Miami's Wynwood neighborhood used to be a hub of garment manufacturing in the city that gradually declined through the late 20th century to the point that it developed a reputation for being extremely unsafe.
But thanks to efforts by city officials in recent decades to clean up and revitalize the area, it attracted several artists and art galleries and is now considered an up-and-coming, vibrant Miami community. Driving Wynwood's transformation and attractiveness to tourists is the Wynwood Art Walk Tours, which provides an opportunity to visit the neighborhood's thriving artwork and contribute to the local economy.
"It has an exciting vibe that is very different than traditional museums or areas with galleries have, yet it includes both galleries and collections similar to a museum," says Anna E. Vamos, the company's marketing manager. "It is called the Wynwood Art District because it encompasses dozens of blocks where murals grace the walls of offices, warehouses, restaurants, micro-breweries, coffee shops, ice-cream parlors, and more with galleries and art spaces throughout. Every business here is unique. No chains have moved in. Artists featured include local and international, established and emerging artists."
The tour company got its start in 2005 when its founder helped his father, a local artist and teacher, organize a show at an art gallery. The artist and his son opened a gallery of their own, foreseeing the neighborhood's makeover and growing attractiveness to tourists. In addition to art galleries, numerous businesses such as restaurants, bars, stores, and offices flooded the area, helping to make Wynwood the neighborhood it is today.
Wynwood Art Walk Tours operates several tours so visitors can see the best of what artists in the community have to offer. This includes a one-hour walking tour of the galleries every Saturday, a graffiti buggy tour vii a golf cart on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, and a "Best of Wynwood" weekly street art/gallery tour. Other options incorporate food and drinks with the chance to view art.
On the second Saturday of each month, thousands of attendees descend upon the neighborhood for Wynwood's Second Saturday Art Walk, which features DJs, live entertainment, and food truck vendors. In response to comments on social media about traffic congestion and a lack of parking during the street party, part of Art Walk was moved from NW Second Avenue to NW Fifth Avenue. Every Second Saturday event is free.
Vamos describes what a typical tour experience is like. "Guests on our tours take a walk around the neighborhood," she says. "As they stroll with the guide and pause at individual murals (and sometimes galleries), they hear the stories of individual walls and artists, learn about the history and recent developments in the area, or may be engaged in a dialogue about high and low-brow art or the evolution of graffiti. Beyond this, the tours are not scripted, and walls are constantly changing, so each guide brings his or her own anecdotes and expert knowledge that they pick up through their involvement and time spent in Wynwood. Guests can ask questions about anything and get tips on further exploration, dining, and more."
For more information on Wynwood Art Walk Tours, visit the website at www.wynwoodartwalk.com.