Student Ambassador Winter Series Uncategorized

Wynwood Walls: Miami’s Take on an Open Air Museum

McMullen Student Ambassador Alex Hull, MCAS 2021, reflects on part of her winter break in Miami, Florida.

When I hear the words, “art museum,” I see paintings––ornate, revered paintings; I see rooms full of silent people, squinting their eyes and leaning forward, eventually deciding to lean over to the person they brought with them to whisper some theory they have about the piece; I see the beautiful, exterior walls which enclose the hypothetical place, which give its visitors an imposing first impression.  My experience of viewing art within a museum has always felt somewhat sacred, and what a beautiful experience this has been for me. However, this experience of mine, this particular face of a museum, is one of many.  

I had the chance to escape the Massachusetts winter over the holidays, and Miami was my first destination.  After a few long, sunny days at South Beach, I headed into the city, to pay Wynwood, Miami’s energetic art district, a visit.  

Here’s a little bit about Wynwood.  Tony Goldman, a developer from New York who played a key role in making South Beach what it is today, invested time and money in Wynwood, Miami, an area previously filled with the empty, abandoned warehouses of a forgotten garment district, in the early 2000s, hoping that the area would experience an artistic revival.  He started by opening a restaurant, and soon, galleries and shops popped up near it. However, what set Wynwood apart from other empty-warehouse-districts-turned-trendy was the introduction of several huge street murals, placed in a central courtyard open to the public and appropriately named Wynwood Walls.  Goldman called this area of Wynwood a “museum of the streets.”

Photo by Alex Hull

With over 200 of these street murals, Wynwood has now become the artistic hub of Miami, complete with private galleries and beautifully unexpected street art covering nearly every building and abandoned warehouse. The art district has also become a popular place for locals to gather, as tourists tend to flock to South Beach, especially during the summer months.  

Photo by Alex Hull

What I had missed completely during my previous visits to the Wynwood Walls was the fact that this place really was a museum, even though it functioned completely differently from what I associated with my personal template of a museum.  This museum’s only walls were the canvases themselves; their sole purpose was to provide material for the artists to work upon. Instead of the walls enclosing the art inside of a building, these huge canvases are placed in a way that guides visitors through the courtyard, from one work of art to another.  Thus, the focus is on the art itself. The walls become the artistic medium; they can be thought of as huge canvases that are set up to act as walls, that do so without boxing anything in or pushing anything out. The surrounding atmosphere rules this particular museum. The sunny weather, the groups of people chatting to each other freely, and the colorful notes of the murals together all make for an inviting, cheerful, and most importantly, accessible gathering space for those interested in art.  

Mural by Shepard Fairey, Wynwood Walls. Courtesy

This museum model draws a larger and more diverse crowd as well.  Everyone from gallery owners to small children to lifelong Miami residents is welcome to enjoy the murals, to stay as short or as long as they please, and to take photos of all of it.  Wynwood, most importantly, is accessible to all people no matter their backgrounds in art. Both the experts and the newcomers gather here to celebrate street art and the artists who love creating it.  

Sources Cited:

Sandra Schulman, “Shepard Fairey Mural at Wynwood Walls Honors the Power of Men,” Florida Daily Post, June 6, 2017,

Terry Pristin, “A SoHo Visionary Makes an Artsy Bet in Miami,” New York Times, March 30, 2010,

Wynwood, “Our Story,” accessed December 28, 2019,

Student Ambassador Winter Series Uncategorized

Student Ambassador Winter Series: The Obama Portraits

By Annabel Steele

There are a lot of advantages to living in Washington, D.C., not the least of which is that practically everything is free.

Well, that’s not exactly true. Not everything is free, not by a long shot. But the monuments and everything associated with the Smithsonian is free, and that’s a pretty sweet deal. Every time I’m home for break and feeling a little bored, I can head to the zoo or the world-class museums downtown and my only expense is a few bucks for the metro.

I like to think I take advantage of all of these opportunities. I had field trips to probably every Smithsonian museum in elementary school, and ever since then I’ve loved going downtown to appreciate the art, history and culture. My favorite is the National Museum of American History—what can I say, I’m a sucker for the actual star-spangled banner. One of my favorite routines over holiday breaks is heading downtown with my brother or a couple of friends and checking out a museum.

This Christmas break, though, I was fortunate enough to see something I haven’t seen in person yet. My friends and I found a couple of free hours in our schedule and decided to visit the National Portrait Gallery. Now, there’s plenty of incredible art in the Portrait Gallery (including the Electronic Superhighway, which I’m pretty sure can hypnotize you if you aren’t careful), but we were focused on two pieces of art only: the Obama portraits.

I was studying abroad in Ireland last year when the Obama portraits were unveiled, but I remember eagerly reading the news about the ceremony and gazing at the portraits. There is something striking about the portraits even when viewed through a smartphone’s screen. In person, they are mesmerizing.

Barack Obama’s portrait hangs in the America’s Presidents gallery along with the portraits of every one of his predecessors. When I visited, there was a fairly long line of people patiently waiting to get their photo taken in front of the portrait. Visitors rushed by Kennedy, passed Reagan without a second glance and made a beeline for President Obama. The stoic look on his face, the vibrant green and the pops of colors with flowers representing important places in his life come together to form an incredible portrait worthy of a historic man.

Upstairs in the 20th Century Americans gallery, Michelle Obama’s portrait is the main draw. (I mean that literally. They had signs throughout the entire gallery directing people past the other incredible works of art and into the room where her portrait is hung.) Mrs. Obama’s portrait, like her husband’s, is enchanting. I admit that when I first saw it online, I didn’t immediately love it, but seeing it in person changed that for me. The pops of color in her dress really worked well. The room with her portrait was crowded with people milling around and gazing up at it.

As it turns out, my friends and I visited the Portrait Gallery just in time. The federal government had shut down several days before we visited, and just a few days later the Smithsonian museums followed suit. For almost a month, nobody at all could go in and see the Obama portraits. Now that the museums are open again (at least for now), I’m sure visitors are streaming in and out every day, eager to catch a glimpse of history through art. If you ever find yourself in Washington, I urge you to do the same.

Student Ambassador Winter Series

Student Ambassador Winter Series: On Doing “Nothing”

By Carolina Gazal

After the peak of finals season, I told myself I would spend every day of my winter break living my best life, hanging out with my friends, exploring New York City and all the magic it had to offer, especially during the holiday season. Unfortunately, my break didn’t pan out like I had imagined. I found myself with a raging fever and pounding headache on the day of my last exam, unable to remember the amazing plans I had meticulously concocted for myself during those cold and brutal study days.

Thus, I spent the first half of my break in bed as I scrolled through Instagram, watching my friends travel the world and embark on service trips as I quickly binged every episode of “The Office” and my only friends became Rachel, Monica, and Phoebe on “F.R.I.E.N.D.S.” I had never believed in FOMO – the fear of missing out – until I realized I had spent my last winter break holed up in my room while everyone else seemed to be having the time of their life. I promised myself that once I felt better, I would spend every single day trying something new.

Though it wasn’t financially feasible to travel somewhere new every day, I found my solution: trying new food in my very own neighborhood. Luckily enough, I live right by a strip of restaurants and bakeries that I often overlook. With my new plan in mind, and my renewed appetite, I was able to discover my city and the unique cuisines and restaurants throughout Queens.

I rung in the New Year with fresh calamari and warm buttery baguettes, stayed toasty in an “igloo restaurant” while eating fried chicken drizzled with lime, ate classic New York City bagels with lox and capers, and spent Three King’s Day eating mouth-watering pomegranate and walnut khoresh with Persian rice. In between, I satisfied my sweet tooth with pastries from the french bakery around the corner from me, trying apricot tarts dusted with powdered sugar, delicate pistachio macarons paired with thick espresso coffees, and flaky croissants.

Even though I didn’t travel anywhere, I quickly cured my FOMO by unearthing the hidden gems in my neighborhood and satisfying my sweet tooth before returning to my usual diet of ramen and El Pelon burritos. Now when friends and peers ask how my winter break was and if I went anywhere, I smile and say, with satisfaction, “No.”