Miami Artists Lure Locals to the City's Suburban Art Scenes

Muralist Derek Wilson stands in front of Strange Beast Brewery.
Muralist Derek Wilson stands in front of Strange Beast Brewery. Photo by Steven Guillen
click to enlarge Muralist Derek Wilson stands in front of Strange Beast Brewery. - PHOTO BY STEVEN GUILLEN
Muralist Derek Wilson stands in front of Strange Beast Brewery.
Photo by Steven Guillen
Inside a brewery in West Kendall, Derek Wilson recalls a conversation with John Falco, cofounder of West Kendall's Strange Beast Brewery, in which Falco mentioned having murals painted on the bar's exterior walls.

“I told John Falco when we first started talking about doing something... 'That’s my wall. That’s my neighborhood. I drive up and down the street. I’m doing it — I’m painting that wall,'” Wilson remembers.

Wilson is a muralist, an art teacher, and a member of an art community that has been hidden in the shadow of art districts such as Wynwood and downtown Miami. Although he works in Wynwood, he chooses to take his art home to Southwest Miami-Dade.

Two years ago, Wilson helped coordinate 46 artists to paint the side wall of Lincoln’s Beard Brewery, a brewhouse in Bird Road’s growing warehouse district. He made sure to keep the artists local when working on the wall from early 2017 until its completion in 2018.

“Out of all the 46 artists we invited, only one or two were [from Broward]. The rest were 305,” Wilson says.

Miami artists are finding an increasing number of venues to present their work outside of Wynwood. Jessy Nite’s Coral Gables installation, Sun Stories, offers a steady stream of Instagram content; murals at bars are common at establishments such as Strange Beast and Lincoln's Beard; and Kendall's zine fests and vendor fairs are fertile ground for DIY artists.

The warehouse district on Bird Road has turned shipping facilities into crafty breweries; industrial pockets of Hialeah are being rebranded into the Leah Arts District; and murals are beginning to permeate suburban pockets across South and West Miami-Dade neighborhoods.

In a tea shop in Sweetwater, Karen Ramirez, also known as ToothFairy because of her psychedelic artwork featuring fairies, shakes her head when she's asked about Wynwood.

“I’ve done some events [in] Wynwood, but I don’t like them,” she says. Ramirez says Wynwood shows often require high payments to reserve display spaces, and the exhibitions aren't as intimate. “I prefer smaller shows... I think that’s my best chance to connect with my audience.”

Ramirez recently showed her work at Weirdhause, a West Kendall zine and art fair. Those such events are increasingly luring artists to suburban areas of the county.

Krystal Luciano is a Tamiami-based artist and one of the six creatives that birthed Weirdhause. “The location was actually the reason why the idea was brought up,” she says. Though the turnout was mostly local, a handful of visitors from Broward and other parts of Florida also showed up. “We really didn't have a specific audience we wanted to target," says Luciano, who adds their only aim was to curate an event for locals. "Looking back on the crowds of people from all over Miami that came to shop really warmed our hearts.” 

Adds Luciano: “When people think of the Miami art scene, they think Basel and Wynwood Walls. It took years for us to get that recognition, but our creators are far more diverse than those two outlets. We have more culture threaded into us that does not get highlighted in that space.”

But in luring local art fans to suburbia, artists are wary of the pitfalls that have plagued increasingly attractive neighborhoods such as Wynwood.

“I can only speak for myself when I say I don't believe there should be competition between [South Miami-Dade] and Wynwood,” Luciano says. “Do I wish we had more venues to showcase art? Yes. Do I want our neighborhoods to be gentrified? No!”

But Wilson is less concerned with the possible cons of drawing attention to the art scenes outside Miami's urban core. “It’s just the way it is,” he says of Wynwood and its rapid expansion. “The growth is part of it. And the art stimulates that.”
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