Rogue Installation Shows What the Pandemic Has Wrought on Wynwood

In early May, a Wynwood resident installed a sculpture that looks like a missile with COVID-19 painted on it.
In early May, a Wynwood resident installed a sculpture that looks like a missile with COVID-19 painted on it. Photo by Andrea Steevens/@andromedaishere
Under the cover of night, Scotty the artist and his dog walked out onto the streets of Wynwood to see if the coast was clear.

Some City of Miami police officers had taken to stationing near NW 23rd Street and NW Fifth Avenue about an hour before the city's curfew for several nights.

On their first lap around the block, Lea, the artist's four-year-old Jack Russell terrier/dachshund mix, provided her human's cover.

"She was the accomplice," Scotty confesses.

Once the streets were empty again, Scotty took Lea home and smuggled his supplies onto the sidewalk near the corner of 23rd and Fifth. (He told the pup something along the lines of "Wish me luck" on his way out.)

It was time for Scotty to put the finishing touches on his first piece of public art: an unsanctioned display of an Army-green missile with a biohazard sign painted yellow and "COVID-19" stenciled along its belly in white. (Scotty, who lives and works in Wynwood, asked to be identified by a pseudonym because the installation was done on a public sidewalk without a permit.)

Scotty says he and his dog have walked past a metal pole jutting out of the sidewalk at an angle near 23rd and Fifth countless times. The pole never struck him as anything other than a pole until Miami-Dade started shutting down and Wynwood became a ghost town. It was as if his neighborhood disappeared, Scotty says. The silence and desolation gave the pole a new meaning now that the Wynwood Walls are devoid of selfie-snappers and the bars and restaurants aren't overflowing with revelers.

"It was hard for me not to interpret it as a bomb that fell on the neighborhood," Scotty tells New Times. "Pretty soon, my imagination turned it into one."

Over the course of several nights, he primed and spray-painted the pole Army green a couple of times and used a strong adhesive to secure what look like bolts along the sides. He found an abandoned traffic cone during one of his walks with Lea, took it home, and spray-painted that, too. He attached plastic fins to the traffic cone to make the missile's tail section. And when everything was done at home, he went out one final time earlier this month and glued the tail section to the pole. Now it resembles an unexploded armament half-buried in a patch of torn-up pavement.

The missile sculpture has been up for about a week, but Scotty anticipates it'll be taken down at some point. In the meantime, he views the "bomb" as a symbol of what the pandemic has done to the lively neighborhood he loves. Because Wynwood isn't heavily residential, there aren't as many people around to help keep local businesses afloat, Scotty points out.

"From one day to the next, everyone and everything was gone," he says. "It was very dramatic."

During Scotty's thrice-daily walks with Lea, they run into neighbors, some of whom are former Wynwood bar and restaurant employees.

"The conversation always turns to what businesses will survive, what the neighborhood will look like," Scotty says. "It took so long to build it up. The survival of Wynwood is always the ending point of every conversation, it seems."

He hopes the installation will get people thinking about just that: the survival of the neighborhood, and all of the uncertainties swirling around the pandemic.

"I think it was really just an opportunity to make a statement about something we all have so many questions about," Scotty says. "I wanted it to intentionally serve different interpretations and perhaps allow people to question the origin of the virus, question whether or not it's exploded yet, whether or not it ever will."

Scotty says he doesn't believe in any of the conspiracy theories surrounding the virus but that his piece allows viewers to see what they want to see.

He also wants to get people thinking about what's important when humanity reaches the other side of this crisis.

"On a purely personal level, the piece symbolizes that we should spend time doing things we enjoy instead of serving other masters," Scotty says. "Sometimes it all has to be blown to smithereens before we can see that clearly enough to act."
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Alexi C. Cardona is a former staff writer at Miami New Times.