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This past week in Miami, the parties, gallery shows, and satellite art fairs surrounding Art Basel Miami Beach swallowed up large chunks of both Miami Beach and the Miami mainland. Most of these mainland festivities centered around Wynwood—the city’s trendiest arts district, its wall-to-wall street-art murals attracting photo shoots and international tourism.
But Wynwood also presents a classic tale of a neighborhood at a disconnect, encompassing two separate worlds within. One is the Wynwood of young, aggressively hip artsy types drinking premium coffee—and the other is of the neighborhood’s longtime black and Puerto Rican population.
And today, Jose de Diego middle school, named after the father of the Puerto Rican independence movement, finds itself somewhere between them. It’s just blocks from the main gallery drag—but many of the students, science coach Catalina Hidalgo told Fusion, are unaware that their own neighborhood is a contemporary-art hotbed. During the 2011-2012 school year, nearly 90 percent of them qualified for free school lunch.
Perhaps most ironically, until recently the school offered just one visual art class—the first time one in four years—and completely blank, institutional walls. That is, until last week, when a community coalition unveiled the RAW Project, short for Reimagining Arts in Wynwood.
Go-getter Hidalgo realized she couldn’t instantly wipe away social divides, but she could at least do something in the short-term about the middle school’s blank walls. After emailing everyone she could think of, Hidalgo finally got a response from key groups: the Wynwood Arts District Associaton, WynwoodMaps.com, and the Global Shapers Community.
Together, they enticed some of the city’s—and world’s—top street artists, to liven up the school itself. And the next step? Using all of the momentum to raise money to bring arts education properly back to Jose de Diego Middle School. And so far, it’s looking promising.
During the week of Art Basel Miami Beach, Fusion visited Jose de Diego middle school, and some of the teachers, community activists, and artists behind the RAW Project. Check out the video to see how their efforts are already dramatically transforming the school.
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