Early Sunday morning on Dec. 18, I did what I often do – put my bike on the back of my car and set out for a rolling view of whatever Miami has to offer. Actually, on this crisp morning, I threw my son’s bike on the back too, drove down Old Cutler and dropped him off at his friend Jose’s house near the Green Market. Along the way, I weaved around other bikers – you know, the kind who seem to irritate people.
I’m not one of those bikers, those flashy, aggressive, flying mobs wrapped in spandex like the Blue Man group, chattering madly and getting madly fit. No, I’m in the other kind of bicycling mode, the ones who only tie you up on the last Friday of the month — or occasional weekends — in the bowels of the city. We go looking for camaraderie differently, in this case, with art as the goal.
Allapattah Station was the meeting point and, to my surprise, a crowd of nearly 150 impatiently waited for the next late arriving Metrorail – the weekend Metrorail never arrives on time – why even publish a schedule? In any case, we never leave on time either.
Today’s group is called Emerge, a loosely affiliated, happy-go-lucky crew of folks who meet Tuesday evenings in Little Haiti at Sweat Records to plan community activities like this out of the goodness of their hearts. Today’s excursion, the Graffiti Bike Tour.
Leaders Dario and Olga know a lot about who has painted what, where they come from, when they were commissioned, and what they’re up to these days. In some cases, they break out notes to insure they get it right. They know where everything that is fit to print has been painted – legally and illegally as it goes. We weave in and out of alleys, avoid the broken glass, throw our hands in the air and shake’em like we just don’t care for getting flat tires and everybody takes a heap of photos – often on the iPhone.
A group of French tourists somehow are on the tour and Dario keeps asking if anyone can translate into French. Of course, the French speak English better than any of the bike riders who aren’t Haitian can speak French, but everyone manages; we ride, we stop, we ride, we stop. We photograph and some listen intently.
We hear about Retna, Books Bischof of Primary Flight, Above, RISK, Shepard Fairey and the local Puerto Rican brothers like Trek6 who began painting in Wynwood when it was primarily a local Puerto Rican neighborhood. If you listen carefully, you can imagine Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and Basquiat nodding their heads. This could be the start of something new is rerunning in their heads.
It’s mostly legal and legit these days. Hundreds of legal pieces have been commissioned and during Basel on the cityside, Montana-Cans, the spray paint of choice for these artists, supposedly donated 8,000 cans of paint last year; few artists are getting paid. But a landscape has changed, people appreciate what they see, talk about it and participate in a scene which invites events such as this bike tour.
Carl Rachelson has a Masters Degree in Humanities and is an English teacher at Palmer Trinity School. He may be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.