Today, the world has changed. Our highways are not just our link to the outside world – they now serve as a canvas, or rather, they are the canvas. With urban art on the rise, it is becoming clear that our highways can no longer remain simply functional.
In 2009, the city of Toronto launched a competition titled “The City Shapes” in which artists were given the opportunity to make their mark in the city. The goal was to be able to personally touch one of Toronto’s most important areas: its highways.
The winning design was done by street artist Nick Sweetman and his team from New York City, who created a mural for Highway 401’s westbound lanes as it comes off of Dufferin Street. Their creation reflects the idea of Toronto as a vibrant city that encourages growth and development through artistic expression. This specific mural was intended to provide an interesting view for drivers as they come around a bend in their highway.
But this is not just an isolated project. There have been other projects done by other artists covering various parts of Toronto’s highways, each with its own unique style and message. This creates an environment that speaks to everyone who takes part in it, no matter how much they know or don’t know about art. And this
The Milwaukee Art Museum has, for the past several years, been trying to leverage its collection with an outdoor exhibition of local and international street artists.
To be sure, this kind of thing has happened before in other cities, but not necessarily on a freeway overpass. The museum is seeking to make art accessible to as many people as possible, and what could be more accessible than a freeway overpass?
The project was a collaboration with the Department of City Development and the Department of Public Works. It was conceived by Anne Pasternak of the Milwaukee Art Museum, who said that she was inspired by graffiti artists’ work in New York. She even got permission from the city to use select pieces that already were on public property. The museum chose 20 artists from around the world to participate in the project. Each artist may use only one panel and can’t cover more than 100 square feet.
“It’s about being there,” Pasternak said. “It’s about presence.”
But why an overpass? Why not just put it on public land? Susan Giaimo-Bologna, director of design and community engagement at the museum said that graffiti artists have always been interested in using architecture as canvas, so they wanted to give them some space where they
The Urban Art Association (UAA) is an organization that works to develop and preserve public art in urban areas. It was created as a group of artists in 1986, led by Charles “Zek” Bevan and William Wilson. The main goal of the Urban Art Association is to increase the presence of art in public spaces using open space walls and sculpture parks. The UAA’s mission is to create a visual impact on the communities they work with and give back to the community through their passion for art. They have made several large scale impact pieces around San Diego County and continue to renovate older murals as well as create new ones.
The use of graffiti as a form of expression has always existed but it has become increasingly popular with today’s youths. It can be seen on buildings, walls, electrical boxes, bridges, freeways, etc… These canvases were not designed for this type of expression but they provide quite an outlet for those who use them. Many artists prefer these free-standing structures because they are often more visible than walls or the sides of buildings; therefore, allowing for more freedom when creating a piece.
As the city has evolved, a very vibrant and diverse community of artists has taken root in the area. Whether it is installing an art exhibit on an abandoned building or street, or painting a mural on an underpass wall, one thing remains constant: the art.
With a multitude of styles, approaches and talent levels on display, this thriving urban arts scene is driving more and more tourists to the city. People are coming from all over the world to visit these murals and exhibits, but they are also going to local businesses to eat, shop and play.
But that’s not all. The economic impact of this movement is reaching many levels of our community. Some local business owners have found that their sales grow when they support local artists by giving them space in their stores or even hiring them to paint murals on the building itself.
Historically communities have used art as a way to bring people together and make neighborhoods stronger. With so many talented people working together in Detroit, it looks like this city could be one of those examples.”
The Urban Art Association was created in 1982 to promote the creation and preservation of urban art. It began as a small group of people who would meet at the homes of artists to discuss the works that were being done.
In recent years, the association has held several exhibitions for its members, featuring artwork from around the world. The pieces have been displayed on buildings throughout New York City, including on the FDR Drive, a major thoroughfare.
The association is also very active in working with local schools and community groups to educate them about urban art and its importance. “We are all about teaching people about what we do,” says Brian Donnelly. “We teach students about who we are and how our work can make a difference.”
When asked about his favorite project with the association, Donnelly said that the work they do with local schools is his favorite part of what they do because it allows them to reach young people and encourage them to pursue their dreams.
The Urban Art Association is an organization dedicated to promoting urban art, which is aimed at making cities better by adding color and improving living conditions by beautifying areas that are often overlooked.
The art’s practical uses are obvious. It beautifies abandoned areas and gives poor communities some sense of pride. But there’s something deeper going on here, too. The murals are a way to reclaim the space, says Arturo Rios, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago who has studied the neighborhood. “It brings a sense of order to what would otherwise be chaos.”
So far, public art has fallen short in two areas: It hasn’t brought much money into the city and it hasn’t helped many artists make a living. In fact, it may have done just the opposite. The increased competition has driven prices down and made it harder for young artists to enter the market.
And yet public art is still worth supporting as a public good because of its cultural value. “It’s not just pretty pictures,” says Rios. “Public art has contributed to creating a new sense of self-worth among people who were feeling marginalized.”