I like going on walking tours when I first arrive in a new town. It usually provides a basic introduction, helps you feel out the space, and it’s always nice when you have a local guide who shares a few tips.
That said, the last few general walking tours I’ve taken have just been “meh.” Not bad, but not that compelling. The guides were good enough and enthusiastic, but an hour after the tour ended I could barely share a few facts about what I’d learned.
In contrast, after a street art walk, I feel like I have a much better pulse of the living city, and I’m excited to explore more. Read on for the 6 reasons I love street art walking tours.
1 Insider Guide
Each guide I’ve had is deeply involved in the street art community, so they were incredibly passionate and knowledgeable. One was a graffiti writer, another worked to secure legal walls for street artists, and another was a few weeks away from completing her thesis on the subject. It’s like taking a tour of a historic building given by the architect; they have first hand experience and fun stories to share.
The streets are constantly evolving, and a good guide is so immersed in the community they’ll be able to tell you when pieces were created, how they were altered, and probably know some of the artists. Through the art, they can help you feel the heartbeat of the community and create a context for understanding cultural and political issues people are reacting to today.
2 Explore Local Areas
Most street art tends to be where local people live, not in the super touristy areas, so for that reason it’s also the perfect way to see a more authentic side of town.
3 Learn about an increasingly popular and relevant art form
Each tour shares a bit of the basics regarding graffiti writing versus street art, but there seems to be some gray area in these definitions. Generally, graffiti writing is the artist’s name or moniker in stylized letters, typically illegal, and meant for other graffiti artists. Street artists are usually trying to make a statement to the public, evoke an emotional response, and use imagery in their pieces.
Though both are subversive art movements, street art has gained more credibility and public acceptance in recent years, with businesses commissioning work and government organizations setting up legal walls where artists can paint.
4 Discover new artists
Just because these artists aren’t displayed in a gallery doesn’t mean they’re any less talented. Almost all street artists sign their work, and they’ll usually have a website or Instagram so you can follow and find out more. I posted a picture on Instagram of one a SHOK-1’s pieces I saw in London’s East End, and he even liked my picture. 🙂 You never know, you may find your new favorite artist.
5 Increased Awareness
I also love that these walks have helped me become more aware and observant when walking around, even in my own town. I’ve started to realize how much I miss when I’m too busy rushing from place to place.
6 Always changing
Given the nature of graffiti writing and street art, the pieces are always changing, so no two street art walks will be the same. It’s a testament to the reputation and status of an artist if their work is up for very long.
Here are a few of our favorite pieces. Catch them while you can!
London Borough of Camden
Downtown Los Angeles
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