At the entrance to the Wynwood Walls, a man clicks a counter as each Art Walk participant passes through the gate. Last month — in the dog days of summer, with dusk temperatures in the 90s — the tally was about 7,000.
Once a winter-only pastime, art walks are now a year-round obsession for Miami, even at steamy outdoor venues. And interest is growing. Last November, only about 3,500 turned out at the Walls, with its colorful murals by world-renowned street artists, according to Joe Furst, managing director of Goldman Properties Wynwood and board member of the Wynwood Arts District Association.
The growth isn’t limited to Wynwood. Spurred by a decade of Art Basel, a proliferation of performing arts venues and Knight Foundation grants, Miamians are becoming more engaged with arts.
With rising demand come more opportunities to get up close and personal with original art, artists, gallerists, collectors, culture lovers and scenesters across Miami-Dade County.
First Friday, second Friday, last Friday, second Saturday, third Saturday, last Tuesday — there are so many art walks you may have trouble keeping the dates straight — not to mention choosing the art walk that suits you best. While all have the same common thread, each has its own personality and vibe. Here’s a rundown.
Tucked away in an industrial corner between Coral Gables and South Miami, the Bird Road Art District is home to about 40 artist studios as well as two notable art schools. The area was designated an official art district by the county a dozen years go, but its monthly art walk has been around less than two years.
Cuqui Beguiristain of MANO Fine Art in the district says it’s like an urban oasis where visitors come specifically for contemporary art — by appointment or in hordes on the third Saturday of every month. Given the 24 square blocks of warehouses, the art walk crowd is prequalified: It’s the only thing to see or do in the area at night.
“I like to compare a visit to a treasure hunt. Some of the buildings look awful, but when people walk inside and see a live drawing session, they’re like, ‘Wow,’ ” says Beguiristain, who sits on the district’s steering committee with neighborhood artists. “Some of the other art walks have a built-in audience because there are restaurants and retail shops mixed in with art spaces. We’re different in that sense.”
The Bird Road Art Walk is set to celebrate its second anniversary on Oct. 20, and artists say attendance is up from last summer, with hundreds of new faces each month. The number of artists working in the neighborhood also has doubled in the last year, from 18 to about 40.
“The studios here are like movie sets. People love to see the artist’s mess — the back room where canvases are stacked up with the paints and brushes,” says Beguiristain. “Sometimes we sell more from MANO’s back room than what is on the wall in the exhibit area. People love the access, and the intimacy is what keeps them coming.”
Media include painting, sculpture, glass blowing and installations. Among the highlights are demonstrations by artists including Federico Scipioni, who puts an innovative spin on stained glass, and portraiture by Abdon Romero, who gives a three-hour painting and drawing class for $20 (including cocktails and hors d’oeuvres) at the Drawing Lounge.