Tensions are rising in Wynwood regarding the future development of the neighborhood. Leaders in the area have been wringing their hands over it for years, and last week, a public forum on Wynwood's future devolved into a big kerfuffle. Business owners, a large majority of whom operate art galleries, think property owners aren't doing enough regarding vandalism, security, rent increases, and the party atmosphere in the street. Property owners, from the gist of last week's meeting, feel they've created a one-of-a-kind public art space that is absolutely teeming with energy -- and think some of the gallerists are ungrateful art snobs.
Much of the debate has centered on Wynwood's Second Saturday Art Walks, which draw thousands to the neighborhood each month. Besides selling art, one of the major purposes of Second Saturday has always been to get people out, so they can come back again. However, in the last few years, Second Saturdays have morphed into a wild block party more about entertainment and less about art.
But is that necessarily a bad thing? We went to last weekend's Art Walk to see for ourselves.
Raymond Gentile, one of last weekend's art walkers, is an attorney who lives in Broward. He likes what the district is becoming.
"More entertainment the better. If art galleries aren't making money, or can't afford the rent, then the ones that are making money should remain and the others should go. Besides, the art and energy exist in the street. I didn't come down for the galleries."
Many art galleries now lock their doors by 9 p.m., and some even earlier. They're not interested in thousands of philistines, stumbling around, many drunkenly, not buying anything.
Luis Valle is both an artist and a gallery owner. He recently opened up the Brisky Gallery
on 24th Street between NW Second and North Miami Avenues. The space is huge, with a
large outdoor backyard; Valle says it will one day soon host high-end social events.
When asked about the lack of communication between business or gallery owners, Mr. Valle shrugged. "That's a problem, you know, but it's like the Wild West out here -- everyone's just doing their own thing."
Despite the discord, 24th Street is a good example of the new Wynwood. Across the street from Brisky is the Wynwood Cigar Factory, another art event venue space, and up the road is Gramps, the neighborhood's newest bar and event space, which was packed to the hilt Saturday night with every downtown scenester and hipster socialite in this city.
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Real estate developers and art gallery owners represent different creatures of business. Though they disagree on ways and means, they still want the same thing, which is to
profit and see Wynwood succeed.
Based on what we saw Saturday night, Wynwood is doing just fine. Yes, change is inevitable. The neighborhood has been evolving for years; it's unrealistic to expect it to stop now. Not every gallery will survive; not every property will prosper; not every mural will remain intact. But with the streets packed with people and more entertainment and arts venues on the horizon, one thing's for sure: Wynwood isn't going anywhere.