Sixteen years in, Wynwood’s second Saturday Art Walk is going strong
By: Hunter Braithwaite
In the fall of 1999, a group of art-world pioneers, braving the wilds of a not-so-glamorous industrial neighborhood in Miami, decided to create an art walk to defray security costs and drum up business for their galleries, which were decidedly not Coral Gables. Since then, galleries have come and gone, but global attention is bringing massive crowds to Wynwood. Everyone has an opinion of this neighborhood, but Wynwood Art Walk—held every second Saturday each month, rain or shine, 60 degrees or 100 degrees—remains South Florida’s unapologetically bawdy, spray-painted art carnival.
Kicking off at sunset, Art Walk is part Art Basel, part Calle Ocho Festival—a tour of graffitied walls, threestory murals, and streets filled with empty spray cans (in this case, a good thing). Everywhere you look, there is paint. For locals, it’s a chance to see what’s new; for tourists and visiting art fans, it’s an opportunity to experience a neighborhood like no other. Nearly all of Wynwood’s shops and galleries open their doors, offering free drinks and music to the passing crowd. It’s not a question of what to see, but where to begin.
“A great place to start off is having dinner at Wynwood Kitchen and Bar, next to the Wynwood Walls, arguably the birthplace of our street-art program,” says Albert Garcia, who, as vice chair of the Wynwood Business Improvement District, has helped the area grow over the years. From there, continue randomly noshing on the fare at The Butcher’s Shop, Joey’s Wynwood, SuViche, R House, Coyo Taco, Jugofresh, Panther Coffee, and Wynwood Diner.
Add stops at local bars like Wood Tavern and Gramps, five new microbreweries, music venues, and the wagon circle of food trucks that forms on NW Second Avenue and you risk forgetting about the art. If the art weren’t everywhere, that is—graffiti from gutter to streetlight, paintings sold in blue-chip galleries and from the backs of pickup trucks.
Such easy, open-air access to the sights is part of the allure. Art Walk isn’t truly experienced at a café table or with a gallery checklist in hand (collectors come Thursday, when the galleries open new exhibitions). It’s out on Second Avenue, dodging bicycles and baby strollers, myriad Chihuahuas and the odd potbellied pig. Garcia estimates that on any given Saturday, about 10,000 attendees swarm the neighborhood, with that number nearly doubling during the winter months. Yet with 50 city blocks to peruse, there are more than enough vistas to satisfy everyone, featuring now-world-famous works by Retna, Shepard Fairey, Santiago Rubino, and Ahol Sniffs Glue, both inside the galleries (next to art by the likes of Warhol and Banksy) and outside on walls next to fire hydrants and street signs.
Even with more than 70 brick-and-mortar galleries in the area, along with an unprecedented blend of retail and restaurants, Wynwood continues to grow. Recently the city of Miami’s Wynwood eighborhood Revitalization District Plan went into effect. Three years in the making, it changed zoning laws to allow for green space, parking, and new residential projects. “It’s about how we continue to evolve in a responsible way that doesn’t [sacrifice our] unique characteristics,” says Garcia, who helped develop the plan.
If you want to see what Wynwood has become, there’s still no better time than Wynwood Art Walk. But come early, because parking is tight.