WYN­WOOD: KEEP­ING IT COOL

Wyn­wood Mi­ami is a neigh­bor­hood de­fined by the tran­sient na­ture of the street art that made it fa­mous.

Where Miami - - CONTENTS - By Re­becca McBane

Dis­cover how this artsy area con­tin­ues to stay on-trend.

COOL­NESS HAS A LIFECYCLE. “What makes money isn't what's cool and what's cool isn't what makes you money. Ba­si­cally, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't,” says artist and res­i­dent Wyn­wood tour guru Ryan “the Wheel­bar­row” Fer­rell. “But Wyn­wood is cool at walk­ing that line.”

Trendy neigh­bor­hoods have a pre­dictable lifecycle. First, it's the place no one wants to be, al­low­ing artists to move in and claim it. Be­fore long, if what they're cre­at­ing is good, some­one no­tices and cap­i­tal­ism sweeps in and does its thing. Soon, the neigh­bor­hood be­comes a vic­tim of its own suc­cess and prop­erty val­ues sky rocket, chas­ing away the very artists that made the area cool in the first place.

Be­fore that hap­pens, there's a mo­ment where ev­ery­thing sort of plateaus. And that’s (hope­fully) where Wyn­wood is now and where it will man­age to stay. And it just might, thanks to the na­ture of the art that made it fa­mous.

Once, a semi-aban­doned gar­ment dis­trict of derelict ware­houses, in 2009 Tony Gold­man's devel­op­ment com­pany opened the Wyn­wood Walls to lo­cal street artists, along with 30 or so other build­ings sur­round­ing it.

“He [Gold­man] was the one that built the trust,” says Fer­rell. Re­fer­ring to the trust built over the years, be­tween artists and Gold­man Prop­er­ties.

Fer­rell isn't a tra­di­tional street artist, though he's done a few mu­rals. He's a screen-print­ing artist spe­cial­iz­ing in what he calls “live fash­ion van­dal­ism.” To­gether with friend and fel­low artist Pe­dro AMOS, he runs Mi­ami's Best Graf­fiti Guide, the of­fi­cial walk­ing tour for the Wyn­wood Walls.

Fer­rell moved to the area in 2003, six

years be­fore Gold­man would ap­pear on the scene.

“Be­fore the Walls, from the gen­eral pub­lic's stand point this place was dan­ger­ous. Once they opened the Wyn­wood Walls, you saw the whole men­tal­ity shift. He was that in­flu­en­tial force that gave it that sex­i­ness like he did with South Beach in the 80s.”

Rick “Ab­strk” Mas­trapa is a lo­cal street artist from way back. Born and raised in Mi­ami, the Cuban-Amer­i­can was once told by a teacher at the De­sign and Ar­chi­tec­ture High School in Mi­ami, that graf­fiti is not art and that it never will be. Now, he makes a liv­ing fill­ing pub­lic spa­ces with his de­signs.

For him, the con­tin­u­ing suc­cess of Wyn­wood is in­ef­fa­bly tied to the ac­cep­tance of graf­fiti and street art as le­git­i­mate art. When asked if Wyn­wood is still a cool place for artists to be and work, or if it's just for tourists, he says it’s about bal­ance.

“It could be both. You still have artists from around the world that are go­ing to come [here] but of course, it’s not as raw and as ex­cit­ing as it was at the be­gin­ning when it was noth­ing but artists. Back then artists like Quake, in the early 90s, they were do­ing gi­ant mu­rals track­side not be­cause it was ' Wyn­wood' but be­cause it was an area with a lot of crime and no one cared what was go­ing on there."

"Be­fore we were com­plain­ing that no­body ac­cepted this as art and now we’re com­plain­ing be­cause they are," he re­marks.

Born and raised in Mi­ami, Ta­tiana "Tati" Suarez doesn't come from the street art world, but af­ter her graf­fiti writer friends kept en­cour­ag­ing her to get out there, she did her first mu­ral inside the old RC Cola plant (550 NW 24 St., Mi­ami) in 2009.

“I re­mem­ber how dif­fer­ent it was. The wall I was paint­ing was ac­tu­ally bare. It was vir­gin con­crete and you don’t find that there any­more,” she says.

“I was in­vited to paint inside the Wyn­wood Walls last year, which was a re­ally big deal and an honor. When I started, I never thought I’d see my­self in those walls and now those artists are my peers and friends.”

The suc­cess of Wyn­wood is a dou­bleedged sword, she says. It's brought a lot of good to the neigh­bor­hood, but also the bad. She calls them cul­ture vul­tures, com­pa­nies that don't re­ally un­der­stand the art but want to spon­sor mu­rals be­cause it's trend­ing. It be­comes a bat­tle be­tween mak­ing a liv­ing as an artist and pre­serv­ing what makes it art in the first place.

“But I think it still has that artsy vibe an­dit’s kind of grimy,” says Suarez. “It hasn’t com­pletely be­come a tourist trap but I know cer­tain nights to avoid it. There are still beau­ti­ful mu­rals, you just have to find them.” Fer­rell agrees. “To me the most beau­ti­ful thing is that it co­ex­ists,” says Fer­rell. “You can have that il­le­gal [art] right next to the spon­sored and most of it is hor­ri­ble and then you get this one guy (Ed­uardo Ko­bra) from Brazil that’s amaz­ing and you see his art pop­ping out.

Wyn­wood is one of those spots where, if you want to make a liv­ing off of it, this is a neigh­bor­hood where you can. But it's all in the ap­proach of how you go about do­ing it. If you do the Moun­tain Dew mu­ral with the logo, ex­pect ev­ery van­dal to go af­ter it.”

Street art is, by its very na­ture, ephemeral. You leave your art on pub­lic walls that don't be­long to you, sub­ject to the el­e­ments, to ri­val artists and to bar hoppers with mark­ers. You leave your mark on the neigh­bor­hood and then the neigh­bor­hood leaves its mark on you. Noth­ing stays the same for long.

WYN­WOOD WALLS

2520 NW Sec­ond Ave., Mi­ami, 305.531.4411, thewyn­wood walls.com; Mi­ami's Best Graf­fiti Guide (of­fi­cial tours), 305.799.3166.

Street art is, by its very na­ture, ephemeral ... you leave your mark on the neigh­bor­hood and then the neigh­bor­hood leaves its mark on you. Noth­ing stays the same.

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