Snowy Owl returns to Miami: Graffiti, art or vandalism?
My first visit to Miami was back in early 2014. Renting a tiny hovel on the pristine sands of South Beach, just a stroll away from Versace's old gaff, I struggled to fit it. I didn't own a Ferrari to drive up and down Ocean Drive in like my neighbours. So each morning I would walk, negotiating the segways, roller bladers, games of volleyball, drag queens with mics, until finally I could grab a decent coffee and slowly wake up as I gaze out to sea.One day, upon the recommendation of some local beatniks I got chatting to, I decided I'd walk what looked like a short distance on the map to the Wynwood district of Miami. Strutting down the sidewalk, I began to notice the scenery becoming less friendly. I had read inner city ghettos are no place for tourists, and yet after 30 minutes of walking blindly here I was, totally lost in Moss Side's poorer stateside cousin.
I could see the way gangs congregated on street corners were looking at me, not quite sure what they were shouting. As I was beginning to pine for the art deco comfort of Ocean Drive, a cab screeched to a halt in front of me, swung it's door open and the driver shouted, “Jump in!!!”. I have a thing about being ripped off by taxis, so I politely asked how much it would be to my destination, “JUMP IN!!!!”. I looked around and decided I didn't care how much it would be, and off we sped. As it happens, it was reasonable. And so I arrived in the Wynwood District.
That was my first visit. I recently left Delaney to deal with, well, pretty much everything, and returned once more to catch up on developments there, and to take part in a photo shoot. This time I drove. Once an industrial wasteland, it's now home to some eye catching graffiti sure to inspire and admire. Wynwood Walls was conceived in 2009 by Tony Goldman, and in the 5 years in between my visits it has grown noticeably, drawing in thousands of people, revitalising the once soulless warehouse district. The increase in footfall has led to bars and cafes opening in the area, creating a cool friendly vibe. And somewhere to catch some shade and something cold before facing the blazing sun once more.
In terms of the art on display, the whole concept was to give a platform to the genre of graffiti, and since it's inception some of the world's greatest artists in the field have contributed to present over 80,000 square feet of walls in their own inimitable way.
Graffiti conjures up different opinions, to some it is art, to others vandalism. Graffiti and fashion have coexisted since ancient times and the arguments are centuries old. As a form of expression, graffiti is pure. There are no teachers or career pathways. Obviously we're not encouraging you to go spray paint a picture of a cock on the wall of your local offy or scrawl your best friend's number on the back of a toilet door. As with fashion, it comes down to having a bit of class.
Like it or loathe it, there is no doubt that the awe inspiring talent on display in Wynwood has revitalised the area and brought joy to many, the visuals on offer stimulating the most closed of minds. What were once just bricks and mortar now evoke emotion, the buildings are literally brought to life. There are no actual written rules to art, to fashion, to life. We do what just feels right, it's all about belief in ourselves. And possibly mind bending drugs in the case of some of the artists. I for one gain more inspiration from these voices from the streets, than say, an early Picasso sketching of a naked old man (although to be fair his Guernica is pretty impressive). Art is subjective. When you're choosing your clothes in the morning you are a blank canvas and what you wear is a visual expression of who you are. We are all artists.
There's nothing really comparable in terms of scale to the Wynwood District in Manchester, which is a shame, as there are many areas that could benefit. But there are pockets of amazing art such as around the Northern Quarter that are almost certainly worth a visit. Personally, I prefer a stencil or a piece to a tag (sorry taggers!), but we in no way suggest you get caught doing this illegally, caged birds rarely flourish. There are many legal sites and commissioned pieces in public spaces, sometimes in places you would least expect. The one certainty is that the debates will rage on for centuries to come. As for the photo shoot, that was for a Caribbean carnival and happened totally by accident, but that's a story for another time… Have a nice day y'all!
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