In Miami’s Wynwood Neighborhood, Street Art Sparks Gentrification

Three years after its inception, the Wynwood Walls project in Miami that brings internationally recognized street artists to paint murals on a former shoe warehouse has catalyzed a complete revitalization of the neighborhood, drawing tens of thousands of visitors each month to the new businesses, galleries, and restaurants that have been established on the formerly blighted industrial streets. Yet even if this gentrification did not displace any residents and has created numerous new jobs, its story, as the Atlantic reports, “calls to mind all the uneasy and uncomfortable truths about the ways cities change over time.”

“If all goes according to plan,” the article predicts, “the shoe business will fall away entirely, the restaurants will multiply, condos will be bought and sold. Money will be made.” This process of artists fueling interest in a neighborhood that subsequently drives up the rent is nothing new, although it is rare to see it happen specifically through street art. (Although New York’s 5Pointz is certainly headed for the same destiny.) It is also a story that the artists are well aware of, with many of them touching on it in a series of short films on the Wynwood Walls called “Here Comes the Neighborhood,” directed by Jenner Furst and produced by Tony Goldman, who started the legal street art center in 2009.

The Wynwood neighborhood of shoe importers and exporters had long been popular with graffiti taggers for its expanses of vertical concrete, but now thanks to Goldman murals by the likes of Kenny Scharf (above), Shepard Fairey, and Os Gemeos adorn its walls — all three have also contributed to the mural space Goldman curates on New York’s Lower East Side. The first round of murals was co-produced by then-gallerist Jeffrey Deitch — who collaborated with Goldman on the Bowery murals as well for a time — before he became the director of Los Angeles’s Museum of Contemporary Art.

Goldman was active in Soho in the 1970s and was a significant instigator in its establishment as an art neighborhood, using the fashionable Greene Street Cafe to attract New Yorkers to the disused district. His son Joey opened what they’ve dubbed the first Wynwood restaurant in 2008, starting the neighborhood on a similar trajectory, but it is the vibrant visibility of the street art that has continued to fuel its growth.

— Allison Meier