The Basel Effect: Creative Placemaking

It’s that time of year again. You finally snapped out of food induced coma, survived Black Friday madness, just in time to face the impending onslaught of...Art Basel.

Years ago, I would have been out stocking up and preparing my bunker to minimize any chances of needing to go anywhere near Art Basel. All I saw was traffic leading to 100s of events and exhibits that I could never get into -- none of it worth the hassle. I was, as defined by Oscar Wilde, a cynic - someone who knows what something cost without ever knowing it’s real value. 

So the question for many is why? It’s not a lack of interest, but residents often see Art Basel more like an event for “other people”, generally people coming in from out of town.  It’s easy to understand the monetary value that the Basel effect has on Miami. Prior to Art Basel, there were less than 10 major art galleries in Miami-Dade County, but now there are over 130. 


More than 1,000 international galleries and other exhibitors come in for Art Basel, not to mention the surrounding satellite fairs. Over 75,000 visitors and 1,500 journalists descend upon Miami-Dade County each year for Basel. Art Basel and the other surrounding fairs, have a combined ripple effect estimated to bring in more than $500 million annually to the city of Miami. These numbers make the positive economic impact easy to see.

It’s been pretty well established that arts and culture are associated with increasing economic vitality, particularly here in Miami. The problem is that, aside from the monetary impact, the influence on the broader community is not always apparent. Our work with Urban Impact Lab has, however indirectly, helped make Basel’s broader impact more clear.  Our work focuses on what makes public spaces great and is driven by one central question: how can people connect more meaningfully with their city. From that vantage point, an important element of events like Art Basel that is often not highlighted, is more apparent, its contribution to creating a sense of place.


Festivals, like our public spaces, are often the sum of their parts. It’s not just money or art that contributes to making great places, but the greater effect it has on the community as a whole and how the community builds around it. As much as Basel has changed Miami, Miami has changed Art Basel as well and in doing so, we have changed as well. As Basel has grown, Miami has grown with it. Basel is now synonymous with Miami. It’s part of its fabric and culture, like cortaditos and urban chickens.  And it is specifically due to those elements - the highlighted culture, the increased diversity, activity, and interactions that contribute to what makes great spaces and places.  It’s the layers of collaboration and how we as the community engage with a place that creates the broader value that reaches us all.


To facilitate that engagement for the average resident, here is some info to help navigate 2 of the bigger challenges that come up during Art Basel - 1. how to deal with traffic and 2. finding free or low cost events.


Main challenge is how does one get around.  There are a lot more options available now to help get around Basel.

  • Miami Dade Transit  has launched the Free Art Express bus just for Art Basel.  You can find information on stops or download the app here

  • Wynwood, City of Miami and Miami Beach all have free trolley services in and connecting the various locations.  Here is a list of schedules and maps here.

  • Several of the fairs like Art Miami, Aqua and Context to name a few, will also provide their own direct shuttle buses - Here are their schedules.

  • There will also be several different shuttle services offering rides in and around Wynwood, can an eye out and flag them down or for FreeBee - you can download the app here

  • There are several other new options this year that include Uber, WaterTaxis, and etc.  You can find out about them here

    • NOTE:  Remember that the worst kept “secret” shortcut to Miami Beach, the Venetian Causeway, is still closed for reconstruction, so avoid it.

Cost of Events

Yes, there are a ton of events and parties that many can’t get into, but there also a big number of FREE events that anyone can attend.

Photography: Isabella Bru @MoxxiCreative