U.S. cities paint a pretty picture

U.S. cities paint a pretty picture

Several U.S. cities can point to their collection of oversized street murals as major attractions for tourists, including Denver, Philadelphia and San Francisco.

Philadelphia is known as the ‘Mural Capital of the World’ – and with good reason: the city now has more than 4,000 murals. What started as an anti-graffiti programme in 1984, Mural Arts Philadelphia is now the USA’s largest public art programme and has grown into an international leader.

Mural Arts Philadelphia is also part of a larger campaign by the city to repurpose public spaces and create positive dialogue in communities.

Residents are often involved in the development of Philadelphia murals and visitors can see these colourful creations on guided and self-guided tours provided by Mural Arts.

Mural Arts Philadelphia commissions up to 100 public art projects every year. In 2023, artists painted new murals in various Philadelphia neighbourhoods including Kensington, Northern Liberties, and the Gayborhood. Among these new murals are ‘Finally on 13th,’ honouring the city’s rich ballroom culture. ‘Literacy Loop’ is a 10,000 square foot ground mural at Farrell Elementary School and designed to increase literacy skills through playful learning.

Denver has two art districts: the Art District on Santa Fe and the River North Art District (Rhino). The former is a small area in the Lincoln Park neighbourhood where you can find murals, galleries, and art shops.

The city’s street artists have been busy brightening the urban landscape for decades by making canvases of the alleyways, building exteriors, warehouses, garage doors and storefronts. And the city added almost 100 new pieces of street art – both permanent and temporary – last summer.

Denver uses the term ‘street art’ fairly broadly: many of the works were commissioned by businesses, events or communities, while others were unsanctioned paintings or graffiti.

In California, San Francisco has long presented itself as a stronghold of creativity and expression within the global street art community.

Nestled amidst the eclectic neighbourhoods and bustling streets are murals, thought-provoking graffiti, and captivating street art installations.

From the colourful alleys of the Mission District (pictured) to the iconic walls of Balmy Alley, ‘San Fran’s’ diverse neighbourhoods serve as an ever-evolving canvas for local and international artists alike. 

Drag queen, party impresario, activist, and philanthropist Juanita MORE! is one of San Francisco’s most reknowned residents, so much so that she’s been celebrated with over half a dozen different street murals throughout the city.

Murals first appeared along Balmy Alley (between 24th and 25th streets and Treat and Harrison streets) in the mid-1980s as an expression of outrage over human rights violations and political corruption in Central America.

Today, the themes depicted (pictured) have evolved to include broader societal issues such as gentrification and government injustice.


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