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Miami Muralist's Walls Brighten Art Week With Local Color

  Art Basel Miami Beach begins Thursday, and although the fair brings in outside art for exhibits not always open to local talent, Miami artist David Lavernia is looking forward to it.

"This is like Christmas for every artist in Miami," Lavernia, 27, says. "Your mind will be blown by all the amazing work you're seeing."

He says Basel's presence every year is "a huge advantage" to Miami artists.

This is his fourth time exhibiting murals during Art Basel, but it's his first time being commissioned for all of them: three in Wynwood, and one in Miami Beach.

Last year, Lavernia took off on his ART is LOVE tour, during which he drove, armed with paint, to 17 Artist and Craftsman art supply stores across the country.

"I would sift through some of their garbage and find scraps of wood or beat-up canvas," he says, "then use whatever supplies I had to create something for that day, and then I'd leave it at the store."

Lavernia says before ART is LOVE, he was struggling to make a living in Miami. But then locals started noticing his daily posts of artwork from the tour on Instagram and Facebook.

"I was having a bit of a tough time [in Miami] because I hadn't really found my niche. I was sustaining myself- kind of, but not really," he says. "It just started kind of going viral here in Miami."

Jose Uipan was part of the group that commissioned Lavernia to paint the walls of a stairwell in Miami Beach's Burger and Beer Joint. He does promotion for the restaurant.

"We opened up an upstairs sports bar and we found it very difficult to get the people to go up," Uipan says.

He commissioned Lavernia's mural so that people would know to go upstairs during Art Basel.

“They were going to hire outside of the state,” Uipan says. “I told the guys, we’re trying to make this a local bar hangout. I told them the best thing to do is have local artists do all the work for us."

The walls now bear paintings from a few different Pink Floyd albums, combined with the tropical themes Lavernia is known for. He says living by the ocean has definitely inspired his work.

"I try to be in the water as much as possible, whether it's surfing, or just going for a swim, or a paddle," he says. "So a lot of my work is influenced by the ocean and marine life."

As he painted his first mural for this year's Art Basel, on Northeast Second Avenue in Wynwood, people stopped to watch.

"I'm seeing red, purple, turquoise. I'm seeing all the South Beach colors -- all the South Florida colors," passerby Fred Williams said.

Lavernia says he's doing "a lot more" work now than a year ago, and he attributes his local success to his tour.

"Even from a few months ago, let's say from July to right now, I've been practically non-stop," he says, "and it's actually nice to be home."

Below, watch a video of Lavernia painting his Second Avenue mural, and passersby's reactions to the work.

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