Grafitti or Street Art: How It Can Inspire Us All

When I first moved to Atlanta over two years ago the first place I went was Piedmont Park. I had literally just pulled up to my new apartment in Midtown, unpacked a few boxes out of my car and threw on my backpack to take off on foot to a new place. Being unfamiliar with the Beltline I walked on an unfinished path into a group of trees and found a very interested piece of street art. They were eyes. Just eyes.

street art Atlanta

Five billboard size canvases looked at me and reminded me of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg’s eyes in The Great Gatsby. I was taken aback because the eyes meant so much more to me than just black and white prints – my friends and family had been watching me, waiting to see where I would live, where I would work, and what I would do after graduation. This one experience began a hunt to find art all over Atlanta.

Turns out there is a lot. In 2015, The Huffington Post ranked Atlanta the 8th best city in the United States to see street art. One year later, I can attest that Atlanta has continued to expand in both Street Art coverage and creativity.

With so much art to be seen, from Living Walls ATL to Tiny Doors ATL, many Atlantans may wonder what makes great street art? Here are some questions to ask yourself while when observing:

Is it disruptive?

Being disruptive can been seen as a positive or a negative – depends on the area, who you are talking to, and if that individual has had coffee. (We love our coffee here in Atlanta.) To be disruptive, at least one person must break away from the norm. Whether it is the artist or the viewer, the mural should be different from the person’s definition of truth and norm.

street art Atlanta

What questions – intended or unintended – does it inspire?

Some art is politically driven or seeks to defy authority. Question the message and the emotion behind the street art. You may see it as a political message that questions society, but the artist may be just conveying a personal story. The idea is for every set of eyes to read the art differently. Question everything: the color, the type, the illustrations – and think for yourself.

street art Atlanta

Why is this art in this place at this time?

Some of the most powerful street art murals are intentionally designed for the place and takes into consideration the neighborhood, the people, and the time. If you are seeing a mural that isn’t common to where you live, think about the audience that the mural was intended for. Context is everything.

street art Atlanta

Who is the Artist?

Street art typically defies authority and makes a provocative statement. Even when artists are hired or given permission – which is common for art on the Atlanta Beltline – the artist had to start somewhere, and that involves risking their safety, freedom, and finances. They go out late at night to purse a passion. Amateur or professional street artists deserve at least a few seconds of attention and a spark of emotion.

street art Atlanta

I do not encourage vandalism – but I do ask you to stop and consider when you see a message on a wall that you can’t read, or an illustration you don’t understand, or even a mural that makes you angry. Again, think for yourself and hopefully there will be some street art that speaks to you. Happy street art hunting!