photo credit: Sage Howard

From Williamsburg to Wynwood

Popularity and investment continue to threaten the creative spirit that flows through low-income neighborhoods turned artists’ enclaves.

Towards the end of my recent visit to Miami I found myself feeling as if my trip was not complete. While I had my fair share of Miami’s car culture, club culture, and of course beach culture, what I lacked was something that would feed the artist in me. Though Miami is home to a ton of lavish galleries and museums, local artistry always peeks my interest. As a native Brooklynite, nothings more fulfilling when exploring a new place than a dose of community expression. What my sisters and I stumbled upon was a graffiti mecca.

Outside Wynwood gallery 212 photo credit: Sage Howard

Huge murals and tags covering buildings facing the interstate is what immediately caught our attention. We found the nearest exit, and then began searching our phones for places near us known for street art, thank god for google maps! One quick smartphone search, and a ten minute drive later we entered a neighborhood called Wynwood, and a great sense of nostalgia came over me. It felt like old Brooklyn. Enormous images of men, women, children, characters and tags, done in traditional graffiti and a range of free-flowing mural-styles beautified unkept streets and old warehouses. We continued along a main street, and in the mist of street-Picassos and vibrant colorways were numerous gated off abandoned lots filled with nothing but dry grass, along with Wynwood dwellers congregating outside a local corner store, and a tone. A tone filled with pride, but also abandonment. It all felt too relatable, it felt like home.

Wynwood was originally “El Barrio” to migrant Puerto Ricans, who built business, homes, and fostered the creative energy that now attracts developers and tourist. In recent years a push for gentrification has commercialized the pre-existing “Wynwood Walls” (the term now used to refer to the graffitied walls of the community) making it a hot-spot for hipsters.

Instagram video of Wynwood Strip

Along with street art, Wynwood is also home to various galleries. We spoke to a local gallery owner who expressed his concern towards the inevitable changes taking place in the neighborhood. He compared it to New York City’s outer-borough art hubs, adding that the artistic nature and creativity would be used to attract wealth and investment, and eventually expensive condos and high-end businesses would crush the original culture. Similar to what has happened in Willamsburg in Brooklyn, or 5 Pointz in Queens.

Photo credit: Sage Howard

The community is at odds, and it is ever-present when observing the interactions between outsiders and community members. Tourists hop out of expensive cars to take “candid” photos in front of murals that represent the hardships of locals who go by unnoticed; waiting for the bus, walking on the streets. And though the assumption can be made that my sisters and I also gave off that sense of tourist arrogance, a larger part of me felt a greater connection to the locals, the artists and the mused lifestyles that inspired the art that encompassed us. Like myself, they will eventually be broken-down by the burden of being pushed out, and lifted-up by the promising thought of new-discovery.

It always feels good finding a piece of home away from home. Especially when your home no longer feels like home. But what I've learned is that people build homes, people build communities, and creativity is eternal. We are displaced for now, but Wynwood was a vibrant reminder that as long as our creative spirits live on, our homes and communities will be rekindled and built again.

For more pics and videos of my trip to Wynwood check out my Instagram! :

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