The global explosion of street art is transforming our urban settings.
The United States has been on the vanguard of that movement and many American cities have very vibrant street art scenes. From San Francisco, to Los Angeles right through to San Diego, you’ll find inspiring street art on every corner.
But dig a little deeper and you’re sure to find some hidden gems amongst the rubble too. For that, you’ll need an insider and luckily you’ve got one in me – so let’s check out this sampling of US street art…
The Evolution of American Street Art
Graffiti and street art aren’t what they used to be. What began as destructive mischief-making and territorial marking has evolved into a bona fide art form. And the public (well me anyway), has come to appreciate the artistry and messages in a way that could not have been imagined in the 1970’s.
In the ‘70’s and 80’s street art was largely underground. The artists were skulking about in the night, tagging buildings and running from the cops. A lot of the work had subversive, political or protest messages.
Fast forward to today and you have a wide variety of art works, some still packed with messages, but many pieces are art for its own sake. Building owners commission works to adorn their buildings. And there are nonprofit organizations supporting US street art. It’s become a legit thing.
1. San Francisco’s Mission District Street Art
The street art that you find in the Mission is steeped in the culture of the Latino immigrant experience. There are themes of struggle, religious iconography, creation stories, cries for justice, labor disputes– hope, despair and love in equal measure. Local nonprofit organization Precita Eyes offers maps and tours of the area.
This mural can be found in Balmy Alley. It shows the difficult lives of the Campesinos and their struggles to break their bonds.
This elementary school is proud of its diversity. The “Si se puede” message on the mural encourages the kids to go for it.
2. Los Angeles Arts District Street Art
The Arts District of LA evolved from a warehouse district into a neighborhood full of cool bars, restaurants…and a very active street art culture. The US street art that you find in LA is of a different character than San Francisco. It tends to be more modern and more abstract.
Art share offers live/work lofts for artists and they’ve festooned their building with abstract murals.
These lovers are living right out in public with this large piece of realism.
3. San Diego Chicano Park Street Art
Moving further down the California coastline is San Diego. San Diego’s Chicano park epitomizes the struggle and protest messages that were popular during the ‘70’s. When this park was threatened with destruction in 1970, the local Latino community sprang into political action. They staged a takeover of the park and later organized the creation of a series of murals to commemorate their struggles.
A large freeway cloverleaf looms over the park, providing a ton of vertical space for the expansive murals.
Nearly ALL of the murals have some sort of political message. This mural advocates a hunger strike for San Quentin prisoners.
4. Downtown Saint Petersburg Florida Street Art
St. Pete isn’t all sunscreen and retired people. This sunny beach community has also invested in a rich street art culture. The Florida Craft Art Gallery hosts and promotes street artists and the area around their gallery is rich with modern, colorful pieces.
The murals in St Pete are surprising for their ubiquity. They are in parking lots, tucked into alleys and peeking around street corners.
Don’t walk down this alley late at night. You’ll get eaten by a land shark!
Do you love street art as well? Which city is your favourite?