Street-Art for the People

It was a sunny afternoon in Brockenhurst in April 2024. People were out and about the streets, the roads were busy with tourists, the ponies were enjoying the spring growth of grass. All was well in the world. Meanwhile, in the depths of the local village hall, something surreptitious was happening. The lights were dimmed, the blinds drawn, the coffee flowing – I was giving an illustrated talk on Street Art: Street-Art for the People.

Later that evening, a large group of people thoroughly enjoyed using their creative imagination practically exploring with paint and brushes, how street art could improve their personal environment at home and in the town. The results were amazing.

Back to my talk, it covered:

Street art – What is it?

Historical background-how it came about and developed.

How it spread across the world

Principal artists

Techniques and materials


What is it

Screeving – pavement art using mainly chalk. Traced back to the 19 C UK eg in 1890 there were 500 pavement artists making a full time living in London.

Graffiti writing-tagging- Attacking, anti-establishment, without permission. Primarily about damage and vandalism, anti-ownership of property. Stylised signatures called Tagging.

Street Urban Art – glorifying the environment, can be anger, pain, protest channelled into creativity. Can also be anti-establishment. Political messaging.

Historical Development – Street-Art for the People

Street Art: term began mid to late 1990s.

It is graffiti commodified, a rebranding of graffiti, an attempt to make it more socially acceptable. To sell it. There are those who want to monetise it, trade, and profit from it.

It’s gone Capitalist! – inverting the anti-establishment of graffiti and selling it back to people as contemporary décor.

Unlike graffiti, street artists are keen to invite the general public as its audience.

Graffiti is just letters and Street Art is illustration, characters portraiture and design.

Out there and proud, consumed by tourists.

It’s a commodity.

Street Artists are beautifiers, humourists, entertainers, adding novelty to tourism and shopping.

Our attitudes – a Graffitist tagger is a criminal, Banksy is Cool.

Street Art can also be to rebel protest and subvert- decoration- a powerful form of protest.

A Bit of History

Cave Drawing – Lascaux (2000 images maybe 15000 years old)

Maros caves Indonesia. 35000 years old

Writing on walls – eg Pompeii – 11000 inscriptions and signatures eg “health to you Victora and wherever you are may you sneeze sweetly”.

Pompeian walls served as a public notebook and billboard

Hobos – 1920s and 30s USA – tagged trains and places of safety and tips – a pictographic language evolved.

Kilroy was here – appeared everywhere GIs were stationed. Even in the loo at Potsdam and Stalin raged! So an example of early tagging – ‘I am here’.

Cornbread – the first G tagger in Philadelphia in 1960s and 70s. All over the town he scrawled with paint “Cornbread loves Cynthia”. No target was safe from this self-publicist. Even an elephant in the zoo and Jackson Five’s private jet.

Taki 183. A Greek kid Dimitrios in Manhattan. Credited as first G writer to take on the New York Subway. Soon his tag was seen all over NY’s subway.

New York in 1970s – Vietnam. Raging Heroin epidemic. Dark depressing mood in city, civil rights not achieved anything yet, police corruption, city had no money so severe cuts in services. Therefore, kids in unforgiving environment, little hope for the future. The American psyche transmitted thro adverts and the press- same message, ‘individualism and fame – all nobodies can be somebody- Via self-determination’ – so write your name on a wall, trains just to show you existed.

It took off. It became an underground subculture. Rivalries – gang warfare. Tagging over previous writings. By 1973 nearly all subway trains were graffitied.

This evolved into the Hip Hop culture- in NY graffiti and hip hop became inseparable with 4 sub cultural elements: Rapping. Hip Hop. Graffiti and Break dancing.

DJ Kool Herc– Jamaican Clive Campbell born 1955. Initially a tagger. Sisters party- he DJ’d- kids flocked to the party because of him. He used 2 turntables looping the most danceable music.

Became very popular and gave birth to Hip Hop and DJ culture.

Hip Hop soon became a dominant cultural movement in the world.

List of Main Artists – Street-Art for the People

1. Cornbread

2. Daze

3. Dondi White

4. Tracy 168

5. Lady Pink

6. Jean-Michel Basquiat

7. Keith Haring

8. Shepard Fairey

9. Blek le Rat

10. Banksy

The Benefits – Street-Art for the People

Promotes creativity and self-expression: Street art provides a platform for artists to express their creativity and share their ideas with the public. It allows artists to experiment with different styles and techniques and explore their own artistic vision.

Beautifies public spaces: Street art has the ability to transform dull and mundane and unsightly environments into vibrant and visually appealing spaces. It adds colour and life to streets, walls, and buildings, making the surroundings more attractive and inviting.

Street art brings people together by creating a shared experience and promoting dialogue. It often reflects the local culture, history, and values, which can foster a sense of pride and belonging among community members.

By enhancing community pride by showcasing local talents and creative expressions. Public art, murals, and sculptures can serve as symbols of community identity, creating a sense of unity and belonging amongst residents. Social cohesion: Art can bring people together, fostering social connections, inclusivity, and mutual understanding. Community art projects and workshops provide a platform for collaboration, interaction, and dialogue among diverse groups of individuals.

Raises awareness and sparks conversations: Street art has the power to address social, political, and environmental issues, providing a platform for artists to voice their opinions and raise awareness about important topics. It can challenge the status quo and encourage people to think critically and engage in conversations.

Boosts tourism and economic growth: Communities with vibrant street art scenes often attract tourists and art enthusiasts, boosting local businesses, restaurants, and hotels. Street art tours and festivals contribute to the local economy by attracting visitors and generating revenue. Revitalizing spaces: Public art installations and creative placemaking initiatives can transform underutilized or neglected spaces into vibrant and engaging areas. These artistic interventions beautify neighbourhoods, making them more inviting and attracting people to gather and interact.

Health and well-being: Community art programs and initiatives have been shown to have positive impacts on individual well-being and mental health. Participating in art activities promote stress reduction, self-expression, and emotional healing.

Inspires and motivates: Street art has the power to inspire and motivate individuals. It can serve as a source of inspiration for aspiring artists, encouraging them to pursue their passion and creativity.

Deters crime and vandalism: Research has shown that areas with well-executed and thought-provoking street art tend to experience less crime and vandalism. The presence of art can deter illegal activities and make the community feel safer.

Encourages cultural exchange: Street art often incorporates various cultural elements and influences, creating a melting pot of artistic styles and perspectives. It can encourage cultural exchange and foster understanding and appreciation for different traditions and backgrounds.

Preserves history and cultural heritage: Street art can serve as a form of documentation and preservation of local history and cultural heritage. It can tell stories about the past, celebrate local traditions, and preserve important moments in time. Sense of community ownership: When a community engages in art projects and expresses their collective creativity, it creates a sense of ownership and pride in local spaces. This can lead to increased community involvement and a greater sense of responsibility for the well-being and improvement of the community as a whole. 

A glorious victory for Street Art – engineered by young people taking on establishment but the establishment won the war with social and artistic acceptance.

A subculture now become mainstream across world with many artists becoming household names.

To cap it all – tourism- tours around London, NYC, Berlin etc etc etc everywhere become the norm- bringing Street Art even deeper in world of establishment and civic pride.

Street-Art for the People