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Street Art: History of Graffiti and Street Art

Updated on October 10, 2019


Graffiti is one of the oldest art forms known to man. Expressions of the art were found in cave drawings, public toilets, alleys, street walls. Modern graffiti have grown from simple words, scribbles and expressions into personalized themes and graphics.

In the 1970s urban street art in New York and Philadelphia revolutionized compositions found around the world today. Early street artist with spray cans were criminalized for defacing public property. However the art form persisted exhibiting haunting lifelike imagery, amazing details.

Colorful Legacy - Mural Arts Philadelphia Mural Arts

Colorful Legacy - Mural Arts Philadelphia Mural Arts
Colorful Legacy - Mural Arts Philadelphia Mural Arts

Mainstream acceptance

Post graffiti art found mainstream acceptance late 70s with commissioned work by notable graffiti artists. Post graffiti street art made on canvas were shown in galleries around the world, popular magazines and museums. Artistic potential in the expressive art increased in popularity by patronage from art dealers, magazines, books, television documentaries.

Chale Wote Street Art Festival

Where to Find Graffiti and Street Art

Most graffiti or street art a found on urban walls especially abandoned houses. They commonly found on old train carts, subways or public spaces. You find them in public toilets, museum pieces, street artist, and walk ways. More public locations are street walks, signboards, alleys.

Where Graffiti and Street Art are found

  • Street Walls
  • Subway Trains
  • Subway
  • cave drawings
  • public toilets
  • alleys
  • buildings
  • sidewalks
  • street signs

Street Art

Graffiti is regarded as the forbearer of street art. Street art is an artistic expression in public places like train stations, street walls, highways. Found mostly in urban areas they express different themes. Visual expression is found in different media like paintings, lettering and sculpture.

Creating Graffiti With Yarn - The New York Times

Creating Graffiti With Yarn - The New York Times
Creating Graffiti With Yarn - The New York Times

Type of Street Art

The core of street art is an underlining message or subject. Subject could be a representation of the artist, social issues, supremacy claim or fun piece. Same rhetoric’s apply to graffiti art however the message is somewhat lost.

There are different kinds of street art and the most popular form is painting. However other types include realism, impressionistic art, sticker art, collage, yarn bombing. Yarn bombing involves creatively deploying loads of yarn on an object.

He object could be a tree, stationary bus, park bench. Sticker method is done using the sticker to spread over surfaces in a creative way. A modern progression of street art is mural painting. Mural painting are done on building walls to capture images of urban city life.

Popular Street art Festivals around the world

There are many street art festivals around the world. Popular ones are Bloop Ibiza featuring amazing wall artwork, Montreal Canada Mural festival and Upfest Urban paint festival with over 1000 artists. More include Urban Art in Brixton London, Traditional Nebuta Japanese festival and Chale Wote in Accra, Ghana.

Star Wars at Aomori Nebuta Matsuri

Star Wars at Aomori Nebuta Matsuri
Star Wars at Aomori Nebuta Matsuri

Chale Wote Street Art Festival

There are hundreds of street art festivals across the world. A popular one in a small West African country is Chale Wote. Chale Wote street art festival is held every year in Accra, Ghana. First edition of the festival was hosted in 2011 to highlight works of local and international artists.

They features photography, street art, graffiti murals, interactive art, spoken, theater. Other presentations include film shows, fashion, recyclable designs, and extreme sports.

The festival is held about 7 days after a traditional festival Homowo. Last eight editions were held on High Street and Jamestown Accra Ghana. The 2011 edition was held on 16 July, 2012 14 April, 7-8 September 2013. Others are 23-24 august 2014 edition, 22-23 august 2015, 18-21 august 2016, 14-20 august 2017, and 20-26 august 2018.

Chale Wote

Chale Wote
Chale Wote

Art Works in Festival

  • Photography
  • street art
  • graffiti murals
  • interactive art
  • spoken word
  • street theater
  • public film shows
  • local fashion
  • recyclable designs
  • extreme sports –motorcycle stunt riding


Apart from the first edition subsequent ones from 2012 to 2018 have themes. We have Outer space exploration -2012, re-imaging African Folklore-Creating exciting futuristic version -2013. Other are Death an Eternal dream into limitless rebirth -2014, African electronics -2015. More include Spirit robot-2016, Wata Mata-2017 and Para Other-2018.

Last Word

The dynamics of the art form continuous to change and evolve. There are now contemporary artist embracing the form in different compositions. However a more covert form might depicts political issues, music, social commentary, and radicalism.


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