Miami-Dade County

In Wynwood, a fine line between art and vandalism

Socorro Rodriguez cleans up after the store she works at, elemental, along with many others in the Wynwood area of Miami were “tagged” over the Art Basel weekend.
Socorro Rodriguez cleans up after the store she works at, elemental, along with many others in the Wynwood area of Miami were “tagged” over the Art Basel weekend. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

In Miami’s Wynwood, where art and vision have turned a once-blighted collection of warehouses into a thriving community, spray cans and concrete go together like peanut butter and jelly.

But art is in the eye of the beholder. And to Mauricio Gomez, the owner of elemental furniture at 2399 NW Second Ave., the scribble of letters covering his building Monday morning was anything but.

“There’s a fine line between graffiti and vandalism,” said Gomez. “And tagging is vandalism.”

Gomez was among a group of shopkeepers who awoke Monday to find that the past week’s art festivals not only brought galleries and tourists to Wynwood, but also a string of graffiti taggers who marked up buildings with apparent impunity. Gomez says his shop was hit multiple times in the last two weeks, and the city of Miami Neighborhood Enhancement Team (NET) sent its Graffiti Busters squad out to Wynwood’s Fifth Avenue for hours Monday to paint over a series of tagged walls.

For Gomez, the problem was maddening, because he says he brought an artist from Argentina ahead of Art Basel to repaint his facade in anticipation of the satellite fairs coming to Wynwood. He said the artist didn’t finish in time because vandals kept tagging his building.

Miami Police did not respond to requests for information about graffiti in the neighborhood. The department has said its officers on Friday chased a teen graffiti artist in the neighborhood after catching him tagging walls, and one officer accidentally crashed into the 21-year-old with his car, leaving him in critical condition.

The city’s NET director declined to comment when reached by phone, referring a reporter to the city’s communications office, which did not provide any information about reports of graffiti in Wynwood.

But shopkeepers could be seen inspecting the damage Monday morning around the neighborhood, and city employees were there for hours painting over graffiti. Some people took to social media as well in the past few days to wag their fingers at spray-can wielding scofflaws.

“Things are not pretty in #wynwood this morning. Many new murals have been tagged by #vandals” wrote Twitter user @kHyal.

Wynwood murals, including one by Romero Britto, have been tagged before. But Gomez said this year was worse for some reason. Mark Diamond, a photographer, said someone even tagged his car.

“It’s terrible. It’s usually not like this but this year we got monster-tagged,” said Gomez. “It’s usually not like this. They usually respect what we do on our walls.”

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