The Wynwood Effect

Floto - Warner

The making of a street-art capital, one wall at a time.

For years the city’s oft-overlooked Wynwood neighborhood, north of downtown Miami, with its abandoned garment factories, was covered with the sort of tags and bubble letters you see on the walls of underpasses and industrial districts across America. But eventually businesses stopped painting over them. They began to allow graffiti and murals on their walls and roofs and, in the process, spawned a street-art culture that rivals any in the world, with some of its own terms and codes (see the graffiti glossary below).

Soon organizations like Primary Flight and the late developer Tony Goodman’s Wynwood Walls would take over entire blocks and curate bright, museum-quality pieces of public art. In less than ten years Wynwood has become a necessary stop for Art Basel–goers and a playground for name-brand street artists like Shepard Fairey, Os Gemeos and Futura 2000. Seeking to capitalize on the cool, galleries, museums, restaurants and start-ups have moved in, followed by the inevitable condos and developments, which are starting to price out the creatives.

But the Wynwood Effect is fast spreading beyond the neighborhood. Street art has gained attention and respect from the arts community and locals, being integrated into public spaces and restoration efforts. Perhaps no area better exemplifies art’s power to turn a derelict landscape into something beautiful.

Graffiti Glossary: A brief primer on local street-art vernacular.

Writer
One who “writes” graffiti.

Street Art
Figurative murals that may be done legally or illegally but don’t necessarily follow the traditional rules of graffiti.

Tag
A writer’s signature or logo.

Throwup
A quickly written word in simple lettering (often bubble letters) done in one or two colors, maximum.

Burner
The most substantial, detailed form of graffiti; a mural that leaves no wall space untouched.

Piece
A significant work that’s more than a throwup but not quite a burner; short
for “masterpiece.”

Crew
A loose group of graffiti writers who tag the crew’s initials along with their own names.

Tagger
A crew member tasked only with doing tags and throwups.

Bomber
A writer who goes to an area—the farther from home, the better—and tags as many walls as possible for exposure.

Penit
A Miami-specific term for an abandoned building frequented by graffiti and street artists; named for a popular, now-demolished graffiti spot on Fontainebleau Boulevard rumored to have been an unfinished penitentiary.