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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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