Reyna Noriega Makes Art with Heart

From the cover of The New Yorker to a community refrigerator in Allapattah, the artist's creations offer hope and help

Artist Reyna Noriega sports her T-shirt design for Old Navy
Artist Reyna Noriega sports her T-shirt design for Old Navy

Call her Miami-made. “My parents met in Miami,” says artist Reyna Noriega. “My love for the city started with them.” The product of a Cuban father and a Bahamian mother, Noriega’s art celebrates her roots and the city she calls home.  

Originally, art was a side hustle for Noriega, who taught at Homestead’s Everglades Preparatory Academy by day. But after-hours, Noriega was painting and drawing—showcasing her talents in the form of flyers, T-shirts, and logos. She made a conscious choice to focus on women of color. “We endure a lot, and I want to uplift people,” she says. “I started doing that through my art. I had a passion to motivate and inspire women to find joy in their lives.”

Joy, as they say, is contagious—and it wasn’t long before people began to notice Noriega’s joyful pieces. In 2021, she collaborated with Old Navy on a T-shirt for Black History Month. “It was called Aqua Woman and became the No. 1 selling graphic T-shirt for Old Navy,” she says. “I was really excited when I saw the daughter of basketball star LeBron James wearing one.”

Reyna painting her fridge
Reyna painting her fridge in Allapattah.

The same year, The New Yorker commissioned Noriega to create an illustration for its March magazine cover. It was a full-circle moment; one of her earliest introductions to illustration was seeing a New Yorker cover by Malika Favre and thinking, “I would love to do something like that one day.” 

Noriega’s art also graces some less famous (but still life-changing) locales—including an Allapattah-based refrigerator that’s part of Miami’s Buddy System MIA Community Fridge program. Not surprisingly, Noriega’s fridge features her signature faceless women. “I don’t use faces,” she explains. “I want women to see their own faces in them.” 

For Noriega, every artistic choice—even on a fridge door—has a message. “I painted two women and a third at the bottom holding a child,” she says. “Women are the ones in the family who make sure everyone gets fed.” 

It’s Cool to Be Kind

Buddy System MIA’s Community Fridge Project creates oases in Miami food deserts

Buddy System MIA is on a mission to fight food insecurity in the Magic City—with a little help from a handful of Miami-based artists (like Reyna Noriega) who have added their artistic flair to a phalanx of fridges. Because the fridges are placed in public areas, the food can be shared among a community, with anyone putting food in or taking food out as needed. It’s a plan that’s catching on: In 2021 (its first year of operation), the fridges were filled 1,359 times with 156,313 pounds of donated food. “It has been super amazing to see the community come together to help each other,” says program director Jessica Gutierrez. “We know that we have done our job if people in need enjoy one more meal.”

Check out some of the coolest art-covered fridges planted throughout the Magic City:

Facebook Comments