Wynwood as Text

Aesthetics & Values at David Castillo Gallery
Aesthetics & Values at David Castillo Gallery

PROJECT DESCRIPTION “Wynwood is a trendy arts hub. The Wynwood Arts District contains over 70 galleries, museums and collections. It is the center of “cool” in Miami right now, drawing in thousands during Art Basel for its pop up parties and galleries and inspiring unusual collaborations between musicians, artists, graphic designers, commercial brands and all kinds of creative types.” (Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau)

This project will offer students a uniquely structured exploration of the Wynwood Arts District. Wynwood as Text is an interdisciplinary investigation of the people, art, architecture, culture and surrounding area of Wynwood. While providing certain required guidelines, the project is structured in an open manner that enables student participants to emphasize their respective disciplinary interests. It is the students’ mission to investigate, discover and document Wynwood.

STRUCTURE Students will form 10 groups of  4 students.  Each group will be assigned one Wynwood gallery.  During the course of one Wynwood Art Walk, the student group must explore the people, culture and location of their respective gallery.

FORMAT The Honors College is interdisciplinary in nature and welcomes new approaches to course projects. The form of the investigations and reflections in Miami can and should be varied: writing (both fiction and non-fiction, prose and poetry), photography, video, and visual art. Students should gather information and impressions in the manner they wish. The nature of these can also be varied, as each student forms a unique perspective. The final product, however, must be submitted digitally.

SHARING Projects will be posted on a shared public Facebook album. This provides students with the opportunity to engage in a community dialogue in regards to their work. This should not impact student perspective or analysis. Your professor and the host institutions are interested in a genuine experience and honest reflection.

DESTINATIONS All groups are to meet at the Dina Mitrani Gallery.

QUESTIONS The following are suggested questions participants may ask.  The inquiry should include, but not be limited, to these.  Research should focus specifically on the participants’ respective gallery.

  • What did you know about Wynwood before participating in A&V Art as Text?
  • What do you perceive to be the demographics of Wynwood Art Walk visitors?  Does this vary from gallery to gallery?
  • When is the gallery open to the public?
  • What is the general ambiance in the gallery?
  • Why do people attend Art Walk in Wynwood? Are the visitors local or do they come from other cities? Do they wish to purchase or simply view the art?
  • How does the gallery select the artists it represents?
  • How is the art displayed in the gallery? Is this different from other galleries that you have visited?
  • Did you find any artwork in the gallery that you do not consider to be art? Why do you feel this way?
  • Find an artist or gallery owner and ask them to describe one of the works in the gallery. Did the description align with your initial interpretation of the work? Does knowing more about the work enhance or diminish your perceptions?
  • Ask an artist, a gallery owner, and a visitor to define art. How do their definitions differ?
  • How do galleries differ from one to the other?
  • Do you feel safe walking through Wynwood during Art Walk? Would you feel safe walking through Wynwood on any other night?
  • Any other thoughts of impressions you have.

CITY AS TEXT STRATEGIES Machonis, Peter A., ed. Shatter the Glassy Stare: Implementing Experiential Learning in Higher Education. Birmingham, AL: NCHC, 2008. ISBN 978-0-9796659-2-9

“As an experiential-learning method, CAT makes students step outside their conventional classroom paradigms, and at no time is it easier to do this than when they are experiencing an alienation from what they know. Outside their ordinary habits of thought, the students respond to the call to figure things out for themselves, using the tools of mapping, listening, and observing.” – Joy Ochs

Excerpt from Shatter the Glassy Stare

Strategies: Mapping, Observing, Listening, Reflecting

City as Text™ methodology is based on the concept of active or experiential learning. Participants are split up into small groups with an assigned area of the city/place to explore. They report back for a general discussion at the end of their walkabout and exchange their insights with others who have explored other areas of the same city. The idea is that the sum of everyone’s experience is a better view than just one person or one group doing the same exercise.

There are four basic strategies used in these exercises: mapping, observing, listening, and reflecting.

Mapping: You will want to be able to construct, during and after your explorations, the primary kinds of buildings, points of interest, centers of activity, and transportation routes (by foot, vehicle, or other means). You will want to look for patterns of housing, “traffic” flow, and social activity that may not be apparent on any traditional “map.” Where do people go, how do they get there, and what do they do when they get there?

Observing: You will want to look carefully for the unexpected as well as the expected, for the familiar as well as the new. You will want to notice details of architecture, landscaping, social gathering, clothing, possessions, decoration, signage, and advertising.

Listening: You will want to talk to as many people as you can and to find out from them what matters to them in their daily lives, what they need, what they enjoy, what bothers them, what they appreciate. Strike up conversations everywhere you go. Ask about such matters as: how expensive it is to live there (dropping by a real estate agency could be enlightening), where to find a cheap meal (or a good one or an expensive one), what the local politics are (try to find a local newspaper), what the history of the place is, what the population is like (age, race, class, profession, etc.), what people do to have a good time. In other words, imagine that you are moving to that location and try to find out everything you would need to learn to survive there.

Reflecting: Throughout your explorations, keep in mind that the people you meet, the buildings in which they live and work, the forms of their recreation, their modes of transportation—everything that they are and do—are important components of the environment. They are part of an ecological niche. You want to discover their particular roles in this ecology: how they use it, contribute to it, damage or improve it, and change it. You want to discover not only how, but why they do what they do. Don’t settle for easy answers. Don’t assume you know the answers without doing serious research. Like all good researchers, make sure you are conscious of your own biases and that you investigate them as thoroughly as you investigate the culture you are studying.

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