The vigilante action movie Equalizer 2 starring Denzel Washington had a few scenes that tackled street violence, urban renewal, and wall art. When Washington’s character Robert McCall saw a wall in their apartment complex vandalized by street punks with their unique graffiti and gang markers, he went on a one-man crusade to clean up the mess.
A college student named Miles saw McCall and offered to repaint the wall for $350, even bragging that he was an artist so that he could get this odd job. McCall, in a very sagely manner, spoke about “easy money” and how Miles could lose his talent if he does not take care of it. That simple scene philosophically tackled how citizens need to take upon themselves to spark a renaissance in their community by cleaning it up, quite literally. Individually, the “cleaning up” was also needed so that people can first experience this renaissance within themselves and later influence their community.
From Gang Graffiti to Wall Murals
In many places around America today, that movie scene is being replicated by simple people who want a better neighborhood. In the movie, Miles had to use traditional paintbrushes but in real life, people would certainly use more convenient tools like a Ryobi airless paint sprayer to work on such wide and tall walls. In the past, it would take an entire crew to work on a wall with buckets of paint, bottles of paint thinner, brushes, and perhaps some paint rollers to make the job faster. ; Nowadays, it only takes one person with a paint sprayer to repaint whole sections of walls across the street.
Efforts at urban renewal were spearheaded by local officials, community organizers, and simple folk who just got tired of the fearsome look and dreadful atmosphere that was portrayed by gang graffiti. ; For them, it was like the gangs had already taken over, marking their territory with their signature colors to incite fear and to warn anyone who would dare cross the line.
Repainting of cities, especially in poor communities and housing projects, became a priority in no small measure due to a concept in criminology which was referred to as “Broken Windows Theory”. The theory states that any sign of civil disorder, anti-social behavior, and crime adversely affects an urban environment, leading to more incidences of crime and disorder. This theory was tested and applied in many places by county, city, and state governments, as well as police departments and social welfare agencies with remarkable success. Places that were repaired, repainted, and re-decorated experienced lower incidences of crime and other public disturbances. In some areas, they changed their perspective about graffiti and encouraged young people and artists to convert them into meaningful murals.
Santa Monica and Venice in L.A.
To see the positive impact of transforming gang graffiti into street art and wall murals, one only needs to visit the boulevards of Santa Monica and Venice in Los Angeles, California. There are over 120 mural pieces scattered within the two-mile radius of Santa Monica. The street of this special place will definitely catch one’s heart and imagination.
Other must-see streets include Ocean Boulevard, 3rd Street Promenade, Broadway, and Mainstreet. Don’t miss the other street art pieces that are sure to bring joy with their colors and patterns at the Arts District and Boyle Heights. The pastels and bright neons complement the laidback and sunny lifestyle of California.
First Street Green Park, New York City
On the East Coast, different hues and pallette choices give the walls and streets of New York a different character. To see an authentic, organized art space in the city, head over to First Street Green Park to be delighted and refreshed by the iconic art named “Black Rock Energy Absorber”. While it is not wall art but a natural rock formation, it is supposed to ward off negative energies and cancel thoughts like racism and prejudice, evils that are so pronounced in many societies even in libertarian New York.
The park is located in the Lower East Side of the Big Apple, it is where artists from all walks of life gather to paint and share their art to the world. They go there to showcase various art genres and styles aside from urban graffiti art which has become synonymous with the park. This place not only allowed artists to enjoy a free venue for their artistic expression, but the park itself has also allowed the community to organize and cooperate to keep the art scene alive in that corner of New York. It is, therefore, a magnet for social bonding aside from being an urban art mecca in the Eastern seaboard.
The historic city of Philadelphia would simply boggle the mind of any street art lover since the place has at least 3,600 murals scattered from point to point. To make the best of the street art tour, start with the Mural Mile South which starts at Market Street and ends at Lombard. If your feet can still carry you and your eyes still crave for more colorful artwork, go to Mural Mile North which will take you to Chinatown and City Hall. Grab some hot, delicious Chinese food to recover from all that walking and art-gazing.
Walls of Art, Building Communities with a Heart
If you still want to see more street art in other cities, Detroit and Miami should also be on your list. By visiting these urban centers that have had their share of crime, disasters, and other tragedies, the art spaces have allowed them to find a release from all the pain and struggles shared by people in urban areas. Cities that were once feared for gang violence has experienced a rebirth with a few brushes and colors of paint. By witnessing the beauty of these murals, we, too, experience being reborn with a fresh set of eyes that see hues of happiness and mixtures of races who share their love for the arts.