Wynwood pioneer Jenny Perez goes global


The gleaming Strata Wynwood building is a symbol of the new Miami, with pricey apartments, a rooftop pool, and views of all the other construction taking place.

In a nod to what made the boom happen, they have added 8 artist studios and exhibition space on the ground floor. High ceilings, concrete floors, and white walls are begging for paint splatters.

As the first artist to break ground in this new studio space, she and her spunky white dog occupy a space already filled with a brand-new series she is creating for Miami Art Week in December.

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“I moved into this particular studio two months ago,” she says wearing paint-splattered clothes as trains rumble behind her and residents stroll past to walk the dogs. Sage burns in a bowl.

“Before that, I was in Little Haiti. I had a residency with the `Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator (DVCAI)’. They gave me a two-year residency where they funded my studio and it was really good, but the space just wasn’t suitable for a painter. Then I ended up moving here and this is a lot more spacious and it is a lot more suitable. I’m here for six months.”

Wynwood pioneer Jenny Perez goes global
Jenny Perez has a new series at her Strata Wynwood studio (Photo Sandra Schulman)

“I moved in and I wanted something fresh. Regular shapes like squares and rectangles became boring to me. So I started making my own circles. These are almost sculptures. They’re canvases that are stretched onto custom stretcher bars. These are for Scope Miami with The CAMP Gallery, which represents my work in Miami, and Project Art Box, to whom I donated a custom piece. And then I’m showing another piece at the Museum of Graffiti in Wynwood as part of a group show.”

Perez shows off the series of smaller and larger works, organic shapes with depth, base colored black with gleaming swatches of magenta and gold.

She was an early pioneer in the street art movement, exploring abstract expressionism with pop art.

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In 2014, she represented Wynwood in a solo exhibition in Dubai’s very first street art gallery. She has exhibited at the Delano Hotel, Intercontinental Hotel, and the Sagamore Hotel for Art Basel 2017 titled: “Urban Legends” where her works hung next to Basquiat, Keith Haring, and Banksy.

Perez has worked on product development and in-store visual design campaigns with global brands Armani Exchange, Lululemon Athletica, Whole Foods, Barry’s Bootcamp, and Prada.

In 2020, she designed a sculpture for Aventura Mall, the only living female artist with a piece in the collection. She has been featured in international publications including DISfunction Magazine, Latina Magazine, Lumiere Magazine, and onCuba.

“So you can see they’re starting to feel like a collection,” she says gesturing at the new art. “The small ones look really good. I’ll finish something and then maybe a collector will swing by and will purchase it. I’ve sold three of these already and I’m trying to get as much done as I can so that I have enough work that week. It’s a worthwhile problem to have.”

Recently, Perez designed a tote bag based on one of her works that launched with Zak the Baker.

“It’s a really cool initiative that he does. He selects one artist every year to place their artwork on a tote bag and sell it in his bakery. A hundred percent of the proceeds go to the artist because I just moved in here.”

Wynwood pioneer Jenny Perez goes global -Painting-by-Jenny-Perez
Painting by Jenny Perez (Photo Sandra Schulman)

Outside of her studio is a small gallery space with more of her work where she has held receptions, part of the deal with the Strata building to share the arts.

“Just a lot of changes now. I’m rolling with the punches. Here in Wynwood, I never thought I would end up back in Wynwood. I did street art here when I was much younger–I basically grew up in the neighborhood. And then I had my first studio here and was part of the initial spark that launched Wynwood, that first wave 10 years ago.”

She says it was fun at the beginning, like the start of all scenes.

“Everything was so new and everybody was here. It was a real community and a real connection to artists. You could walk anywhere and run into your friends, especially if you were working artists in the city. I would meet a lot of people, international artists.”

She says a lot of people set out for New York to be working artists.

“It’s what they did, but something inside said I needed to stay here and be a part of what’s happening here. And I’m really happy I made that decision because it was pure magic. Like the things that we got to do and experience were just so cool.”

“It’s like what happened on Lincoln Road in South Beach in the 90s. I don’t even want to be on Lincoln Road. It’s not cool at all. It’s the same now though with Second Avenue here. It’s hard to find a neighborhood with that sense of community anymore.”

“But I go over to the farmer’s market which is at Legion Park, and that feels a little bit like a community. Because you’re starting to see similar faces every week and that kind of thing. It was really wonderful to be a part of Wynwood’s culture. And it was many years that it inspired my work and it drove my work because I was in the right place at the right time. I met a lot of people that took me from point A to point B, like a domino effect.”

Jenny says that “this is why I’m essentially here. This building, in particular, I can’t speak for any other developers, but this one, they want to build a sense of community. So they asked me to come in and I’m here on a six-month residency and part of the requirement is to host events here with the residents. I already did one in August. It was called Creativity and Mindfulness because I also practice yoga. I have a partnership with Lululemon. I did that ambassadorship program with them, I was able to ask them to sponsor the event, they were able to donate yoga mats and really nice water bottles, and so we were able to host the residents and a few people from my own personal address book.”

“I get a lot of people peeking in through the window wanting to see what I’m doing. I invite them in. For me, this is my office, my workspace. So sometimes I don’t see the coolness of it, since I’m here 12 or 16 hours a day. But when I see people come in and they’re like, “Wow”, then I see it through their eyes.”

“I can probably say the only studios in the neighborhood that I know of that are actually designed for artists. There are sinks outside, there’s restrooms.”

There used to be scores of galleries in the neighborhood, Jenny says, but now only a few as the rents got too expensive and the Gallery Walk nights got out of control as the party people took over.

“And they were requiring a lot of the galleries to demolish their walls and build retail windows, so it just changed, the whole thing changed. And there’s nothing wrong with change. I just think if you’re going to kick the artists out, where are they going, you know?”

The answer is they flee to more industrial parts of town like Lemon City and Allapatah. Then the developers follow them and start scooping up real estate there.

That was literally what Jenny did. She went from Wynwood to Lemon City to Little Haiti then back to Wynwood because she’s good and does the work.

“In the context of rising prices and the challenges that accompany it, like finding an affordable studio, I am so grateful to Strata Wynwood for giving me both a conducive space wherein to develop my work and a platform to share it with a community that I have grown up in.”

For now, she is not just surviving but thriving, making her way through the new big-money Wynwood, one painting at a time.

For more information on the artist, visit www.jennyperez.com

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