While some people see street art as an indicator of a bad neighborhood, real estate developers in many cities have learned that it plays a big role in giving character to an urban environment, and promoting street art can help attract residents who could afford to live in the suburbs but prefer city culture. Miami’s unique Wynwood Walls takes this idea a step further—a mostly outdoor gallery of murals and perfectly legal graffiti-style art, founded by a real estate developer to revitalize a former warehouse district that is now known as one of the "hippest" neighborhoods in the US. It’s free to visit, or you can book a tour to get the background on all the art.
The Wynwood Walls was conceived by the renowned community revitalizer and placemaker, the late Tony Goldman, in 2009. He was looking for something big to transform the warehouse district of Wynwood, and he arrived at a simple idea:
Starting with the 25th–26th Street complex of six separate buildings, his goal was to create a center where people could gravitate to and explore, and to develop the area’s pedestrian potential. The Wynwood Walls became a major art statement with Tony’s commitment to graffiti and street art, a genre that he believed was under-appreciated and not respected historically. He wanted to give the movement more attention and more respect:
In 2010, building on the momentum of the year before, Goldman Properties added 10 more artists to their roster of Walls. They opened the Wynwood Doors, Tony Goldman’s nod to traditional portrait galleries and expanded the mural program outside the Walls.
The Wynwood Walls has brought the world’s greatest artists working in the graffiti and street art genre to Miami. Jeffrey Deitch co-curated the first successful year of the project in 2009, collaborating with Tony before his appointment as museum director of MOCA Los Angeles.
Since its inception, the Wynwood Walls program has seen over 50 artists representing 16 countries and has covered over 80,000 square feet of walls. They have become a must-see international destination, with media coverage that has included the New York Times, BBC News, Vanity Fair, and Forbes, who mentioned them along with Wynwood on their list of America’s hippest neighborhoods. With each year the Wynwood Walls endeavors to expand its breadth, introduce well known and emerging artists, and bring world-class art to the community.
In 2010, Goldman Properties added the Wynwood Doors to the lot adjacent to the Wynwood Walls complex. Tony Goldman turned a piece of land that was formerly a dump into a park with boulders and beautiful trees. On the blank back walls of a section of this land, he installed metal roll-down gates to break up the 100-foot total width, thereby bringing more canvases to the mural project. On the 15 gates and the walls underneath them, his idea was to feature smaller works by artists who don’t necessarily work on a monumental scale and to turn the public on to more of the language of the graffiti and street art movement. Tony described his vision for the Wynwood Doors:
The impact of seeing this bombed-out area and the surprise of the portraits underneath the gates are just what Tony intended. Depending on the vibe, the gates could be rolled up or down to elevate the kind of art being created. For him, the roll-down gates are a piece of history that is very much connected to graffiti, like the subway cars. “Roll-down gates were a great surface to write on,” he said.
The Wynwood Walls have migrated to include murals outside the park in the surrounding neighborhood. Termed Outside the Walls, these epic murals cover sides of buildings and sometimes the entire building, creating breathtaking surprises down each block of the neighborhood.
Text and cover image courtesy of Wynwood Walls.