Miami Marine Stadium, Saved by Graffiti Art

How the city’s graffiti artists have breathed new life into the once-famed, now-derelict, venue.

In the 22 years since Hurricane Andrew tore through Florida, Miami’s Marine Stadium—the striking waterfront concert venue where Ray Charles performed on an offshore stage and Sammy Davis Jr. hugged Richard Nixon at a campaign rally in 1972—has sat abandoned, but not untouched.

After the city declared the stadium unsafe, graffiti artists flocked to the new “penit” (see our “Graffiti Glossary”), which offered blank canvases and little supervision. In doing so, the artists helped keep public interest in the venue alive, and in 2008, the Friends of Miami Marine Stadium was formed to renovate the modernist icon. To date, the organization has raised more than $12 million of its $30 million goal, and is supported by performers such as Gloria Estefan, who donated $500,000 in June, and co-chaired by Hilario Candela, the architect who designed the landmark at 28 years old, just after he emigrated from Cuba.

As part of the fundraising effort, Brooklyn-based artist Logan Hicks has recruited famous graffiti and street artists like Doze Green, RISK and Miami-based EVOCA1 to paint exclusive murals, photographs of which will be sold online. By including street art in the renewal effort—and, probably, in the eventual restoration—Hicks hopes to pay tribute to all it did for the stadium. “Graffiti and street artists were the only ones paying it any attention, going in there, painting and posting pictures online on Flickr and social media,” Hicks says. “If nobody ever went in there, nobody would have known that place was around.” Vero’s St., Virginia Key.

Marine Stadium’s Graffiti Rules:

Don’t be a toy
A writer would be labeled a novice, or “toy,” if, say, he let his paint drip sloppily or “slashed his tag” on someone else’s burner. 

Obey the hierarchy
Graffiti ranks from least to most important: tags, throwups, pieces and burners. Pieces can cover tags; tags should never cover pieces.

Don’t encroach
One surefire way to create animosity between two crews is to “spot jock,” whereby one crew puts a substantial piece in a hard-to-reach spot, and then another crew comes in and writes a piece right next to it.

Keep it clean
There should be an imaginary line between pieces on a wall, even if one crew is spot-jocking another. Any amount of paint, even some spray, on another crew’s work is disrespectful and could start beef.

Show some respect
Art Basel attendees, take note: While Miami writers don’t want for space like their New York counterparts do, it’s not a free-for-all. Some walls are off-limits—especially those written by artists who’ve passed away. Ask around.