Since graffiti hit the New York City subways in the 1960s, there’s rarely been a dull moment in America’s sprawling street art scene. The country is teeming with distinct crews and characters, who give each city its own hand-sprayed identity. No two cities are alike, and whether you’re planning a trip or just passing through a new place, take a moment to see what the local artists are up to. Here’s your of-the-moment guide to scouting rising street artists and taking some legendary selfies.
Miami is a global street art destination year round, but with Art Basel Miami Beach coming up in December, it’s about to get even hotter. That’s when outdoor artists of all varieties take over the neighborhood of Wynwood, which was catapulted from gritty to posh by the Goldman family — and now possesses some of the most sought after mural walls in the world. Claudia la Bianca, Miami’s longtime mural queen (pictured above in hero image), says Vice City’s street art scene is always evolving. Upstart artists come here to prove themselves. Everyone’s on top of their game.
Must see murals: Sandra Chevrier’s spectacular new commission at world-renowned street art museum Wynwood Walls, a recently restored mural by the late master Purvis Young on the Bakehouse Art Complex, and a welcome to footballer Lionel Messi at 55 N.W. 25 Street that sparked retaliation by fans of Inter Miami’s rival soccer team, Orlando City, earlier this year.
Bentonville is taking off in a big way courtesy of the Walton family, bearers of the Walmart legacy headquartered locally. Alice Walton is a massive art collector. Ten years ago, she helped spearhead Bentoville’s acclaimed Crystal Bridges Museum of Art and its accompanying contemporary art campus, the Momentary — currently doused in Brooklyn-based muralist Katie Merz’s “urban hieroglyphics.” JustKids, the agency behind Las Vegas’s trendiest street art, curates in town too.
Must see murals: New York-based Anne Vieux’s holographic abstractions on downtown’s Skylight Cinema, a classic entomological spread by one time Wynwood Walls resident Mantra Ray on the 21c Museum Hotel, and an interactive neon mural AI programmed by Spidertag on 216 NW A Street.
Portland has gotten an unnecessarily bad rep lately, when we ought to be celebrating the city’s commitment to pioneering community experimentation. Numerous local organizations support their rich public art scene, from the Portland Street Art Alliance to the Regional Arts & Culture Council. Graffiti and street art play together, giving the landscape an eclectic, signature texture.
Must see murals: A civic mural by local artist Ray Baxter called ”Portland Is What We Make It” commissioned by the agency behind Nike’s “Just Do It” at 139 S.E. Taylor Street, the recently-restored oldest mural in Portland titled “Art Fills the Void” at at SE 12th & Division, and an ode to the city’s music history by the Pander Brothers at 1130 S.W. Morrison Street.
“The business of art is being taken a lot more seriously,” local artist Alex Azru says of Houston’s rising street art scene. Over the past year, world-renowned anti-trafficking advocacy group Street Art For Mankind has hosted two editions of their mural fest here, enlivening Houston with dozens of artworks by local and global stars like Smug, Icy & Sot, Alex Azru, and many more. Texas’s biggest city now has over 1,000 murals.
Must see murals: The perennial and iconic “BE SOMEONE” tag on the railroad bridge over I-45, local legend GONZO247’s “Houston is Inspired” mural currently celebrating its tenth anniversary on the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau, and of course, the world renowned Houston Graffiti Park situated at 2011 Leeland Street.
Two mural festivals went down in Detroit this year — one organized by local print shop 1xRun and one organized by BLKOUT Walls, coinciding with the National Street Art Summit which Detroit co-hosted with Philadelphia. And Motor City’s got more in store. They just announced a new series of massive murals to be painted in honor of their turn hosting next year’s NFL Draft.
Must see murals: “Father Figures” by rising local artist Trae Isaac at 12740 Dexter Avenue, the maze of new murals 1xRun just organized at Islandview, and a mesmerizing geometric Basketball court by Denver-based artist REVOK at 17800 Conant Street.
Atlanta’s street art scene has attitude. New murals are always popping up, from decorative commissions to political commentary, like one local artist’s recent, bold decision to immortalize an ex-president’s mugshot. “There are more artists than ever, and tons of businesses want murals,” says Peter Ferrari, best known these days for organizing the Forward Warrior public painting event in Cabbagetown. “It’s become part of our identity and allows a lot of artists to make a living from murals these days. Many more than when I first started back in 2010.”
Must see murals: Mesmerizing tags in the graffiti hotspot at Krog Street Tunnel, new murals along the BeltLine trails, and work by 150 artists on the half mile stretch along Wylie Street.
Contrary to what people from Santa Fe might say, Albuquerque is worth visiting. The quirky desert metropolis that Breaking Bad made famous was formerly a hub along historic Route 66. As such, it’s got charming vintage motels, eateries and more, all complimented by public art. Graffiti and street art harmonize beautifully together downtown, especially around Java Joes and on the back of the El Rey Theater. Nob Hill has an up and coming street art scene, too.
Must see murals: A collaborative ode to road trips by artists from New Mexico and beyond at 4201 Central Avenue, an anonymous portrait of the Chicano author Rudolfo Anaya just down the road, and an otherworldly Jackalope on Gravity Bound Brewery by Molly Mendenhall.
Someday Music City might be as famous for its muralists as it is for its country crooners: the rebel attitude around here gives both a boost. Bike-pedaled trolleys with bars at their center and golf carts giving all kinds of tours weave in and out of traffic. Hop on one of those wild steeds, buckle up if you can, and hunt for vivid murals from Downtown to Music Row. You’ll find huge treasures, alongside little gems painted on dumpsters, and sculptures, too.
Must see murals: An adorable puppy by perhaps the world’s most famous muralist Hera of Herakut at 217 Sixth Avenue North, Kelsey Montague’s Instagram-worthy angel wings at 303 11th Avenue South, and an inspiring collaboration by two artists just across from Watkins Park.
New York City
No way around it, New York dominates street art. Graffiti as we know it developed throughout the 1970s and 1980s on uptown subway cars, between Washington Heights and the Bronx. Queens once hosted 5Pointz, the artform’s legendary global gathering hub. Shepard Fairey, another one of the world’s most famous muralists, just did a wall in homage to the Beastie Boys and Hip Hop’s 50th birthday on 14th Street and Avenue A. The artists don’t sleep here, either.
Must see murals: Manhattan’s shifting street art hall of fame Freemans Alley on the Lower East Side, a group of new murals in Brooklyn curated by Bedstuy Walls, and the bombastic new murals around the Jefferson L stop from this summer’s annual Bushwick Collective block party.