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From the outside, the building on the corner of NW 2nd Ave and 22nd Street looks like what it once was – an old textile factory. On Saturday night, the wrought iron gate opened into an entryway lit with torches, right off the set of Survivor. Through the inside door and narrow hallway the room opened up into a high ceilinged expanse of gallery. The walls were lined with a collage of 4 x 6 photos, an exhibit entitled “This is Wynwood.”

Click on the images for more photos or go here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/82285926@N00/sets/72157608885936193/

On one of the walls at the University of Miami Wynwood Project Space, the collage broke into a straight line of large format color photographs. The photos drew the attention of over 300 people as part of Wynwood’s monthly art walk. In one of the photographs, the sun catches the lens of the camera as a man poses, arm bent and sleeve up, showing a hand drawn Cuban tattoo; another shows a pulled back shot of a man walking by the Corpus Christi Church, head bowed. The photos all share a similar quality of an intentional view of everyday life in Wynwood. They capture the beauty in an old van converted into an ice cream truck, the silence in a jumble of buildings seen from an alley, or even the pride in an awkwardly posed family on the steps of a modest house.

The photos are a preview of La Galería del Barrio, a “photo exhibit exploring the boundaries of displacement and resistance, by Wynwood residents.”

Wynwood is a historic Puerto Rican working class, multi-national Latino neighborhood. It hosts vacant blighted land in need of development, a new arts district, a site of community struggle against displacement, and has become a goldmine for developers. The embattled neighborhood houses over a dozen galleries, and is located next to the oversized Midtown Miami Development (where big box stores are failing and condos towers are empty). It is also home to the dedicated and passionate members of Miami en Accion (MIA).

MIA, a grassroots organization founded by members of the community with support from the Miami Workers Center, has been fighting gentrification and displacement in Wynwood since 2005. La Galería Del Barrio is the latest in a line of innovative tactics drawing attention to the embattled neighborhood shifting the narrative from one of  “blighted and empty” to “vibrant and alive.”

In early December, during the international arts festival Art Basel, MIA will take the photo exhibit to the streets. By staging a community intervention at the arts festival, residents hope to show that Wynwood is more than a backdrop for collectors and galleries – it is a home and place of community.

“We don’t hate art,” says Norma Marguerín, MIA member and amateur photographer. “We love art, but we do hate displacement.”

“The city prioritizes the needs of the high end art scene over the needs of the residents,” says Saraí Portillo, organizer with the Miami Workers Center. “They are basically selling the neighborhood as a wide open wild west ready for settlement by civilized artists. But families live here, have built their lives here. Let’s see some investment in the community, lets see some jobs, some arts programs for youth, a better community center in the park.”

Local photographer Noelle Theard donated her time to the project training residents in photography, printing the photographs, and helping to coordinate the show.

La Galería del Barrio will be open for two days in December:

Wednesday December 3
6 PM – 10 PM
351 NW 31 St

Saturday December 6
10 AM – 7 PM
btw 29th & 30th St. on N. Miami Ave

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