How Miami’s Museum of Graffiti made it to its one year anniversary during the pandemic

Published on December 23, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has been brutal for small businesses across the country, nevermind new businesses. Miami’s Museum of Graffiti, located in Miami’s Wynwood Art District, did what seemed impossible: opening just before the pandemic hit and not only surviving but thriving.

The museum celebrated its one year anniversary during the week that would have been Art Basel Miami 2020. They hosted two simultaneous shows as well as activations at hotels across Miami. As COVID-19 cases surged, the museum needed to make sure to operate safely. We spoke to co-founders Allison Freidin and Alan Ket about the precautions they were taking during their celebration week, and they told us:

“The Museum adhered to strictly timed ticketing, with only 6 adult guests allowed in the Museum every 15 minutes. Tickets were available to reserve online in advance so that there is no need to transact at our front desk. We implemented touch-less check out in the gift shop, removed all interactive exhibitions where touching is allowed, there are new hand sanitizer stations, and masks are mandatory at all times. Routine disinfecting takes place throughout the day, and visitors are encouraged to take our brand new self-guided audio tour with their own headphones as no live tours are currently taking place.”

Allison Freidin and Alan Ket
Photo via Museum of Graffiti

The Museum of Graffiti is Wynwood’s only museum, and their specialty is perfectly appropriate for the district known for its world-famous graffiti murals, the Wynwood Walls. The district has a very unique feel to it, combining Miami’s luxurious, party atmosphere with the grittiness of the surrounding city and dropping that vibe in a landscape adorned with stunning graffiti murals. So, really, there is no better place for the world’s first museum dedicated to graffiti.

Since the launch of Miami’s Museum of Graffiti, similar venues have popped up in Washington DC and New York City. Graffiti is an art form that has existed in many iterations throughout history, the ethos of the craft is very in line with our current cultural zeitgeist. Freidin and Ket shared their thoughts on that and offered a theory as to why the museum has been so successful in 2020.

Graffiti in the art is a break from the rules that one might learn in art school. It is a self-taught path where the school is the great outdoors and the path of the artist is tied with his/her ability to learn what it is like to paint publicly. The entire world becomes a gallery and thus there is a freedom of expression granted to the artist that chooses this path. Graffiti by definition is a social political tool as a result of its illegality – artists risk arrest to express themselves and challenge authority and society’s rules by their art making. In cities where graffiti is embraced or at the very least ignored, it becomes a fabric of the city that showcases what artists and the general public are thinking and feeling. The recent protests in the United States related to the murder of George Floyd is a good example of this and of the importance of the existence of illegal and legal graffiti in the streets. Graffiti shows that a city and its citizens are alive and believe in free and open expression.

Allison Freidin and Alan Ket
Photo via Museum of Graffiti

Naturally, even though the Museum of Graffiti offers an experience that captures the hearts and minds of art aficionados and rebellious youth alike, the founders had to make some adjustments to their business model due to the pervasive pandemic. In order to keep the momentum they built from their launch at Art Basel Miami 2019 going, the founders had to switch up their gameplan.

The Museum sustained through the COVID-19 pandemic by enhancing its virtual presence.  The Museum launched an online gift shop, conducted live art talks with over 75 graffiti artists on Instagram Live, created 10 editions of a free downloadable “Stay Home” coloring book for kids, presented Gustavo Oviedo: Symbiosis in 360 degree virtual reality, and curated a YouTube channel with a playlist of educational #BLM videos that correspond to the American History mural that was created by 8 portrait artists in the wake of George Floyd’s death along NW 25th St. 

Allison Freidin and Alan Ket

Perhaps the reason why the museum thrived during the pandemic is that it is a groundbreaking experience dedicated to a revolutionary art form and it is something that you can enjoy while observing all CDC guidelines. Be sure to go to their website and check out some of their stunning virtual exhibits, you won’t be disappointed.

Justin Shamlou is a Senior Staff Writer at Grit Daily. Based in Miami, he covers international news, consumer brands, tech, art/entertainment, and events. Justin started his career covering the electronic music industry, working as the Miami correspondent for Magnetic Mag and US Editor for Data Transmission.

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