Wynwood’s Art Walk. The decaying warehouses within a devastated neighborhood make you being to wonder if your night-time trek may have been a mistake. But as you find your destination and step from your ride, you take a peek into one of the doors to find vivid colors are splashing on the walls and bright lights, music and the chatter of voices confirm you are indeed in the right place.
The History of Wynwood hasn’t always been the center of the innovative art that pulses there today. Past years saw it as a warehouse and apparel district. What is now a gigantic Mid-Town complex used to be a train yard. When shipping by rail disappeared, the area became blighted and an attempt at walking through Wynwood invited at worst, grave danger and at the very least…total boredom.
Resurgence of the arts actually began in Miami Beach, but because of increasing real estate pricing, the majority of artists and their galleries moved toward the mainland near 40th Street and North Miami Avenue. It was here the Design District was born. But as this area became over-priced as well, the cost of supporting most galleries could not be sustained. The “bleeding edge” art community migrated at this point to the old and dilapidated warehouses of Wynwood where ceilings were vaulted and high and the rents were low and reasonable.
The Origin of Art Walk
In the years before Wynwood became popular, one of the local investors and the principal of Lombardi properties, David Lombardi developed the idea of having art parties within his Wynwood properties and called them Roving Fridays. Increasing the value of his buildings, his inspiration soon became what would eventually be called Wynwood Art Walks. Although it had slowed down, the Design District had been doing an art walk for a few years.
But with the development of Wynwood by several art galleries, Wynwood began it’s own Art walk that was originally set for the first Saturday of the month. It was eventually decided that both Wynwood and the Design District should combine their art walks onto the same night. And so, Second Saturdays were born.
Only a few brave souls made it to the Wynwood walk in the early days.
There might be maybe a dozen people on the street rushing from one gallery to the next. Streets were dark and the police presence was nonexistent. But even under those conditions, people began realizing the potential of Wynwood. While at that time it was a bit unnerving to venture from one gallery to the next, today, not so much.
The Galleries Changing and innumerable galleries line the streets of the Wynwood district today. Many come and go faster than nightclubs in South Beach but there are some who are flourishing. They present an interesting array of art. Hundreds of art connoisseurs squeeze into the galleries to enjoy the creations that are flowing through the area. Of course, there are those who come to enjoy the complementary alcohol offered by some of the galleries.
It’s so difficult to make a specific recommendation of who to visit during the Wynwood Art Walk since each are representative of a broad array of artistic statements and styles. One person might find something that is completely bourgeois while the person standing next to them will find the same piece intellectually stimulating Two of the oldest galleries in Wynwood are Damien B Art Center and Bernice Steinbaum. However, Frederic Snitzer is also well established. And, all have spent the last several years presenting incredible thought-provoking art to Miami.
If your passion is in Pop Art, The Harold Golen Gallery is the place to go. Pan-American Art Projects and the MAC Art Group are pushing the northern boundary of the District. While simultaneously, Artformz Alternatives and Hardcore Art Contemporary Space prefer to push aesthetic rather than geographical boundaries. Edge Zones is off the beaten path but always serves plenty of food and beverages. Seeming to cater to the young and upcoming artists, it’s definitely worth the trek across Miami Avenue to see what they have today.
During Art Walk most of the galleries provide complimentary alcohol and occasionally snacks to enhance your experience. If you wish to partake you should get there early because with the volume of crowds lately, the goodies run out quickly.
Miami’s Design District
More staid and stodgy, The Design District is older than Wynwood. Greatly renovated and far less “sketchy“, most businesses within the Design District are for interior design, but a lot of them do dabble in the arts. The most notable of these is Art Fusion Galleries where they host a wonderful supply of wine and live music while you peruse their art.
AE District is a newcomer with a lot of enthusiasm. Their display of some truly amazing and delightful works of art while live music plays in the background is sheltered in a large open space. New to the area and specializing in high-end fine art, Wolfgang Roth hosts a more sedate crowd. CityLoftArt and Luminaire Lab are two galleries you simply must see during your visit to the walk.
Additionally, within the design district are two galleries called Locust Projects and Spinello Gallery.
Locust Projects is not-for-profit and presents avant-garde installations. Moving up to the design district from Wynwood is Locust Projects. Spinello is a genius gallerist whose exhibits always generate good sales and great excitement. While originally also located in Wynwood, Spinello’s like Locust Projects don’t seem to fit in with the sober sensibility of the Design District. While there, Cabana Cachaca lounge is a requirement for all the free alcohol you can stand in line for.
Catering to the younger crowds, step off the routine paths to visit O. H.W. O.W. (Our House West Of Wynwood) and the brand new Stash Gallery. Both are recommended.
Art Walk’s Dining and Nightlife
Only a few years ago, the art walks were relatively short lasting only two or three hours. Today they start as early as 6 PM and can, for some galleries, go as late as midnight. To be able to see a substantial portion of what’s available, you’re going to need all that time. And, of course, with all that walking you’re bound to get hungry.
If you’re not able to snag any of the free snacks or drinks, when you reach the north end of Wynwood, on 36th Street, stop in at Lost and Found Saloon for some reasonably priced and really good, fresh food. From the restaurant you can go to Damien B and Bernice Steinbaum. On 32nd St., you should consider stopping by the Bakehouse Art Complex where, occasionally, they do a cookout to support a deserving cause. A restaurant that has made a bold move into the heart of the Wynwood district is Joey’s.
On the higher end of casual dining the food and service are excellent. If, after visiting more the galleries you get hungry but don’t want to stop your art walk, visit the Fifi Gallery, where they’ve opened their own little café in the back yard of their gallery. The food is prepared by the owners and their friends, it’s inexpensive and fun.
Michael’s Genuine always is an excellent place for food quality, but it is pricey.
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. 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.
None are official, but a new scene is called Awarehouse. Part art gallery, part performance space, part empty, the evenings there are hit or miss so far, but eventually they will establish themselves and things will begin to look up.
With interesting acts, free alcohol and a smoke-free environment, they are a great place to party.
The closest actual nightclub Electric Pickle, usually has a number of live artsy bands and DJ music after Art Walk. It’s a great place to go for an after party vibe. Currently making its transition to artistic innovation from a blighted area, you can Wynwood’s progression on second Saturdays every month during the Art walk.
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