By Richard Varr
The paint strokes are broad; the theme, boisterous and angry. I’m studying a bold depiction of a small South Beach uprising, reminiscent of medieval peasants storming a castle. With sharpened wooden poles and even a rake and hammer in hand, pedestrians are confronting the pesky salespeople – those with happy hour menus who try to woo passersby to imbibe at their street-side cafes and restaurants.
“This is obviously a battle scene,” says Joe Furst with Goldman Properties, one of the companies involved with creating the Wynwood Walls. “If you’ve ever been to Ocean Drive, there are always these hawkers trying to get you to sit at their restaurants at happy hour with half price drinks.” Furst says the artist, Stelios Faitakis from Greece, felt like he was in a battle. “He put the happy hour sign in the artwork to demonstrate how he felt walking down Ocean Drive.”
The mural is just one of 40 or so painted by international artists on warehouse walls, rolling storefront steel doors and solid fences that encompass this outdoor street museum. Wynwood Walls in the thriving Wynwood neighborhood, just north of downtown Miami, began in 2009 and is free and open to the public year-round. The neighborhood is home to more than 70 art galleries, artist studios, museums and other art related venues.
“We call this our urban town center,” says Furst of the Wynwood Walls. “As some developers would do it with a (supermarket and drug store), we do it with food and beverage, culture and the arts. It serves as a place for the public to come and congregate in the neighborhood.”
“Street art is one of those things that people always see, but they don’t always feel comfortable in urban areas to sit and take it all in,” he continues. “This is an environment that allows them to really do that.”
Artists have used brushes, rollers and spray cans to enliven the walls with their luminescent and bold colored murals. There are also artworks with paper collages. Murals include faces beaming with expression, quirky caricatures, glowing cityscapes and a mishmash of frivolity. One mural capturing my eye is the bright green baby caricature in the artwork entitled “Little Hulk” by American artist Ron English.
“We don’t commission their work, but the artists want to be here to be part of the project and they come from all over the world,” says Furst. “It’s to rejuvenate the area and create a sense of place. When you come to Wynwood Walls, you’re somewhere unique in the world.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Entrance at N.W. 2nd Ave. and N.W. 25th Street, Wynwood.
Dragonfly Expeditions gave us an Architectural Tour of other Miami neighborhoods, including Coral Gables, Coconut Grove, Downtown and South Beach with particular detail to the city’s history, and Miami Modern and art deco architectural styles. For more information: dragonflyexpeditions.com