BRONX, NY- Imagine walking down the street minding your own business on a nice clear day. You’re vibing to the sounds coming out of your headphones on the way to your destination when a mural suddenly catches your attention. You freeze. What made you stop to admire it? Was it the colors of the design? Did you recognize the artists behind the piece? Did the message speak to you? Whatever the reason, you just became a part of the street art narrative.
To me, street art is not just a spray-painted image on a wall or store grate. It is a culture, an artistic movement. For many artists, street art is a deep passion that comes from the heart. The murals created promote businesses, display powerful messages, or bring the memory of a loved one to life. Murals transform neighborhoods into art galleries, encouraging tourism and admiration all around the world. As the saying goes; “a picture is worth a thousand words.” You just need to look hard enough to find it.
Artists leave a piece of themselves in every mural that you find. Some give back to their communities by painting on school buildings, parks, boardwalks—anything! The world is their canvas. When an artist tags their name on a mural, it is their way of saying “I was here. See my voice”
My love for street art began when I was a kid, I just didn’t know it at the time. The neighborhood I grew up wasn’t always safe, especially in the summer. A lot of young people were lost to gang or gun violence. Names were sprayed on the sidewalks or the side of a building. I saw the graffiti as art, but of course, there were people who viewed it as vandalism. Many associated graffiti with Hip-Hop movement and to a degree they were right. (Street art has its controversial side, but that will be discussed in another article.)
As time passed, I noticed the graffiti transform into detailed murals. Artists like Daze and TatsCru began to create art all over the borough. The more I learned about art the better my understanding grew of the street art culture. Some of my classmates in high school were trying to recreate the graffiti they would see using a sketchbook and sharpies. The world was starting to look different to me. It wasn’t until I started college that I began taking photos of the murals I had found.
Finding a mural is an indescribable feeling for me. There are some places where I have discovered one and think “why here?” My digital camera is often in my bag in case I run into a piece while I am out. Street art hunting is a lot of fun. I sometimes plan out a day to walk around the city and search for new murals with the help of the posts I see on social media. There are so many online communities for street art.
My enthusiasm for street art led me to a cool opportunity. Ralph André sent me a message on Linkedin one day and told me about the passion project he was creating alongside his partner Lorren Cargill. CANVS is an interactive platform that allows users to upload data about the street art they find including photos, the artist’s name, and the location. Since 2016, CANVS has been used in over 100 cities and more than 2,000 murals have been added to the platform. I told Ralph “I’m in!”
Being a street art hunter has given me more motivation to travel. I’m always on the lookout while on vacation or visiting loved ones in different cities. Philadelphia and Raleigh are some of my favorite places to discover a mural. Some of my friends send me messages about the art they find, and I just add the location to the adventure list.
Street art influences so many mediums; film, fashion, music, and more. An artist can open their own gallery of work in a public space. Beyond The Streets celebrates the street art culture with a massive-scale exhibition. In 2019 I got to see street art from artists all over the globe. Brooklyn was the perfect setting as there are plenty of murals to go out and explore after the event. Beyond The Streets is currently in Los Angeles.
I love the street art culture. Some of the murals I have encountered have inspired me with my own art projects. Spray paint won’t be my medium since I have asthma, but I am pretty solid with acrylics and a paintbrush. Are there murals in your area? If so, which are your favorites? I would love to read about them.
Photos: Rosa Elena
Last Updated: August 26, 2022