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Street Art for Redevelopment in Miami

by Hector Fernando Burga

A walk through Wynwood, a neighborhood north of downtown Miami, brings an encounter with two-dimensional fangy creatures that transform the physical and social landscape of this once-industrial zone into a spray-painted cultural destination.

Wynwood has become the epicenter of Miami’s artistic rebirth. Over the past decade, Art Basel Miami, the burgeoning collections of local private galleries and the savvy entrepreneurship of developers have converged here to harbor Miami’s status as a primary location in the global art market circuit.

In Wynwood’s streets, developers and gallery owners are deploying a place-making strategy of murals and diverse types of graffiti to attract residents and tourists. The production and patronage of street art here is deeply embedded in the interests of urban redevelopment. Many of the artists who adorn the walls of Wynwood are contracted by local developers and gallery owners to cosmetically alter the public realm. Color and surface become instruments for bringing pedestrians of all types to the neighborhood. For many who actively partake in this colorful transformation, such artistic interventions foster community and make the streets safer and more attractive.

While the use of art as a force of urban revitalization is not new, the case of Wynwood raises questions about the lasting impacts of art for the sake of redevelopment. The streets are visually appealing to visitors, yet access to affordable housing and the erasure of local social histories become important concerns as real estate prices increase.

A walk through the Wynwood neighborhood reveals its visual transformation.

In many cases, street art is used as signage and advertising.

Artists travel to Miami in December during the annual Art-Basel Fair. Many are invited by real estate developers to decorate Wynwood properties.

The Walls of Wynwood initiative adds life to vacant lots. The walls of adjoining properties form a series of meandering courtyards connected by murals.

Industrial workshops, garages and warehouses also receive the street art treatment.

A wall is dedicated to female artists.

Across the street, a building on the edge of the I-95 expressway becomes a boom box.

Credits: Photos by Hector Fernando Burga.

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