Street art is a powerful, albeit sometimes illegal, creative form of public expression that has been around for centuries. It’s an in-your-face, immediate way for an artist to communicate their thoughts, feelings, and ideas to a wide audience. Street art appears in many forms, from graffiti to murals, and it has become an important part of urban culture. Many cities have dedicated street art areas and competition for wall space in such areas can be intense. One notable example being Wynwood Walls in Miami.
But what exactly defines street art?
THE ORIGINS OF STREET ART
Street art has its roots in graffiti, one definition of which being:
writing or drawings scribbled, scratched, or sprayed illicitly on a wall or other surface in a public place
Graffiti has been around since ancient times and was used to mark territory, express political opinion, and as an informal creative outlet. These days it is still pretty much used in the same way, highlighting ownership of the area as well as providing a form of creative expression, often to the disenfranchised. It is simultaneously inclusive and exclusive, being available to all regardless of artistic background, but nonetheless from a tight knit community with a hierarchy and code of ethics.
THE DIFFERENT FORMS OF STREET ART
Graffiti is the most common form of street art, and it can be found pretty much everywhere around the world. Murals are larger scale works of art, painted on walls or buildings, and often commissioned by the building owner. Stencils are frequently used – (see Banksy and Blek le Rat) They are used to create images or messages in a short amount of time and are by nature easily reproduceable.
THE IMPACT OF STREET ART
Street art has a powerful impact on communities. It can be used to spread awareness of social issues, to beautify an area, or to make a political statement. Street art can also be used to bring people together, as it can be a form of expression that is accessible to everyone. More recently art in the style of graffiti and other forms of street art has been widely welcomed into galleries and is forging a more mainstream path, in contrast to, but still alongside their origins on the streets.
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