Here comes the masturbatory docuseries

Barry McGee for Wynwood Walls

Wynwood Walls is a noteworthy mural program in the Wynwood District of Miami. It has brought a number talented of artists to Miami to paint walls, and I’m under the impression that these artists are rewarded handsomely for their work. So far, so good. The project was started by Tony Goldman, a real estate developer. For this reason, Wynwood Walls has always been a bit controversial. To put it simply, Goldman is banking on commissioned murals by street artists and graffiti artists/writers to help quickly gentrify the neighborhood of Wynwood, where his company has significant property holdings. Okay, so that’s going to be controversial, but personally I think both sides of that issue have some good points. While Wynwood Walls has made me uncomfortable in the past with their high-culture and very dollar-sign focused take on murals, at the end of the day Wynwood has more walls painted by great artists because of Wynwood Walls and the neighborhood is on the upswing. But I’m digressing with history and politics before I even get to my main point: Wynwood Walls was not the first mural project in Wynwood, nor the largest, nor the most important. Before Wynwood Walls came along, the district was known in the street art and graffiti worlds for Primary Flight, quite likely the largest mural festival ever held with over 250 participants since 2007. While Primary Flight is not going to have quite as strong of a presence this year as it has in years past (both festivals are held over the first week of December), Primary Flight has undoubtedly been the superior festival to Wynwood Walls in size and the locations of walls in the past. This year, Wynwood Walls has ramped things up and Primary Flight has slowed things down, so it remains to be seen which will be the bigger festival, but the idea of Wynwood as a mural district certainly stems from Primary Flight’s work. Wynwood Walls took a version of Primary Flight’s idea, added their personal spin to it and started up a few years later in the same neighborhood as Primary Flight.

Given that history, I at first found it surprising that a recent docuseries about Wynwood is telling such a different story: Here Comes The Neighborhood. The series is described as “a Short-Form Docuseries exploring the power of Public Art and innovation to uplift and revitalize urban communities,” and supposedly tells the story of how Wynwood has been improved by murals. Unfortunately, the series is not at all what it claims. Tony Goldman, the man behind Wynwood Walls, is the executive producer of Here Comes The Neighborhood. When you know that, it becomes a lot more clear as to why the video series is, so far, a bit of a circle-jerk of Wynwood Walls participants talking about how great the project is, save for about 20 seconds mentioning Primary Flight and Gaia’s joke that the main Wynwood Walls complex might be “where art goes to die, to a certain extent.”

The Wynwood Walls website and the Here Comes The Neighbordhood website are even worse, with absolutely no mention of Primary Flight or the graffiti and street art in Wynwood that preceded either festival. Of course people and companies can say what they want about their projects so Wynwood Walls and this video series could just tell the story of Wynwood Walls and not mention Primary Flight, but I do take issue with them claiming to tell a history of art in the area and practically writing out the organization responsible for the majority of Wynwood’s murals. Based on a quick estimate, the Here Comes The Neighborhood trailer includes at least 6 of the murals affiliated with Primary Flight rather than Wynwood Walls, as were 8 artists affiliated with Primary Flight rather than Wynwood Walls, 9 artists shown who worked with Primary Flight before Wynwood Walls and 1 who worked with both Primary Flight and Wynwood Walls during her first trip to Miami. So clearly the makers of Here Comes The Neighborhood like and know about the murals for which Primary Flight is responsible, but have for some unknown reason neglected to give Primary Flight due credit for their contribution to Wynwood.

So with their twisting of history in mind, here’s the trailer for and the first two episodes of Here Comes The Neighborhood, which at least does show some great artwork if you can get past their gross distortions:

Photo by Hargo