BY MALCOM STERN
People-watching is one of my favorite activities, especially when I’m walking around in a city. I can see the array of people from different backgrounds wearing different clothes all with a unique swagger and aura. In my mind, the people in a city are what makes that city so special.
Now, imagine a city with this diversity. Each person exists without being able to express themselves within their surroundings. This is why street art is so powerful. People are social creatures that need to express themselves, and some are blessed with the ability to create substantial art. In my opinion, cities that paint over street art and expression, even forms of graffiti, are stripping the artists of their own individual liberty and creativity.
Street art can include many different aspects: I have seen street art dedicated to means of social justice, mental health, honoring an athlete or public figure, expressing territory rights, and so much more. I believe when a city decides to paint over these means of expression it takes away from the meaning of democracy. Street art can be incredibly influential in a city. A casual tourist walking throughout a city can fully understand how unique a city is simply based off of the various street art.
Sometimes street art can be offensive or ugly. When it is, the people of a city can decide to remove or paint over it. But more often than not people living within a city enjoy their murals and various acts of graffiti. It gives the city character.
Currently, I live in the city of Madison, Wisconsin. Madison is a very artsy, small city, but at times it is also very segregated and torn by political ties. Thus, there had been a lack street art. Slowly but surely, in my 4 years attending college there, I have noticed more and more street art and expression pop up. The more integrated and accepting the city has gotten, the more street art has emerged. I believe this can be attributed to the people standing up for what is right in a democratic city. For example, there are now giant flamingo wings, that people can pose in between, painted on a building facing the capitol (the flamingo is the official bird of Madison).
Expression is beneficial as long as it is not hateful and infringes on others spaces and interests. Perhaps there are many who don’t support street art. If they are living in a city populated by many creative individuals, accepting street art in certain integral areas can enable growth.