We’ve been putting a lot of street art images out on social media over the last year because, well, we love it! We are interested in its uneasy relationship to graffiti and its links to gentrification, but mostly we are excited about its ability to bring art directly to the people. We will take a quick dive here today into the current street art scene in the United States, with the idea that we will circle back to this subject from time to time as part of a series to explore it more deeply.
It was a recent trip to Los Angeles that really got us focused on street art. The Arts District in the eastern part of the city has become a treasure trove of street art. A number of artists, many of whom began their careers as graffiti artists, have created large-scale pieces for building owners and companies in this area dominated by old warehouses converted into hipster art and film studios. Some of these artists are from LA, but there are pieces by artists from all over the world. Many of these artists have become internationally renowned, like Shepard Fairey and ROA. Each has a unique and intentionally recognizable style. There was so much to see, and though we spent 3 hours on bikes cruising the area, we know we missed a lot. Here are a few of our favorite pieces:
Back here in Chicago, the Wabash Arts Corridor (WAC) was established by Columbia College Chicago to revitalize the South Loop Business District, home to it and seven other educational institutions. Since 2013, WAC has funded an ever-expanding explosion of street art in an area it describes as a “living urban canvas.” The result is an 8 block stretch of the city bounded by Michigan Avenue and State Street (east to west) and Van Buren and Roosevelt Road (north to south) filled with over 30 pieces by artists both renowned (Fairey and Collin Van Der Sluijs from the Netherlands) and lesser known. Some examples –
While the number of pieces does not compare (yet) to Los Angeles, it has put Chicago on the map of cities embracing street art. Of course, Chicago also has a long history of neighborhood murals gracing buildings, underpasses, and garages. That’s a subject for another blog!
Beyond Chicago and Los Angeles, there is a surprising number of other US cities and locales that have embraced street art. A few of particular interest:
On the east coast, in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg, street art has played a significant role in the creation of its hipster feel and culture.
Philadelphia has created a Mural Arts Program, the largest of its kind in the country, dedicated to the idea that “art creates change.” The program engages in between 50 and 100 public art projects each year, attracting 12,000 residents and visitors each year, and maintains its increasing art collection through an expansive restoration initiative.
In Arizona, Jetsonorama, a doctor turned artist who lives on a reservation in Navajo Nation, began Painted Desert Project in 2012. He invited world-renowned street artists for short-term residencies, immersing them into the community and painting buildings, water towers, and roadside stands. Self-funded, the doctor began the project to increase tourism on the reservations, encourage the creative talents of area residents, and to support the incomes of local businesses.
In Honolulu, the annual arts festival POW! WOW! Hawaii brings artists from throughout the world to create murals and live art installations. The festival has expanded to other US cities as well as internationally.
These are only a few of the burgeoning street art scenes in the United States. Most cities have organized street art tours, so if you are as intrigued as we are, check them out during your travels!
In our next blog post on street art, we will explore its history and its evolution as a form of artistic expression.