7th Avenue Sunday Art Walk Throws Back to the Early Days of Wynwood

7th Avenue Sunday Art Walk Throws Back to the Early Days of Wynwood
Steven Gagnon for 7th Avenue Sunday
Art walks in Miami are synonymous with Wynwood Art Walk, a once-artsy experience that has evolved into essentially a sprawling block party. Steven Gagnon, an artist and the initiator of the 7th Avenue Sunday art walk, which takes place every third Sunday of the month, is taking the art-walk experience back to its roots. The sixth installment of the art walk, which began this past February, will take place July 16.

“[7th Avenue Sunday] has a very unique and raw feel. 7th Avenue is a lot of young artists just starting out, just doing the first shows…It’s open to people who want to share their talents and music with a wider audience. There’s a very DIY feel to it, with young and up-and-coming artists,” Gagnon says.

Located between the neighborhoods of Allapattah and Model City, 7th Avenue Sunday has a burgeoning sense of energy, excitement, and diversity. 7th Avenue has chosen the term “art walk” because it’s familiar, but Gagnon says the more accurate term is “open house.” The art walk concentrates on creating destinations for attendees. “You go on a pilgrimage to the different sites,” Gagnon says.

Participants in the upcoming 7th Avenue Sunday include 749 Art Studios, Chris Pyrate Studio/Gallery, the Bridge Art Space, and the bar Las Rosas. Among the dozens of creative businesses that have participated are ArtHood56 Studio Complex, Elks Lodge Art Studio Complex & Cafe, Jolt Radio, Brooklyn Vintage & Vinyl, Soundscape Studios Miami, Edge Zones Art Space, and Butter Gallery.

“It’s more artist studios and artist-run stores," Gagnon says. "We don’t brand ourselves as an art district, but a creative district. When Wynwood first got started... you literally had to get in your car and go to different locations to see the art on the art walk... Now there’s not that much art in Wynwood anymore; there are murals on buildings. There's a handful of galleries, but they aren’t open on art walk. [Wynwood's] art walk has now become a street festival.”
click to enlarge Musicians perform during 7th Avenue Sunday. - STEVEN GAGNON FOR 7TH AVENUE SUNDAY
Musicians perform during 7th Avenue Sunday.
Steven Gagnon for 7th Avenue Sunday
Gagnon, a multidisciplinary artist, was part of the long-standing ArtCenter/South Florida on Lincoln Road in South Beach. “In the early to mid-'90s, it was all galleries. As it became more expensive, galleries got pushed out. I’ve seen what art can do in a community: impact it, organize it, and revitalize it,” he says.

He sees the transition of Lincoln Road happening to Wynwood. He says artists who used to be in Wynwood have been forced out by rising rents and have moved to NW Seventh Avenue. “[The 7th Avenue] art walk is people who were veterans of Wynwood in the old days," he says. "They got tired of being part of the gentrification process without getting any of the rewards. They wanted to have a place, make it their own, and make it what they wanted.”

He says 7th Avenue Sunday is a way of bringing visibility and exposure to businesses and spaces that don’t necessarily have an identity from the street. “Drive down Seventh Avenue, and it's nondescript buildings. On art walk, you can go inside, see art studios, and meet the artists. It’s only open on one day, and you wouldn’t know about these places otherwise. There are little gems that become accessible.”

Gagnon and the other organizers in the neighborhood have taken care to preserve the integrity of the art walk on NW Seventh Avenue through timing. It happens Sunday from 2 to 7 p.m. “It takes away the Saturday-night party atmosphere,” he promises. Nevertheless, he says, that the forces of gentrification have their own rules.

“In the end, you can’t control what happens in the future. You try your best and try to be authentic, but there are much bigger developers at play. We are small minnows in a large pond. What we can do is we have a window of opportunity, and we can do our thing and bring something special to the community.”

7th Avenue Sunday. 2 to 7 p.m. Sunday, July 16, and every third Sunday in the Seventh Avenue Creative District, NW Seventh Avenue from NW 56th Street to NW 24th Street, Miami; Admission is free.
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Minhae Shim Roth is an essayist, journalist, and academic.
Contact: Minhae Shim Roth