gentrification in the creation of Wynwood.
Tony Goldman was known for his eye for art and his appreciation of graffiti artists. Goldman felt that graffiti and street artists were underappreciated for their craft and he decided to give them a platform where they could express themselves. He created Goldman properties who own Wynwood Walls and continue to develop the neighborhood. After interviewing the Goldman Global Arts Project Manager of Curation, Troy Kelly, I discovered that the reason why Mr. Goldman took such a liking to Wynwood was because it reminded him of NYC’s SoHo neighborhood. His vision was to make Wynwood into the SoHo of Miami. Miami is prominently known for its “upper-eastside”, South Beach, However, Goldman saw that Miami was lacking a “lower-eastside” which would be hip and attractive to younger crowds and thus, Wynwood was created.
Over the years Tony Goldman worked with prominent street artists from around the globe in the curation of the walls. A notable artist, Jeffery Deitch, Co-Curated the first walls in 2009 which turned out to be a wild success! He is now the Director of the MOCA Museum in Los Angeles, but his mark was forever made in Miami’s culture. As Wynwood walls became more successful many business owners and restaurateurs saw the vison and opportunity and moved their business to Wynwood. This expanded the neighborhood further and has attracted millions of tourists over the years. In 2012, however, Tony Goldman sadly passed and the operations and development of Wynwood Walls was left to his daughter, Jessica Goldman. In 2015, Jessica Goldman founded Goldman Global Arts whose purpose is the curation of the murals. Wynwood walls is now known as the heart of Wynwood and the inspiration for future visionaries like Tony Goldman.
Interview Conducted by Ruth Shmueli with Goldman Global Arts Project Manger of Curation, Troy Kelly.
Wynwood walls does not explicitly have a mission statement. However, Goldman Global Art, the company that oversees the curation and maintenance of the walls, has a mission statement that perfectly encompasses Wynwood Walls purpose. “We use art to become a leading creative force offering the best products, services and experiences. We inspire human interaction and start conversations by providing platforms for messages that align with our core values.” This is exactly what the walls has started, conversations that were otherwise not had about street art as an art form. Historically street art and graffiti was always seen as something deviant that was punishable with jail time. However, by instigating these conversation, Wynwood walls has created a platform for street artists to express themselves without the repercussions that are normally linked with street art. However, there is a big distinction that needs to be made. Graffiti tags are not the same as street art.
They also fulfilled their mission by creating an environment that inspire social interactions with one another. With the creation of the restaurants and the mural and sculpture park at Wynwood Walls there is now a place where people can congregate and socialize.
Wynwood walls was created with accessibility in mind. It has an open-air concept which means that the gate is open, and anyone can enter within their hours of operation. On Monday- Thursday they are open from 10:30am- 11:30pm, while on Friday and Saturday they are open from 10:30am-12:00am and on Sunday they are open from 10:30am-8:00pm. Their hours of operation give ample time for visitors to make their way through Wynwood Walls.
The best part about Wynwood Walls is that it is free to the public. The galleries on the property, the Peter Tunney Experience and GGA Gallery, are also open and free to the public. Additionally, it was designed in a way that would make it easy for the elderly and for families to walk through without any problems. This is very important since it makes the art accessible to people from every age group.
However, a prominent struggle in Wynwood is parking. To address this, Goldman Properties has developed a parking garage for visitors to feel safe and comfortable and to address the shortage of parking. Additionally, there is metered street parking throughout Wynwood, were you can use Pay-by-phone to pay for parking. The issue with both of these though, is the cost. The street parking is $3.25 an hour while the parking garage is free for the first hour then, $3.00 for every 30 minutes. The cost of parking can limit the accessibility to many people.
The concept behind Wynwood Walls is that every year during Miami Art Week, street artists from around the world are commissioned to paint/spray-paint murals on the walls. Therefore, there is no permanent collection. There are however, works of art that are more established than others. Some include the work of Martin Whatson and Felipe Pantone. Additionally, because the work is always changing, it can take time for management to update the current artists on the website. At the moment, many of the artists that were seen during Miami Art Week 2019 are not currently present on the website.
The walls that stood out the most were ones painted by Filipe Pantone and Martin Watson. The image to the right depicts the wall painted by Filipe Pantone. He utilized the contrast between black and white to complement the colors of the rainbow. Felipe is an Argentinian- Spanish artists who started his career in graffiti at the age of 12. He started doing graffiti in its traditional form, but he then changed his style when he gained inspiration from kinetic and op art. He now exhibits his work all around the world.
The second mural that really appealed to me was Martin Whatson’s, “Behind the Wall”. He created this piece of work during the Art Basel 2015 and it has stayed there ever since. The Norwegian artists is known for his abstract illusions that features graffiti art and black and white stencil work. Another amazing thing about Martin Whatson’s work, is that his artwork is easily identifiable through his distinct style. His work has also been featured around the globe.
Wynwood walls does not necessarily have the conventional museum format with collections and exhibitions, however every year they replace the walls with new art done by artists from around the world. The image above shows the art of graffiti artist Tats Cru. Wilfred “Bio” Feliciano was born in NYC in 1966 and first emerged as a graffiti artist during the early eighties when there was a large movement of graffiti art. He is well known for the way he portrays characters through graffiti and the depth he creates.
This year Wynwood walls celebrated their 10 year anniversary and as expected there were many events. However, every year Wynwood walls hosts a series of events throughout Miami Art Week that are free and open to the public. This week is always during the first week of December, however the dates vary every year. This year it took place from Dec 3rd through December 9th. In Anticipation of Art Basel and Miami Art Week, November 24th through December 2nd were designated days that hosted a live, public viewing of artists painting/spray-painting the walls. This is a great experience because it allows people to see the creative process to make the artwork they experience.
Throughout the year there are no public events available, however there are tours that you can book. The Official Tour is one hour long and is $20.00, while there is also a University and Education Tour available for students that costs $10. The tours are a quintessential part of going to Wynwood Walls because they provide you with the history of the walls and information about the artists currently displayed.
There are also many events that take place in the surrounding area. Every year, there is a very large Halloween party in Wynwood called Hallowyn that is free and open to the public. The streets of Wynwood are completely closed off and people roam the streets with wild and creative costumes. This is very reflective of Wynwood’s overall environment. Wild and Free. Additionally, about two blocks away there is an area called Wynwood marketplace which features food trucks, street vendors, a bar and a venue. This area is very well known for its laid-back environment during the day and night life during the evening. There are also many events hosted there every week, so it is advised to always stay up to date with the venue since most of the events are free.
During my time at Wynwood Walls I conducted an interview with a visitor from Austin. She was a curator for the fine art consulting firm, Eaton Fine Arts. She was specifically in Miami for Art Basel and came to visit Wynwood to scout for muralists and local artists to commission their work for hotels. She had a background in art history and photography from the University of Texas where she gained all of her knowledge about the art world. When asked what her thoughts were about the sustainability of Wynwood she responded “ My main concern is that with further development, Wynwood Walls will start to become forgotten and will eventually be demolished. This exact scenario happened in Austin, were graffiti parks were demolished when the areas around it started to get overdeveloped.” Hearing her perspective made me realize that Wynwood may not be as sustainable as we may think.
I spoke with the Project Manager of the Curation of Wynwood Walls, Troy Kelly. Through his position he provides all of the material and sets up all of the logistics for the artists to create their work on Wynwood Walls. The curation process involves creating a theme or “brand” for the upcoming renewal of the walls. Then once this has been done, Jessica Goldman gives her final approval of artists that will feature their work in the upcoming Miami Art Week. I asked him about the sustainability of Wynwood as a whole and he explained that Goldman Properties works with small business and entrepreneurs to open their business in the area surrounding the walls to further develop the neighborhood. Additionally, there are private contractors and developers building office building and apartment buildings, making Wynwood a place to live, work and play. Additionally Troy expanded that social media has had a huge influence on the growth and publicity of Wynwood Walls.
As a whole, I think Wynwood is an incredible place to take friends and family of all ages. It is very accessible to the public and affordable. Additionally, most events that happen within the Wynwood area are free and accessible to the public. A major problem for the youth of Miami is that there is not much to do in if you are under the age of 21. Wynwood addresses the age group of 18-20 year old through their events and public areas within Wynwood that are open to people who are underage. However, what I see as the major deterrents of Wynwood are the issues with parking and the pricing of restaurants. Wynwood’s theme is to be a “lower-eastside” sort of neighborhood that is more affordable than its “upper-eastside” counterpart. However, as Wynwood has grown, restaurateurs have taken advantage of the immense number of tourists visiting Wynwood and have inflated their prices. Additionally, more events within Wynwood Walls would be beneficial to bringing in the locals who have already seen the art. This would create a higher turnover of visitors and retain more local involvement into Wynwood Walls. Furthermore, it would be advantageous if the website was updated every year after the walls have been repainted by artists for Art Basel. The website currently shows only half of current artists, while others were the original artists and no longer have any work on display. Overall as an institution, I think that Wynwood walls is a must see to truly understand the street art scene and the culture of Miami.
*All images were taken by Ruth Shmueli. All information was either opinion based or based on facts that were cited accordingly. Any images used for historical purposes were cited accordingly.