Here Comes the Neighborhood

January 24th, 2012

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We’re always on the lookout for new web-based projects that exploit the vast potential and reach of the internet to explore art and culture in innovative ways. Here Comes the Neighborhood, an online series that documents the Wynwood Walls project in Miami, initially caught our attention for its slick production value but we were eventually hooked by the behind-the-scenes view it offers of this rather unusual model of public art. Wynwood Walls is an urban revitalization project initiated by the eminent property developer Tony Goldman that sought to transform an area that was in desperate need of urban renewal into the first permanent graffiti art museum in the world. By selecting art world heavy hitter Jeffrey Deitch, currently the director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, to curate the first installment of the program, Goldman ensured that his project had both the legitimacy and clout it needed to thrive. Since the project itself is both innovative and unconventional it seems fitting that Here Comes the Neighborhood was created specifically and exclusively for the web. The first episode was released in November of last year and there are currently eight available for viewing, each focusing on a different artist including such luminaries as Kenny Scharf and Ron English.

Since its launch, Wynwood Walls has transformed what was formerly an industrial wasteland into one of the most interesting examples of public art in the world. While street art typically evokes an image of spontaneous, covert and often unlawful activity by individuals recognized by their tags and known only by pseudonyms, Wynwood Walls has legitimized street art without forcing it out of context and into the uncomfortable confines of the white cube. Here Comes the Neighborhood traces the development of the area from a graveyard of abandoned warehouses to a street art museum displaying the work of more than 30 internationally based artists. Photographer Martha Cooper, best known for her pictures depicting New York subway graffiti from the 1970s and 1980s, is documenting the project, and one episode focuses specifically on her exploits. With interviews of the key stakeholders and participating artists, and a behind-the-scenes view of the creation of the art works and the larger change to the area that this project has engendered, Here Comes the Neighborhood offers a fascinating glimpse into the role of visual art in urban planning and its potential to enact social and cultural change.

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