Image by: Alex E. Proimos
Street art is a subject that divides opinion. Some people think it’s of great cultural value and adds life, color and vibrancy to a city. Others believe it’s just wanton vandalism that has no place in a civilised society.
But whatever your opinion, the increasing popularity of urban art – in particular phenomenally successful See No Evil urban art project in Bristol – means it’s safe to say this is an art form that isn’t going away any time soon.
And while the word art generally evokes ideas of stuffiness and elitism, with street art this couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s accessible to everyone.
Here are a few good reasons why street art should be embraced as something really quite unique and special, and how it makes a positive contribution to- and how it can even save – a city.
Demystifying The Street Art Myth
It’s crucial to make the distinction between street art and general graffiti or tagging. A lot of people (usually those are casually and instantly dismissive of its very mention) don’t understand it because they don’t want to understand it.
We’re not talking late night dawdlings of the ‘Shaz was here 2011’ variety. We’re talking about carefully planned and professionally executed pieces of art.
Like any artist dedicated to perfecting their craft, urban street artists have honed their skills and craft for many years, which is why they’re so good at it. I defy anyone to look at any piece at the See No Evil exhibition and say it has no artistic merit.
Good For Local Economies
In the case of See No Evil, it attracted not only hundreds of world-renowned artists but also thousands of people from all over the world. It was literally a global phenomenon.
It focused positive public attention on Bristol and brought a lot of money to the area. We’re not talking about some tiny exhibition that drew in ten people; this was a massive international event that drew in thousands like a tractor beam.
As with any art, being exposed to it might well encourage you to take it up yourself. It may just be the spark you needed from contemplating it to actually doing it. And if this there’s anything this world needs now more than ever to counter the endless soundbites of doom, gloom and unabating economic negativity, its inspiration, originality and creativity.
It’s a fact that during the preceding and subsequent weeks of the See No Evil project, the crime rate plummeted – and that has to be a good thing. Who needs Avon and Somerset’s finest when you’ve got fantastic art to stimulate the mind and prevent a hoodie from nicking an old lady’s last fiver?
Not that it achieved complete global, Bond-villain style world domination but the eyes of the country and the world were focused on the event. It was a place where something special and significant was happening and everyone was hungry to know about it (even if they hated it).
Livens A Dull Environment
There’s no denying that the stretch of road in Bristol’s Nelson Street was a drab and soulless thoroughfare before its new incarnation as a focal point for artistic talent and street art. Office blocks, police station, youth center and restaurants were grey and uninspired before the spray cans arrived to reinvigorate the place and give it a whole new lease of colorful, exuberant life.
Puts A City On The Map
Bristol is famous for quite a few things – its historic docks, Brunel’s SS Great Britain and Suspension Bridge, Banksy, Wallace and Gromit, the West Country accent. Now it can add being a top world venue for street art to that list
What’s more, the increasing popularity of urban art and its exponents, such as Banksy and Inkie, means their works are in demand and their prints are flying off the shelves. They’re now in a position where they could give the more purportedly serious artists a lesson or two in how to sell art.
Do you think the proliferation of street art is a good or bad thing for a city?
Author Byline: Elise Leveque is a bubbly French freelance translator with an irrepressible enthusiasm for all things social media. She also has a passion for controversial art and loves the subversiveness and social relevance of contemporary street art. She regularly blogs for Art Gallery.