Visual Arts

Beck’s Urban Canvas Project revitalizes South Florida with street art

Diana ‘Didi’ Contreras works on her mural ‘Shellfie of the Mermaid’ in Wynwood.
Diana ‘Didi’ Contreras works on her mural ‘Shellfie of the Mermaid’ in Wynwood. Para El Nuevo Herald

Since Art Basel established itself in Miami Beach in 2002, Magic City residents have become accustomed to contemplating art everywhere. They have also learned to coexist with it in all its expressions.

Now, a dozen established Miami artists have painted the walls and murals on business buildings in Hialeah, Little Haiti, Little Havana and Wynwood. They’re demonstrating not only that urban art is on the rise in Art Basel territory but also that the power of art fuels the cultural and economic development of neighborhoods and cities.

Abstrk, 2Alas, Diana Contreras, Don Rimx, Ernesto Maranje, Hoxxoh, Jessy Nite, Jose Mertz, Magnus Sodamin, Trek 6, Typoe and Tatiana Suarez were the muralists selected by Beck’s Urban Canvas to help revitalize South Florida with their urban or street art. Many of these artists travel the world painting murals. By the end of the month, their murals will be completely finished.

Beck’s Urban Canvas is a project aimed at connecting art and artists with communities, and that’s why it chose different Miami neighborhoods as the canvas.

“Beck’s [the beer company] is the sponsor. They will pay for all the materials needed by the artists to paint the murals. But in reality, it’s a project for the city of Miami, because if people take care of these murals, the art can be there for life,” says Robert William de los Rios, curator of Beck’s Urban Canvas.

De los Rios, who is also the director and creator of wynwoodmaps.com (a website listing the locations of murals in the Wynwood art district and its surroundings), says the project is for everyone: artists, residents and visitors.

The artists do live in Hialeah, Little Haiti, Little Havana and Wynwood. They paint to express the sentiments and culture of each area. They’re familiar with the cities of South Florida and their neighborhoods. However, the zone assignment to paint the murals was done through a drawing.

“It’s about helping ... local culture and supporting community art in this area of South Florida, which is so rich and international,” says Mateus Schroeder, the regional marketing director for Beck’s.

Since the 1980s, urban art has been on the streets and walls of Miami, but it wasn’t until around 2002 that murals painted by famous urban artists started appearing in midtown and downtown. From then on, the urban movement took root in Wynwood, a neighborhood that has become an open-air museum.

“Muralists starting adding value to these walls with their art. Wynwood only has value because of its art, not because of its stores or restaurants,” asserts de los Rios. “There’s no greater example in the world in which art has given value to a city.”

The Beck’s Urban Canvas project includes Miami artist Typoe, a muralist who helped start the urban art movement in Miami 13 years ago. His mural is on exhibit at 2703 NW Second Ave.

Signature murals

It would be hard to imagine Wynwood without its signature street art, the work of muralists with roots in many countries.

Trek 6, an artist of Puerto Rican descent who has lived in Miami all his life, says his mural at 3557 NE Second Ave. is “inspired by the hope of a better tomorrow in this ever-growing Miami landscape.”

Urban art, characterized by its vibrant colors, isn’t often labeled as vandalism in Miami. Artists feel comfortable and note the public’s tolerance toward this form of artistic expression, “an example to follow in other parts of the United States,” says de los Rios.

The mural by Miami artist Jose Mertz, located at 2801 NW Third Ave., is titled Iron Galaxy Horses.

“They are the guardians of the world of dreams which enter the physical world, taking the Buddha of imagination with them to appease the oracle of orientation,” says Mertz, whose characters and animals have a unique style. “It’s based on a series of works ... titled Mythos.”

Beck’s Urban Canvas signed on three women muralists. The work of artist Tatiana Suarez, who paints women with stylized eyes, is at 2186 NW Second Ave., on the east side of the street.

For her mural Shellfie of the Mermaid, “I was inspired by the selfie culture and the fun of summer,” says Peruvian artist Diana “Didi” Contreras, whose mural is at 2701 NW Second Ave.

International artist Jessy Nite is known for her pastel color schemes. With her mural Electric Pickle, located at 2826 N. Miami Ave., she says she wanted to create “a clear and beautiful visual concept that could attract an ample audience and continue drawing from emotion and aspirations.”

SPREAD ELSEWHERE

Other cities and neighborhoods have begun mimicking the urban art feel of Wynwood, and the movement has slowly expanded to nearby areas such as Little Haiti. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when the muralist tradition began in that very Caribbean area, but street art has proliferated there over the past four years. In Little Haiti, you can view murals by Ernesto Maranje (at 6310 NE Second Ave.), 2Alas (6271 NE Second Ave.) and Hoxxoh (5092 NE Second Ave.).

“Haitian culture is very beautiful, and it’s reflected [in] the art we see in murals found in the area. ... In a few years, there will be more murals in this area,” de los Rios says.

Maranje’s mural, with its colorful and playful art, is influenced by the changes and transformations of nature.

Says the artist, “My inspiration for this piece comes from my desire to represent life and nature, manifesting itself through color and movement and always reaching for the sky.”

Street art done the Latino way is more prominent in Little Havana, particularly along Southwest Eighth Street. Some of the artists whose work can be found there are Don Rimx, Edwin David Sepulveda, Contreras, 2Alas and Magnus.

“I’m fascinated because I had never painted here before. I’ll paint a cloud on each corner of a street,” says Don Rimx, a small-town artist who likes to capture the lives of working-class people in his work. His mural is located at 1555 SW Eighth St.

Mi Cubanita reflects the Little Havana neighborhood and the beautiful women who live there,” says Contreras, whose mural will be at 1672 SW Eighth St.

Magnus’ mural will be at 1615 SW Eighth St. and was inspired by “the search for beauty and the process that it entails,” he explains. Artist 2Alas’ mural is at 1601 SW Eighth St.

Among all the Beck’s Urban Canvas cities, Hialeah is the latest to incorporate street art. It recently inaugurated the Leah Arts District, in which a mural by 2Alas between 10th Avenue and East 15th Street will be revealed in September.

Miami has become a city that’s completely open and accepting of street art — so much so that art industry professionals have dubbed it the world’s urban art capital. De los Rios concurs.

“It’s not an exaggeration. Our city embraces street art and artists from all over the world who want to come here and paint during Art Basel,” concludes de los Rios.

For more information, visit www.becksurbancanvas.com and www.wynwoodmaps.com

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