Electric Miami

The 2017 Focus Electric explores one of Miami's highly charged neighborhoods: The Wynwood Arts District.

By Ana Connery
Photographs By Craig Cameron Olsen

Spring mornings are gorgeous in Miami, and I’m happily coasting through Wynwood, a Florida neighborhood defined almost as much by what it doesn’t have (palm trees and ocean breezes) as what it does have: eye-popping street art blanketed across storefronts, building facades, sidewalks and roofs.

 

Only a few miles west of the beach bodies and pulsing nightclubs of world-famous South Beach, Miami’s Wynwood Arts District is awash in its own kind of buzz—and the people-watching is top-notch. Tie-clad professionals huddle over spreadsheets on the patio at Panther Coffee. Bespectacled designers duck into warehouse studios. Sunburned tourists fill street corners, craning their necks at street signs, only to find themselves distracted by vibrant murals. Paint-splattered artists spray graffiti out in the open.

Like the fun-to-drive Ford Focus Electric, the Miami sun is quietly motoring up, proving more dazzling by the minute. On a side street I pull up next to a Technicolor mural-in-progress, where I’ve planned to meet with Pedro Amos, one of Wynwood’s best-known graffiti artists. But first I glance down at the dashboard and, as if showing off its personality, the vehicle’s SmartGauge® with EcoGuide fills with blue butterflies to indicate how efficiently I’m driving. This 100% gas-free car is thrillingly low impact, boasting seat trim made with REPREVE® fiber from recycled materials and seat cushions from soy-based bio-foam derived from plant seed oils—not to mention an EPA-estimated driving range of 115 miles*, perfect for Miami.

Amos, clad in a painted collared shirt, plaid shorts and a tan baseball cap, puts some finishing touches on the mural, with the help of a stepladder and a can of white spray paint. While I park, he looks up and gives me a friendly wave. Turns out, he’s been working on the wall since the wee hours of the morning.

Artist Daniel Osorno assisted Amos on the “Electric” mural

“It’s not finished till it’s finished, you know?” says Amos, giving his masterpiece a critical eye after we greet each other. Then he gets back to work, filling in minuscule nooks and crannies. “I always find something I could do to make it that much better.”

Along with his business partner, Ryan the Wheelbarrow, Amos runs the only artist-owned and -operated tour company in Wynwood: Miami’s Best Graffiti Guide. “We take you to places only an artist would know about,” Amos says. “We don’t just show you the art, we give you the history and context that makes the neighborhood come alive.”

Pedro Amos @pedro_amos_ and Daniel Osorno @osornoart are local art-scene fixtures.

By now the sun is so bright it’s hard for me to see the details of the wall, ablaze in its own color and light, without squinting. I step backward off the curb for a more holistic view of the mural, which captures the spirit of Miami in what could easily be considered the city’s signature shade: the lime green of mojitos and tropical trees. Framed in tropical foliage, it’s a symphony of bright, happy colors and ocean wave-–like forms that radiate energy—the consummate Miami mural.

Taking it all in, I smile with awe. As a native Miamian who remembers this neighborhood as little more than a blighted warehouse district during the ’80s and ’90s, I’m in love with the mosaic of color, sound and sun-drenched light that is today’s Wynwood. It’s a living museum of street art.

Okuda San Miguel’s flamingos can’t get enough of the Focus Electric.

Amos, who was also born and raised in Miami, has been painting graffiti in Wynwood since before it was trendy to do so. “I am a product of my environment, and my environment happens to be a fun, eclectic, exciting and colorful place,” he says. In contrast to other towns, graffiti in Miami looks and feels different. The brightness, the multitude of cultures and languages seen and heard throughout the city, the constant heat—all of it influences the street art. “My work embodies my part of the world,” says Amos, with one last spray of paint.

I use the MyFord Mobile app* on my phone to double-check the car’s battery charge (all good!), then a few minutes later Amos and I get in and drive through Wynwood to admire some more of the 300+ murals scattered around.

“Graffiti art paved the way for outdoor mural art,” Amos explains. In 2002, the contemporary art fair Art Basel arrived in Miami Beach—and satellite events sprouted in the Wynwood Arts District, attracting an influx of people to the neighborhood. That helped raise awareness about this creative, cultural hub. Nestled right smack in the heart of the city just north of downtown, Wynwood was the perfect spot for what Amos calls “an experiment in urban art.”

Artist Pedro Amos reveals the inspiration he derives from the one-of-a-kind Wynwood neighborhood.

Whereas some see graffiti as a sign of urban decline, a group of Miami developers and city planners in the mid-2000s chose to see it as a window into the city’s artistic soul. Instead of covering up the street art, they embraced it, going so far as to commission local artists to create more murals on a rotating basis. The result is a dynamic, vibrant hot spot that’s constantly transforming itself. “Wynwood has actually been used as a case study on how to develop cities,” Amos says.

Artsy types instantly loved the neighborhood, which stood out in stark contrast to the mass marketing seen all over Miami Beach and even parts of downtown, where national and international chains dot the landscape. Soon it wasn’t just art galleries moving in; design studios, restaurants, bars and shops also popped up. “The majority of property owners in Wynwood are independent, local business owners,” Amos says. He points out a mural of a smiling, swimsuit-clad woman on a swing painted by Claudia LaBianca on the side of Vintage Boutique, a favorite local shop. “They commission street art as a way of embracing both the culture and the community.”

The result is a rare and harmonious coexistence between art and business. “It’s all intertwined,” Amos says, then flashes a big smile. “But truly, nothing blossoms without the creatives.”

Take a tour of Wynwood's Greatest Hits here. 

See more murals below

Miami Slideshow 1
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Claudia Labianca (@claudialabianca)

Miami leaf man slide replace
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Pixel Pancho (@pixelpancho)

Miami Slideshow 2
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Santiago Rubino (@santiagorubino)

Miami Slideshow 4
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Beau Stanton (@beaustanton)

Miami mushroom slide replace
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The 2017 Focus Electric takes in a mural by artist Danny Osorno (@OSORNOART).

 

 

*Range calculation based on fueleconomy.gov. Actual range varies with conditions such as external elements, driving behaviors, vehicle maintenance, and lithium-ion battery age. *MyFord Mobile subscription complimentary for five years from the vehicle sale date as recorded by the dealer. Subscriptions fees apply after five years. MyFord Mobile requires a compatible cellular network. Evolving technology and cellular networks may affect future availability and functionality. Message and data rates may apply.*When using a charger capable of delivering 150 amps. Charge times vary. See owner’s manual for details. ** Actual mileage will vary. MPGe is the EPA equivalent measure of gasoline fuel efficiency for electric mode operation. †Don’t drive while distracted. Use voice-operated systems when possible; don’t use handheld devices while driving. Some features may be locked out while the vehicle is in gear. Not all features are compatible with all phones.

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