Wynwood Art Walk: Miami & Design District
James Echols / September 9, 2012
Melissa Rodwell and a selection from
her "The Boys Collection"
Updated As you drive through the blighted neighborhood past dilapidated
warehouses with shadowy forms lounging in the doorways, you begin to
wonder if your nocturnal expedition into the world of Miami's cutting
edge art scene may have been a mistake. But, as you step out onto the
street, you begin to pick up a definite vibe—energetic and exciting—from
the music and chatter of voices. Through the first doorway you squint
into bright lights and vivid colors splashing the walls, and you realize
you are indeed in the right place, the Wynwood Art Walk.
Wynwood wasn't always the hotbed of artistic innovation that it is
today. Years ago it was an apparel and warehouse district next to
a massive train yard, which is now the colossal Mid-Town complex. As
rail shipping disappeared, the area became blighted, and just a few
years ago walking through Wynwood at night would've been inviting
danger at worst, and extremely boring, at least.
Resurgence of the arts in the Miami area actually started in Miami Beach, but
estate prices increased dramatically, most artists and galleries moved to the
mainland around 40th Street and North Miami Avenue where the Design
District was born. As this area also became gentrified, prices again
became too expensive to support most galleries, and the bleeding
edge arts community slowly migrated south to the old, blighted warehouse district
where rents were low and ceilings were high.
Art Walk Genesis
Years before Wynwood became known, David Lombardi, principle of
Lombardi Properties and area investor, had the idea of
doing an arts party at his Wynwood properties to promote the arts and to
increase the value of his buildings. These were called Roving Fridays
and were one of the inspirations for the eventual Wynwood Art Walks.
The Design District had been doing a walk for a few years, though it had
slowed down by that time. But, as more galleries moved into Wynwood,
they soon put together their own art walk.
Originally, it was on the first Saturdays of the month, but at some
point it was decided to combine both the Design District and the
Wynwood Art Walk onto the same night, and Second Saturdays was born.
In the early days of the Wynwood walk only a few of us brave souls
who made it over. You could see maybe a dozen people on the
street furtively hurrying from one of the half dozen or so galleries to
the next. The streets were dark and the police presence was nonexistent,
but even then, people began to realized what was happening and saw the
potential. Back then, it was kind of scary
getting from one gallery to the next. Not so much, anymore.
Today, the Wynwood district is filled with a shifting myriad of
galleries. Many of them come and go faster than even the nightclubs over in
South Beach, but some have flourished by presenting an interesting array
of artistic works. Today, hundreds of people jam the galleries and enjoy the creative
vigor flowing through the area. Of course, many attempt to enjoy the free
alcohol, as well.
From "The Boys Collection"
Wynwood galleries represent a broad array of artistic styles and
statements, so it's difficult to make specific recommendations—what one person finds intellectually stimulating,
another may find completely bourgeois.
The two oldest galleries in
and Damien B Art
Center. Frederic Snitzer and
Kevin Bruk are
also well established, and all have spent the last few years bringing
thought-provoking art to Miami.
Gallery has suffered through some setbacks, but is tops
when it comes to pop art. A couple of new spaces that have emerged
and are pushing the northern boundary of the district are
MAC Art Group.
Pushing aesthetic, rather than geographical, boundaries are
Hardcore Art Contemporary Space. Numerous other
galleries bring their own sensibility, to the mix.
A little bit off the beaten path, and always with plenty of food and
beverage on hand, is
Edge Zones. This is a
different kind of space that seems to cater primarily to young, up and
coming artists. It is definitely worth the trek across Miami Avenue to
see what they are up to.
During Art Walk most of the galleries provide complimentary alcohol and perhaps
snacks to enhance your experience. Get there early if you wish
to partake, though, because with the size of the crowds these days, the
sometimes runs out fast. Follow the crowd's energy and let yourself be
The Design District is a little older than Wynwood and
significantly more staid and stodgy. It has been extensively renovated
and is far less sketchy. Most of the businesses there are
in interior design, though a lot of those do dabble in art. Most notable
in the Design District is the long-running
Galleries. They usually host live music and have
a good supply of wine on hand, as well as a wide variety of interesting
art to take in.
A newcomer to the Design District, and bringing a lot of enthusiasm with
it, is AE
District. With a large, open space,
they display some truly remarkable works and often have live music.
Wolfgang Roth is also relatively new to the area and seems
to specialize in more high-end fine art. There you'll find a more sedate
crowd and some very appealing works. Many of the design houses
are open during the walk, as well.
and Luminaire Lab are two
you'll want to catch.
Two more interesting additions to the Design District are
Locust Projects is a non-profit space dedicated to presenting
avant-garde installations. (Locust was originally in Wynwood, but has moved up to the Design District.)
a genius gallerist whose exhibits always generate great
excitement as well as good sales. He too was originally located in Wynwood.
Neither seem to fit in with the more sober sensibility of the Design
District, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out.
And do not forget to stop by the Cabana Cachaca lounge for all the free
alcohol you can stand in line for.
If you really want to get off the regular routes and see something
surprising, there are two places you want to hit,
House West Of Wynwood) and the brand new
Gallery. Both definitely cater to the
younger crowd and it shows. Both are recommended.
Michael's Genuine Food & Drink
When art walks began a few years ago, they were relatively
short, lasting maybe two or three hours. Now, they get going as early as
6:00pm and may go as late as midnight for some galleries. You are going
to need all that time and more to see even a significant portion of
all that's available. With all that walking, you are likely to get
hungry, as well, unless you can manage to snag enough free snacks before
the hordes descend later in the evening.
Unfortunately, food is not easy to come by in the Wynwood district.
Since it is still growing and expanding, only a few restaurants have
taken the leap into the area. My recommendation is to start at the north
end of Wynwood, on 36th Street, and eat at
Lost and Found Saloon, really good, fresh food at reasonable prices.
From there you can hit Damien B and Bernice Steinbaum, both also on
36th, then stop by the
Art Complex on 32nd Street on your drive down to the main part of
Wynwood which is around 23rd Street. Bakehouse sometimes does a cookout,
making it a fun way to support a deserving cause.
One of the restaurants that has really taken a bold step and moved into
the heart of the Wynwood district is
Joey's, on the higher end of casual dining.
The service is excellent and the food is very good.
If you get hungry later, but do not
want to stop enjoying the art, visit the
where they've opened their own little cafe in the back yard of their
gallery. The food is prepared by the owners and their friends, and it's inexpensive and fun. Highly
If you're in the mood to part with a little more case, the place for
that is Michael's Genuine which always gets high marks for food quality, but
you do pay for it.
If you're still ready to party after hours of traipsing
all over the barrio, there are a few places that claim to have after
parties for the art walks, but none of them are official, no matter what the
flyers say. One interesting option is a new venue
called Awarehouse. Part art gallery, part
performance space, part empty, the nights here have been hit or miss so
far, but once they establish themselves, things may start looking up.
As it is, they generally have some interesting acts, free alcohol, and
are smoke-free on the inside.
Social Club is quite new, and it's still unclear what it's supposed to be. Usually $10.00 to get in
and bring your own alcohol, they have a somewhat strange variety of live and
semi-live music acts. The vibe is very laid back as you can relax on the
couches or in the school desks. It's right in the heart of the Wynwood
district, so stick your head in as you walk by and see if it suits your
The closest actual nightclub to the area is the
which used to be Circa 28. They usually have a number of live artsy
bands and DJ music after Art Walk. Aside from the ingrained smell of
cigarette smoke, it's a great place to go for an after
The Vagabond, partly owned by
Carmel Ophir who brought us the long-running
Back Door Bamby
for so many years is not quite into the mess that is downtown Miami and
has a very cool vibe.
Wynwood is currently making the transition from blight to artistic innovation,
and you can watch its progress, second Saturdays, every month during Art
(photos 1,3 & 7: Joseph Brown | photos 2, 4 & 6: James Echols | photo 5: