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Wynwood: Art as a Gentrification Tool

There I was cruising through Miami, windows down, reggaeton blasting, in a brand new mustang. 

Pretty unusual for a guy like me who typically listens to chill indie music in my ’96 corolla. I somehow managed to persuade Debby at Hertz to give me the luxury vehicle instead of the compact economy car that I had booked.

Without warning I was suddenly surrounded by breath-taking masterpieces of color in every direction. A Shepard Fairey piece here, another one over there, what was this magical art heaven that I had accidentally rolled into?
I soon learned that I was in Wynwood, a place with a lot of history, more recently known as the up and coming art and fashion district of Miami. Its ironic, in a sad way, what it takes to make something as interesting and unique as Wynwood, or Bricklane, or any of the other gentrified, street-art neighborhoods around the world. 
They begin as a gathering place for the poor and down-trodden to huddle together for years, a place where no one cares if there’s graffiti on the wall, because no one “important” will dare venture anywhere near it anyway. 
Until one day, some privileged, middle-class kid like me, stumbles into the neighborhood, and starts snapping photos.
Before you know it the streets are filling up with more and more art. Businesses are moving in, the people who have built the neighborhood, and been there since before it was a nice background for the family vacation’s Instagram photo, are forced out.
But the dirty, abandoned, crime-filled neighborhoods may be the only environment possible to foster the foundation of this kind of a community. Artists flock to cheap areas since their work is rarely valued by those who appropriate and benefit most from it.
Those of us lucky enough to go on vacations every once in a while get tired of our clean, neat, white-washed resorts and decide we want some culture. And like we always have, when we like something, we take it. No matter who has to leave in the process.
Wynwood in Febraury 2016:

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