London-based Global Street Art provides artists from all over the world a platform to showcase their works on, as well as promoting and advocating for street art in its many forms. You can find them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and on Tumblr.
StreetArtNews is focused on being your definitive guide to the Street Art World, providing news, analysis, reviews, lifestyle features, and everything else in between. They're also on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Street Art London aims to bring the street artists of the world, institutions, and the public at large together through festivals, public commissions, lectures, and exhibitions, among other things. You can also connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and you can download their official iPhone app and iPad app.
WTW is a digital magazine dedicated to promoting street art, graffiti, and contemporary creative culture. They also offer street art tours and the “Street Art Stencil Challenge”, where anyone who wants to can immerse themselves in the creative aspect of street art first-hand. Where The Wall is also on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and YouTube.
Winner of Tripadvisor's 2015 Certificate of Excellence, Shoreditch Street Art Tours prides itself on being one of “the best things to do in London”, offering a variety of tours and an excellent photography workshop. You can also get in touch with them via Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.
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The Guardian's Suzanne Moore opines on how modern street art challenges traditional perspectives and its place in modern British society.
Laura Reynolds and the Londonist chat to Global Street Art's Lee Bofkin about street art and the people behind it.
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The Guardian's Nell Frizzell has some suggestions for what Banksy should tackle next this year.
It's not too often that what used to be seen as some sort of annoyance – a blight, even – in society sees a complete swing of the pendulum towards the other end to become a highly regarded cultural treasure, but that is exactly what's happening to the art form that is more popularly getting to be known and labeled as Street Art.
Beyond merely just being an increasingly deep form of artistic self-expression producing works of art, critically lauded and preserved in some way, shape, or form despite its ephemerality (being painted over, walls being torn down, etc.), street art is more and more being recognized and used as a powerful means of sociopolitical commentary and criticism.
Just how popular has it become, really? Imagine what others would quickly try to paint over and clean up on a wall is now something to be preserved, extracted, and even auctioned to the highest bidder. The man who would eventually become the most powerful person in the world even inspired a street artist to create one of the most iconic images of the past decade in American politics. Or a group of subversives opting to fight oppression with images and words powerful enough to make the world take notice.
The people behind street art, as you might imagine, routinely place themselves at more risk for the sake of their art form compared to artists of a different medium. Some do so unknowingly and with consequences that are relatively trivial; others more willingly with potentially harmful – even fatal – results.
Here are four of the biggest risks that street artists face:
Health risks per se are not exclusive to street art; artists have historically been more at risk, as Environmental Defence Canada writes: “Illnesses caused by toxic substances have plagued artists throughout history. The artists Rubens, Renoir and Dufy suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, and Paul Klee was plagued by scleroderma, both of which are now known to be caused by toxic heavy metals used in the bright colours of their paints. In the mid-1980s, the US National Cancer Institute also conducted two studies that found higher risks of urinary bladder cancer, leukemia, and arteriosclerotic heart disease among painters.“
Additionally, spray paints – one of the most popular tools in the street artist's arsenal – have been shown to pose health hazards that “affect the respiratory, nervous, and circulatory systems”. Environmental Defence also notes that most artists are simply not trained or are not informed enough about the hazards of the materials they use or the processes they employ in their work, along with not taking the appropriate precautions to protect themselves from such.
The simple fact of the matter is that most street art is considered illegal by many – if not all – governments, as most of its forms tend to include some methods and actions that are classified as vandalism in the eyes of the law. This is the primary reason why even the world's most popular street artists often install their artwork under cover of darkness or clandestinely.
Of course, the repercussions for getting caught varies in severity, depending on the local laws where the artist operates. What's certain is that repeat offenses will get the local authorities' attention and focus, and notoriety certainly makes an artist's work harder to accomplish – if he or she doesn't get thrown in the slammer at the end of it all.
That's the good news.
The bad news is that in many places in the world where oppression is par for the course, the populace often finds itself fighting for the right to a better life; where they can't fight with weapons or force, they fight with self-expression – even as their oppressors do all they can to take it away from them. Words are powerful, and images more so; and in this volatile situation street artists find themselves with even more compelling reasons to make their messages known and heard – despite the consequences.
In Iran for instance, the government equates street art with Satanism, and considers it both immoral and illegal; Iranian street artists are under the constant threats of surveillance and likely incarceration if caught. In Egypt, street artists caught installing artwork that is critical of the authorities risk lifetime imprisonment.
Apart from the revolutionary, and beyond the obvious risks and consequences a street artist might constantly face due to the legal aspects of his chosen medium, he also has to be very careful where he chooses to practice his art. Henry Bertheaud, writing for ink and paint, says: “I would like to talk real quick about gang-related [graffiti]. The bottom line with gangs is that you do not want to piss them off! I have heard too many stories of promising urban artists who just needed that wall, despite the numerous gang tags, and ended up shot or beaten. If you see a gang tag when working or are in a gang infested [neighborhood], get out as quickly as possible! Many gangs will attack you just for having spray paint or markers.”
Of course, some street artists have it better than others and are able to create without fear of such undesirable consequences. Some have even managed to carve out a living – if not celebrity – out of it. Everything said and done, though, street art is finding itself slowly being assimilated and inextricably intertwined with modern society's cultural DNA.
For now, though, street art remains one of the most high-risk, high-reward forms of art that exist, and the question that most of its practitioners must answer also remains the same:
What are you willing to risk for it?
About the Author: Andre Salvatierra is a freelance writer who loves culture, technology, and well-designed things and great experiences. You can find him on Medium and Twitter.