Graffiti vs. Streetart

If you read my recent article on Urban Traveling you would know that I am a person who enjoys cities, and with that comes an appreciation of an art form that thrives in them, graffiti. With the rise of #streetart on social media like Instagram and twitter and companies like Heart City Apparel it is safe to say that if graffiti had a spokesman, they deserve a raise. There is certainly a generational difference when it comes to labeling something as street art instead of graffiti,but it is certain that the art form is on the rise and shows no signs of stopping. Street art has become ubiquitous and been co-oped by businesses looking to attract younger customers so much that I don’t see the scales tipping back to where the majority of people see graffiti with a negative connotation.

The different labels of street art and graffiti are both filled with weighty connotations that, put simply, mean acceptable or even encouraged versus a pock mark on society. Street art it seems has evolved out of graffiti as a more palatable form anti-establishment expression, while graffiti remains the work of criminals. While I was living in Frankfurt, the ECB or European Central Bank had actually hired street artists to cover the walls surrounding their newest facility. If that isn’t a sign that the “establishment” has accepted street art then I’m not sure what is. Cities all over the world have started capitalizing on the tourism associated with the street art in their cities as well as creating sections where street art is even encouraged and publicized. One of the most famous contemporary artists right now, who has had films, scandals, and made worldwide news is even a street artist named Banksy, who many say sticks closer to the protesting roots of graffiti.

However, things like the tags of signs and illegible graffitied names will continue to be seen as criminal activity and vandalism because they weren’t pre-approved by the proper authorities or they aren’t an actual depiction of art. Other street art “exhibits” will be painted over or removed because of this which is one of the things that makes street art truly unique. While artists can sell pictures of graffitied walls or street corners in a gallery, the true art will be free for a short period of time before removed or replaced making each one a one of a kind experience that is free for anyone willing to take a look at it. If you are a lover of art and still haven’t warmed up to the idea of graffiti as art try and open up your eyes a bit more on your walk today and see if anything strikes your eye as street art instead of graffiti. Feel free to let me know where your favorite pieces are or if you consider them graffiti or street art.

Urban Traveling

Since an early age I found that living in the suburbs wasn’t for me, at least for the foreseeable future. I lived close enough to New York City to visit the place often and have become enamored with towns and cities that you can visit. This may be one of the reasons I find myself putting cities on my travel list instead of landmarks, but I think it is also for a variety of other reasons. In America at least there is a resurgence in the popularity of city life with my generation. Those who grew up in small towns or suburbs of larger cities begin to see the city as a great place to start their life. This may explain why people want to move there, but then why do many travelers gravitate towards cities while abroad.

There are a number of reasons to travel to a city instead of a small town and I think for the most part it comes down to ease. It is much easier to find a bit of information about what to do in a city and the best way to get there, some of my visits to neighboring cities while I was living in Europe took all of an hour to plan. I looked up a few cheap hostels, what weekends were relatively cheap and booked a bus or train ticket. I can pretty easily forget about the trip until I need to pack for it without doing more research on things like if there is a place to stay nearby and if I’ll be able to get around the area. I can easily assume there will be a number of hostels that will suit me okay, and that there is a reasonably easy public transit system in place. When I get to the hostel I’ll talk to a few travelers and locals working there to find the sights and I’ll have wasted just about no time to set myself up for a great long weekend or weekend in a new city.

That’s not all though, there are a lot more reasons why I feel the urge to visit cities more often and that is because they’re real. Cities are living breathing embodiments of the region or the individual city’s culture. No matter how many tourists are visiting there are still people going to their jobs, studying at their university and so on that make up the city. Unlike many tourist destinations cities exist for more than the people visiting them and so almost never feel like they are being exploited for the sake of the tourists. In this way cities are able to retain a certain amount of unique culture individual to each city and shaping the people who choose to live there and the city’s development.

Despite this pervasive culture within a certain city most cities operate in much the same way. This makes it easy to navigate them even if it is only your first time visiting. There are  number of standard things that all cities have, most cities have a downtown area, an area where a large minority population exists, a high class shopping street, a public transit system, a river or body of water, and a museum about the city’s history. You may not find each one of these in every city but you would be hard pressed to find a city without four or five of these. These are the things that make Montreal feel a little bit like Bern, and Singapore a little bit like London, small cultural similarities and the similarities of all cities can make a city you’ve never been to feel slightly familiar even if the language filling your ears is alien.

The last reason I really enjoy visiting cities is because with the relatively small people you know in the world you’re likely to run into a friendly face in a city while you’re traveling. Maybe the friend you made a month ago in a hostel crosses your path, or an old college friend moved there a year or two and can show you around. As great as traveling can be there is a lot to be said for seeing a city through the eyes of a local, and as great as many of the national parks or landmarks are, you most likely won’t find a friend or an acquaintance living in them.