I’ve always had an interest in street art, which may have been sparked from my time working in the advertising industry. Back in the day, large scale murals displayed on billboards were hand painted, rather than digitally created, printed and applied as many are today. They were true works of art, as well as getting the job done of turning heads and influencing buying habits, many went on to become iconic images, deeply entrenched in the culture.
Interestingly, there appears to be a resurgence in this format once again, perhaps triggered by the popularity and proliferation of street art, and you sometimes have to do a double take to determine if it’s advertising or art.
Graffiti vs Street Art
I’m often asked what the difference is between graffiti and street art. In essence, graffiti are written images that are quickly and illegally posted and tagged by individuals who prefer remaining anonymous outside the immediate graffiti community. Street art, on the other hand, tends to be commissioned as part of a collaboration between the artist and the wall’s owner, with most street artists being well known, sometimes fine artists in their own right with work on display in international museums. Some of the art created is used to raise awareness about social causes, while other murals are designed exclusively to beautify a neighborhood.
Murals + Urban Walks
I love to walk and I am inspired by art, so being able to combine the two is pure delight. Some programs I’m particularly interested in and lead walks through include the following:
The Bushwick Collective is a living breathing art collective in Bushwick, Brooklyn, conceived and created by Bushwick native, Joe Ficalora, with its first mural surfacing in 2011. His motivation to do so stemmed from his coming of age during an era where Bushwick was riddled by a high crime rate. When his parents passed, he wanted to revive the neighborhood by transforming it into an open-air gallery for everyone to enjoy, and to help him cope with his painful memories – and in the past ten years, world class artists have posted gorgeous pieces that have to the area’s resurgence.
Jersey City Mural Arts Program
In 2013, the Office of the newly elected Mayor of Jersey City, Stephen Fulop, launched an initiative, funded by a Clean Committees grant that linked mural artists from around the globe with local property owners as part of a beautification program that reduces graffiti, engages local residents and transforms Jersey City into an outdoor art gallery. To date, 218 murals have been commissioned and posted throughout the city.
The Audubon Project
The Audubon Mural Project is a public-art initiative of the National Audubon Society and Gitler & Gallery that launched in 2014 to draw attention to birds threatened by climate change. It started in the Harlem and Washington Heights neighborhoods of northern Manhattan, where pioneering bird artist John James Audubon once lived and is buried. To date, 131 bird species have been featured and more than 93 murals painted.
LISA (Little Italy Street Art) Project in New York City
The Little Italy Street Art Project launched in 2018 as a program to bring t og ether a diverse group of artists to a) beautify the community, b) raise community issues via mural art and c) provide art supplies and programs for kids in economically challenged areas throughout NYC. To date, over 70 artists have participated in this project and the list grows regularly.
For more information about these initiatives, visit:
- Bushwick Collective: https://yourbrooklynguide.com/the-bushwick-collective/
- Jersey City Mural Program: https://www.jcmap.org/
- Audubon Mural Project: https://www.audubon.org/amp
- LISA Project: https://www.lisaprojectnyc.org/