What’s life in Wynwood like lately? There’s a blog for that. In fact, there are several active websites chronicling the neighborhood’s character development and its activities that are rich in originality.
One blog, aptly named Wynwoodlife.com, exploded with traffic last November. Creator Tony Albelo said he was looking for a way to get involved in the arts community, but couldn’t find a portal. So he made one.
His “Wynwood Life” blog and Facebook page quickly evolved into a full-fledged festival concept bearing the same name to celebrate street art, music, fashion and food from Friday, April 25 – Sunday, April 27.
Wander the streets of the Wynwood Arts District and you’ll find a labyrinth of walls covered in bright colors and bold outlines. In the past decade, the neighborhood has grown steadily from an industrial warehouse zone to a walkable oasis for culture junkies. It’s defined by the edgy street art that appears, disappears, and morphs at the artists’ discretion.
Graffiti artists are the main attraction and Albelo, a seasoned event producer, set out to give them and about 100 other emerging, unrepresented, and crafts artists a platform to showcase their work.
“We wanted to make sure the up-and-comers could be a part of this because spaces inside the art fairs are not affordable for street artists,” said Albelo. “Although this year this festival will not be juried.”
Albelo’s art curator Robert William de los Rios, co-founder of Wynwoodmap.com, enlisted Miami-based Puerto Rican artist Trek Six to paint the scene for the festival’s official poster. The first 300 people to purchase a poster ($25) — also titled “Wynwood Life” — will receive a brick from the freestanding wall he used as a canvas in his studio.
The city swoons over Trek Six’s work, specifically the larger-than-life “Boombox” he painted by hand with Chor Boogie of San Francisco in 2012 as an homage to the legacy of Miami bass.
The landmark building, facing I-95 from NW 6th Avenue and 23rd Street, is the heart of the Wynwood Life Street Festival, which will close the surrounding streets for three days.
The festival sits outside of the Wynwood Arts District’s Business Improvement District (BID), a collective in which commercial property owners tax themselves annually to provide enhanced services to the neighborhood, including security, sanitation, beautification and planning initiatives.
Joe Furst of Goldman Properties spearheads the BID. He and fellow board member, David Lombardi of Lombardi Properties, have been in the trenches elevating Wynwood’s status since the beginning.
“We chose not to take a position of support or opposition because the festival is outside of our boundaries,” Furst said.
They say they’re excited to do events in the neighborhood, but there’s some concern that this one may not accurately represent the soul of Wynwood, primarily because it’s not using the businesses that truly define the area.
“The jury is out. We have to see it,” Lombardi said. “We’re hoping for the best, but we don’t know.”
Albelo points to his success in Coconut Grove, where he produces craft beer festivals Grovetoberfest and Sprung!. He says the businesses there see the value in his efforts to “reacquaint people with the Grove,” despite the initial cynicism they expressed prior to the inaugural Grovetoberfest in 2011.
“Next year, we’ll want to recreate the ‘Kitchen Showcase’ we do in the Grove for the chefs from the Wynwood area to come in to do demos,” Albelo said. “Unfortunately, none of the restaurants in Wynwood do catering or have the staff to participate at this point.”
For music lovers, the festival boasts a big line-up of 20 musicians including the Belgian-Congolese hip-hop superstar Baloji, who was joined by Bono for an impromptu performance at a private event during Coachella last year. Local favorites like Suenalo, Jahfe, Pirate Stereo and Otto Von Schirach will also take the stage to perform or DJ throughout the weekend.
To satisfy Miami’s obsession with style, Peroni will feature several local stylists and bloggers donning looks of “Perpetual Summer” on The Peroni Fashion Runway. As an interactive perk on Saturday, the Peroni Style Lounge will offer one-on-one advice from fashion and beauty experts recommended by Miami fashion blogger Annie Vazquez, the stylish mind behind TheFashionPoet.com.
Wynwood Life’s poster is filled with symbolism that illustrates Trek Six’s vision for the future of the neighborhood with a tribute to his past. This subtle salute comes in the form of Taino petroglyphs (rock carvings) by Indians in Puerto Rico that date back to the 15th century. After all, the residential sections of Wynwood are still home to a predominantly Puerto Rican population today.