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Paper Pavement: The History of Miami’s Streets Preserved Through Art

Audrey Armitage. Art by Nick Gilmore
"Paper Pavement" is a Miami art project by local artist Nick Gilmore that records the changes of Miami's street landscape.

The city of Miami is rich with artistic, architectural and historic detail, but what can be learned from the streets themselves? Local artist Nick Gilmore explores the heavily used, but often forgotten, city streets in his new print series, “Paper Pavement.”

Gilmore, an adjunct professor of printmaking at Florida International University, takes a close look at the details of aging city streets, transforming crumbling street tops into textured prints that capture a unique piece of Miami’s history.

Credit Audrey Armitage. Art by Nick Gilmore.
A print of a manhole from Nick Gilmore's "Paper Pavement" Miami street art project.

The prints are focused on the blocks that will soon become the Miami WorldCenter, a massive commercial and residential development to be built downtown.  The area Gilmore explored is bounded by North Miami and Northeast Second avenues and Northeast Seventh and 10th streets.

“I’m not categorically opposed to the development,” explains Gilmore, “but I wanted to give particular attention to the streets that will be the inside of a shopping mall in a year.”

The WorldCenter will be built on some of the oldest streets in Miami, although much of the area is currently empty lots. The project aims to not only preserve a record of these changing streets, but to also “engage with the process of the development and its relationship to the city’s history.” 

Credit Audrey Armitage
Nick Gilmore, the local artist behind the project "Paper Pavements," steamrolls over a lot that will become part of the Miami WorldCenter.

To create the prints, Gilmore drove a steamroller over the streets in the construction zone during Downtown Art Days. The steamrolling process “transforms the erosion of streets into marks that have a new beauty” and can be seen in a new way, says Kathleen Hudspeth, founder of Turn-Based Press, a local printmaking collective that helped coordinate logistics for “Paper Pavement.” 

To Gilmore, the project is a “way of being in three different time periods at once.” 

He described how the prints reflect the past by showing the history of the streets and their use. The steamrolling process then records the streets in their current historical moment, while the artist and viewers of the work are poignantly aware that the area will be dramatically changed in the imminent future.

“Paper Pavement” can be viewed at Downtown ArtHouse, home of Turn-Based Press. The prints will be up until mid-December, when Downtown ArtHouse must vacate as  Miami WorldCenter construction begins. 

Although the group is sad to lose the studio and exhibition space, Huspeth says “it’s difficult to be entirely critical because the Miami WorldCenter has been so supportive of us." Miami WorldCenter owns the building, but allowed the artists to use it rent-free for the past two years.

“Paper Pavement” is also showing at the Miami Center for Architecture and Design, 100 NE First Ave. Gilmore’s work will be alongside the “Listen to This Building” exhibit, designed to make architecture more accessible for the blind. 

Due to the tactile nature of the prints, “the projects ended up being in great conversation with each other,” says Ricardo Mor of MCAD. “This way, people who are blind will be able to experience the art as well.