By Molly Bello
Historically, graffiti and street art were not well-respected art forms. Often crossing the legal lines, and while intricate and sometimes well-received by the general public, law enforcement and owners of defaced walls were often not impressed.
In 2014 however, street art and graffiti are much more accepted in the fine arts, and there is even a course at Bridgewater State University dedicated to the subject.
On March 20, Dr. Anna Waclawek of the Department of Art History at Concordia University in Monreal came to speak to students in a lecture titled, “Street Art & the City.”
The lecture was sponsored by the Canadian Studies Program, the Honors Program, and the Art Department.
“You know you have a speaker of high quality when you have two introducers,” said coordinator of the event the Canadian Studies Program Dr. Andrew Holman. “This is the perfect kind of lecture [for students] from a bunch of different disciplines, it appeals across [many areas of study].”
Waclawek explained that she got interested in street art and graffiti because of the uniqueness of the art movement since the 1960s.
“It began and was sustained primarily by youth, the subject [was often] the signature, it flourished worldwide mostly illegally,” Waclawek said.
Waclawek discussed the differences between graffiti and street art. Graffiti is primarily associated with the writing of one’s own name, often in hard to reach places, and is typically dominated by young males.
Street art is a much more diverse form. Many street artists have begun as graffiti writers. Street art can also be any form of art in the street, ranging from chalk, to paint, to knitting, to tape sculptures.
“It was great getting an insider source,” said freshman elementary education major Kristin Arnold. “She met some of the artists, especially with the women artists. It was very cool.”
Waclawek devoted part of the presentation to women street artists and interviews she had with them. Artists included Swoon, an American artist who plays with positive and negative space, and creates pieces that express individuality in the context of a city.
Another part of the lecture was the idea of “non-spaces” where street artists use spaces throughout the city not necessarily considered spaces for art production, that are odd and unconventional.
One of these spaces is the road or street. An artist Waclawek illuminated goes by the name of Roadsworth. He uses the road as his canvas, producing politically motivated art that is palatable for the general public. Waclawek says Roadsworth’s pieces ask you to examine your situation from different perspectives.
“I think it’s really exciting that the author of the textbook is actually here,” said senior graphic design major Gabriella Diniz. “I’m grateful for Dr. Smalley for having her come and to listen to her first hand. Her experience with the artists themselves brings the textbook to life.”
Waclawek said it’s important to learn about graffiti and street art because it’s such a long-standing tradition. It is a part of every major city. Cities with art centers also have major street artists and writers in them.
“These artists that were once ignored because they were associated with the street,” Waclawek said, “are now invited to festivals and taken more seriously.”
Street art is important to learn about, and has a major impact.
“People who live in cities and who experience public art every day will [now] pay more attention,” Holman said.
Dr. Smalley of the Art Department at Bridgewater State also believed that students should be interested in street art.
“It’s an art form that isn’t going away, it’s not disappearing,” Smalley said.
Molly Bello is a The Comment’s Living-Arts Editor. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.