Portland should emulate the art-soaked streets of Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood

(Just a few of the murals in Wynwood. Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

As you might recall, a few months ago I visited Miami with my family. The best thing about the trip was staying in Wynwood, a very interesting neighborhood just north of downtown Miami and about one mile inland from the high-rise condos on Biscayne Bay.

What separates Wynwood from any other place I’ve traveled to is paint. Lots of it. Murals and graffiti cover its buildings, walls, streets, and sidewalks. When I heard on the recent Green Loop ride that boosters of that project want to create a “mural corridor” on the central eastside, I knew it was time to share more about Wynwood. Portland already has a great culture around murals and street painting, but Wynwood is on a whole different level.

And it all happened with planning and intention.

In the 1950s, the Wynwood neighborhood was home to a lot of heavy industry and Puerto Rican immigrants. As jobs and manufacturing dried up in the 1980s, many people left and Wynwood became a relatively forgotten place known for street gangs, boarded-up storefronts, and a few artists who were attracted by the cheap rents. The other thing Wynwood was known for was murals and graffiti. Developers began eyeing the place around 2005. Then a few years later a developer named Tony Goldman had a vision to preserve the murals and graffiti and created Wynwood Walls — now a major tourist attraction.

Advertisement

But Goldman’s vision sparked something much larger: Today the entire neighborhood is painted and this outpouring of accessible street art has become its defining feature. It has also spurred billions in new development in the form of high-rise condos, restaurants, clubs, and shops. Every night the streets come alive with energy that seems to feed off the vibrant colors and designs on walls everywhere you look. A mural here and a mural there is one thing. But there are no borders to Wynwood’s street art, and it seemed like there was complete, 100% buy-in from every business and building owner. That’s what was so powerful to me.

As I share in the video below, unlike more traditional “arts districts” where expensive galleries dominate, such broad acceptance and sanction of street art leads to a community-level energy and empowerment that is exciting and accessible for everyone. The streets, buildings and artists not only create the mood in Wynwood, they are celebrated and respected. That’s a very powerful combination that has created a very special place.

Portland is in the midst of a massive mural and street painting initiative of its own. We should think even bigger and use Wynwood as an example to follow.

See more from the streets of Wynwood in the video below:

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
— Get our headlines delivered to your inbox.
— Support this independent community media outlet with a one-time contribution or monthly subscription.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

19 Comments
oldest
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Concordia Cyclist
Concordia Cyclist
1 year ago

An interesting aspect to me is the apparent lack of tagging on the murals. That is a big problem locally: taggers are largely self-promotionists and do not care about creating art and apparently often do not care about established paint art.

Do Miami taggers just respect the art more?

David Hampsten
1 year ago

Great video by the way.

Bicycling Al
Bicycling Al
1 year ago

I noticed this too in the Deep Ellum district of Dallas, TX. Mural art doesn’t get tagged.

David Hampsten
1 year ago

Greensboro and Asheville NC also have a lot of excellent murals. Apparently once a mural is “finished”, a clear protective anti-tagging layer is put on top; any subsequent tags are then more easily washed off.

jonno
jonno
1 year ago

I’ve noticed this same phenomenon on the Springwater south of the Ross Island bridge. A gentleman is working on very interesting Salish-inspired art and in the process covering up tags. I’ve seen no tags on his completed pieces. It’s really cool, check it out!

Clem Fandango
Clem Fandango
1 year ago

Perhaps someone is dishing out an a**kicking?

Let’s Active
Let’s Active
1 year ago

Portland has a thriving community of street artists: portlandstreetartalliance on Instagram. Check them out!

Tad
Tad
1 year ago
Reply to  Let’s Active

Yes they are a great organization and support local artists doing murals.
Worthy of support

http://www.pdxstreetart.org/what-we-do

Mike Owens
Mike Owens
1 year ago
Reply to  Tad
Yuki F.
Yuki F.
1 year ago

Jonathan, I’m not really aware of the concept of Portland exceptionalism. PDX street arts is a cool organization…wish they could do more and make Portland more like Miami/Wynwood in this regards. Portland seems to be a city in decline….more great art would be a boost! I asked if the city would sponsor PDX street arts to have art painted on the signal boxes (which are always getting tagged) but the city declined….zero interest. They would rather continue the “paint beige and tag” cycle ad infinitum. Unfortunately, excuses is what I hear most of the time from “we know better” and “we work from home” city bureaucrats. 🙁

Let's Active
Let's Active
1 year ago

By no means was I trying to make it seem like there is more going on here than other places in the US. Just wanted to give some love/link to the local artists. Apologies if my comment came off differently. My bad on communications.

Let's Active
Let's Active
1 year ago

I’m definitely jealous of your Wynwood photos (and Wynwood’s support of mural arts)! I have a nice library of mural photos from my runs and bikes around Portland. I can’t resist stopping and taking a photo because it is just so awesome to see a beautiful bright or coolly designed mural. This city would benefit from more.

JF
JF
1 year ago

The Mission District in SF can’t be beat for murals. In a city with a lot to do, it is probably the number one place I tell everyone to check out (and I lived there for a long time). Seems like a no-brainer for Portland to emulate this, which means it will never happen. Hope I am wrong.

Granpa
Granpa
1 year ago

A Pollyanna outlook at Portland’s graffiti vandalism seems unwarranted. Murals we have that celebrate art and culture are already tagged. I envy Miami’s murals but doubt Portland taggers could resist defacing actual art. It is another sad aspect of our saddening town.

Mike Owens
Mike Owens
1 year ago

Many of our murals in PDX come courtesy of this effort: http://www.forestforthetreesnw.com/