While museums and other sites were closed during the wake of Covid-19 one form of art that grew and became a message of activism and solidarity is the street art movement. It also gain a new found respect and brought attention to some of the most pressing issues and social change that our world so desperately needs. Street arts and graffiti are commonly seen as out-of-place physical representations of stigmatized people and labeled as a form of vandalism.
However, with the wake of protesting, social justice movements as a response to police brutality, racism including climate crisis, street art is more alive today than it has ever been. Art in general can be a powerful tool for activism, advocacy and highlighting the social injustice that have been going on for far too long. This grassroots people’s art movement is reflecting our society in fundamental ways and reaching deep as well as wide. Hence, why ”art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable,” as Cesar A. Cruz cannily states. Street art is one of many creative uses of public space that inspire curiosity and wonder each day in cities around the world. It contributes meaningfully to urban experiences and subverts attempts at social control by way of the built environment.
Without a doubt, as travelers we want experiences that are enriching, engaging and educational but also ones that reorient our senses. “Engaging and educational, “Art in the Streets” makes sure visitors have the opportunity to learn how certain tributaries lead to this one river of swirling urban goo, mapping connections between cultural movements, communities, and relationships within it, “ eloquently stated in an article by the Brooklyn Street Art: 10 Impactful Street Art & Graffiti Interventions & Events of the Decade. This is the world of street art. Using stencils, stickers, spray paint, and the city as canvas, street artists actively engage with urban environments, challenging the public belief that street art is solely a form of vandalism.
The death of George Floyd has sparked a worldwide movement and it has been the unfortunate reminder that change is the only constant and it can longer wait. While thousands have gathered to march the streets in protest of police brutality and social injustice, art has become a peaceful form of protest and a way of propelling the movement. For some, it has also been an outlet to express the overwhelming pain and anger at the ongoing issues.
The parallel between the impermanent nature of street art and the lives they represent, not only conveys the message in a powerful way but also connects people. What Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr wrote in “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” These movement have sparked a nationwide hands-on campaigns for raising solidarity around urgent social issues. People have every reason to be outraged especially when there is no accountability system or a system that favors the lives of one group of people over others.
For example on Wednesday September 23rd, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron presented the grand jury decision in which no officer ha been charged in the Breonna Taylor’s case. In fact only one officer was charged, and the charge was not even due to Ms Taylor's murder, but with "wanton endangerment" for firing into a neighbour's apartment in Louisville. The two other officers who were involved have not been charged. Ms Taylor's relatives and activists for whom her death has become a rallying cry had been calling for the three officers, to be charged with murder or manslaughter. But this was rejected by a grand jury that reviewed the evidence. And to add insult to injury Ms Taylor’s family was offered $12 million which clearly is a buy off gesture, a booby prize.
This is why voting, peaceful protesting, activism and street arts can become effective ways in which people can express their outrage and in demanding change. Life is too precious for us as a society to deem it otherwise and our in action is to tolerate what’s been going on and when we tolerant inaction then we get more of the same treatment. This is inhumane and no society should tolerate such. We must all do our part in demanding change for a better, safer and inclusive world that our future children can live in harmony, dignity and mutual respect for one another.