“Art-preneurs”

December 13, 2021

Inside Wynwood’s Art Scene, Featuring Artists, Curators, and Art-preneurs.

When Wynwood, once an industrial neighborhood just north of downtown Miami, became the rising star of the art world, so did the talented people who helped put it on the map. These artists and curators still play a big role in shaping the cultural landscape — both in Miami and around the world. 

Some have merged their artistic gifts with their business smarts to evolve into art-preneurs. These art-preneurs find ways to build something larger than themselves and their original works that benefits buyers, the community, and art scene, and always fill cultural voids in creative ways. And visitors to Wynwood often benefit from their great ideas. 

 

One of those artists is Pedro Amos, known as AMOS, who started creating colorful, pop art-inspired street art in 1994. About coming to Wynwood in the ‘90s, he says, “you couldn’t pay people to come to this neighborhood at that time.” It wasn’t until 1999 that he started working in Wynwood. The mural he painted then with his friend, GWIZ, ended up in a DJ Khaled and Lil’ Wayne music video, “I’m So Hood.” 

 

He’s seen firsthand the way that Wynwood has evolved into a place where artists can work as muralists and as businesspeople. He’s worked as the art director for the country’s largest mural festivals, Basel House Mural Festival, since 2017. “That platform gave me the ability to also curate a large portion of the Wynwood neighborhood,” he says, which has allowed him to feature local artists.  

Art is a business,” Amos says. “There are so many aspects that don’t involve traditional creativity. But there’s a lot of creativity and out-of-the-box solutions that I’ve come up with that have been successful.” Like his Miami’s Best Graffiti Guide, launched in 2016. These walking and bicycle tours allow him to share the city he’s helped shape from the perspective of a street artist. 

“Having the world’s largest outdoor gallery in the world in my backyard is a blessing for a million reasons,” he says, including his work as an entrepreneur and landing international gigs. He’s worked with a long list of clients, including Nike, Chanel, Ford, Givenchy, and The Washington Post. He’s also set to open up his own gallery, Pedro AMOS Galeria, in Miami.

Wynwood has also been a magnet for non-locals interested in finding their audience here. Peter Tunney was a Wall Street banker with an unbelievable story who became Wynwood Walls’ first tenant in 2010 with his gallery, the Peter Tunney Experience. He made a killing during the biotech boom and then gave up his career to take up art full-time. His work, both for sale and on billboards, spreads positive messages to viewers, encouraging them to “BELIEVE” way before Ted Lasso did. You can just hang out at this gallery on one of its couches or bring home one of his books, either way, the visit will be an authentic experience. 

Another New Yorker who came to Wynwood to create community is Alan Ket, founder of the Museum of Graffiti, the world’s first museum dedicated to this art form. In impressive indoor and outdoor spaces, it showcases and celebrates street art from all around the world. You can even explore your own talents with their classes for adults, “Spray It Loud,” and classes for kids. Don’t forget to pick up merch by top graffiti artists in the gift shop. 

One of the artists who created iconic work for sale in that shop is Adam Vargas, AKA Atomik. Anywhere you go in Miami, you’ll recognize his work: an omnipresent smiling orange — usually painted on repeat.

Vargas graduated from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale and was a member of the “godfathers of graffiti,” Miami Style Gods (MSG) crew, which launched its endeavor to spray paint the city in the early ‘90s. He also established a screenprinting, graphic design, and mural company, Cushy Gigs Creative, with his friend Alex Vahan.

At first, the lucrative orange image was an homage to the Orange Bowl’s one-time mascot. But after getting into hot water with the Orange Bowl Committee due to the similarities between the two, he changed it up and made it truly his own. You can buy pretty much anything nowadays with this classic Miami image on it around Wynwood. 

And if you feel so inspired by your visit that you decide to take up graffiti art yourself, hit up the graffiti supply store in Wynwood, 004Connect. If spray paint seems like too big a commitment, the store also sells mini boxcar sets to give you a taste of what it’d be like to tag a train without all of the mess. 

The best part? When you support these local businesses, you support the local artists and their scene. And giving back is maybe the best keepsake from any journey. 

Calex Guimaraes