Spotlight: Wynwood, Miami

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Nanuk mural, Sonny | Photo by: Nicole Link

Wynwood is Miami’s most colorful neighborhood, literally. Located north of downtown, this former garment district is now a mecca of art, fashion, and entrepreneurship. Formally known as “Little San Juan” and “El Barrio,” the area was originally settled by Puerto Ricans starting in the 1950s.

In the early 2000s, the residential development of a former rail yard refocused local attention on the largely forgotten section of Miami. Like in New York City’s Soho neighborhood, Wynwood’s abandoned warehouses were soon taken over by artists and small businesses. Seeing an opportunity to foster creativity and bring more visitors to the area, developer Tony Goldman commissioned well-known street artists from around the world to turn the neighborhood into an outdoor museum.

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Dia de los Muertos Alter Piece mural, Cloe Hakakian | Photo by: Nicole Link

This isn’t an understatement. Nearly every building in the district has been transformed into canvases for over 200 unique murals. Any list of the “best” pieces to see are truly subjective. With that in mind, here are a few of mine to keep an eye out for (all are pictured in the following order):

South African-based artist Sonny’s “Nanuk” mural was painted during the Basel House Mural Festival in 2017. The intention was to raise awareness and funds for his “To The Bone” campaign, that seeks to protect endangered wildlife. The shocking realism of the piece definitely makes it stand out next to many others.

Los Angeles-based artist Cloe Hakakian’s “Dia de los Muertos Altar Piece” is a bright tribute to five inspirational women from history: Jackie Kennedy, Cleopatra, Frida Kahlo, Wonder Woman, and Queen Elizabeth. The 200-foot-long piece is impossible to miss, and incredibly fun to photograph, as the painting even continues onto the sidewalk.

Chilean artist Inti began his street art career at the tender age of thirteen. In 2015, he painted “Codo a Codo” or “Elbow to Elbow” for that year’s Wynwood Walls program. Inspired by photography of early 20th century child laborers, the piece deviates from his typical style that leans heavily on abstraction and folklore from his home country. What drew me in was the galaxy detail work in the hair of the characters.

Dutch artist Leon Keer’s “Picture Perfect” mural is one of Wynwood’s more interactive pieces. The mural employs forced perspective to give the illusion that viewers can walk right into the artwork itself. Although the artist’s didactic statement declares that “forced selfies will consume the unique identity you have and blur upon the existence of the person you are,” it’s still an ideal spot for a memorable photo.

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Codo a Codo mural, Inti | Photo by: Nicole Link

For a quick bite to eat between mural-viewing, head over to Zak the Baker on 26th street. Like many other buildings in the neighborhood, its facade is covered in a geometric rainbow mural of its own. The cafe’s menu includes more traditional lunch offerings such as salads, soups, and sandwiches. However, the handmade pastries and leavened breads are a well-known draw.

While I’m not exactly a food critic, given the amount of time I’ve spent in France, I personally judge any bakery by their croissants. Zak the Baker’s take on the pastry was spot on. The pastry was flaky, buttery (of course), and most importantly, not over-baked. While this bakery does supply to Whole Foods all over the city, I recommend going straight to the source.

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Picture Perfect mural, Leon Keer | Photo by: Nicole Link

In addition to street art, Wynwood is quickly becoming famous for other entertainment options and businesses that cater to those with a passion for fashion and culture. The Wynwood Yard is the perfect venue to break up the day. Described as a “pop-up entrepreneurial hub,” the Yard puts on public events almost everyday, ranging from concerts to yoga classes. Visitors can sample creative dishes from the population of food trucks that gather at the venue during the day.

For those more interested in a cold drink, head over to Wynwood Brewing Company. The family owned business is a neighborhood original, and Miami’s first craft brewery. The tap-room exclusively serves the company’s five craft beers, plus an additional seasonal selection, from taps carved to look like spray paint cans. It’s recommended not to leave without trying La Rubia, a blond ale. However, be sure to grab a bite to eat beforehand, as there is no food on the menu.

 

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