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How art series 'westofchester' illustrates South Florida nostalgia

Melissa Gutierrez's illustration of Mary's Café and Coin Laundry on SW 17th Ave.
Courtesy of Melissa Gutierrez.
Courtesy of Melissa Gutierrez
Melissa Gutierrez's illustration of Mary's Café and Coin Laundry on SW 17th Ave.

We're taking a minute to remember the places in South Florida that made us.

To remember the Jewish delis where we loved to eat as kids. The kitschy beach motel where our parents took us for summer vacation. To remember the bakery with pastries that dripped gooey guava on our fingertips.

Melissa Gutierrez is helping us remember these places.

Gutierrez is an artist who grew up in Miami. She saw the places she loved begin to disappear. Some existed only in old photos. She froze them in time in bright digital artwork.

Gutierrez cartoonifies these places. Wolfie’s in Miami Beach and Bird Bowl in the Southwest. Spec’s Records in Coral Gables and Walls Ice Cream in South Miami. She takes our nostalgia and turns it into art.

She shares her creations on her Instagram page @westofchester, a wink at her childhood neighborhood.

Melissa Gutierrez is an illustrator, designer and "Miami memory-chaser."
Brandon Martinez
Melissa Gutierrez is an illustrator, designer and "Miami memory-chaser."

She recently built a suggestion box made to look like El Palacio de los Jugos and called it Palacio de los Recuerdos — the palace of memories. She took it around town during the O, Miami poetry festival last month.

She handed out cards with a writing prompt that read, “I remember.” From there, she let our memories flood open to become art.

On the May 18 episode of Sundial, Gutierrez joined us to talk preserving our South Florida memories through art.

On Sundial's previous episode, Marvin Tapia shared stories (and a cafecito!) with us about where his love for Little Havana started and what is means to be a "cultural ambassador."

Listen to Sundial Monday through Thursday on WLRN, 91.3 FM, live at 1 p.m., rebroadcast at 8 p.m. Missed a show? Find every episode of Sundial on your favorite podcast app, such as Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and Spotify

Carlos Frías is a bilingual writer, a journalist of more than 25 years and the author of an award-winning memoir published by Simon & Schuster.
Leslie Ovalle Atkinson is the former lead producer behind Sundial. As a multimedia producer, she also worked on visual and digital storytelling.
Elisa Baena is a former associate producer for Sundial.
Helen Acevedo, a freelance producer, is a grad student at Florida International University studying Spanish-language journalism, a bilingual program focused on telling the stories of diverse communities.