Miami is quickly rising in the ranks as one of the world’s street art capitals, with projects like Google Street Art bringing much deserved recognition to Miami as a city teeming with local talent and visual eye candy galore. And while street art and graffiti are often thought of as a guy’s game, these four ladies are crushing that stereotype. From graffiti to murals, from widely recognized to totally anonymous, these creative women are part of the driving force behind the street art movement in South Florida.
Though Nicole Salgar has been making art since she was a kid, she took a foray into fashion in New York City before returning to her roots in 2013, painting her first mural in Manhattan’s Lower East Side with her partner in life and in art, Chuck Berrett. Since then, Salgar has painted murals across the globe, with pieces in Mexico, Puerto Rico, New York, and her native Miami. Locally, she’s worked on public art projects in Wynwood, Hialeah, Carroll Gardens, and Miami Beach.
Salgar also works as the Miami project manager for Centre-Fuge Public Art Project, which focuses on turning transitional spaces and construction sites into community focal points of public art. She’s worked with street artists like Kazilla Illa, Aquarela, and Claudia LaBianca to create murals in Wynwood and beyond. Her work is full of surreal figures and animals With her work, Salgar channels her spirit animal of the moment, focusing on expressing her feelings through the fury and grace of the animal that most closely represents those emotions.
Moving back to Miami was actually a tribute to her brother Louis Salgar, a beloved local musician and bartender, who was tragically murdered during a home invasion last year. “Louis was always asking me to move back, so when he died I decided to stay here and give back to Miami in my own way.” She started the Louis Salgar Foundation to help artists in Miami find funding for their projects through scholarships and community programs.
Muralist Kelcie McQuaid began making art during a difficult stage in her life. She was just seven years old when her parents split up, and art was her only escape. “While my parents were separating, my teacher let me work on art projects in her class for hours after school, and by the age of seven, I was helping her paint local murals around South Florida,” she said. McQuaid’s paintings are inspired by feminine energy, vulnerability, strength, and the struggles women face in finding their place in society.
Most of McQuaid’s murals are in Fort Lauderdale, where she says it’s a lot more difficult to get funding and approval for public art projects than neighboring Miami. In addition to trying to get a mural program off the ground, McQuaid has painted street murals anonymously – and illegally – in an effort to promote the need for public art in Broward County.
“Being a woman in this game is like being a diamond in the rough,” McQuaid says. “There aren’t many, but the ones who are doing it are truly amazing, and I’m so happy to be a woman in this game.”
According to STOEK, “Graffiti focuses more on letters than on characters or murals. I do graffiti, and graffiti is illegal.” STOEK fell in love with graffiti as a kid living in the Fontainebleau area of Miami. “There was an abandoned building next to the building I lived in called a Penit, where people would go to paint, and that’s when I fell in love.” STOEK’s been doing graffiti since she was 16, using bright Miami colors to tag her name on abandoned buildings, trains, and otherwise forgotten areas of Miami.
Influenced by hip hop culture and motivated by an innate desire to create, STOEK says graffiti is a way for this self-described introvert to express herself and leave her mark in her own way, without compromise. But the thrill of getting away with it doesn’t hurt either. “Graffiti lets me say, ‘Yo, I’m here’ on my own terms, without giving too much of myself away,” she said. “And when I drive home after painting and see a cop car, I’m like ‘Haha, y’all slipped.’ ”
As a visual artist, Michelle Weinberg is a jack-of-all-trades. She creates works in painting and collage, designs rugs, textiles, and tiles, and produces art for architecture and public spaces. Street art is just another facet of Weinberg’s drive to create vivid backdrops for human activity. “I don’t want to be just a gallery artist, I really like to make work that has an impact in the public realm, where people who aren’t initiated into the art world are going to experience something interesting or thought-provoking, or have a ‘wow’ moment without going into a gallery,” she said. Weinberg, whose work is highly geometric and architectural, was inspired by her father’s career as a contemporary architect in the sixties and seventies.
Weinberg is frequently commissioned by Miami-Dade County, institutional developers, private architects, and designers. One of her most recent projects was a mural inspired by Dazzle Camoflauge for the Wolfsonian-FIU as a tribute to the anniversary of World War I.
“I had been exploring this area of study for some time, and the people painting these ships were mostly women, since men were at war and women were volunteering to do whatever they could. I thought it was a very active way to make a statement about women doing this kind of work.”
Who are some of your favorite artists making street art in Miami?