Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Street Art: Do You Think it's Rad or Does it Make You Mad?

I know that the topic of "street art" being taught in the classroom really hits some of those hot buttons for art teachers. Me personally, I'm all for it. My students love looking at it, talking about it, and they are SO engaged by it! I live in such a community where students are exposed to street art all the time whether it be a commissioned mural, street performance, or tags defacing spaces under bridges. It’s part of their culture I'm not going to fight it, I'm instead going to talk about it. First, it’s important to properly define street art. When discussing with students I break it down into two categories: Public Art and Graffiti. Public Art = Permission, Graffiti = No Permission. Some of my favorite discussions I've had with my students is the "Is Street Art Legal vs. Illegal?" The entire class gets into it and it encourages students to take a stance and voice an opinion. Sometimes it gets heated and I LOVE IT! Sometimes talking about art is just as great as making it.

Really I just want my students to understand what it is and know that it goes beyond Banksy. But nonetheless it's always going to be one of those projects that students are into because it's personal and like it or not the finished product looks cool.

This is certainly not a groundbreaking project. It's been done time and time again, but here's my version. A little stamping action with one of those yellow and green sponges makes for some nice bricks!

If you're looking to find ways to rationalize street art in your classroom check out this article that breaks down "10 Things We Can Learn From Street Artists"

1. It's Important to Take Risks
2. Give without Expecting a Return
3. Challenge the Norm
4. Be Fearless
5. Question Everything
6. Persistence Pays Off
7. Collaboration Enhances Productivity
8. Creativity is a Universal Language
9. Context is Everything
10. Life is About the Journey Not About the Destination

Street Art what do you think Rad or Bad?

P.S. See you all at NAEA 2016!


  1. Hey Abby! Great article:) I love introducing my students to artists working in public space, if they have permission or not. Brings about some very interesting dialogue. Check this link out- art history prof and author from San diego who will be presenting in Chicago.

    1. Awesome! Thanks for sharing. Hopefully I can catch his session.

  2. You know I love street art and graffiti! The sponge effect looks amazing with your lettering!!! This year we were lucky enough to have google come to our classroom and we did an exploration with Google Cardboard to 5 pointz in New York City, which used to host legal street art.

    Lauren @

  3. No-brainer. Makes me mad. I'll never understand why any art teacher would choose to shine a light on illegal public graffiti made by misguided miscreants and use it as inspiration to teach graffiti style art/lettering to kids. To me it's highly irresponsible. Teachers who do this indirectly praise and encourage illegal ugly behaviors.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting. I know this will forever be one of those topics that art teachers will be divided on. The great thing is we all have our differing opinions and get to choose how we present such topics in our classroom! You say it's "highly irresponsible" to teach such things, but what good does not talking about it do? Bringing the subject of graffiti into the classroom allows for not only some beautiful work, it also allows for deep conversation about what art can be, how some artists choose to make their work, and even whether graffiti artists would consider themselves artists in the first place. It can be taught responsibly and if an art teacher isn't taking the time to do so the correct approach is not being taken. The community in which I live has many areas dedicated to street art/public art, all of which are commissioned pieces. Yet, many of them have elements of "tagging" in them. These works were not created illegally so my students see them everyday as an art in their community. I have to talk about it with my students so they can understand what they are seeing everyday.

  4. Great post! I like street art, providing it is tasteful. You have a lovely blog. Warm greetings from Montreal, Canada. :)