Miami’s historic Wynwood neighborhood has become a tourist hotspot for taking photos with the latest art installations painted on the walls.
When local graffiti artist Pedro Amos saw visitors taking pictures of the art he and his friends created, he got the idea to start a business highlighting the history of street art in Wynwood.
Six years ago, Amos created Miami’s Best Graffiti Guide, a service that guides visitors through Wynwood to learn more about the neighborhood’s art and the artists who create it.
“The whole point of the company was to tell the story of this movement in art. It’s fun, but it’s almost disrespectful to just take pictures just for your profile picture, otherwise you don’t know who or why is in that mural,” Amos said.
How did Pedro Amos get involved in the South Florida graffiti scene?
Amos began making graffiti in 1994, studying traditional techniques while experimenting with abstract expressionism and pop art.
“Back then, you didn’t grab a can and spray paint a wall,” Amos said. “One person would know and then he would teach you the alphabet and you practiced it and then you thought you were ready but you weren’t.”
Amos says that when he was growing up, graffiti was not as widely respected as an art form as it is today. Instead, he says it’s mostly about crime and vandalism.
“It was very demonized and looked down upon,” Amos said. “It was much different then.”
Before his art became a staple at Wynwood, Amos traveled both domestically and internationally, painting and developing his craft as an artist.
It wasn’t until 2005 that developers began transforming Wynwood into what it is today.
Amos explained that before Wynwood became a highly visited neighborhood with graffiti on every corner, Miami’s local graffiti artists only had “pennies” to paint in secret.
According to MiamiGraffiti.com, the term penit is used for any illegal graffiti-oriented building or buildings frequented by various writers, becoming the epicenter of graffiti in the area.
“There was one on Northwest 7th Street, which is the airport, and one by the Mall of the America’s, which was Malibu,” Amos said. “There were all these little places that weren’t legal, but no one would come in and bother you.”
What type of tours does Best Miami Graffiti Guide offer?
Since 2016, Miami’s Best Graffiti Guide has guided visitors, on foot, golf cart or bike, through Wynwood to show the story behind the neighborhood’s street art.
Leroy Beekman and Sarah Leder were visiting Miami from Columbus, Ohio, and had never heard of Wynwood until a quick Google search led them to a tour of Miami’s best graffiti guide.
“I didn’t even realize the story behind it all until we got down here,” Leder said. “I’m really impressed and I can’t believe how many artists from all over the world come here. The colors, the different styles, I never expected all of that.”
Leder and Beekman jumped into the back of Amos’ golf cart and got to ride around for an hour, photographing and learning about some of Wynwood’s newest and ever-changing exhibits.
“We come from a small town and we have graffiti, but it’s not at this level. To come here and see what goes into it with the artwork and the depth and how they can do the bubble letters just brings it to life. Being able to learn the history and see some of the artists today was really cool,” Beekman said.
Amos also offers a graffiti class that shows people how to properly spray paint from a can.
“Once you see it, a lot of people are like, ‘that’s cool, I can do that,'” Amos said. “Then you put a box in their hand and they’re like, ‘how does that even work?’ The questions are endless.”
The 45-minute demonstration includes spray paint, spray caps, gloves and masks. After learning the basics from Amos, visitors can take creative control and start splashing on a legit wall in the heart of Wynwood.
“You know it’s art. You know it makes you happy,” he said. “It’s not food and water – you won’t die without them – but your life is better with them.”