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Photo: Shelly Davidov/Miami New Times
In Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood, street art transformed Jose de Diego Middle School.

It’s interesting to see how street art can be a route to gallery representation for painters, especially if they apply their tagging to public projects.

Ahmed Fakhr writes at Rolling Stone about how painting the walls in a Florida neighborhood helped some artists gain wider recognition.

“Miami is becoming a destination for global collectors looking for a multimillion-dollar Jeff Koons sculpture or one-off by Gerhard Richter. While some opt for the hallowed white-walled galleries to sip white wine, other local artists continue to gain notoriety when by taking to the streets to paint huge murals on bare walls with cans of spray paint. This graffiti explosion was the creation of the street art scene in Wynwood.

“In 2007, Wynwood was a rundown textile and manufacturing area. Then a cohort of street artists decided to bring attention to their neighborhood, but as a way to establish their own art.

“Slowly the area transformed into a haven for creative people looking for a way to express themselves. Soon enough, a developer purchased the properties and capitalized on the growing art culture in the gentrifying area now known as the Wynwood Arts District. …

“Native Robert de los Rios, founder of the RAW project, has been entrenched in street art scene in Miami for years, so he used this opportunity as a way bring art to underfunded schools in the area. ‘Art budgets for schools in the Wynwood area were slashed to zero,’ Rios says.

“So he decided to approach the area school district and street artists from around the world to paint murals on the indoor and outdoor walls of the school. By doing so, Rios hoped this would jumpstart the issue of funding art in schools again and to inspire kids’ creativity. ‘They felt like they were coming to a prison before,’ he says. ‘But now they come to school excited and happy.’ …

“While Rios prides himself in being able to bring an international graffiti scene together to transform the aesthetic of the school, he also collaborated with multiple Miami artists – Ahol Sniffs Glue, Typoe, Santiago Rubino and FL.Mingo – to bring challenging concepts to the school’s campus.

“Typoe, one third of an art collective known as Primary Flight, along with Cristina Gonzalez and Books Bischof, started in Wynwood when Art Basel launched in 2007. Having no luck at the fair, the trio decided street art was more lucrative. … Now they have a gallery space in the Design District.”

Read about more of the artists at Rolling Stone, here, including the one who prefers to stick to illegal tagging of trains and remain anonymous.

I’d be very curious to know how all this has affected the students at the middle school. Perhaps some are aiming to become artists now or are just feeling more special.

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You don’t have to love everything that someone calls a poem to believe that it’s a great thing to encourage poetic expression and enjoyment of poetry in all walks of life.

One of the memorable aspects of Jason Elliot’s book on Iran, Mirrors of the Unseen, at least for me, was how many ordinary people in that country were interested in the great poets of their culture and could recite ancient verse.

Meanwhile, in Miami, there’s a poetry festival that aims to touch everyone.

William Grimes at the NY Times says, “If you live in Miami and you do not read, recite or listen to a poem in April, something has gone seriously wrong. For the third year, the O, Miami Poetry Festival will flood the city with words, using any pretext to accomplish its mission of putting all 2.6 million residents of Miami-Dade County in contact with at least one poem. …

“Poems will be pasted on the mirrors of public bathrooms and positioned at congested intersections, so drivers stuck in traffic jams can get some uplift while their engines idle. …

“One of last year’s most popular events, run with WLRN, the local public radio station, was a poetry contest in which citizen-poets were asked to contribute lines dedicated to the theme: ‘That’s so Miami.’ The winner in the ‘best ode to Miami Spanglish’ category was Lauren Fernandez: ‘Exciting and Extravagant/Guajiros in Bentleys./Tostones and Champagne. That’s so Miami.’

“This year contestants must pick a location between the Palm Beaches and the Keys and enshrine it in verse, incorporating the words “this is where.” Winners will see their work published in The Miami Herald. …

“Ivan Lopez, an actor, will dress as the poet and revolutionary José Martí, mount a white horse and ride down Calle Ocho handing out roses with poems attached. That’s so Miami.”

More  at the Times.

Photo: Ting-Li Wang/NY Times
Reading poetry. Can you identify the poet? Hint: He’s not so Miami.

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