Dear 100 Hour Board,
Once upon a time on a study abroad years ago with byu we were in London. Specifically Shoreditch (the cooooolest neighborhood in London. A total art hub, rich in culture and good food. I urge you to google pictures of it now- the walls are covered (and i mean COVERED) in street art. Wheat pastes, murals, stickers, sculptures coming out of the walls, etc!!
I had a conversation with my extremely buttoned-up and righteous professor while strolling down the streets. We were commenting on the amazing artwork on the walls and how cool and inspiring it all was. I asked him- would you like to see this kind of thing in provo? He quickly answered no- although it was cool to see he likes the cleanliness of provo- and not to mention it was ~illegal.
(in your opinion) is street art legal? is it a criminal act? is it vandalism? is it graffiti? is it cool? is it tacky? should it be celebrated? is it inspiring? should it be curated? does it add value to a neighborhood? do posh rich people enjoy the culture but cant handle the filth? or do people just want clean commissioned murals decorating their town in an all too cookie cutter way ?
these are just my thoughts/and questions I guess.
- aRtS aNd cRaFts
Dear Rad cats,
I think street art is culturally awesome! I don't think street art is legal because it is normally seen as vandalism and unfortunately, there isn't any effective way to generally differentiate art that is "artistic and good" versus that that is "vandalism and bad". I think that it definitely adds to the culture of a community, but it can also be destructive, especially when the artists aren't being socially responsible or when it is part of a gang.
There are definitely ways to make this legal and help artists and the government cooperate to get things done well, but I don't know how we'll get there. I think it works best when companies/building owners pay an artist to make meaningful art on the side of their buildings, and I think that would work well in Provo. If I were in charge of that sort of thing, I don't know what I'd do. I would probably offer cleaning of street art/repainting as a public service to private companies and building owners, and then the city council would decide what would be done to street art, probably normally on a case-by-case basis.
I LOVE street art. It's a great way to understand a community's arts scene, culture, and even their reactions to current events. Of course, it’s a tricky subject, because street art is not legal in a lot of places, and it's important to respect property and laws. But I think there are good solutions where people (either cities or private citizens) can encourage street art without condoning vandalism.
For example, Austin, Texas has a graffiti park that anyone is free to add to. It's just some concrete walls left from decimated buildings, but I've seen some really cool art there. That site is closing now, sadly, but the project is being moved to a new, more permanent location in the city (source). I've seen other cities take similar approaches by approving all street art in certain areas or on certain walls. This approach is great in that it allows anyone to contribute at any time, and so it's a great way to take the pulse of the city. Of course, the openness also means that none of the art on these walls is really protected, so it may discourage some artists from contributing larger-scale projects in these areas.
As another example, Philadelphia started Mural Arts Philadelphia as a way to curb graffiti in the city by sanctioning public murals through an approval process. In contrast to Austin's approach, the approval process is meant for large-scale works. A downside of this method is that the requirement for approval might discourage artists from taking on more controversial or niche subjects for their murals, and the length of time required to get the go-ahead will prevent topical pieces from popping up quickly in response to current events. The murals approved through this organization are likely to be nice, meaningful, and lasting pieces for the community, but it stifles the immediacy of the art.
I had an internship in Phoenix, Arizona last summer, and I was able to visit Roosevelt Row. It's a whole arts district centered around one street, where murals and other street art are plentiful. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to figure out exactly what the rules and regulations are regarding art in that area. But the city seems to at least tolerate it, and it has revitalized and brought traffic to a part of town that used to be worn down and unsafe. There's even an organization that provides an art walk around the district on the first Friday of each month. I went in May—it was way fun and I recommend it if you're ever in the area.
Anyway, I have yet to hear of a perfect solution, but I would love to see more cities work with local artists to try and find a way for street art to thrive. I think it's one of the best parts of an urban environment, and it brings a lot of life and personality to a city.
My personal view is that I don't care if it's illegal, it's really cool and I appreciate it. Off the record, I secretly wish I was a street artist making amazing murals.
I think the main sticking point is what you said: people enjoy culture and art, but they want it in a clean commissioned type of way instead of going with just whatever happens. I think commissioned murals are cool, but to me it kinda goes against the purpose. But it's hard to say "We want to promote street art, but not grafitti, and also not street art that we disagree with or don't find pretty".
Josefina makes some good points about ways that cities can promote street art. Personally I wish everywhere would take some of those approaches cause I'm a big fan of street art.