When you visit somewhere new, most people will look up the museums and art galleries in that city, and when you’re in the USA, it’s no different. Over the last few years, however, we have seen art not just confined to these austere old buildings, as it moves out into the streets of Urban America.
Graffiti artists were once considered criminals, but as more and more people started to see the merit in this art form, many cities have embraced it and made entire areas artistic hubs, often in an effort to rejuvenate areas. Here I’m going to take you on an artistic voyage through 3 very different US destinations and show how they’re embracing art, and why you should care!
Looking for more US adventure? Check out Dinosaurland in Utah
The Art Of Brooklyn
We’ll start with a famous art district (and part of New York many fellow Irish people call home), Brooklyn. At one time it was an area that was avoided by most New Yorkers, never mind tourists, and yet it’s now a must-visit destination when you’re in the Big Apple.
Home to an amazing mix of traditional art museums and a baffling amount of ever-changing street art, Brooklyn is packed with art to suit every taste. The Brooklyn Museum alone has 1.5 million works in their vast collection. Even though they are a bricks and mortar gallery, they are about as far from a stuck up art gallery as you can imagine. They’ve got in trouble for some of their exhibits over the years, so you really never know what you’re going to get when you walk through their doors.
One area not to miss in Brooklyn is known as DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass). The huge buildings left by the ferry port that had once been there are now filled with tech startups, crazy expensive lofts, and, of course, art galleries. One gallery called A.I.R. Gallery supports female artists, and has exhibitions on year-round, and is certainly worth a visit.
Art isn’t just limited to visual forms, and music plays a huge part in defining Brooklyn as an artistic centre. The list of musicians from Brooklyn is amazing, with Jay-Z, Barbra Streisand, Lou Reed, Mos Def, and Lil Kim just some of the big names to find their voice here. As the industries left Brooklyn, music venues took over the huge spaces and made them their own. Places like National Sawdust (an old sawmill) and Issue Project Room (Old bank building) are worth checking out for live music and performances.
If you’re looking for a place to stay, check out the International Student’s residence right in Williamsburg, and close to the J line, you’ll be able to get pretty much anywhere from here! Hotels in Brooklyn are also way cheaper than those across the bridge in Manhattan, plus it’s a ways cooler place to stay!
All The Colours of Miami
While street art in Brooklyn is pretty amazing, (check out this blog that takes photos of all the new Brooklyn art each week) Wynwood in Miami takes it to a new level. Unlike Brooklyn, Wynwood is a pretty recent arrival to the art scene. In 2009 real estate agent Tony Goldman created the Wynwood Walls, using the blank industrial walls of Wynwood as a place to showcase some of the best street art in the world. Since its beginnings on the walls, the art has leaked out into the surrounding areas, often covering entire buildings in an explosion of colour. If you’re looking for the best of Miami street art then The Wynwood Walls need to be your first stop. I spent HOURS wandering around the area taking way too many photos,and I still believe i only just touched the surface of this vibrant district.
Much like Brooklyn, Wynwood isn’t just about the visual art, and the Wynwood Yard has more than enough to keep you occupied! Yoga, Regge Nights, and “Painting without brushes” classes run here, with something different on every day.
If you still can’t get enough of the art scene in Wynwood, you can go see some of the 70 galleries, five museums, three collections, seven art complexes, 12 art studios, and five art fairs! With such a massive selection, the best way to see as much as possible is to try and visit Wynwood on the second Saturday of any month, where all the businesses, galleries and food vendors stay open after hours. The whole area feels like a block party, so you can jump in and do as much or as little as you feel like. You can go around by yourself or book a place on one of their many tours on the Wynwood official site.
When I was in Miami, I stayed in Circa 39, a travel themed Hotel on South Beach. It’s not too far from Wynwood, and if you travel as much as I do, it’s a really fun idea for a hotel! Luckily for the adventurous traveller, there are loads of fun themed hotels in Miami to choose from – depending on your tastes and of course your budget!
Delightfully different Detroit
Including Miami and New York on this list isn’t much of a surprise, but what about the old industrial, and much forgotten, city of Detroit? This city filed for bankruptcy in 2013 as their car manufacturing industries saw huge decline and the city saw its population decline by more than 60% in the last number of years. Much like the empty warehouses of Brooklyn and the walls of Wynwood, these large industrial spaces were very attractive to artists and musicians. When I visited Detroit a few years ago, I loved seeing how passionate many of the young people were, determined to build their city back up, opening up hostels, walking tours and funky bars in an attempt to keep locals local and bring more tourists to Detroit!
As rents rise in the big cities, and especially in places like Brooklyn, small artists, especially those starting out can’t afford to stay, and Detroit is encouraging artists to move to the recovering city. Patti Smith, famous for her role in the New York punk scene in the 70s said that New York “has been taken away from you” and that Detroit is going to be the New York of the future. Artists have clearly responded to this call to action, and you can see this in ventures like The Detroit Artist’s Market with its 100 bucks show, where everything costs $100 dollars.
The city of Detroit hasn’t been sitting back either, they are in the process of building up the Sugar Hill district of Midtown Detroit to become an art district to rival those of Brooklyn and Wynwood. The area includes the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Detroit Historical Museum, and the Detroit Public Library, which are worth a visit. The really exciting thing about Detroit is that now is the time to visit, to feel the energy of an area that is revitalizing. It is a city with an influx of artists and musicians, a city on the brink of exploding onto the art scene. As in other industrial areas, the walls here provide a huge blank canvas for artists, and every year at Detroit’s famous Eastern Market they host an event called Murals at the Market. Artists from all over the world come and create incredible works of art while crowds of people enjoy the market atmosphere.
The market itself has seen a resurgence too, with more and more people looking to support local and artisan producers, make sure to check it out on a Saturday for the full experience! If you need an indication of the art scene here, just look at Detroit’s only hostel, run by a friend of mine from my Couchsurfing days, and a great example of urban regeneration. If a hostel isn’t your style, check out some of these Detroit Hotels – sure to be a unique experience.
So there you have it, a look inside Urban America, and some of the best street art there is to find in Brooklyn, Miami and Detroit. Three very different arty cities, three very cool travel destinations. which do you want to visit first?