Wynwood is a neighborhood in flux, and you can feel it on every block. After years of development, you’re just as likely to come across a contemporary art gallery or an artisanal bakery as you are a wholesale shoe warehouse in this long-time enclave of the working-class. It’s the type of place where you can watch a mango vendor roll his cart by a photo shoot featuring a buxom bombshell in front of a street art mural commissioned by a developer. But that’s par for the course in Wynwood these days. It’s a neighborhood with one foot in the past, one foot in a near future of rising real estate prices, and both hands wrapped around two cans of spray paint. Some lament its trajectory of gentrification, but no one can call it uninteresting. And, with that said, here are five places to visit when you’re in the area.
Wynwood is overrun with graffiti. But far from being a neighborhood nuisance or a depreciator of property value, the graffiti is the main reason Wynwood is now a destination for culture seekers from all over the world. You can stroll down any of the streets off of NW 2nd Avenue, the neighborhood’s main drag, and come across expansive murals by street art celebs and lesser-known bombers alike. On NW 25th Street, Spanish artist Liqen’s grayscale panorama of human centipedes laboring in a barb-wired labyrinth is a grim but great counterpoint to the vivid murals you’ll see elsewhere in the neighborhood. While you’ll spot world-class graffiti every few steps in Wynwood, the official Wynwood Walls site, featuring massive pieces by the likes of Shepard Fairey, Kenny Scharf and Ron English, is as good a place to start as any.
Rubell Family Collection
What do you do when you own a massive, museum-worthy contemporary art collection, including pieces by Basquiat, Keith Haring, and Andy Warhol? If you’re Donald and Mera Rubell, you move into a former DEA drug compound, put the art on display, and invite the public into your home for a look-see. While the RFC isn’t open to the public year-round, it does open its doors regularly for new exhibitions and events, including a yearly and yummy breakfast-as-art-happening during Art Basel weekend.
A thousand local Cuban café proprietors may beg to differ, but Panther serves the best java in Miami. Owners Joel and Leticia Pollock travel to family farms around the world to source their beans, then roast them on the premises in a pre-WWII Probat Perfekt roaster. Barista extraordinaire Camila Ramos can pour you a latte leaf with her eyes closed, though caffeine junkies may want to opt for Panther’s subtly sweet cold brew. It’s the perfect beverage to enjoy on a warm Miami day beneath the Royal Poincina in Panther’s front courtyard.
Gramps doesn’t promise much, but it delivers. With the words “AIR CONDITIONING COLD BEER COCKTAILS” spelled out in all caps across its citrus-orange façade, it’s that rare bar where you can get a cheap can of beer and a carefully crafted Old Fashioned from the same bartender and it all makes sense. It’s also Wynwood’s bastion of local music, hosting live shows regularly in its outdoor gravel pit. It’s a place where you can catch anything from a comedy show to a Walking Dead viewing party to a B-movie screening to a reenactment of the 1990 Nintendo World Championships. In other words, Gramps is just the right kind of weird.
Today, you might visit Wynwood for a croissant, a cappuccino, a craft beer, or even a hackathon. But the neighborhood’s ongoing transformation began when the first art galleries moved in. While a few claim to be the original pioneer, there’s no dispute that Wynwood, boasting more than 70 art galleries, is currently the capital of Miami’s arts and culture scene. On the second Saturday of every month, most of the area’s galleries open their doors to the public to introduce new exhibitions. After years of incremental growth, the event now draws thousands of attendees and parking can be hard to find. While many now complain that “Art Walk” has become more about partying than culture, it is still possible to appreciate the art as you bounce from block to block, especially if you visit the more consistent galleries (Dina Mitrani, Fredric Snitzer, Emerson-Dorsch, to name a few), and/or arrive before sunset. Of course, you can also go gallery-hopping in Wynwood on a non-Art Walk night. There might not be free booze, but the work won’t be any less intoxicating.
Illustration by Max Wittert.