Curating the Evolution of Graffiti

Curating the Evolution of Graffiti

By Marlen Lebish

Curating the Evolution of Graffiti

By Marlen Lebish
Meet Allison Freidin, an attorney turned businesswoman who now owns the world’s only Museum of Graffiti.
Realizing there was a void in the art world three years ago, Allison Freidin BS ’07, ’10 JD, a third generation ’Cane, teamed up with a world renown historian on graffiti, Alan Ket, and together they opened the world’s only Museum of Graffiti.

Q: Walk us through your career journey. How did you get from attorney to entrepreneur?

A: I graduated from UM with a minor in business law, which I loved, so I decided to go to law school. After graduating from UM Law School, I decided that I probably loved the “business” portion of my business law minor more than the law part. However, I graduated during the recession and I was lucky to land a job at the State Attorney’s Office.

It turned out that I also loved public service! I spent six years in the courtroom until I decided it was time to chase the dream of owning my own business. My next step was to go work for a business, GlobalPro, to learn the ins and outs of running a company. 

As a side project, I began to use my legal knowledge to represent local artists in the community. It became clear to me that there was a huge underworld of graffiti artists whose work went routinely unrecognized. Because graffiti art is done in the streets, there is rarely a plaque or information about the art, the artist, and their inspiration or technique.  Through my client connections in the art world, I met Alan Ket, and we opened the Museum of Graffiti, located in Wynwood, in December 2019.

Q: Were there any obstacles you had to overcome in launching the museum?

A: Anytime you do something for the first time, you have to chart your own path. Figuring out how to set a budget for something I’ve never done before was extremely challenging. How would I know what my costs were? How could I develop a formula that would allow me to project my income? In fact, our business plan and income forecast were spot on until we hit COVID-19 3 months after we opened.

Q: When COVID-19 hit, businesses, museums, parks, etc. were forced to close from one day to the next, how did this affect your bottom line, operations? How and when did you reopen?

A: I like to see the silver lining. COVID-19 allowed us the time we needed to open digital galleries, develop an online gift shop, create downloadable coloring books for kids, broadcast live free art talks, and much more. This allowed my company to grow from a local Museum to an institution that was known all over the world. We reopened our business on the day Mayor Gimenez announced we could reopen sometime in September. We created an outdoor experience that allows for people to customize their face mask with spray paint; created a self-guided audio tour through the museum; and developed a mural map for folks who want to only enjoy the outdoor portion of our exhibition.

Q: Was there any class or professor that made a lasting impression?

A: Norman Wedderburn. He was an adjunct professor who left his legal career (the same year he taught my class) to become the President and CEO of the South Florida Chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. I think his ability to completely change careers to do something he was passionate about was always in the back of my mind throughout my entire career.

Q: Have you always been a fan of graffiti? Favorite artist?

A: I have collected “art” since I was a kid. I kept every single one of my friends’ drawings starting in middle school when we used to make colorful notes for each other with illustrations. I always wanted original, one-of-a-kind creations—I loved knowing I was the only one in the world to have something. I started going to Wynwood in 2010 and my art collection started to grow.

I began collecting the works of local artists like Neith Nevelson and Purvis Young who produced urban works of art on the streets with whatever materials they could find. I eventually graduated to graffiti art in 2016 when I met a female artist named Delvs who lived around the corner from me. Currently, my favorite artists are LA2 from NYC and Ahol Sniffs Glue from Miami, likely because I am currently working on putting together solo shows for both artists. I am deep in the weeds right now, understanding their work and how their vast contributions to the art world would not have been possible without unwavering dedication to their work. Both artists use hand drawn lines, which they organize in a way that makes each work a masterpiece.