One of the best things about visiting a major US city is taking in the diverse cultural experiences – there is theater, museums, fine dining restaurants, and historical landmarks to check out. And don’t forget the murals. Today, you can see amazing art on the sides of city buildings and other urban surfaces that rivals anything hanging in a fine art gallery. The artists who make these murals are local and international, classically trained or have a street art background. Messages vary – some murals are politically motivated while others show beautiful imagery intended to inspire and celebrate the community. Here’s a list of popular murals across the United States and where to find them.
New York City is a hotspot for urban art. The mural at the corner of Bowery and Houston Street boasts a legacy that can be traced back to 1982 when Keith Haring painted on the wall. Today, the mural is curated and changes artists about every season. Artists Shepard Fairey, Crash, and Os Gemeos have all exhibited work here. Over in Brooklyn, the Bushwick Collective is an outdoor street gallery where artists from around the world come to paint on walls donated by local businesses. Here you’ll see work by local artists Meres One and Veng alongside stencil pioneer Blek le Rat from France. Guided tours of NYC’s dynamic street art scene and murals are available through GraffTours.
Mural Arts Philadelphia (MAP) is a non-profit committed to beautifying urban spaces and inspiring individuals through public art. To carry out this worthy mission, it collaborates with graffiti and street artists from around the globe. There are finished walls and in-progress projects all over the city. Head to the Goldman Properties Collaboration along 13th street to see contributions by street art’s leading figures such as Vhils and Kenny Scharf. Located at 5630 Chestnut St., Eric Okdeh’s compelling mural, done in collaboration with patients at the Kirkbride Center, a behavioral healthcare facility, addresses personal and social issues.
Head to Miami’s vibrant Wynwood Arts District to see the Wynwood Walls, a magnificent outdoor project initiated to recognize graffiti and street art as a legitimate art movement. Swoon, ROA, Ron English, Invader, and Aiko start a long list of internationally renowned artists who have shown their work at Wynwood Walls.
Launched by Columbia College Chicago in 2013, the Wabash Arts Corridor (WAC) set out to revitalize the urban spaces making up the South Loop business district, transforming the area into an inspiring mural program that celebrates the city’s culture and artistic spirit. Contributing artists include Kobra, Hebru Bently, and Pose among others. Additionally, the Wabash Arts Corridor acts as an incubator where artists, students, commerce, and the community meet to collaborate in creative expression.
Despite the economic hardship, artists and creative professionals are moving to Detroit for artistic opportunities and to breath a new cultural life into the city. This makeover is exemplified in projects like the Grand River Creative Corridor (GRCC Detroit), which features an astounding 100 murals across 15 buildings by local and visiting artists. Some walls pay homage to Detroit’s graffiti legacy and display eye-popping pieces by prolific writers. The project is an extension of 4712, an arts incubator that houses a fine art gallery and studios.
Austin likes to keep it weird. The city’s inspired spirit is sensed through out its eccentric cultural scene. For the best mural-spotting, visit HOPE Outdoor Gallery and Graffiti Park. Founded by Austin graffiti artist HOPE with the help of Shepard Fairy, it is a nexus where muralists, street artists, educators, youth, and community residents engage to make positive and healing art.
Graffiti is considered a driving force in the visual history of Los Angeles, and helped to make the city’s diverse cultural landscape what it is today. Past and present generations of the graffiti and street art movement meet at the Downtown Arts District. In addition to galleries, shops, and restaurants, you can check out the community endorsed LA Freewalls project. A premier street art gallery, it showcases murals by Australian duo Dabs and Myla, LA graffiti legend Risk, and Parisian street photographer and activist JR.
San Francisco was the first city outside of Mexico to commission artist Diego Rivera to paint on its public walls. Since then, the city has amassed a captivating collection of murals along its streets and urban spaces. Visit the Mission neighborhood to see work celebrating San Francisco’s rich cultural diversity and commitment to revitalizing the community through the arts.
The next time you visit a major city in the United States, make time to see the murals. Many of contemporary art’s leading figures are behind these works. At the same, murals have much to say about a city’s history, culture, and residents.