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Fall 2016

Artwork in Action: Saying Yes to Street Art

Though graffiti is often seen as vandalism, many places throughout the world have embraced graffiti as a valid art form and as a way to enhance the community. Any vacation can be complemented with a stop to look at one of these legal graffiti destinations. Found in typical art hubs and less expected locales, graffiti art is visually impressive. A side trip to these outdoor art displays can offer an untamed perspective of any tourist hotspot.

The Graffiti Hall of Fame, New York City
Over the decades, communities in the Big Apple have made an effort to bring more value to graffiti art. Multiple locations across the city are dedicated as open canvases for street painters. The Graffiti Hall of Fame, which is an outdoor wall found at East 106th Street and Park Avenue, easily tops the list. New artists continue to add fresh paint to this wall in East Harlem. The walls, which surround a playground, were designated over thirty years ago as a safe place for street artists to create new works. Graffiti covers every square inch of these walls, encouraging a creative learning environment for the schools that use the playground.

Downtown Arts District, Los Angeles
Once a wasteland of old warehouses and empty factories, the Downtown Arts District in LA could be overlooked by the unobservant eye; however, the city has been conquered by the arts. The area’s run-down, vacant buildings have blossomed into new studios and galleries. Many of these creative developments come with massive walls of street art, ranging from graffiti tags (painted text and signatures) to realistic portraits and scenery. Several tours, guided by groups like LA Art Tours and Graff Tours, are available to bring visitors to hidden graffiti treasures throughout the city. The district lies roughly between Second Street and Seventh Street and between Alameda Street and the LA River.

Leake Street Tunnel, London
Since it is the original home of renowned graffiti artist Banksy, you can easily stumble upon graffiti in the streets of the UK without much effort. The Leake Street Tunnel (located under Waterloo Station in London) is home to Banksy art, as well as graffiti art from many other local artists. Standing in the tunnel is much like a dream; a vast expanse of brightly colored tags and paintings never seems to end. The “Banksy Tunnel” is continually evolving as new artists leave their mark.

Hosier and Rutledge Lanes, Melbourne
Melbourne claims to be one of the street art capitals of the world, and the city’s officials have even designed a legal process to allow colorful art to brighten and inspire the area and its residents. One of the most iconic graffiti hot spots in Melbourne is the area where Hosier Lane and Rutledge Lane intersect. Tall buildings and narrow cobblestone streets form a labyrinth full of graffiti tags and other spray-painted images.

Canal de l’Ourcq, Paris
Every summer, France hosts the Festival de l’Ourcq, an event that allows artists to create graffiti along the Canal de l’Ourcq for tourists and locals to enjoy. Visitors can follow the water’s edge through 10 kilometers of street art created by dozens of artists with different levels of experience. The artists find whatever platform they can to become vehicles for their masterpieces, from concrete walls to billboards to other urban surfaces.

Graffiti art reveals a unique story between a country’s culture and the arts. Its artists make the arts accessible to all without a museum fee or a closing time. Many works of graffiti are always evolving, but if you can catch an iconic creation on your trip, it will make for—at the very least—an impressive selfie and a distinct memory.

Lauren Whitby
Featured image courtesy of cc