Sometimes it’s vandalism. Sometimes it’s street art.
Twelve years ago, this born and bred California girl relocated to Boise, Idaho. My adopted hometown Boise has Freak Alley, an actual working alley (with its associated working alley odors) behind local businesses dedicated to the murals of local artists with messages of freedom, equality, poetry and the occasional dinosaur. Growing up, graffiti and tagging meant only one thing: gangs. I had no idea about the delightful world of street art. I have since fallen deeply in love with this often misunderstood urban art form which is the intersection of grassroots political protest, personal expression, graffiti, tagging and fine art…usually using spray paint (terrible for the environment, but convenient for graffiti).
On my recent trip to Melbourne, Australia, I meandered slowly through the city’s famed Hozier Lane, a mecca of urban art conveniently located near Flinders Street Station, several bars and some sort of drug rehab center. Grab your coffee from outside St. Paul’s Cathedral, put on your sneakers and walk through the city. Cans of paint that have freshly run out sit at the base of artworks spray painted across concrete walls. The striking thing to me (besides the explosions of color and chaos) was that the artists now have Instagram accounts and their hashtags are their signatures.
This place is alive and changing. Layers of paint are stories in history like urban artifacts. I don’t know if and how the rules work or if artists just show up and paint or if they earn their right to paint. Regardless, the place hums with an electrical current of creativity. Whether or not you agree with the politics or if you even agree that it’s art, it’s not to be missed on your trip to Melbourne.
Melbourne is a city I could love and live in. It’s one of those spiritual home type cities Ah, Melbourne. I wish we had more time together.